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Last month, the Vatican sent around a questionnaire on “pastoral challenges to the family,” in preparation for its big bishops’ synod in Rome next October. The official in charge has made it clear that the guys at the top want to hear from the grass roots, and the American bishops have caught some flak for indicating that they’re mainly just soliciting answers from the clergy.

A glance at the actual questions suggests that most of the folks at the altar rail would be hard pressed to provide informed answers. Not to put too fine a point on it, but these are questions written for the pastors to answer, not the sheep. The real issue, so far as I can see, is whether the former will give honest answers or ones they think their bosses want to hear.

I therefore asked a thoughtful priest I know to respond to the questionnaire under a grant of anonymity. His answers, in italics, follow the questions reprinted ad litteram from the Vatican website. (He stopped at rubric 7, finding the last two repetitive.) It’s a lengthy read, but well worth the time for anyone interested in Catholicism’s grass roots in America today.

1. The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium

a) Describe how the Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et spesFamiliaris consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church’s teaching on family life?

There have been ample explanations of these texts in a variety of contexts: Catholic print media (newspapers, Catholic publishing houses, e.g. Paulist, Orbis, Daughters of St. Paul, Ignatius, etc.); Catholic electronic media (e.g. EWTN, Catholic radio outlets in a number of American cities); Videos, DVDs (Paulists, EWTN, Ignatius, other independent distributors), new Social Media (YouTube and Facebook); parish-based instructions (bulletin inserts, adult education series); Catholic college and university-based instruction (e.g. formal course work or information sessions via Newman Clubs); workshops and symposia organized during summer months by retreat and continuing education programs; diocesan-based programs (teacher education enrichment; catechetical congresses and teacher-training modules). There are many other venues where church teaching has been propagated, explained, defended, and advanced over the past generation. 

This process has been uneven. Some of the above-mentioned programs offer little historical context for these teachings or present them against the broader back-drop of the Catholic theology from which they emanate. Some are especially misleading on the question of the type of papal authority surrounding them. They claim a definitive even infallible status which is not true. 

Unfortunately, most American Catholics receive their information about these matters from the secular press (print and electronic) and now the Internet. These venues are almost always deficient in understanding Catholic doctrine, liturgy, or practice. They often distort or over-simplify these teachings.

b) In those cases where the Church’s teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice? If so, what are they?

Yes there are difficulties. From Humanae Vitae forward, one driving principle behind these teachings seems to be an argument from authority. The Church says it, you must believe it, that settles it. Any questioning – even by people of faith and sufficient scholarly credentials and long years of service to the Church – has been seen as some sort of disloyalty or bad faith. However, arguments framed with this authoritarian bent may produce little formal push-back but rather create indifference even from devout Catholics. Given the oft-stated (and repeatedly ignored) reality that Catholic couples do not regard birth control as central to their faith – and are not likely to do so in the future – cause Catholics to give short-shrift to this official teaching and to other church pronouncements. Common-sense realism is the operative framework for many Americans. Credible teaching has to be open to question and must offer cogent and defensible reasons in order to be taken seriously. If a teaching appears – even on its face – to contradict social and cultural realities, the lived experience of people of good will, and just plain common sense, it will produce puzzlement at first and then indifference if questions are not answered honestly or sincerely.

c) How widespread is the Church’s teaching in pastoral programmes at the national, diocesan and parish levels? What catechesis is done on the family?

As noted above, quite widespread. Most of the 197 American dioceses and eparchies have devoted offices, personnel, and financial resources to advancing these specific teachings. Although in recent times men have been selected for the office of bishop who have sworn fealty to these teachings (especially Humanae Vitae), these topics don’t appear to be regular source of episcopal teaching.

d ) To what extent — and what aspects in particular — is this teaching actually known, accepted, rejected and/or criticized in areas outside the Church? What are the cultural factors which hinder the full reception of the Church’s teaching on the family?

This teaching is rejected in large part to some degree because of ignorance (the secular press had a role to play in this), but mostly because such rules and strictures seem to be imposed from without and are not offered with adequate rationale. It was a grave mistake to impose censures of theologians and other people of faith who questioned the assumptions and conclusions of these theological statements. This too has contributed to the rejection. No one sympathizes with bullies. These punishments – liberally handed out during the Wotyla pontificate – did great damage to the church’s standing with many. In the field of moral theology in particular, there must be the return of an open debate and scholarly interaction among people of varying views. Current institutes that study family life or moral theology in seminaries provide one acceptable viewpoint when in fact there are more ways of approaching these issues – within the context of the Catholic tradition – than are acknowledged. No priest who considers alternatives to certain of these teachings will be selected for the episcopate. This does not help the church and does not help the creation of a sound and realistic moral theology.

2. Marriage according to the Natural Law

a) What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?

It is hard to define the term “natural law” as understood by the church. Any exploration of the historical origin of this term and its use by Catholic theologians runs into serious problems. It relies heavily on an outdated and factually erroneous understanding of the nature of reality – which is dynamic, not static. “Truth” has evolved, it is not “perennial.” Only God’s love is constant. Church teachings have changed and must continue to change in order for the message of Jesus Christ to make sense to new generations.

b) Is the idea of the natural law in the union between a man and a woman commonly accepted as such by the baptized in general?

This is changing as acceptance of same-sex unions takes root in various global cultures. Natural law itself as understood by the church is not intelligible to anyone who has high school or college knowledge of physics, biology or human psychology.

c) How is the theory and practice of natural law in the union between man and woman challenged in light of the formation of a family? How is it proposed and developed in civil and Church institutions?

At least since the 19th century (and likely before), human unions are not seen primarily as units of family production. Rather they begin in affective love – which then blossoms into conjugal love. Affective love – the feeling of one heart for another – is the fons et origo of human relationship in our world. Although theologians and others insist on the primary and secondary “ends” of marriage – the lived reality of most couples do not make such  distinctions. For most children are a natural fruit of their loving relationship – but they reserve the right to limit the number of offspring they have. For others, because of intention or physical inability, children are not the primary end of marriage – but it does not diminish the quality of their relationship.

d) In cases where non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers request the celebration of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is dealt with?

Lapsed Catholic are not a “problem to be solved” but a pastoral opportunity to be seized. Our era has its share of lapsi – but we are not historically unique. Every age going back to the dawn of Christianity has had those who have embraced the teachings of Jesus and then fallen away. The reasons run the spectrum from the significant to the absurd. For those who meet the lapsed –usually at a sacramental moment – the work of a patient, compassionate, and prayerful priest or deacon can make all the difference in the world. The church has no coercive power over individual believers – only suasive means. A kind word and reception can possibly (not always) open the door to further evangelization. Harsh, judgmental, and indifferent ministers of the Lord do more damage than good – even though some of them brag about “tough love” and a handful of people praise harsh words and “challenges” they receive from these types. For every one they may attract, however, they likely turn a dozen away for good. Mercy is valued over justice.

3. The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization

a) What experiences have emerged in recent decades regarding marriage preparation? What efforts are there to stimulate the task of evangelization of the couple and of the family? How can an awareness of the family as the “domestic Church” be promoted?

Since the 1970s there has been significant attention given to adequate marriage preparation: psychological inventories; engaged encounters and retreats which draw in the talents of stable and well-ground married Catholics; creative use of wedding ceremonies to draw more on the rich understanding of “covenant” in marriage. Marriage as a loving, stable, and perpetual union is stressed. Indeed this enriched understanding is so prevalent that older concepts of marriage as “a legitimate remedy for concupiscence” are nearly forgotten. Yet these efforts, though a help, are not a panacea. Even good faith efforts by parishes and ministers to prepare couples adequately do not guarantee a long-lasting marriage. For some, they are just a “hoop” they must jump through to have a pretty wedding with lots of pictures and a blow-out reception. The church must stand up to stiff cultural head-winds with no-fault divorce and also the wedding “industry” which urges that weddings be lavish spectacles rather than encounters of faith. Some suggest that the church should withdraw from the marriage “business” altogether and allow the state to perform this function exclusively. People of faith could have their marriages celebrated in church in a more modest fashion.

b) How successful have you been in proposing a manner of praying within the family which can withstand life’s complexities and today’s culture?

Prayer is a difficult topic with many young people – sometimes drawing blank stares when it is brought up – or an uncomfortable silence since it’s apparently that this is the very last thing that should be discussed in a marriage ceremony. Yet in some instances, it is truly appreciated by at least one or maybe both of those preparing for marriage. A prayerful celebration of marriage and a sometimes unpopular effort to gear music and other ceremonies away from discordant or irreligious themes is worth the effort.

c) In the current generational crisis, how have Christian families been able to fulfill their vocation of transmitting the faith?

Young people are – from every survey I’ve read of Millenials, Gen Xers, Gen Yers or whatever term the social scientists give to the cohorts of young people 35 years old or younger – withdrawing from organized religion as soon as they get a chance. The reasons for this – as these surveys will tell you – are complex. To the frustration of church leaders, many young people distinguish between a spirituality and organized religion. The latter they view with disdain, not only because of the scandals of the past decade, but because religious teachings, particularly on sexuality are literally incredible. Others devote themselves to the religion of mass consumption and entertainment. Many find church services – especially the homilies – in Catholic communities to be “boring” and uninspiring. A minority of young people do find certain aspects of Catholic fundamentalism to be attractive – hearing from certain church leaders or Catholic colleges and universities a very one-sided presentation of Catholic thinking and pressing a sometimes unhealthy reliance on popular devotion. Youth masses (e.g. Life Teen) do some good, but the popular music and the sometimes simplistic theological themes of the music do not make it with young people in the long haul.

d) In what way have the local Churches and movements on family spirituality been able to create ways of acting which are exemplary?

The so-called ecclesial movements endorsed by the previous two pontificates have been helpful to some. But others seem to have a poorly informed and even bizarre ecclesiology (e.g. the Neo-Catechumenate), retrograde theological opinions and misogynistic practices (e.g. Opus Dei), and cultish behavior which have brought great harm to the church (e.g. the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi). The hints and allegations of the large sums of money these groups turn into the Vatican has not helped their cause. Others, like Communione e Liberazione, are wrapped up in conservative politics. While there are good and very well-intentioned people in all of these movements, in the main their high standing within Vatican circles has not been good for the church or the cause of the Gospel.

e) What specific contribution can couples and families make to spreading a credible and holistic idea of the couple and the Christian family today?

The teachings on human sexuality are literally incredible to many – especially birth control but even abortion when the life of the mother is involved. Re-think and re-present these matters in a new and more positive way. Don’t just say you wish to do this (a la Benedict XVI), do it! Take note of the damage done by the minions of “orthodoxy”, e.g. Maciel et al., to the credibility of the church. Dissolve the cult-like groups that claim to teach and preach in the name of the church and apologize for the papal embrace of them. In the end, a message of mercy and understanding will pave the way for a fuller encounter with the Christ – the primary locus of authentic conversion.

4. Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations

a) Is cohabitation ad experimentum a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage?

It is not ad experimentum, it is in veritatem. A large percentage of American couples cohabit before marriage. Not all accept this but many do, including parents and relatives of the couples.

b) Do unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly exist? Are reliable statistics available?

Yes. Not sure if there are reliable statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau may have some idea.

c) Are separated couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage? How do you deal with this situation in appropriate pastoral programmes?

Many priests and ministers accept the fact that divorce and remarriage (sometimes repeatedly) is a fact of life in our society. Many themselves come from these backgrounds – especially younger priests. Because of this, most divorced/remarried folks are treated with respect. With regard to sacramental participation, many priests take a “don’t ask/don’t tell” pastoral approach when it comes to divorce and re-marriage. Others will use pastoral judgment when approached by people in second marriages. Most effective priests are reluctant to “weaponize” the Eucharist.

d) In all the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? Are they aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments?

They live with it with ease – for many of them it involves relatives and close friends who had harrowing and unhappy and even violent first marriages. Most of the baptized are glad to see their friends and relatives at peace and content. While some may be skeptical about the ability of one partner or the other to truly bond with another human being in unselfish love, the operative principle – at least in America – is “live and let live.” Some divorced/remarried do feel marginalized – especially if they ask the “wrong” priest or deacon for his opinion on their access to the Eucharist. Many priests look at each case individually. If it is stable marriage that has lasted many years and if the conditions of the first marriage warranted a break, they give tacit permission to approach the communion line. No priest in his right mind would deny the children of these unions baptism, first Eucharist, or confirmation.

e) What questions do divorced and remarried people pose to the Church concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation? Among those persons who find themselves in these situations, how many ask for these sacraments?

It’s hard to determine. The number seems relatively small, because those who still care about access will often just present themselves in communion lines and confessionals and make no mention of their previous marital status. They are wary of what they might hear from a priest. Or having heard of their exclusion from some other priest, they long ago decided that he was wrong and that he would not stand in the way of their participation in the Eucharist. Once again, many people do not take these church strictures seriously or view them as integral to their faith.

f ) Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?

A radical proposal: First a papal decree to sanate all existing re-marriages. All who are seeking annulments or are waiting for them are immediately free to marry or re-marry as Catholics. Give this amnesty a long period – five years to reach all whom it might affect – with efforts similar to those seeking victims of clerical sex abuse to sound them out (radio, TV, social media, billboards, etc.). Secondly, launch a thorough study of tribunal practices and procedures. Some dioceses regularly grant annulments. Others, on their own authority, exclude psychological reasons for questioning the validity of a previous union. These disparities are scandalous. The pope might even eliminate the mandatory review of “sentences” imposed by JP II. Likewise, there should be an immediate end to the use of fees for this “service”; it smacks of simony. Dioceses should offer a refund to all those who have active cases and who have paid. Third: there should be a total transformation of the existing tribunal procedure, replacing most canonists with counselors, social workers, and others in the helping professions to help those with troubled marriages. Tribunals often “sell” themselves and the annulment process as a way to “bring closure” to bad marriages of the past. Those offices should truly be transformed to do just that. This annulment business is a scandal and a racket. As we rethink the entire issue of divorce and remarriage as it applies to Catholic practice, these tribunals will need to be changed.

g) Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases? Describe this pastoral ministry? Do such programmes exist on the national and diocesan levels? How is God’s mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?

Good priests, deacons, lay and religious ministers assure people caught in these difficulties of God’s love for them all the time. This kind of “reparative” ministry is often quiet and unheralded but has saved many souls for the church. It is a huge underground source of vitality and credibility for the Catholic community. These folks keep the church alive and credible to many who would otherwise walk away.

5. On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex

a) Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

In a growing number of states in the United States – and eventually all of it except portions of the socially retrograde American South or where the Republican Party currently reigns – these laws are on the books or are mandated by judicial fiat.

b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?

Privately, among priests, religious and laity – compassion and understanding. Publicly, statements and actions that run the spectrum from the ridiculous to the scandalous. One cardinal attributes the “success” of these laws to poor “marketing” by the church. Another mean-spirited and theologically deficient bishop actually “exorcised” the state legislature for passing a same-sex marriage bill. The Holy Father needs to extend some public discipline for statements and actions like these which seriously erode the already flagging credibility of the Catholic Church in the USA. To work against same sex marriage, church leaders have entered into “alliances” with such groups as the Mormons, spent huge sums of diocesan money to alter political outcomes (i.e. state referenda), and even appointed a man of great insensitivity on this issue to head the cultural capital of Gay America: the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The cluelessness of the American hierarchy and their friends in the Vatican could not be more on display than it has been in these past few years over this issue.

c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?

Many already care for them as part of the “underground” ministry taking place in every American diocese.

d) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

The answer is clear cut: we care for the children, baptize them, love them, provide a community of caring and inclusion and try to approach the issue of their parents union with compassion, love, and respect.

6. The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages

a) What is the estimated proportion of children and adolescents in these cases, as regards children who are born and raised in regularly constituted families?

Many, many children in the US are being raised by single parents or by their grandparents. Single parenthood has lost its social stigma. Parents and grandparents are supportive of children emotionally and financially. Divorce rates are very high here.

b) How do parents in these situations approach the Church? What do they ask? Do they request the sacraments only or do they also want catechesis and the general teaching of religion?

Many parents want their children to be at least minimally introduced to Catholic life. First Communion, Confirmation and Catholic marriage seem to be entry-points. They offer the same opportunities for evangelization as any other person of good will – although working parents may not have the opportunities or energy to be regular attendees at Mass. Income inequality in America is at record levels; both parents must work to remain afloat financially. This takes its toll on family life. 

c) How do the particular Churches attempt to meet the needs of the parents of these children to provide them with a Christian education?

Most parishes have very effective programs of religious education, which in fact reach a larger percentage of their parish youth than Catholic schools. The effectiveness of the catechesis in these programs and even in the schools is often a source of concern. A Catholic culture does not characterize the families of these children – and some just send their children to these lessons but rarely attend Mass themselves. This is also a growing problem in Catholic schools, thanks in some measure to accepting public funds. In fact, some Catholic schools have begun to function more as private elementary schools than religiously oriented schools. Children may hear religious lessons and even go to daily Mass but the extent to which these schools truly create a Catholic soul in their young charges is not clear. Obviously, some places do better with this than others. Well-heeled parishes generally have better schools and catechetical programs than poorer ones.

d) What is the sacramental practice in these cases: preparation, administration of the sacrament and the accompaniment?

At a minimum, some component of verbal instruction, recitation, art work and other accepted pedagogy for communicating factual information to young people. Confirmation programs include service projects and retreats. Letters to bishops requesting confirmation and giving reasons are quite common and appear to be taken quite seriously by confirming bishops. The age of Confirmation is a delicate question. It should probably be restored it is original sequence as a part of the Sacraments of Initiation or at least removed to just prior to first communion.

7. The Openness of the Married Couple to Life

a) What knowledge do Christians have today of the teachings of Humanae vitae on responsible parenthood? Are they aware of how morally to evaluate the different methods of family planning? Could any insights be suggested in this regard pastorally?

The reception of Humanae Vitae in the United States was quite poor. Some of it had to do with its representation in the public secular media. However, after years and years of “turning up the volume” on this teaching by popes, bishops, and various media outlets, people do not really see a significant  difference between spacing out births by Natural Family Planning Methods (which are often “sold” as “more effective than ever”) and the use of various types of artificial contraception. The distinctions made in Humanae Vitae and “sold” by its advocates simply do not make sense – even to devout Catholics. Nor do many Catholic view obedience to this dictum (as on other topics as well) as central to their faith lives. This fight was over a long time ago. The preparation for the upcoming synod should involve a review of the majority report given to Pope Paul VI by his Birth Control Commission. It may be too late to recapture the lost credibility of the church by Pope Paul’s unfortunate decision to uphold the traditional ban on artificial contraception. But the wisdom of the majority report arguments deserve another airing before a Synod and the Holy Father. Likewise, theologians who were condemned for questioning this teaching should be invited to address the Synod Fathers and respond to honest questions about their petitions in public debate.

b) Is this moral teaching accepted? What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple’s accepting this teaching?

 Addressed above. 

c) What natural methods are promoted by the particular Churches to help spouses put into practice the teachings of Humanae vitae?

Natural Family Planning – marketed by Family Life and Marriage Preparation programs in virtually every diocese. From superficial observation of those who frequent weekend Masses, it appears that many Catholic couples do not have large families.

d) What is your experience on this subject in the practice of the Sacrament of Penance and participation at the Eucharist?

One rarely hears a scruple expressed about the use of artificial contraception. It is, for the most part, not an issue – except for those stirred to its “intrinsic immorality” by preachers of such ilk as the now discredited John Corapi, the utterly clueless and pastorally inept priests of EWTN who unfortunately have a very wide audience, and the various and sundry lay persons, nuns, and others who make it the centerpiece of their public utterances. Likewise, various militant Catholic groups who refer to themselves as “orthodox” inject it into their rah-rah public gatherings, retreats and websites often inducing guilt into the lives of people where it may not have existed.

e) What differences are seen in this regard between the Church’s teaching and civic education?

This has become very nearly a totally Catholic confessional issue – we are virtually the only major Christian denomination which views artificial birth control as an “issue.” In recent months however, as part of heavily funded right-wing conservative efforts to deny access to health care to all Americans, some who heretofore have had no moral problem with artificial contraception have now become its opponents. The hypocrisy of such position is clear and of course there is a wink and a nod that contraceptives of all kinds (as well as access to legal abortion) will continue to be available to Americans who have enough money. The issue isn’t the morality of contraception but the nearly fanatical desire to further degrade the poor, who are not “entitled” to health care of any kind. The American bishops had the utter gall to spend millions of dollars (many of it from the unaccountable leadership of the Knights of Columbus) on a bogus “Religious Liberty Campaign” equating access to contraceptives in public health care with an assault on organized religion in general and Catholicism in particular. Their efforts were for naught and their accountability for this fiasco was zero. This money could have been used to shore up Catholic schools in poor communities or even to sustain the increasingly stressed Catholic ministries to the homeless and poor.

f) How can a more open attitude towards having children be fostered? How can an increase in births be promoted?

In America, individual choice is king as our society favors (and so does the church when it suits its purpose) a myth of rugged individualism. Some right-wing Catholic politicians – with the assistance of bishops and Catholic “intellectuals” – have hijacked the word “subsidiarity” as an excuse to destroy America’s weak social safety net. However, if we were as strong for a durable social safety net as we are to condemn gays and abortion, we could help create a genuine environment for life. This would involve not only opposition to abortion but also health care for all, decent funding of education, nutrition, and good jobs at decent wages. Instead, the plutocrats who disproportionately affect out public discourse scream about being “pro-life” but work to destroy what they derisively call the “nanny state,” which is their term for anything that helps the poorest and most vulnerable among us. There are American bishops who defend these rich people.

Categories: Beliefs, Institutions

Beliefs:

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life.

154 Comments

  1. Father, with respect, your assertions that some of the Church’s teachings, especially regarding human sexuality, are not backed up by “cogent and defensible reasons” in order for it to be taken seriously. In so doing, you completely ignore the entire teaching of Blessed John Paul II, often called his “Theology of the Body”, which provides precisely the very cogent, defensible and and logically synthetic defense that you claim is needed.

    I propose that the problem is NOT with the teaching, nor with the manner in which the teaching was formed, but rather it lies with the teachers — priests, bishops, lay catechists who lack the will, the understanding, and yes, the courage, to propose the teaching in its entirety and its beauty.

        • Samuel Johnston

          The successors of Jesus are well known for their tolerant and forgiving nature towards those who fail to adhere to the party line. Happily, in our own secular time the Church no longer uses the rack, and other physical instruments of torture to save those errant souls, but one suspects other punishments await
          those who incur the disfavor of Rome.

        • Louis Arceneaux

          Maybe he chose to go unnamed because he fears his bishop will remove him from ministry because of his honest disagreements with the official stand of the hiearrchy.

          • Louis Arceneaux

            You must not be a Catholic priests. Many of us have been removed from active ministry because we spoke out openly,opposing some Catholic teachings, even those not infallible. I was told not to speak out openly in opposition to some non-infallible teachings. I clearly understand the need for anonymity in the Catholic Church, especially if you are a priest and want to continue to minister.

          • Niko. Naive thinking. Many Bishops can be vindictive and / or brook no thinking that runs counter to their views. One can name several such. “My way or the highway. Choose.”

          • In response to your Jan 2 post and to Christopher, (for some reason it would not allow me to respond directly,)

            If a priest disagrees with the teachings of the Church, why would he want to minister under it? I am a member of the Catholic Church because I believe it to be the true Church of Christ and therefore impervious to error, if I did not believe that, I would go somewhere else or found my own church. When one becomes a priest they swear fealty to the bishop, and by extension to the deposit of faith handed down from the apostles. For a priest to make that promise and obey the bishop and then oppose the teachings of the Church as handed down by that bishop, well, that’s just duplicitous. As a Catholic youth, I can assure you what the youth of the Church want is honest obedience to the teachings of the Church. Any priest who is unprepared to give that should request laicization.

          • Considering the fact that priests take a vow of obedience, and failing to comply with the orders of their superiors in the Church when it is not counter to official Church teachings on the matter, punishment would be warranted. These comments are based in heresy, and therefore do not have a place in the Church, nor does a priest who subscribe to them be entrusted with the job of guiding others on morality.

          • Throwing out charges of heresy whenever someone disagrees with the Church is a guarantee of lack of credibility, if not hubris. If the Church believed so, it would never have created a questionnaire.

          • Continually trying to validate actions which are heretical in nature is a prime sign of a lax conscience.

            Also, when a person directly opposes Church teachings on matters of faith or morals, it is in nature heretical. This is not him questioning why the Church teaches something, this is disagreement with what the Church teaches on matters of faith and morals, and is therefore heresy. If you think I’m wrong to use the word in this instance, please, go find a dictionary and look up the words “Heresy,” “Heretical,” and “Heretic,” because according to every single definition I’ve found, my usage is accurate.

        • It’s amazing how so many people have spent so much time disagreeing with many positions of the Church and not had the spectre of “heresy” brought up. I personally had many very interesting discussions with Catholic theologians, bringing up views counter to the Church’s teachings and never heard the word mentioned. There is a difference in disagreeing with Christ’s words and disagreeing with the Church’s additions and extrapolations, especially in regard to the trappings of the Church.

          “Heresy” has become a word tossed around by far-right Catholics as a (supposed) end-of-argument. To counter supposed “disobedience” to their view of Catholicism. To avoid admitting that right-wing fantasies are not the equivalent of Truth. Which is why they do so much howling when Pope Francis deviates from the script they envision.

          • Yes, I see a new day in the Church. Heretofore, many Catholics including clergy lived in fear of reprisals if they dared to disagree with the Church. It was the case of the emperor having no clothes. What I see here is a willingness to question and to challenge. I see this as good. I am also aware that there are Catholics who need the Church’s rules and regulations. It gives them safety and structure and stability in their every day lives. But, there are others of us who have come to place where we are ready to question and challenge and discern what makes sense for us in our lives. The Catholic LGBT community has been empowered to do this by those who supported them outside the Church and those who supported them under the radar within the Church. It is a new day for us. The old fear of punishment and god’s wrath for failing to adhere to the Bishop’s rules and regulations on our sexuality are waning. More Catholics want to honest discussions not parroted teachings that lead to an understanding of what it means to live as a follower of Christ. We don’t want or need interpretations of Scripture that simply parrot what has been taught in ignorance of science. I grieve for the Catholic LGBT community who live in terror of the sexuality and feel compelled by threats of hell to live out the sexuality in secret and in hiding all the while espousing the ‘rightness’ of the Church’s teachings. I grieve for them who have been estranged from their families out of shame they experience when they come out. We shall overcome. Garry

          • And yet, it’s not a rule or regulation of the bishops that you’re arguing against. It’s the New Testament. Matthew 19:1-8, Romans 1:18-32, Corinthians 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3-7, Colossians 3:5-7, Timothy 1:10, Titus 1:16, Jude 1:4, 7, and 19, and Revelation 21:27.

            Church teachings on sexuality are directly based off of these and other parts of the Bible. Unless you deny that the Bible is inspired work in full, or would deny a majority of the NT, and deny Jesus as God, you cannot deny the actions as being wrong.

            Also see Matthew 18:7, Matthew 25:46, Ezekiel 18:20, Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 5:12, James 1:15, Galatians 6:7, Hebrews 10:1-39, 2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 John 3:4, Proverbs 1:1-33, Romans 2:6-10, Acts 2:38, Matthew 10:28, 1 John 1:8, 2 Corinthians 7:10, Revelation 20:10-15, Revelation 11:18, etc., etc..

            Also, as for the issue with the authority of declarations of official Church teachings:

            Matthew 18:15-19, giving the right to bind or loose to Peter, and to all Popes to follow, in matters of the faith, including morals, the forgiveness of sin, etc.

            As far as the forgiveness of sins, among other verses, see Acts 3:19.

            As far as Bible being used in such matters as reproof see: 2 Timothy 3:16

            Note also that in matters of faith and morals in which the NT and OT vary, the NT holds precedence, as those sections of Mosaic law were fulfilled in the NT, as per most Christian beliefs, including those held by the Church. Also, in the case of sexual urges, the NT and OT don’t vary, excepting in monogamy versus polygamy, which is not the issue you’ve been trying to argue up to this point. Also noting that marriage in the case of old versus new mainly differs in that the former was on basis of bettering the social norms at the time in preparation of the coming of Christ, whereas in the latter, it finished the change and elevated marriage to a Sacrament.

            Thus it is that Marriage in the Church is a part of Tradition, and not a part of tradition.

          • The Scriptures were written within a particular context and in a particular culture and particular time and place by ancient peoples. Spiritual truth expressed in those sacred writings had by necessity to be built upon their human understanding of the natural world and was the human author’s attempts to express spiritual truth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit but their understanding of science, psychology and human genetics was limited by their time and place. The Jewish cosmology had the sky blue because it held water and rain happened as vaults opened up and allowed rain. Jesus himself mentioned Noah’s flood and He was certainly sharing and expressing the Jewish culture’s understanding of the flood myth. But, the sky is not blue because of water and their are no vaults opening up to make it rain. And, there is no evidence for any such flood as described Genesis. Neither was there at the time the Scripture was written today’s understanding of homosexuality. Neither Jesus nor His Jewish followers would not have known what we were talking when we use the word ‘homosexual’ as there was no such word. Nor did St. Paul have an understanding of the difference between Temple cult prostitutes and sexual orgies and the committed homosexual and lesbian relationships of today. There was no talk about gay marriage and gay relationships as we understand them today. We live in a different time.
            And, therefore to use Sacred Scriptures to claim that the Bible condemns homosexuality are just that an interpretation of the understanding of the ancient’s application of what was written to a modern day understanding and usage.. When condemnations of same sex relations were made there was no understanding of monogamous homosexual relationships for Jews and they would not have understood what in the world you were talking about. Further, for the Jewish peoples and other the ancient peoples with high infant mortality and constant struggle for survival in a hostile world called for large families and large numbers of male children to defend and protect the peoples.. Science has helped us to understand human genetics and the role of genes in passing down traits such as homosexuality –unknown either in Jesus or the apostles’ days. Sickness for the ancients including Jesus day was more often attributed to demonic spirits and sin. And that is why lepers were shunned and ostracized by strictly purity laws–shunned not because of the leprosy–but because they believed it was caused by a serious sin. The belief was that leprosy was caused by serious sin. That is why lepers were shunned. That is the Jewish understanding of leprosy of Jesus’ day. So you can see that Jesus was limited by the human understandings of His day and so He too would have believed this. How many clergy today would believe the leprosy is caused by sin or by demons? So, we as human beings are not off base to take into consideration what we learn in science about human beings. The Bible is not a science text book and so it ought not to be used as one in establishing that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered as the Church has stated.. Today, every medical, nursing, psychological, psychiatric and social work association views homosexuality as a normal in human beings and an expressions of human sexuality. So, just trying to apply the Bible to what we face today with gay and lesbians couples as if the Bible can give us a superior to scientific understanding of homosexuality is not credible. We have grown much in our understanding of the human body, disease, treatment and our understanding of human sexuality. The Church’s view of human sexuality is in my view and the view of science as greatly lacking and further that its good intentions not withstanding such teaching is causing grave harm to the LBGT community. For example, LGBT teens make up a large percentage of teens tossed out in the streets by irate parents. Does Jesus condemn homosexuality or relationships based on mutual consent and commitment? I see no evidence of that — He is silent on the issue. The current push for gay marriage is demonstrating to many who are open to science that lesbian couples and gay couples like heterosexual couples can indeed form lasting and loving relationships. Garry

          • The issue voiced is not about whether or not homosexual persons can form loving and lasting relationships. People are expected to love their neighbors, and indeed, love everyone. Nor is it a condemnation of people based on sexuality. It is a condemnation of any sexual act outside of marriage, marriage, which is defined in the New Testament as being between a single man and a single woman. This is not using the bible as a science text, nor is it trying to. It is a recognition of the fact that such acts outside of marriage are explicitly condemned, as is any sexual relation with someone of the same sex. This is not an interpretation of the translation, it is what is specifically said in the Bible. That we call it a homosexual act does not change that it is the same thing. It is not an issue of consent or commitment, is in an issue with the action itself, which you would realize had you actually read those verses which I referred you to.

            Also, monogamous homosexual relations are described in works other than the Bible during Ancient times, including:

            “And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger?” ~Plato’s Symposium.

            Furthermore, it’s also interesting to note that historians, both modern and ancient, also suggest that Homer’s Illiad gives us another example of romantic homosexual love between the mythological characters Achilles and Patroclus. Though this is fictional, it betrays a perspective that was shared in the ancient world: homosexual relationships were not simply activities of pagan ritual, prostitution, rape, or pederasty. Plato’s Symposium, Homer’s Illiad, and the Sacred Band of Thebes all mitigate against such a narrow perspective.

            If, as you argue, homosexuality is caused by genetics, firstly, to the best of my knowledge, that has not actually been proven. Secondly, simply because there is a genetic link doesn’t mean it is normal. No one would argue that having six toes is normal, but it is a genetic property. Nor would anyone argue that having and ASD is normal, yet it appears to be genetic as well, running in families, having certain characteristics among certain families, etc. In other words, simply because it is genetic doesn’t mean it’s normal. Indeed, statistics show it’s not normal, with only about 3-5% of the population being homosexual. Although you can argue that that’s based on self-report and some people haven’t come out of the closet yet, that number is the most generous I could find. Statistics based on information which actually questioned a person’s sexuality using in-depth questions based on attraction and such found it to be closer to 1-2%.

            Also, as far as what you think Jesus would or would not believed based on the time period is inconsistent with biblical teachings as well. Note that he wasn’t hindered by the science or popular belief of the day when he said “This is my body, this is my blood,” or when he claimed to be the Messiah. That being said, no, the bible isn’t a science book. It’s not being used as such. There are specific books which are doctrinal, and some which are historical. The wording was that of people in the day and age each book was written. Hence why Jesus, when he left, left the Church, to continue to explain the teachings throughout the ages, and phrasing them in the language of the time.

            Also note that your current argument holds beliefs exactly counter to the Bible as being divinely inspired in that what is true remains true for all time, not despite science, but with science. The passages I refer to don’t say “except in XYZ case,” it includes such things. Simply because it does not specifically go through and say “And lying about THIS thing is wrong,” or “And having sexual relations under these specific circumstances is wrong,” doesn’t mean it’s not included when it says “Thou shalt not lie,” or when fornication is condemned, and marriage is described as being only between man and woman, or that any form of sexual immorality is a sin.

            The main idea behind Christian belief that the Bible is inspired is that it applies to all times, all places, all cultures. It is thereby universal. To try and write off something in it because of current sciences only works if you are not at the same time trying to preserve it as being infallible. Further, it is the official teaching of the Church that science unless it breaks the moral code (such as in the embryonic stem cell research department) will never contradict the Bible, when the differences between doctrinal and historical books is accounted for. Arguing that science has now made a particular part of the Bible irrelevant or in any way wrong is to claim that the Bible is not inspired, and thereby is in nature not a Catholic belief.

          • Men in ancient Greece did not see themselves as gay as we would understand that term today. They did have male mentors usually older men who took on the guidance of a younger male. These relationships were temporary and the younger men were expected to marry and produce children, particularly male children to defend. Achilles and Patrocles were an example of this kind of male mentoring. St. Paul saw the Greek temple prostitute cults and was horrified but he did not have our modern notion of homosexuality as we understand it today. St. Paul had no knowledge of any genetic connection to the development of homosexuality. For St. Paul same sex relations would be have been a choice made by a straight men to have same sex relations. As a Jew in his time, would he have understood the diverse expressions of human sexuality as we know today in the 21st century? What role should the advancement of science play in ongoing and developing understanding our human sexuality? Science recognizes the diversity exists not only among humans but that homosexuality is present among numerous animal species. Indeed, there are biologists who make the argument that homosexuality in humans contributed to the continuation of our species. It does make a difference to me when science uncovers strong evidence for a genetic link. It means that it is not a choice. It is something inborn in us. This is born out by the life experiences of many gays and lesbians who always knew that they were gay. It was not a choice. So, it is hurtful and degrading and self-destructive for me as a gay male to be told that I am defective and sick because the Church teaches that my sexual orientation is intrinsically disordered. Can you see how buying into such a idea feeds self-hatred? And homophobia? And LBGT suicides? The analogy of six toes as a way of dismissing the genetic link is insulting to gays and lesbians. The notion that by definition beliefs rooted in ignorance about human sexuality and its origins should determine whether or not a gay couple and lesbian couple can share their love is repugnant to me. Plato’s description of the ideal was beautiful and it showed an understanding that such powerful love was possible. But, all this is dismissed out of hand by you and representatives of the Church–basing such teaching on ignorance. Do you see how your defense of this teaching for some of us in the LGBT community sounds like hatred of us? No one asked to be gay or lesbian — who would ask to be treated as defective and unable to express love for another person that they love? Take your ideas out to the LGBT community and see how many converts you will get? How many will hear your defense of the Church’s teaching as loving and compassionate? What self-respecting straight man would ever agree that he could never be married to the woman he loved? He could never express his love to his beloved because the Church says it is wrong? Yet this is precisely the poison you are selling and expecting gays and lesbians to drink. Go out and see for yourself the fruit of this teaching. Talk to gays and lesbians and ask them how they view this teaching? Go and talk to gay and lesbian couples and ask them how they experience this teaching? Garry

          • It’s not an “ace in the hole” so to speak, nor do I intend to use it as such. However, this is heretical in nature, and therefore calling it that is no less acceptable than calling it an honest disagreement. It is a disagreement, and it may be honest (if it is the true belief of those who claim as such), but that does not change that it is heretical in nature. Indeed, if you know the origins of the word, you’d note that in and of itself, heretical teachings are neutral. Heresy comes from the Greek word “haireisthai” which means “choose” and “hairesis” which means “choice.” So basically, heresy is to choose to believe something different than what is taught or professed in something, in particular, a religion. Ergo, a person who claims to be Lutheran, but doesn’t believe the same things that are taught by the Lutheran Church is in nature a heretic. It doesn’t matter if his beliefs match those of Baptists, Catholics, Buddhists, or any other religion, he is technically a Lutheran heretic, as is anyone who doesn’t believe what the Lutheran church teaches, provided they have knowledge of those teachings. Likewise, anyone who doesn’t believe in the Catholic Church’s official teachings on issues of faith and morality is in nature, a Catholic heretic, whether their beliefs mesh with another religion or not.

            When it is not a matter of Tradition, but a matter of tradition, then it is not heretical in nature. When it is a matter of hypotheticals, or a debate solely for the intent of addressing differing viewpoints from the particular perspectives offered, or it is debate from a different religion’s point of view, the word heresy would naturally not be brought up, since it is already implied by the nature of the discussion, and is pointless to bring up. In the case above, however, it treats such ideas as if they can or should replace Church teachings due to the idea that those teachings have no actual import morally, which is a fallacious idea, presented by someone who claims to be a faithful member of the Church. Therefore, addressing it as heresy is both accurate and a point which should be addressed, since there is true disagreement, which is not considered as a separate religion, but as one in the same.

          • Christ’s teachings were meant to be timeless. If the only justification for something is “tradition”, and it doesn’t make much sense in the modern world, then it obviously does not fit the definition. As such, it should be reevaluated. And unless it can be justified outside of tradition, it is not a core teaching of Jesus and is not infallible.

      • The responses to Priest X’s replies to Pope Francis’ questions are themselves worth comment. Jesus gave us principles to live by, not rules. Much comment here has been on the Church’s attempts to apply these rules to the situations of the day. These applications will change as data for them change; the principles of mercy, forgiveness, love, truth do not.

        We need discipline for our health. Fasting is a tool for this. Fasting on Friday only recognized this; it does not have to be Friday. St. Augustine said, ‘Love God and do what you will.’

        The purpose of marriage has not changed. Our understand of sexuality has. Once marriage was seen only for procreation; now it is also seen as for mutual support. Vatican II brought this recognition to Church Law. People need stable relationships to be healthy. Gays demand this. That said, they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Charity, mercy, understanding are the principles to apply to human bonding. Indiscriminate sex vitiates human bonding and child care. If gays cannot bond with the opposite sex, church law needs to accommodate that. It is a long-standing principle of canon law that if a law does not have an exception it is an unjust law.
        This is what Pope Francis is asking, how do we update Church Law in the light of mercy, truth, charity, healing? If law does not recognize these principles, it is unjust.

        Americans in general and many of their RC clergy are notorious for blindly following laws. To challenge that way of respondong destabilizes them and forces them to rethink their life positions, especially when it hits their pocket books and to think of others. The tyranny of unthinking, emotional majorities unwilling to be ones for others is a sin of much of the American culture. Read Matthew 25. Jesus was put to death for challenging his culture when he challenged its hypocrites who professed to follow the greatest commandment. Similarly St. Paul when he said, ‘If they will not work, let them not eat.’ Unjust entitlement and neglect are always with us.

        America is a leader in incarcerating those who challenge it without doing harm to others (marijuana, e.g.). Need more be said? Francis is challenging those who disregard others welfare be they communist or capitalist.

    • Did you read these responses? Is there any real doubt in your mind that they were written by a priest? Or is your question really just a red herring? Can we not, even in matters of faith & ecclesiology, simply approach the conversation with honesty and civility, rather than with the tendentiousness that has so damaged our civil society & political discourse?

  2. Southern Priest

    The socially retrograde American South? Has Father ever spent any time in the South, where Catholic churches are growing, while those up North are closing all over the place? What hateful speech from a supposed shepherd.

  3. At least disclose what year this priest was ordained and what seminary he attended. I highly doubt any priest ordained in the last 20 years would derisively refer to the reign of Blessed John Paul the Great as the “Wotyla pontificate.” But if one did, he would probably at least do a Google search to be sure he spelled “Wojtyla” correctly.

    • George McCartin

      To Catholic Mom and others here who refuse to credit this priest’s response as coming from a real priest stop the denial. The majority of priests wherever and whenever ordained would agree with most of this priest’s answers. We just would not be as able to articulate the answers the way he did.
      George McCartin
      priest/lawyer

    • I am a religious order priest, ordained 1978 ( a month before John Paul IIs election). I’m an independent thinker, meaning I try to see EVERYTHING from both sides. there was a lot of silliness after Vatican 2; there has been a lot of pomposity since. I agree with Father X on 80% of what he said; he’s opinionated and over critical — I work with the Neo-Catechumenate — but he has described very accurately the attitude of the faithful. For example, Hispanics are both very traditional AND very forgiving and understanding — they make me ashamed of many of my judgmental Anglo sisters and brothers. Including bishops)

  4. Clint – JPII’s Theology of the Body is not recognized by most experts in either philosophy or moral theology. It has not withstood investigation or been vetted by widely respected moral theologians. JPII based this upon his own opinions and a very narrow philosophy (in fact, he had to leave school in Rome in order to get this PhD topic/thesis approved in Poland in a small school via friends)……its conclusions about gender, basic sexuality, cultural mores; etc. has not been demonstrated over the years and it is quickly dying a *thousand deaths*. No reputable catholic university teaches this; and no reputable study has shown its value.
    This pastor responds to JPII’s defense of HV (which this pastor cites as a real issue); Christopher West and George Weigel are the biggest proponents – again, this pastor cites Weigel as holding minority, rigid, and backwards positions (Weigel never met a Vatican sexuality pronouncement he didn’t love but let the Vatican weigh in on economics, poverty, the common good, and Weigel becomes a cafeteria catholic).
    The theology of the body is based upon a specific and outdated *natural law* concept – again, this pastor names that outdated natural law concept as a major issue. It is an Idealized viewpoint that makes little connection to real people e.g. gay people, divorced people, contraception, etc.

  5. ” Natural law itself as understood by the church is not intelligible to anyone who has high school or college knowledge of physics, biology or human psychology. ”

    oh, what presumptuous baloney. I have all of the above and I also understand what natural law means.

    • Natural law in Aquinas time did not know of the existence of the ovum. Sperm were considered “tiny humans.” Aquinas considered the woman’s womb to be only one option for growing a fetus. Please explain what you mean by “natural law” and how it applies to moral issues such as masturbation and abortiion as our understanding of biology develops.

      • It doesn’t mean biology applied to morality, if that’s what you’re trying to imply by pointing out Aquinas’ poor biology. Natural law, on some accounts, is about the innate human ability to recognize true moral principles. On the other account, and this touches biology, it is about the ability to look to the human person, and its flourishing, and so derive aspects of the moral law.

        • samuel Johnston

          Squishy concepts like “natural law” and “tradition” allow the Church to claim fishtail about while claiming consistency. Those in science find it much harder to equivocate and prevaricate.

          • Perhaps they do, perhaps they don’t, but if it’s true for physicists, biologists and (human) physiologists, surely it would be true for social scientists, economists, chemists, philosophers, et al, *unless* there was some particular relevance of those areas.

          • Tradition and tradition aren’t squishy concepts, by any means, if you actually do a bit of research on the matter. Tradition, with a capital “T” always, refers to teachings, beliefs, and customs that aren’t changeable, based in the bible, and through the Magesterium. Big “T” Tradition deals with such matters as apostolic succession, the order of the mass, teachings on sexuality, etc.. Little “t” tradition deals with things such as at what age a person can receive communion, when people are confirmed, whether or not girls act as altar servers, the language the mass is said in (such as when masses were all said in Latin, versus present time), etc.. The main difference is that Tradition is based around religious aspects, which aren’t changeable, whereas tradition is about the cultural aspects. So, for example, while the order of the mass isn’t changeable, the language it is spoken in is changeable.

          • samuel Johnston

            May I refer you to “Variations of Popery” by Samuel Edgar D.D.
            Published by E. Stevenson and F.A. Owen, Agents, for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South 1855

  6. As a divorced and re-married Catholic I find a lot of hope in what Father X writes. Maybe the Church will soon accept some of the realities of today’s family.

  7. Louis Arceneaux

    As a Catholic priest, ordained in 1966, who received a doctorate in theology, taught in seminaries and ministered in parishes, I find Fr. X’s responses extremely accurate. I agree with what he wrote, based on my own experience. What he wrote was not new to me or many priests I know who were ordained in the 60′s. And yes, we did receive very good formation. If the official hierarchy wants to evangelize, they could do wonders by welcoming back all those they chased away due to the strict attitude toward divorce and remarriage. Where is forgiveness and reconciliation? Likewise for the many wonderful theologians, like Charles Curran, who were chased away.

  8. I don’t think that laypeople could fill out the whole survey, but their input is still valuable. People have obviously had experience with the parish or local diocese for things like marriage prep, catechism for their children, annulments, etc. I think that experiences, both good and bad, are what the Vatican is looking for.

  9. Educated laypeople could certainly answer this survey, especially those who work in Catholic parishes. This lay person has worked in Catholic churches since the 1950′s.
    I answered this questionnaire and sent it in to a lay group that’s forwarding it on, since I suspect not many pastors or lay people in my archdiocese will do so. I understood what the questions were referring to! My answers were very similar to those of this anonymous priest’s. As a church musician I had a lot of exposure to the lack of knowledge about marriage on the part of brides whose education on the subject comes from the wedding industry. I’ve even lost church jobs because the pastors didn’t want to upset the mothers of the brides with genuine religious music! My suggestion was group wedding ceremonies at Sunday Mass, like the Mexican Bishops’ procedures for Quinceañeras.
    To the questions about children of unmarried parents, my answer was “treat them the same as all the other children”, those questions showed a complete lack of knowledge about life in the US.
    I also talked about the lack of knowledge about liturgy and music on the part of pastors…especially with regard to the theology in hymns, and the singability (or lack of) of various highly sold settings of the Mass in English which are trite both musically and linguistically….these non musical pastors think their authority extends to choosing music and sometimes even forbid more suitable hymns than those from the non musicians published by OCP and others.
    And what was the purpose of redoing the English translation of the Mass to make it literally less Anglo Saxon and more Latin in both vocabulary and syntax? It’s unsayable! It’s unsingable!! It’s unintelligible to the congregation…who among them understands “consubstantial”? Wasn’t “one in being with the father” better? The purpose of this change seems to have been to augment the coffers of publishers of church music, it certainly cost the US churches a LOT of money…buying new Missalettes, Missals, Hymn Books, Psalm Books, Cantor Books, Choir music, Accompaniment books for the musicians, paying for extra rehearsals for the musicians to learn the new stuff, etc…
    And in case the Pope hasn’t heard, U.S. Catholic churches don’t pay living wages to their musicians..so next week I play for the Presbyterians, and 3 weeks ago I played for the Lutherans.

    • (Just picking up on your last paragraph…) I live in New Zealand, and my parish doesn’t pay anyone for anything done in relation to the parish, other than the priest and one part time church secretary. Incidental expenses are usually covered when asked for. And we are one of the richer parishes in our diocese. But at least our country provides nominally free healthcare to everyone…

  10. What Fr. Silk has written could have been written by a great many active priests and not a few bishops. Pope Francis has surprised everyone and taken us back to a humble compassionate Peter, the fisherman.

  11. Mike Reimringer

    Of the 6 Roman Catholic (RC) priests I’ve known as pastors since 1978, 4 would agree with Fr. X on his answers and may even feel he doesn’t go far enough. At least 3 of these pastors would welcome the ordination of single women and married men and women as priests. For myself, the RC hierarchy has lost all credibility by its refusal to deal quickly and openly with the worldwide sexual abuse scandal. In my view, the hierarchy has been and is morally and criminally liable.

    • Amen to your comments! I hope you do not let well deserved loss of credibility for bishops, chase you away from the Church. The hierarchy are not the only part if the Church.

    • And of the four bishops, five pastors, six other priests, and three deacons I’ve known and worked with over the course of my -admittedly shorter- life, not a single one has agreed with Fr. X on a majority of his statements. Of the many, many youth I’ve worked with, most would disagree with Fr. X on many of the above statements, and be able to explain pretty clearly why, from growing up in a broken home, to knowing and helping people recover from abortions, to learning more about the faith with a will to be applauded. Those who do agree with Fr. X often do not know why the Church takes the stands it does, or do not wish to be Catholic, but attend because of their parents.

      While all people should be handled with compassion and mercy, that doesn’t mean catering to a lax conscience by failing to address sinful and immoral actions, which is what this Fr. X is saying should be done.

      • I was raised in a Catholic home and went to Catholic schools. I was well schooled in the faith and fully embraced it. My doubts with the Church’s teachings came when I was confronted with the reality of my strong sexual attraction to males. I could not accept the teaching that my homosexuality was intrinsically disordered. I also could not accept that making love to the man I loved was a sin. That is the experience of many Catholics in the LGBT community. I cannot accept that the Church loves me as gay or lesbian but hates the intimate expression of my love. For those like me who are gay, the Church’s active rejection of gay marriage only reinforces the rejection that I feel. Since gay marriage laws, I have had a new experience of thanking God for making me a gay man. I am glad that God has blessed me with this orientation. I imagine that I am not alone among many Catholics who are LBGT.

        • I was raised in a Catholic home as well, attended CCD classes for about half my life in an excellent parish program, was confirmed while there, studied theology both through the Catechism programs in the parishes I’ve belonged to subsequently, and also in homeschooling and independent of any other theology program. In recent years I’ve taught theology through my parish, and have had and taken advantage of the opportunities I’ve had over the years to expand my knowledge of not only official RCC teachings, but also the teachings of people and groups that don’t adhere to RCC teachings. Generally speaking, when a new idea or principle is set before me, I do research on it and make my own opinion on it before consulting RCC teaching on it, and find that I agree with RCC teachings when I do finally look at them. Does that make me an expert? No, I’d think not. However, I do think it allows for a relatively clear understanding on these particular issues (for numerous reasons I’ve studied the issues addressed in the Q&A in particular).

          As far as your lack of belief in the idea that the Church accepts you, but not your actions, I’ve heard the same from others before, so let me ask you: do you then think that it is impossible for the Church to accept a person who lies, but not accept the lies? Do you think it is impossible for the Church to accept a person who fornicates, but not accept their fornication? Do you think it is impossible for the Church to accept someone who swears, but not their swearing, them, but not their disrespect of their parents? A person, but not their envy? If you don’t believe that the Church can do this, but believe it is the true Church, then tell me, do you think we’re all saints on Earth, or all damned to hell from the get-go? Because if the Church cannot accept persons into it without accepting their sins, then there is either no point in not sinning, or no point in joining the Church to begin with.

          Also, I find it interesting that you act as if your “intimate expression of love” as you very beautifully worded it (and no, I promise I’m not being in the least bit sarcastic, that really is some very beautiful wording on your part. Bravo [or Brava]) is the only type of intimate relationship that the Church preaches against, when it’s well-known that it’s not. Adultery, fornication, and any other sexual union outside of marriage is considered wrong. Not because of the sexuality of those involved, but for the same basic reasoning behind women not being allowed to be priests. Mind you, it’s early in the morning, so this may be worded oddly, but try to bear with me.

          Women are not priests for two reasons:

          1) Apostolic succession. If there had been a female apostle chosen by Jesus and present during the last supper, the descent of the Holy Spirit, when Jesus visited the twelve after his resurrection, and, most importantly, during the blessing he gave the apostles just before his ascension, then women could fulfill Apostolic succession.

          2) The Church is the bride of Christ. Priests represent Christ as shepherd and bridegroom of the Church. This is also why priests are supposed to be celibate. Since the Church doesn’t recognize unions between two males or two females as being marriage, women can’t be priests (on the same note though, men can’t be nuns, since nuns marry God).

          Now, how does this tie back in?

          1) Marriage, as a sacrament, was founded with the Wedding Feast at Cana. The wedding was between a single man, and a single woman, and the miracle of water to wine, and the blessing from Christ established it as a valid union between persons.

          2) No other unions between two or more people were blessed in such a manner during the New Testament, and therefore no other union between people is elevated to the status of a sacrament. Although you could try arguing on number using Mosaic law, when Mosaic law and new testament differentiate on a matter, New Testament is considered to be correct according to the RCC.

          3) Finally, all sacraments are ordered to bring people closer to God and the Church in some manner. In Holy Orders, it is done by making a person a shepherd and bridegroom of the Church, thereby humbling the man who becomes a priest to the role of servant to all and imitating Christ’s service. In marriage, it brings both husband and wife closer to God and the Church because it imitates the union of the Church and God, as both who enter marriage are called to give to each other fully, and receive fully their spouse, as the Church gives fully to God by working in union through the sacraments and the faithful, -whether priest, nun, lay brother, married couple, or unmarried laity- with the ultimate goal of bringing souls to heaven.

          Lastly, and I don’t mean this as an attack, or anything other than my personal thoughts, should I ever find that I cannot reconcile what I believe is morally sound with what the Church teaches on something, then it would be illogical for me to call myself Catholic, as it would be for anyone who does not believe in what the Church teaches on matters of morality. Saying that one is a part of a religious group, while not only not professing what the religion teaches, but professing beliefs that are in direct opposition to that religion’s stance on grave matters is ridiculous and insulting. Ridiculous, because it makes no sense to claim to follow something that one doesn’t; insulting, not only to the religion because it results in misrepresentation and abuse of the beliefs held by it, but also to the person, because it ignores one’s own moral ground, and therefore one’s conscience. If one cannot reconcile one’s conscience with one’s religion, then it is owed to one’s conscience to not continue in that religion, lest one make a liar of oneself. Whether or not one does find oneself in such a position or not (whether it be me, anyone else, or everyone else), no matter the religion, I’d hope that that person, or those people, don’t ignore their conscience on the matter, because if they continue to follow such a religion, then how could they believe that it is the true one, and if they can’t believe it is true, then why bother following it?

          • Gosh dang it, I knew I was forgetting something in my reply. No relationship other than those between parents and children, and adoption were blessed (the man whose daughter was raised from the dead, and the adoption of St. John by St. Mary just before Jesus’s death).

          • samuel Johnston

            “Alex,
            Thank you for your informative reply to Gary. It shows that you have a legalistic mindset. I hope you may never have to experience the personal agony that you describe as “ridiculous and insulting”.
            We were all reared as part of a religious community which we did not choose, but from which we derived our judgments, values, friendships, and relationships. To become estranged from that community, to be condemned, pitied, excluded from that community is no small matter of intellectual choice. This officially demanded punishment is among life’s most trying experiences, so do not speak of it as simply a matter of choice.
            As a teen I got a job singing in a wealthy Episcopal Church choir. The monthly payment was a considered a godsend. My twice weekly ride was with another needy choir teenage hireling . (We split the price of gasoline) One day my ride buddy told me he had to quit the job because a Catholic priest had refused his grandmother communion, based on the facts that the boy lived in her house and under her control, yet he took part in a Protestant service. The topper to this story came a few months later when V2 changed the rules and the boy quickly resumed his singing job.
            Will Durant’s Autobiography “Transition” details his wrenching experience and the emotional trauma involved in Catholic banishment. In this case, as with so many others, the Church actively punishes those who become “traitors” and includes their family and their entire community in the banishment activity. Durant’s lack of bitterness and subsequent enormous success illustrates that a great soul can triumph over even so powerful an organization.

          • Alex, thanks for your sincere reply. I was not insulted. Is then your advice to all those of the Catholic LGBT community to leave the Church if they cannot accept the Church’s teaching on homosexuality? Is this in keeping with Pope Francis tone and effort? Would Jesus do this? When did Jesus ask anyone to leave? Even Peter who questioned Jesus prophecy of dying and death did not do that? Members of the LGBT community are human beings created with great love by God. In God’s eyes we are a delight, a joy. He made us exactly the way we are and I as a gay man praise God for it! I have been fearfully and wonderfully made! I am grateful.

          • It is my advice to anyone who does not believe in what a religion teaches on matters of morality. Would you recommend a person join a religion that taught something that you knew that person didn’t believe was true, just, or right, or to continue working in a place which forced them to sacrifice their morality and ignore their conscience? If not, then continuing to practice a religion which you do not fully believe is no less an injustice to you and your own morals.

            If you do not believe the moral precepts of a religion which claims to be the true religion, you cannot also believe that it is the true religion. If you don’t believe that it’s the true religion, then the next logical step would be to go out and find a religion which you do agree with, that you may in good conscience accept the religion you are a member of in full.

            In answer to your other questions:

            1) The Church welcomes all people, regardless of their past. However, that does not mean that the welcome does not carry with it expectations or responsibilities. In joining and practicing Catholicism, it is the responsibility of each Catholic to act in accordance with Church teachings.

            2) Even should a person leave the Church, or belong to a different religion, or not belong to any religion, the welcome is still there, should they believe in the Church’s teachings and choose to accept the welcome.

            3) I refer you to Mark 16:15-16 “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
            It requires not only baptism, but also faith: full belief in what is taught. Also, James 2:14, where it is stated, in no unclear terms, that faith without works is dead, and, if you continue through to James 2:24, you’ll note also that works are perfected by faith.

            4) Forgiveness, mercy, and justice in turn are all a part of what is given by God through the Church, but in order to receive them, we must first accept them as being necessary and good. We receive them in the main, from the proper and frequent receiving and usage of the Sacraments and Sacramentals. Mercy and justice are first granted to each person through baptism, which washes away all previous sins a person has committed, as well as original sin. However, baptism can only be received once, and it does not continue to wash away sin, so in order to keep the soul from losing such grace as it receives from baptism, the other Sacraments and the Sacramentals come into play. Confession is usually received first, because it is one which allows a person to receive forgiveness for actions or inactions that are sinful and committed after baptism. However, with forgiveness comes justice and mercy. The sins are forgiven, but only if a person owns to them, and only if a person admits all of them, and is truly sorry for it. A confession doesn’t work without the true intent to do better. Secondly, justice, in that the repentant is given an act of penance to perform. Thirdly, mercy, because for each sin confessed, the priest also says a prayer, so that the repentant does not bear the weight of his sins alone. Sacramentals, such as holy water, carry blessings which allow for various helpful things, from a bit of grace on, to those who use them in faith.

            5) Peter, however, was then confronted by Christ, as to who exactly he thought Christ was, and answered as he thought was true, and then after that, stopped questioning him on the matter. Not only that, but for each time he did such a thing, he recognized that HE was the one in error, not Christ, and in the end, humbled himself and repented. In this particular case, you seem to believe that you are the one who is right, and that the Church is in error. Not even the Magesterium alone, but also the Bible itself, and are unrepentant of it.

            Also, an example of a person who did not live a model life as far as dealing with Jesus was Judas. He chose to betray before leaving, and thereby lying about his own faithfulness. Note that the difference in how that particular story ended was that Judas chose to stay and lie because of greed, and then, realizing that he was wrong, refused to humble himself or admit that he was wrong, and ended up adding to greediness and lies, suicide. Instead of repenting, he decided to refuse to accept what was offered him. Peter, even though he made mistakes, owned to them, and repented, because he accepted that Christ could save him from them. He also continued to stay faithful, although his faith wavered, he sought out the answer and when he did find it, accepted it as true. That is what Judas refused to do.

            So, yes, my advice to people who cannot accept what the Church teaches would be to leave, because then at least, they are being honest with themselves and others, and it is in keeping with Christ, the Church, and Pope Francis’s tone and effort. If a person wishes to repent and come back (or be baptized) into the Church, I’d want to be the first to welcome them, I’d be ecstatic, overjoyed, and probably beside myself for at least a month, probably more, especially if I was familiar with them (heck, I don’t know a lot of people personally in my parish because of a rather hectic life and the distance it is from home, but I act like a giddy little kid whenever I hear about a baptism, and make a point to hunt down said person or parents to talk with them and check up on them in the following weeks and months.)

            As far as your being happy about who you are and how God chose to make you, I agree. I am glad that he made you! I am glad that he made me, with my ODD, my ADHD, my off-and-on depression, my weird sleep patterns, my buck-teeth and tiny mouth, my ASD, my major introversion, my gigantic, uncooperative feet, and crooked pinkies. I’m glad he made my brothers, my friends, my boss, my worst enemy, and that random guy named Jose who works at the grocery store in a neighboring town who I met once.

            Do you know why I’m so glad about all that? Even though I have to wear horribly uncomfortable shoes so that my arches stay up, I have to be around a bunch of noisy teenagers most of the day, constantly work to properly communicate with people, always pay attention to whether or not I’m being too loud or quiet, keep track of which type of voice makes people angry, figure out what actions are meant to convey love (which is no easy task, most of the time), work constantly to minimize the distraction and annoyance I feel whenever I hear certain tone qualities in people’s voices because they can’t help it, and work through background noises, even past trying not to snap people’s heads off for constantly pushing the limits of my tolerance of things that poke and prod at every single thing that I dislike?

            I am glad because it is mine to deal with it, and other people don’t have to deal with my personal issues. I’m glad, because I don’t have to deal with other people’s issues, but I can. I can help people out by keeping in mind the fact that I have issues that might not be nearly as bad as other peoples, and that anything I can do to help them deal with the ones I know about might give them something to keep them going.

            *Other relevant things:

            Matthew 16:24-27
            Ephesians 2:1-9
            Ephesians 1:13-16

            *I found numerous other relevant things in the space of about twenty minutes, but I was kind of all over the place with my tabs open to a bunch of stuff, and wound up misplacing about half of all the sections by the time I finished writing this.

          • Alex, I am not exiting the Church. I belong. I and a whole lot of Catholic members who are LGBT are not leaving along with many Catholics who fully embrace and support us. We are part of the body of Christ. We belong, We are lectors, Eucharistic ministers, parish staff, choir and musicians, parents, couples, singles that live and pray as part of parishes and dioceses. Our new pope welcomes us. You clearly do not–unless I agree with your scriptural arguments. The new pope does not preach that we should leave unless we live the Church’s teachings on homosexuality–why do you? I wonder why? Are you afraid of gay men? Do I threatened you? What is about homosexuality that got you so worked up? Why homosexuality? I am not being sarcastic or rude? I just cannot understand why this issue is so important to you? For those who are LGBT, I can understand. It impacts us directly. It impacts who we love. Those teachings that you defend have been the source of great suffering: homophobic hate crimes, bullying, scapegoating, harassment, ‘jokes’ that make it clear we do not belong, parents tossing their teens out in the street, men and women getting married in hopes of changing their sexual orientation, firings from jobs, etc. The Jesus I know is kind, compassionate, welcoming and encouraging to those who are outcasts and on the margins. He reserved his anger for those who would be the political and religious leaders for heaping burdens on the common people and not lifting a finger to help them. Do you hear the cry of the poor? Do you hear the cries of suffering? Jesus did and does. Like our new pope, Jesus reached out to the poor and downtroddened. So, no, I will not leave. Jesus welcomes me even if you do not.

          • You seem to be under the several wrong impressions.

            1) That I think you should leave if you don’t like Church teachings. That is not what I said, nor will I ever say it. I said, that if you can’t accept Church teachings as true, then you should leave, because there is no point in remaining in a religion if you do not think it is true. If you can’t accept a teaching, but recognize that it is true, then simply abstaining from Communion would be proper, because you are not in Communion with the Church, and to receive when not in Communion would be sacrilege.

            2) That it’s an issue of how you live that determines whether or not you should be in the Church. No, it’s not that. It’s whether or not you actually accept what the Church teaches as being truth. If it were based on how we live, then everyone would have to leave the Church, because we have all sinned, and will continue to sin till the moment of our death. That’s not the point, the point is, if you don’t think the official teachings on matters of faith and morality are right, then there is no point in continuing to lay claim to Catholicism, because it requires faith, and not believing in the teachings on morals and faith shows a lack of faith. If a person doesn’t believe that their religion is right on such a matter, then they cannot believe that it is the true religion, founded by God. Since that’s what the Catholic Church claims to be, if you don’t believe it is right on matters of faith and morals, then you cannot truly believe that it is God’s Church.

            3) Nope, I’m not afraid of gay men. I too, am attracted to men. I understand the attraction, and that it is difficult to resist having sexual relations outside of marriage. So, no, I’m not threatened, nor have I ever felt threatened, by anyone who is attracted to someone of the same sex (likewise, I’m not threatened by people who are attracted to the opposite sex, or to both sexes, or to no sex). It isn’t an issue of feeling threatened. If I were to feel threatened by it than I certainly wouldn’t be friends with the people who I am, since a good portion of them are homosexual or bisexual. It is not about the PEOPLE. It is about the ACTION. This is not being for or against a person, or a group of people, it is being for or against actions which are done of their own free will, with knowledge of what their religion teaches on the matter, and on an issue which is of grave importance, since it also deals directly with one of the Sacraments.

            4) Why is the issue important to me? Well, of the friends I have, at least five are homosexual, possibly six, and two of my friends are openly bisexual. A cousin of mine is homosexual, as well as a person who used to be friends with my older siblings and myself, a good family friend. I find that, more often than not, they do not understand the “why” of what the Church teaches, and moreover, don’t understand the “how” of the faith. That caused my family friend to leave the Church, which in and of itself, we all understood, and would have continued to be friends with him, except that, instead of accepting the differences in beliefs, he chose to ostracize himself, refused to talk with any of his family, including his younger siblings, and deride the Church. While he and I still talk from time to time, he refuses to hear anything that disagrees with his thoughts on any matter, big or small, and refuses to talk of anything other than things he thinks the Church is wrong on, as well as trying to convince me to leave the Church for any reason he decides to provide. That in and of itself, is a terribly painful thing to go through, not because he left, because he chose to do so due to his lack of belief, but because of what he did afterwards, to the people who cared, and still do care, about him the most.

            In contrast, my cousin left the Church as well, for the same reasons, and also coming from a rather extensive and close-knit family of Catholics. However, it was what he chose to do afterwards that made the difference. He accepted that other people believed other things, and accepted that they always would. He accepted that they would disagree with him, but they loved him anyway and would continue to keep his best interests at heart, no matter what he did. He also chose to discuss the matters he left the Church for with others, and listened to people explain their beliefs, with the good faith that they would also listen to him. The end result is that he is currently one of the favorites of the family, as well as being on excellent terms with the priests in his area.

            Other friends of mine used to think that if I was Catholic and believed fully in the Church’s teachings, then I couldn’t possibly be friends with them, or would look down on them for their sexuality. As a few of them have found out, this isn’t the case. Regardless of what a person does, or what their sexuality or any issue they have, they deserve the same respect as anyone else. It is wrong to treat anyone as less than another person, for any reason. I’ve dealt with more than one asshat who actually was a homophobe because they made the mistake of trying to bully another person around me because of their sexual orientation. Trying to call me a homophobe because I believe what the Church teaches and support it is insulting in the extreme, besides being completely wrong.

            Two of my friends who are homosexual are also Catholic. However, they believe and respect Church teachings on the matter as well, and have decided to follow them. Having hung out with them on a regular basis up until about half a year ago due to them moving away and such, I tend towards hearing quite a bit about the Church’s teachings on sexuality.

            Finally, I am not obsessed over the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. I know a lot about it, and I can talk quite a bit about it. However, I also do quite a bit of research on other issues, not the least of which being in relation to the saints and prayer, the history of the Papacy and succession, Apostolic succession, the history of various religious orders, etc. The reason why I’m discussing homosexuality in relation to Church teachings currently is because that has been the topic of this particular discussion. You seem to be assuming that this is the only thing I’m willing to talk about, instead of recognizing that this is the the thing I’m currently talking about with you, and that I could very well be talking with a dozen other people on different aspects of Church doctrine.

            As to why I have studied what the Church teaches on homosexuality in the first place, see number 4, as well as taking into account the fact that I have certain physical health issues, the morally acceptable care of which is addressed in the Church’s teachings on sexuality, so it is particularly important for me to know about it.

            As a side note, LGBT issues with the Church do affect others, whether you realize it affects them or not. Catholics have lost businesses because they have refused to provide services for LGBT couples that are related directly to homosexual actions. That is unfair, and unjust, since there is not discrimination against the people, but against an action which a person considers immoral, it’s like telling a Catholic doctor to perform an abortion in his own practice. It’s unrelated to who the people are, or what their sexuality is, or what their skin color is, or whether or not they’re disabled, it’s about the action in and of itself.

            5) The teachings I defend do not say to toss people out because of their sexuality, nor do I defend people who would do that. That is not in keeping with Church teaching, period. I do defend the Church’s teaching that any sexual act outside of marriage is wrong, and people who commit such actions willingly, and in full knowledge of Church teachings, are in a state of at least venial sin. I do defend the Church’s definition of what marriage is and what it is for, and that it is something that should not be changed, even separate from the Church’s teachings against homosexual acts. I do not defend the unloving acts of people who would throw others out because of a sin or because of their sexual orientation.

            6) Do I hear the cry of the poor and the suffering? Firstly, I do what I can for them, helping with food drives, donating when I can to charity. Secondly, currently I am the poor. You can sit there thinking, “Oh, but you’re using a computer!” but the fact is, I do not have extra money to give to anyone else, and probably won’t for a very long time. I don’t have the ability to go to a soup kitchen and volunteer my extra time, or work at another charity, because I live in a tiny no-name town thirty miles from a town that has a charity that needs volunteers, and I cannot afford to go there. What extra money I get from time to time goes directly to buying family members useful and necessary items, or to charity. So do not attempt to lecture me or guilt-trip me on other matters. My personal demons, fortunately, are not lack of charity, love, loyalty, or faith, nor could you even begin to lecture me on what demons I do have, since what I can do currently about them I do, and I already recognize them as being issues which I need to deal with.

            Jesus welcomed people who actually wanted to hear what he had to say. The point of the Church is not to cater to anyone’s wishes, or to give affirmation to their selfish desires, but to help them overcome them through faith and grace. Being a part of a religion and lacking faith in it is is about as useful as going to eat and throwing out all your food. Like I said, I’ll welcome anyone who joins the Church, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll act as if anything that person does is suddenly okay, because it’s not, and I won’t lie to myself or others to make a person feel good, because that’s not love, nor is it useful. Do not mistake an open welcome to people as being the same as a lack of moral bounds.

          • Alex, you do not have to push those of us who are not in line with the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. Who else needs to be pushed out? The 80% of Catholic married couples who use artificial birth control? I see that there is room for all of us and Pope Francis seems to agree. And, so, no, I will not exit or deny myself the sacraments simply because I love myself as God created us. I wish you Alex well as I have known gay men who feel and talk just like you. The ones I see suffer from depression and isolation. They wince at the gay ‘jokes’ at their expense but have to remain silent for fear of exposure. In my own limited experience,I have seen the terrible price of the Church’s and the culture stance against homosexuality and homosexual relationships. It some cases within the Church it turns gay men into self-righteous and condemning and mean spirited rock throwers. One gentleman (a member of Courage which views homosexuality as a disease) hated his male attractionso much that he castrated himself and further he later wrote up a pamphlet and distributed to other gay men as a ‘solution’ to their hateful sexual attraction of men. Another Catholic man jumped off a bridge because he could not reconcile his attraction with his Catholic upbringing and feared his family’s rejection. By their silence, the Church leaders appear indifferent to the plight of LGBT youth on the streets because of rejection by their families and the LBGT youth that commit suicide. Jesus reached out to others in suffering and pain and particularly those viewed as untouchables. He did not throw rocks. I know that there are gay men who hate themselves so much that they see gay men who are out and living in relationships as a threat and feel compelled to make themselves ‘worthy enough for God’ by castrating themselves metaphorically and sometimes literally so as not to be damned to hell. But, I see my buying into the Church’s teachings as self-destructive. They are not based on science and our understanding of human sexuality. I am am sorry that you do not agree about the gift that homosexuality is for us who are gay but i guess we will have to agree on disagreeing. I wish you the best, Alex. I hope that you find the happiness and peace you are striving for so passionately. I know that your passionate response is representative of many others. I live with that and accept that. But, I do see a day when we shall overcome. Garry

          • I have accepted my sexual attractions as being a part of who I am, as has my entire family, my friends, my parish, my priest, and also all the priests and bishops I’ve known over the years. I’m quite open about it. However, as I pointed out before, simply because you were born with a certain attraction, or a certain tendency towards a particular behavior doesn’t excuse an action.

            Also, as far as the communion issue goes:

            “A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.” (CIC 916)

            “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”

            “Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.” Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.”

            “It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate’s cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas’ betrayal – so bitter to Jesus, Peter’s denial and the disciples’ flight.”

            “There are a great many kinds of sins. Scripture provides several lists of them. The Letter to the Galatians contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit: “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.””

            “Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission. The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man.” But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds.”

            Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture, became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.

            Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it. Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us – that is, charity – necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:

            “When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object . . . whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide, fornication, or adultery. . . . But when the sinner’s will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial.”

            For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”

            Receiving communion while in a state of mortal sin is sacrilege, which is also sinful. Since the Church, in one with the Bible, condemns any sexual act outside of true marriage as a serious wrong, and also condemns lustful thoughts as being as bad as having actually done the act, unless you can truthfully deny that you had full knowledge of Church teachings on the matter, or said what you have under duress, you qualify as being in a state of mortal sin, and should not be receiving communion. Likewise, Catholic couples who use ABC without medical cause (in which case the Church has rules regarding it, including in the case of having severe endometriosis, or other issues which can be helped through the use of CBC) are also in mortal sin, unless they can truthfully deny full knowledge or consent.

            So it’s not a question of pushing people out, it’s a question of whether or not you actually respect and believe the faith. If you do believe the Church’s teachings on matters of morality and faith and are baptized, then you are Catholic. That’s wonderful. If you choose not believe on matters of faith and morality, then you are no longer Catholic, by the very nature of Catholicism. If you do believe, but do not wish to follow the Church on matters of moral weight, while knowing what it teaches, then you are in a state of mortal sin, by the nature of mortal sin, and the nature of the actions and thoughts, and therefore cannot receive Communion without committing an act of sacrilege.

            I also don’t think that self-harm is the answer to the issue. Most certainly not suicide, as both are sins as well, and would both count as mortal, again, if the person gave informed consent. Rather, it is the call to be celibate, as many heterosexuals are also called to be. There is the choice, to be a priest, a lay religious, or single in the world, and there is no shame in it. All persons are only called to one vocation, how they get to it is up to them. Regardless of sexual orientation, race, age, or anything else, there are only three paths to be taken, and one that God has made a person to follow. That being, Religious (whether lay or priestly in the case of men), married life, or single in the world. The benefit of being homosexual is knowing that married life is not. If anything, I’d say that being homosexual makes a person lucky, because it makes narrowing things down easier. However, simply because a person is made for a certain vocation, doesn’t mean they have to choose it, it just means it would be easier for them to live life if they do choose it. For example, someone called to the priesthood could choose to get married instead, but they would find that their abilities aren’t put to their best uses raising children and living with a woman. Does that mean that they can’t get to heaven though? No, it just means they will find it harder to avoid certain sins. So, while homosexual people can get married in the Church, it would not make things easier, but harder.

            So, just so you get it, I’m not trying to push anyone out. Do you get that? Please stop reading between the lines. This isn’t me trying to be unwelcoming, this isn’t me being homophobic, or rude. This is me pointing out that what you are doing currently is not right, and that has nothing to do with you as a person, or anyone else, it is the actions. You are not a wrong or bad person, but your actions are. Calling a person out on that, and pointing out why they shouldn’t be doing something: that’s fine, and not against the teachings or tone of St. Francis and Jesus. Telling them that they’re damned for all eternity, or they don’t belong in the Church because of a sin? That’s not my call to make, and I’m not trying to make it. Telling a person they’re not Catholic if they don’t believe what is taught by the Church on matters of faith and morals? That’s just the plain and simple truth, as per biblical references.

            So, recap:
            *Unless you don’t act with informed consent, if you’re doing something which the Church says you shouldn’t on a matter that is considered grave in regards to morality: mortal sin, shouldn’t receive Communion till you’ve made a perfect contrition.
            *If you receive anyway: that’s bad, because it’s sacrilege, and adds more sins to what’s already there.
            *If you believe in everything the Church teaches on morals and faith, and have been baptized: GREAT! Awesome! You’re Catholic.
            *If you don’t believe what the Church teaches on faith and morals: By definition, you’re not Catholic.
            *If you do believe what the Church teaches on faith and morals, but act against them: Erm… Good and bad? technically. Good, because you’re still Catholic, by definition. Bad, because that puts you in a state of at least venial sin, because you’d be acting with informed consent. In this case, very bad, because the Church’s teaching on sexuality are under “grave issues” and that makes it a mortal sin.
            *Self harm: BAD!!!! No, we don’t do that crap here! Your body is a temple and should be treated with respect. That makes doing bad stuff to it a grave issue too! Now you know, so if you do something like that with consent, it’s a mortal sin too!
            *Mortal sin: See the first part of the recap.

          • What you says reminds me of the Wizard of Oz: the flaming image of a wrathful god issuing edicts and threats from the flames. Then, little Toto walks over and pulls the curtain revealing a mere man at the controls. He is exposed. Chastised for being a bad man, he protests that he is not, “I am just a bad wizard.” The leaders of the Church who teach that homosexuality is an intrinsic evil do so in the face of science that shows that homosexuality has a genetic basis. The Church previously taught that those who committed suicide committed a mortal sin and were refused a Catholic funeral Mass and burial in hallowed ground. Thank God no bishop or priest takes that as the response to those who killed themselves. I am not afraid of yours or anyone else’s threats against my person because I do believe that God loves me exactly as I am as a gay man and that for all LBGT members who seek a life long relationship in committed love there is no sin. It is strange that Jesus never made these scary pronouncements about homosexuality. Indeed, in Matthew 25:31 he does shares that it is showing mercy that is the door opener into God’s heart. These teachings are devoid of mercy. They shame the LGBT community and promote homophobia and divide families like yours. What a pity that we can just follow what Pope Francis advised when asked about gays, “Who am I to judge?” The whole issue of homosexuality and gay marriage has been the virtual holy grail of conservative Catholics. I wonder if they fear that if they accept gays that they will have no center to hold them as they faith is based on the Wizard of Oz and rules and regulations that make them feel safe and require no thought, no reasoning, no questioning, just mindlessly accepting them. Alex, if you are happy then all power to you. But, you must know that no straight man would ever accept a teaching that denied him the love of his life. Gay men who desires partners are no different. And the love that they experience in their love making is just as tender and sweet and beautiful for them as it is for any straight man, Garry

          • Catholics remain in the Church, despite disagreeing with it, for the same reasons that people have through the centuries. When the Church endorsed the Crusades and the slaughter of thousands. When it endorsed the physical extermination of “heretics”. When it endorsed slavery via papal bulls like Dum Diversas and Romanus Pontifex. When it sold remittances. When popes exhibited the exact behaviour that the Church condemns most. When Peter claimed the Word of Jesus should be taught only to Jews and Paul continued preaching to gentiles. Because they believe that the Church is the successor of Jesus as the teacher and guide, not a militant organization. No, the responsibility of a Catholic isn’t to obey the Church, mindlessly. It is to learn how to live to get to God in the afterlife. One doesn’t learn by memorizing and regurgitating. One learns by understanding.
            When the Church teaches what Jesus taught, it is acting as it should. And, as a Catholic, one should believe and accept those teachings. And on such topics, it can claim infallibility. There is a difference, however, when it teaches what it has added. Those teachings are based on the ideas human theologians/philosophers. Many such teachings were disputed in their time. And claiming infallibility on such teachings is circular logic. Thus open to dispute. The Church has made many mistakes in the past. It has even changed its mind on issues it long taught were moral sins, like usury and eating meat on Friday (spare me the retro hair splitting it produced to justify itself).
            A true Catholic understands the he/she must focus on Christ’s message, not on the Church.

          • Gj, yes and that seems to be the tone that the new pope is setting with his efforts to reach out. The new pope is a humble shepherd who serves and offers compassion and mercy. He is not stressing rules and regulations. He openly rejects the image of a divine right king including its elevated throne, the rich papal vestments, the red shoes, the gold and jeweled pectoral cross, the exquisite palace apartment, the private papal dining room, limousine. Garry

          • As far as Pope Francis, he is not changing official Church teaching, on anything, which if you actually paid attention to what he’s saying versus what the Church has taught, you’d already know.

            Secondly, as far as his choice in wardrobe, our last pope wished to stress the importance of recognizing tradition and the reason for it stressing the hope that ran through each tradition, JPII stressed faith in God through his actions, and Pope Francis now stresses charity. The cardinal virtues. Each of our last three popes chose to stress one, with their dress, their actions, their words. Each is important, and was given importance by our last three popes. Checking the reason for each of the items of the Pope’s wardrobe and its significance is relevant here. Also, recognizing that it is not vanity that drives the splendor, but the relevance of the position. Indeed, St. Dominic addressed people’s issues with such things during his missionary work.

          • Your response shows a failure to recognize the differences between the two “T” traditions.

            Also, this is not a memorized set of ideas that I’ve regurgitated for the sake of arguing. This is what is held by the Church on matters of faith and morality, and as such, in order to actually be a Catholic, by very nature of Catholicism, belief in it is necessary. Otherwise you cannot be Catholic. I’m not saying that if a person disagrees they should leave, I’m saying that if a person doesn’t believe, then they’re no longer Catholic, by nature of the religion.

            The teachings that have been “added” in the instances I’ve addressed are based off of biblical reference, and therefore fall under Tradition, not tradition. Also, you seem to assume that I’m focused only on the Church, not on God’s Word, failing to note that the official teachings of the Church are based in said Word. Yet, if as you say, the only actual thing to do is focus on God’s message, then why do you wish to belong to any religion at all?

          • My response is that your view ignores the distinction between the words and actions of Jesus on the one hand and the interpretations and extrapolations from those, and especially from the musings of various theologians on the other. As long as the Church focuses on the former, it can realistically claim to be infallible and I do not dispute, I believe. When the issue is the latter, those are derived from human sources and suffer the same deficiencies as everything human – they can be fallible. You apparently believe that anything/everything the Church teaches must be accepted and obeyed implicitly. I believe the Church is a guide and teacher and, as such, like any teacher, does commit mistakes. If something sounds like a mistake to me, I believe it is my duty to question it and the Church’s to explain. That the Church is right because the Church says it is, is vapid.
            My biggest nightmare is that when I die, I stand before God. God asks how I spent my life. I reply that I followed the teachings of the Church to the letter. God asks, why then did God waste the effort of giving me brains and intelligence. I slink off to the farthest reaches to hide my shame and guilt.
            I stay a part of the Church because I accept its role as the guide and teacher which provides me the best way to get to God. Not so I can say “I hear and obey”. That you, or people like you, claim that I, by my questioning and disputing, no longer believe, has no meaning to me.

          • Gj, I admire you for your courage to challenge and question. In the end, we will be judged not by following rules and regulations particularly out of fear of hell and damnation, but by how much we loved the least of our brother and sisters.

          • Addressed in another post, with numerous references to why the Church teaches what it does on these issues, as per the Bible. The Church, when it states things that have already been addressed in the Bible, based on the BIble, in modern terms, is equally infallible, since it is simply connecting and restating. Also, power to bind and loose was given to Peter and his successors, the popes, again addressed in another post.

            It is not a question of following blindly, or do I think that that’s what anyone should do. However, obedience is called for by Christ throughout all his works and words. In the case of any Catholic, I strongly recommend finding the most current printing of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the New Youth Catechism (Youcat), because it addresses things such as your concerns in far more depth than could ever be done in an online comments thread, and most certainly in more and better detail than I could ever hope to explain it in. Note that the CCC and YC both give the biblical reasonings for the teachings as well, and give summaries for each section. I don’t claim that if you question or dispute you no longer believe, but that it does destroy your communion with the Church. If you don’t believe that the Church is right on matters of faith and morals, then you cannot believe in it as a whole, and therefore in nature cannot be Catholic. There is a distinct difference in the two. You can dispute or disagree with the Church as much as you want, but if you cease to believe it in matters of morality and faith, then your nature is not Catholic.

          • “Church teachings on sexuality are directly based off of these and other parts of the Bible. Unless you deny that the Bible is inspired work in full, or would deny a majority of the NT, and deny Jesus as God, you cannot deny the actions as being wrong.”

            Emphasis on the word “based”. Jesus never spoke sermons on female priests, homosexuality and contraceptives. Being God, Jesus would have known that these would become very hot issues in the future. Yet, pretty much nothing. Even the Gospels, inspired by God, have little.

            Quoting the Old Testament ignores the fact that its purpose was to point to Jesus and His coming. And that Jesus created a new covenant with the world.

            Authority from tradition is fine for traditionalists. It is meaningless for those who point out that the modern world is vastly different from the ancient world. Thus, the Church’s claims could very well be true but it needs to justify them in arguments other than “tradition”.

            The Church’s primary mission is to bring as many souls as possible to God, not to blindly follow “tradition”.

          • Questioning, disputing, discussing are standard tools of theologians. The binary world of obedience/heresy are anathema to theologians. Adherents of that world are better off removing themselves from theology because they would obviously be abject failures. It is interesting to note that the Catholic Church has not declared theology a forbidden endeavor nor its practitioners heretics. Even though many discussions pertain to establishing which are core positions and which are merely carrying on the “tradition”.
            In fact, the Church many years ago realized that the realm of “heresy” lead only to excesses like the various inquisitions, killing of God’s people (heretics) and spilling of much blood, all contrary to Christ’s teachings. It admitted to itself that, while it is God’s representative on earth, judgment is God’s prerogative. That’s why it does recognize that various people have made it to heaven, but it makes no claims on who is in hell.
            The clincher was that it realized that, by medieval standards, 90+% of its members would be heretics and it would be left only with people who take the Lord’s name in vain by acting like God’s surrogate judges, and with drones. And since its primary mission is to bring as many souls as possible to God, such actions would mark an epic failure on its part. And those people fling around accusations of “heresy”, those it retained in its ranks at that point, would be enabling that failure and would be further black marks on the Church’s record.

        • During the early years and centuries of Christianity, various women did partake in spreading Christianity, even though it was universally viewed as their function was to stay out of public scrutiny. The Church decided to go with a male exclusive clergy because it so decided. For centuries that was its rational. It was only when various theologians like Augustine and Aquinas got into the act that it started promoting what were really justifications, not reasons.

          Using the excuse that Jesus didn’t have women as disciples is vapid because it does not take into account life in those days. It is very notable that Jesus never stated that women could not be clergy, any more than Jesus ever delved on the topic of clergy. He did state that his followers should spread the Word, with no mention of the exclusion of women.

          That the Church is the bride of Jesus, if examined carefully, absurd. First, unless the Church is spreading a gay agenda by having men as brides, a woman is a very much more logic choice. Regardless, if the Church is the bride of Jesus the human, that is meaningless. Christianity exists because Jesus was God. If the Church wants to claim that it is the bride of Jesus the God, that’s an absurdity. God has no gender.

  12. Samuel Johnston

    The answers of Father X seem to me very accurate. The questions, however, are shocking. Who are these successors of the Roman Empire who think that by right of ancient military conquest (piracy) they have the right to demand that others to conform to their orders without question? Western culture is our common heritage. The Christian religious traditions are not without value – but they are not the exclusive property of anyone or any group. The Catholic Church has been in decline since the reformation. Science has largely displaced its authority over the last two Centuries. Pope Francis seems to get it. Theology is on its way out. Service to mankind is the way forward for men and women of good will.
    Mean spirited old authoritarian men beating “immodest” women with sticks is not just bad press. It merely illustrates the evil side of religious “traditions”.

    • “The Catholic Church has been in decline since the reformation”

      In my more cynical moments I suspect christianity started going downhill about the time Constantine came on the scene…

      • Samuel Johnston

        Hi Peter,
        I was just being snarky. I was thinking of a stock chart displayed
        on a corporate boardroom wall, measuring the size, power, and profitability of the organization. In a nutshell, I agree with Alfre Loisy. “Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom, and (but) what arrived was the Church” . The Christian religion has nothing to do with Jesus. And it has even less to do with
        the thing inside us all that gives rise to that which recall religion.

      • Dude– If you don’t think the RC Church was in (at least moral) decline–Hell, freefall–in the late middle ages & Renaissance, you really need to start paying closer attention. The Sack of Jerusalem, the Sack of Constantinople, Albigensian Crusade, Reconquista, Inquisition, Brazil, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

    • Hrmm… So, you don’t agree with the big bang theory? That was actually first suggested by Fr. Lemaitre, and at the time he was challenged by Einstein because it was thought that he was just trying to validate Catholic teachings. There has yet to be any scientific finding that has gone against what Catholicism teaches as true. Even if you argue Creationism was debunked by evolution, it should be noted that the Church does not teach Creationism, nor is it supported if you reference the Bible in its entirety.

      *The evangelical work is a task which basically all religions take on. It is not solely taken on by Catholicism. Evangelizing through conquest used to be relatively common, and was not solely done in the name of Catholicism. Also, note that in the case of heresies throughout, the actions taken against them cannot be lumped into a single group, since it varied based on the nature of the heretical works and the time-period. The Inquisitions were done during a time in which the state closely tied itself to the Church, and therefore heresy also resulted in treason, and the heresy was often spread due to ignorance in the laity and some of the clergy. The solution then, was that the Church worked towards educating people, and helping those who acted through ignorance, and the state try those who acted out of malice. Many of the people who were assigned as Inquisitors were merciful, but there were also many who weren’t. However, trying to pin such things on the whole of the Church is as ridiculous as trying to pin the actions of Jack the Ripper on everyone in London.

      *The Priests of the Church, as well as religious laity, take a vow of obedience to the Church and their superiors. So, yes, the Church expects them to obey orders without question. That’s a part of their vow. It’s just like when a person’s in court, they’re expected to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because they’ve taken an oath to do so.
      The Church also expects the people who claim to be Catholic to act like it. Which means, in short, that they are expected to believe that the Church is the one true Church founded by Christ, and that in matters of faith and morality, it is infallible. So, when the Church officially teaches something, people who continue to claim to be Catholic agree to believe it is true, and if they cannot accept it with their current morals to abstain from Communion until they can reconcile themselves with it, since they are not in Communion with the Church till they do, or leave if they find it impossible.

      *As for people beating others with sticks, again, see Jack the Ripper comparison, as well as noting that such practices are in direct violation of Church teaching on such matters, as per Jesus protecting the adulteress who was going to be stoned, and always has been.

  13. Dr. Silk: thank you for this article. It left-handedly (I am left-handed) points out that the ordinary lay person could not possibly answer the questionaire, simply because of the statistics involved and the presuppositions that all laypeople understand what is involved in “Catholic” teaching about marriage and morality.

    • Dear Peter,

      I am very sorry that you thought that you could not reply to the questionnaire because you lacked the necessary philosophical and theological foundation. You are precisely the kind of person to respond to the questionnaire! I think you in honestly sharing that you do not even understand the questions and that you felt unable to cite statistics is exactly a point that needs be understood by the Church’s leadership. But even if you could not cite chapter and verse to support what you had to share, you as with all laity have a LOT to say. I believe that Pope Francis wants to reform the Church; and he mightI believe that one of the biggest obstacles to reform is the clergy themselves. In a way, the reform that he is encouraging may have begun in the very act of his sending out this questionnaire to bishops and clergy and religious AND the lay faithful! I cannot think of a time in 2000 years where this request for input by laity has happened! From my view, the Church is in desperate need of reform! The Holy Spirit is already speaking in and through the words, actions, and responses of the laity to Pope Francis’ invitation to reform. The clergy and particularly the hierarchy will never reform the Church. The imperial model of divine right king is the model that many cardinals, bishops and pastors cling to and prefer. They live as princes in this model, with little to no accountability for their decisions or the consequences of their decisions. We have a Church until Pope Francis did not question the trappings of divine right kings. Cardinals, archbishops, bishops and pastor all have enjoyed ruling their fiefdoms and reaping the rewards of near absolute power and control. The People of God have paid for that divine right king model in continual scandals, blood, sweat, and tears. Thank God that Pope Francis is ending the imperial papacy and all its royal trappings. There will be no turning back. Peter, YOU have a voice and don’t let any bishop or pastor talk you out of it! Blessings!

  14. Bill deHaas, what is the source for your posting that John Paul II had to get his thesis approved by friends at a Polish university? Thank you. Peter Halle.

  15. I am very interested in what particular fact in physics, which is my area of study, has things to say about natural law. Or indeed, biology and human physiology.

    Other than that, this priest does seem to represent a portion of those in clerical service, although as one person said above, a slightly older, markedly post-conciliar group. From my experience talking to seminarians, or more recently ordained priests marked by the pontificate of John Paul II, the views diverge more.

  16. Certainly many of the issues and questions Fr. X raises should be subjects of sustained discussion, but because I’m a ‘retrograde southerner,’ I doubt he would welcome me as an interlocutor. His seething disdain for anyone remotely inclined to defend (or even entertain the reasonableness of) more traditional expressions of Catholic sexual ethics belies his interest in an open, frank discussion of these matters. His arrogance and wild intolerance for traditionalists (or whatever you want to call them) is eclipsed only be his utter ignorance of natural law theory. I’ve seen more intelligent criticisms of NL on those sophomoric ‘New Atheist’ forums, and I have yet to encounter a knowledgeable detractor of NL cite the sort criticisms offered by Fr. X. Perhaps his most disturbing remarks concern the putatively elasticity of truth, which changes as a result of shifting demographics and public opinion. Could it be that what he means to say is that our *understanding* of what is true has changed, and that we in fact have a better understanding of what truth actually is and compels us to affirm? That would make far more sense, and of course presuppose that he himself suffers from no opacity of moral vision.

    • samuel Johnston

      “..his arrogance and wild intolerance for traditionalists…”
      As a Southerner from a American family that predates the American Revolution, I have no patience with the excuse of “tradition” when it is used to justify evil or just plain stupid behavior. As for “truth”, only the least thoughtful claim that impossible ability. Of necessity, humans make judgments without sufficient knowledge that is our inescapable situation. The Church tries to blinker it’s sheep with impossible claims of magic and exclusive authority from the supernatural.
      This dishonesty is the big evil from which all the lesser evils are derived..

  17. samuel Johnston

    “..those sophomoric ‘New Atheist’ forums…
    Naturally this guy accuses OTHERS of arrogance!!! No wonder the child sex abuse scandals were so routinely covered up. After all, WE are important, we are the chosen Platonic priests who are necessary. These simple folk are just making trouble.

  18. The natural law is the law of logical reasoning. I depends for its data on the law of nature, not intuition, nor popular opinion nor tradition. As our understanding of the law of nature evolve, so too must the natural law which depends on it. Feather X to me is on target. John Paul’s theology of the body as reasoning is OK given the data base he uses. However this data base is in need of expansion to accommodate field based understandings of sexuality, marriage, etc. Philosophy and Science serve as checks on each other. Where disagreements occur rechecks are needed.
    Too often the arguments are of the sort, “Do not change your minds, we are having temporary problems with reality.” When new data disturbs opinion to destabilizes old belief systems. Rethinking is too hard so the holders of these systems dismiss the new data. Academe abounds with examples of new data being dismissed by “old schools.”
    I welcome Francis’ call to look at new data and integrate it. It will be very, very difficult for doctrinaire theologians to do.

    • Samuel Johnston

      I agree with Mr. Rupert in general, but I would jettison the misleading term “Law” and substitute a term that implies “understanding”. Anyone who needs chapter and verse on this position is welcome to read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

  19. Two points:

    1. It is not clear that adopting more socially liberal attitudes will improve church attendance or participation. Compare the fortunes of Episcopalians and liberal Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian congregations to the fortunes of Churches of Christ, Pentecostals, Baptists, etc.

    2. More individualistic social attitudes, especially as regards the family, have borne bitter fruit, as amply demonstrated by sociological works such as “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray. The American working class has not only suffered de-industrialization, globalization, and attendant wage stagnation, but also a general demoralization as an elite “anything goes” individualism has eroded the communitarian institutions that would alleviate economic distress. For instance, a two-parent family that suffers job loss of one spouse still has the income of the other spouse. But our obsession with self-actualization and resistance to commitment has resulted in a great number of single parent households who cannot withstand such shocks, resulting in distress, fear, and anxiety.

    • samuel Johnston

      Hi J.M.
      I am confused.
      Point one: Is “improve (ing) church attendance or participation” the great purpose of the Church? If so, how is Catholicism any improvement on the “Mega Church -let’s give them a great show and pack them in” – phenomenon?
      Point Two: Charles Murray is, among other things, a Libertarian, certainly not an authoritarian. What do you suggest, or as the Beatles famously sang ” We’d all love to change the world.”
      As for the the “communitarian institutions”. In Alabama the Salvation Army, and the Baptist Church did far more for the Catholic immigrant poor in our area when I was growing up than did the Catholic Church. The Church here seems more concerned with the success of Mother Angelica’s broadcast network, than they are about those in need. (This new Pope is so enthusiastically received because of the hunger for spiritual values).
      I will end my rave with a confession (of sorts): I am no longer a believer, but I still consider moral judgments by visualizing God as an old man with a staff on his tall white throne, judging my actions as well as my rationalizations of them. No heaven, no hell, but the desire for a more compassionate and more just world continues.

  20. Many Catholics left because priests preached a ‘hell fire and damnation’. One priest relished giving homilies about the ‘pain of mortal sin’ and the ‘fires of hell.’ When the Church tried to force married couples into compliance with ‘Humanae Vitae,’ the majority of the Catholic faithful rejected that as divine law. A Church that emphasizes condemnation, judgment, fear and punishment with bishops who cover up clergy sexual abuse and are not held accountable. Today, Catholics want to ask hard questions. They want a living faith that inspires them to be better parents and better individuals. They want a faith that offers them real connection and a sense of community. They want to belong to something greater than themselves and a faith that gives them purpose and meaning. They want a faith that is not threatened by science.

  21. There really is only one issue here:
    1. Is the father in question promoting a new more charitable method to teach the teachings of the Church? If he is then more power to him. We judge his recommendations on their effectiveness.
    2. Or is the father in question suggesting that the teachings themselves are uncharitable, and therefore should be changed? If that is the case, then he is guilty of the error of thinking that charity is opposed to truth, when in reality, charity is found in truth.

      • Quoting someone out of context and trying to score rhetorical points instead of arguing the point at hand? You’re a graduate of the FOX news school of debate aren’t ya?

        • Samuel Johnston

          Pomposity invites ridicule:
          “..only one issue here:”
          “We judge his recommendations on their effectiveness.” (is that the imperial we?)
          “….in reality charity is found in truth.” and bla,bla,bla.
          If you will look at my other posts you will see that I am dead serious when it comes to frankness of thinking in the pursuit of understanding, but I have no patience with bluster and attempting to pull rank. The Church does not belong to the priesthood,
          or at least, if it does, that is what should be changed.

    • Jesus gave us a new commandment: Love as I love you. Jesus loved with agape love and that is the love that is needed in our Church. We have had too many rock throwers who felt compelled to condemn and judge those who failed to live up to the moral standards of our Church. Divorced and remarried Catholics are among the groups that felt stoned by Church rules that denied them the sacraments even though for many the way to regularized marriage was blocked. Some countries would not even consider an annulment. Meantime, bishops and cardinals who aided and abetted sexual predators by reassignments and cover-ups along with sexual abusing clergy are never denied the sacraments. Where is the agape love in the clergy?

    • samuel Johnston

      “Give us the name of the priest you interviewed…”
      (so we can beat the crap out of him)

      Mr. Sho, give us your name, you have mine. You can report me to the goon squad anytime.
      I visited the website above. The home page is dominated by an artist’s rendition of a bloody man being tortured. This illustrates amply why civilized persons shrink back from the Catholic church, its bloodlust mythology, its idolatry, its intolerance, and its authoritarianism.
      Little is known about the historical Jesus, not even where he lived, despite two Centuries of eager investigation by modern scholars using the Historical Critical method that is accepted by professional Historians everywhere, but by the Church.
      A Century past the excommunication of Alfred Loisy (and the Oath Against Modernism Given by His Holiness Pope St. Pius X September 1, 1910), it is way way past time for candor and openness. If the Church cannot become open and honest, then it will shrivel away under the glare of repeated revelations concerning its corruption, which will and are being transmitted to even the most remote, illiterate, parishioner. Like democracy, the Church will do the right thing when all other options have been exhausted.

  22. The pope would have us face the actual adherence to the moral teachings of the Church as well as the pastoral response of the shepherds. Bishops have long upheld the standard of an unquestioning adherence to Church teachings as outlined by the Catholic Catechism–but privately as evidenced by their own grossly immoral behavior in the decades long and world wide clergy sexual abuse and cover-up–they lived otherwise. As yet there has been little accountability for bishops who covered up; and the clergy who have harmed the flock have rarely if ever apologized. The consequence of these deep moral failings of clergy has been a loss of credibility and a mass exodus from the Church–witness Ireland and Boston. The pope would have us examine this sad reality and its dire consequences and also come down off clerical thrones and listen to those the Church has hurt and wounded though commanded by Christ to feed and protect. What can we do to bind up the wounded and bring healing and reconciliation in our Church?

  23. Samuel Johnston

    “What can we do to bind up the wounded and bring healing and reconciliation in our Church?”

    Religions have been an important part of social/tribal life for thousands of years
    and crop up independently all over the globe. Defining religion is difficult because it is a general term often applied to social behavior often at odds with itself, but one thing appears certain. The majority of persons participate at least from time to time, and most feel it fills a need or basic desire.
    Christianity was imposed on the Western world by conquest, but even so it was different from most other religions in that it was not the indigenous religion of the conquerors. It was carefully devised by the conquerors to serve their political desires. THIS IS THE GREAT SECRET THAT MUST BE HIDDEN FROM THE FAITHFUL!
    Connecting morality with religion has been an experiment, and so far it has failed. My solution is to stop the charade and really try to create a moral religion. The essential step must be to admit that mythology is not factual history, but like parables, it has its place as poetic expression of the human condition. As for the Gods, they are beyond proof or understanding. They must be met (if at all) on their own terms.
    FWIW I have (and have had) experiences which I consider religious. Nothing more need be said.

    • Everything written down in divine revelation is for a purpose. Every sentence is design to teach us something. Every memoir, every history, every parable in divine revelation as found in the Catholic Sacred Scriptures is design to train us for something greater which is union with the Godhead. Not even one jot is irrelevant. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit these lessons cannot be learned. Without humility this gift can not be obtained.

      • Mr. Sho nailed it. We cannot encounter God simply through human reason. If you could, what would be the value of faith? Sacred Scripture is more than words for those who believe — it is God speaking to us through the ages. No one can prove this — it is however a door way into the mind and heart of God — God seeking contact with us — through His Word made flesh and his Spirit. Garry

        • samuel Johnston

          “We cannot encounter God simply through human reason.”
          So who has said we could? We cannot encounter unicorns through reason either.
          “Sacred Scripture is more than words for those who believe — it is God speaking to us through the ages.”
          So how do you, I mean YOU, KNOW this is true? You appear to have knowledge confused with desire.
          How do you know that God does not speak in other ways? To persons of other, or even no religion? You do not! It is simply your vanity speaking, not the supernatural.
          Bloody tortured sons of magical beings punished for our sins, which we cannot refrain from doing, because we were created defectively by a loving God who never makes mistakes because he is all seeing. PLEASE! The real miracle is that anyone’s mind can be so warped as to buy such nonsense.

          • May I suggest another understanding of redemption? Check out “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” by Rene Girard.

          • samuel Johnston

            René Girard is speculating in the grand tradition of Christian scholars everywhere and at every time. He starts with the conclusion and works backward towards their justification by arranging his facts to suit. I am very sorry, but I find Christianity to be primitive ands also intellectually exhausted. For 99% of Christians, ANYTHING that supports Christianity is good and anything that weakens or opposes it is bad. This is not the exercise of judgment, but is mere partisanship.
            If one has a moral sense, then that is the judge of behavior, and causality will create happiness or misery. Psychology is profoundly affected by personality. We all observe that one man may become mentally unbalanced by an act that leaves another with a sense of accomplishment – rape for example.
            Darwin asked the best question ever. He wanted to know why natural selection had preserved multiple personality types rather than optimizing them into just a few.

  24. Samuel Johnston

    The anonymous, disingenuous, Mr. Sho is pretending to know something important, but it is mere propaganda. The logic is purely circular. It’s magic because it’s magic. Godhead, Holy Spirit, divine revelation, is what the authority (the honorable trustworthy priests) say it is. When these priests had the power, they tried those who claimed revelation to see if it was from God or the devil (well known for his false revelations). The unlucky were condemned and put to death by these charitable representatives of divine love.
    In his famous Critique of Pure Reason Immanuel Kant pointed out that even if one had had a divine revelation, if one the spoke of it the words, lacking definition, would be meaningless.
    It is time for morality and that must be based in honesty and good faith. As the old joke goes – theology is the ever exacting science concerning the unknowable. It’s time to give theology a rest and simply try to behave better.

  25. Samuel Johnston

    “Deism s the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a Creator, accompanied with the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge.”
    Atheist becomes Deist. Not exactly big news. Deism is still a long, long way from Christianity.

  26. Samuel Johnston

    Gary,
    “In God’s eyes we are a delight, a joy. He made us exactly the way we are and I as a gay man praise God for it! I have been fearfully and wonderfully made! I am grateful.”

    I am so sorry that your religious training has made you mentally ill. God throws away millions of humans every year. They succumb to hunger, war, and plague. But you, he has made especially important. (Predestination?) What in your ego requires that you be so special?
    To my way of thinking, the temptation of the devil is precisely in thinking that WE (humans) are a special case and that even among that select group, we are also a special case.. WE can be saved from the common fate of humanity and indeed all living things. Are you really so superficial?

    • Yeah, Samuel, I am that special and so are all human beings. God created us so and we are a delight, beautiful and beloved. You are too. What many have done to you and I and others like us in the name of Jesus and God has been truly reprehensible. Samuel, I was moved by your story and your eloquent defense of me and your grief and upset over how your childhood friend was treated. But, that is not the work of God and not representative of the God who I have encountered. God sent His Son to reveal the Father’s love for us. Jesus willingly took the hatred we humans have for ourselves and each other, all the shame we feel, and all the desire for revenge, all the need for getting even, and all that separates us into ‘us versus them’, He did this right at the moment when those who hated him felt that they had crushed and defeated Him, shamed Him and destroyed Him. And at that moment Jesus spoke from the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” We are liberated from our need to condemn ourselves or others for our sins (the harm we do against ourselves and others.) He took that on Himself for us so that we could drop the judgment and condemnation of ourselves and others. He did that so that we might know His love and the love of the Father and might know ourselves as cherished, loved, and beloved. It is His gift. It is why we were created. So, yes, I do believe I am a delight, cherished and a gift. That is precisely how God sees us.

      • And on this, I agree wholeheartedly with you. People are wonderful and worthy of being loved no matter what.

        However, I continue to stand by the points I have stated before. It is not being gay that is a sin any more than being heterosexual, having depression, or anger management issues, or severe introversion. It is a sin to commit suicide, or to take out anger on others simply because you’re crabby, or to miss Sunday mass because you don’t want to be around people. In all these cases, the person is not a bad person, but it can be harder for that person to avoid and resist the temptation. Having myself had to deal (and continue to deal) with a few of these (not the least of which is being so introverted I used to melt down after getting home from school every day before keeling over and sleeping for about 13 hours), I know it is exceptionally difficult. Having gone through puberty and working predominantly with a bunch of smart, attractive guys, I’ve had to deal with lust as best as I can, and as far as anger management, I don’t even want to begin on that.

        Does that make me a bad person? No, probably not. A bad Catholic? Depends. I’m certainly not perfect, and I don’t pretend to be. Have I gotten better? I’d like to think so. Recognizing the problems I have and things that made them worse that I could change made a big difference, and getting a lot more self-control helped too. Taking a good look at myself from a few years back and seeing how much it damaged my relationships with the people around me, as well as my own mental health did a lot too.

        However, does the fact that I had untreated psychological issues mean that what I did over that time wasn’t wrong?
        No. It was just harder for me to avoid, and took longer for me to realize that what I was doing was wrong.

        • samuel Johnston

          More helpful than Christianity, and wiser than Jesus, Xenophanes lived a full life well into his Nineties
          Quotes from Xenophanes. c. 570 – c. 475 BC)

          “No human being will ever know the Truth, for even if they happen to say it by chance, they would not even known they had done so.”
.

          “Men create the gods in their own image.”



“But if cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the work that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they each had themselves.”

          

“It takes a wise man to recognize a wise man.”


          • Samuel, I applaud wisdom from whatever source. You have a passion for justice. I applaud that. I like to see persons stand up for the underdogs and for the marginalized. I love truth from whatever its source. I view all Wisdom as coming from One Source: God. And, I see Jesus as a radical lover of His day. Jesus fearlessly challenged the political and religious leaders of His day. Jesus stepped outside his culture including expanding the definition of neighbor to include others outside the Jewish community. He praised the faith of a Roman centurion. He taught us by His example how to love unconditionally and how to forgive those who hate us and persecute us. Jesus showed us that love was far more powerful than hate or violence. And, His way of nonviolence became a model for others in the fight for liberation of oppressed peoples from around the world such as in the US, in South Africa and India. Samuel, I grew up in a violent and abusive home. The message I received from family was that I should just do the world a favor and kill myself because I was gay. I have been abused, beaten, starved, slapped, punched and scapegoated. I was filled with rage and hatred. But, I met others in my life who were genuine followers of Jesus who had also experienced and injustice and they showed me a far better way. And, that is why and how I came back to the Church. I came to understand not only the teachings of Jesus but also a deep appreciation of Jesus as a man, I came to see that He came to liberate, to raise up and to help all who have known abuse and injustice and so fill us with His love that we can hold our heads up with dignity and be strong in the real sense of strength–in knowing ourselves and accepting ourselves as we are. And, so with that knowing that I am loved and that I deserved to be treated with respect and dignity I can set clear and firm boundaries with those who try to shame me into silence or abuse me. I can hold my head up not as a person “more special than anyone else” but as a human being with intrinsic dignity with value by the mere fact I was created in love by a loving God to be cherished, delighted in and valued. I do not try to convince or argue my beliefs –never worked with me–but I do share my experience. If it helps someone, then I am glad. If the person, believes what I share is pure bullshit then I bless them and let them go on their way. Who am I to judge? I have not walked in their shoes. Maybe, I might believe as they do if I had. But, I know do know Samuel from own experience that love is more powerful than hate, that revenge though emotionally cathartic is ultimately dehumanizing and self-destructive, that listening and sharing with respect is better than condemning and judging, that most human beings have something to say that I could learn from and that all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect even if they do not reciprocate. I do not live this perfectly. I still have a ways to go, but I know I am on the right path for me. Sometimes loving another human being means willing to be challenging, confronting and yes even risk rejection and being misunderstood. Sometimes, loving another human being means showing my anger and setting down a firm boundary. But, today, I am grateful to be alive, Grateful to be healthy, Grateful to be able to love and be loved and I am grateful for the healing and transformation that I have received and continue to receive from my faith in Jesus Christ. Blessings to you, Samuel in your journey. I mean that.

          • samuel Johnston

            Gary, Thank you for your good will, it is always welcome. I practice law. Here is a parable which may help you (and perhaps Alex) with ecclesiastical law.

            Two Buddhist monks were traveling together along a road. One was an ordinary Buddhist, and the other was a practitioner of Zen. They stopped at a river and were soon approached by a woman who asked for their assistance in fording the fast running waters. The ordinary Buddhist politely declined, explaining that Buddhist monks take a vow, pledging not to touch women. The Zen monk threw the woman over his shoulder, and took her across. The two monks then continued their journey.
            Presently the ordinary Buddhist could contain himself no longer and asked sternly
            “My brother, how can you take you monks vows so lightly?” Surprised the Zen Buddhist monk replied- “My brother, I set the woman down on the other side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

          • Samuel, I think you have find the perfect profession. You must be one hell of a lawyer! I would want you on my side!! I like that parable. I know that I have carried a lot of junk in my head and in my heart and thankfully I have been able to let it go but it is still an ongoing process. The recent gay marriage changes in the states has really helped me drop some of the stuff I was carrying inside. Reading the stories of the couples helped me to let go of a lot of internalized homophobia that I did not realize I still carried. I was reading about the loving relationship of one gay couple and I just started weeping. I began sobbing and all these feelings poured out. It was cathartic. Keep up the good fight!! Garry

          • The ‘good’ monk has broken his vow, which he believed was justified. The ‘bad’ monk kept his vow, which he believed was justified. Neither one, however, was a good example for ways of dealing with law. The first made a promise which he could not keep, and the second made a promise which he should not keep, making the first a liar, and the second a fool.

            In order to avoid the following of Ecclesiastical law, one should either abstain from Communion in recognition of being wrong but unrepentant and willing, and therefore in a state of serious sin, or else not believe they are wrong, and leave the Church.

            Also, a majority of your arguments on here have been based upon logical fallacies. While it is a discussion on a particular faith and as such there’s more wiggle room with using faith as a basis, it is warranted by the nature of the discussion. Over the course of the discussion though, I’ve noted your rather frequent usage of several fallacies, not the least of which being:

            *appeal to authority.
            *appeal to adverse consequences.
            *loaded question/argument.
            *red herring.
            *excluded middle.

            While proper appeal to authority works in the case of religion, since it is based around belief in a particular authority (or authorities)/authoritative work/some combination thereof, you have consistently appealed to improper authorities on the matter of this particular religion, and therein lies the fallacy.

            Examples of your usage of the other fallacies: appealing to adverse consequences when trying to deny that humans are special (simply because bad things happen does not mean that there is no God, or that religion is wrong), with your parable (whichever action a person agrees to, you can claim that they are wrong to do so) you asked a loaded question, and in the same parable, a red herring. The case of vows is exceptionally different than the case of a Catholic following Ecclesiastical law for numerous reasons, not the least of which is it doesn’t take into account the fact that while the Buddhists only had two options, Catholics have three, being to accept teachings as true and follow them, accept them as true and not follow them (thereby severing Communion with the Church, but still being a Catholic), or choose not to believe them and leave, and therefore at the same time, you used the fallacy of an excluded middle. Also, quoting Xenophanes without actually providing any reason other than personal belief that he’s “wiser than Christ,” when the discussion was not about the wisdom of Christ, is a Red Herring as well.

            Since you claim to practice law, you may wish to avoid using such tactics in the future.

          • You have your beliefs, and I have my own. I’m not trying to argue on the matter of personal belief, for each person is entitled to their own. I’m arguing on basis of a particular religion which has a set of teachings which includes, among other things, having faith in the religion in order to be a part of it, and to properly practice it in order to be in Communion with it. Personal belief that varies from the Catholic teachings on an issue of faith or morality is irrelevant in regards to what the Church teaches. I do not pretend to debate philosophy or belief in general, but about a specific faith, in regards to that specific faith.

            However, if you do wish to debate on such quotes, I’d offer this:

            *A child speaks Truth, by grace of innocence, but does not know anything but Truth. As they grow older, they learn of lies, and come to doubt the Truth. The only way, then, for them to find the Truth, is to trust in it, as they did when they were children, and become like children again.
            *Men claim others have created God in their own image because of vanity. Other men claim God created them in his image because of love. Both are matters of faith: the former, in that all men are by nature vain, the latter in that all men by nature know how to love and be loved.
            *It takes a fool to recognize a fool, because they will both consider each other and themselves wise, yet a wise man will never recognize himself as wise, and the fools will agree with him on that alone.

          • “Is it alright to be gay?” is not the most important question. That for me was a turning point as I realized that God loves me already exactly as I am. God views my whole life from beginning to end with great love. No condemnation. No hatred. Just love. God does not ‘tolerate’ the fact that I am homosexual but He delights in every aspect of me including that I am gay as He is my Creator. He created me and I embrace His goodness. So, that brings me to ask you, Alex, “What is the most important question?” Is it that you or I am following to a list of rules and regulations, in order to be worthy of God and avoid punishment and hell fire and damnation? What is the most important question? Garry

          • Oh, also note that this is from the CCC, which is in keeping with all the Church’s teachings and has been approved as such. Therefore, it is in keeping with the Bible and the Magesterium, and is considered a proper, authoritative work on such matters as it addresses.

          • There are several questions, which lead into each other, all of utmost importance.

            Firstly, do you believe the entirety of Church teachings on morality and faith to be true and authoritative in nature?
            Secondly, do you agree with those teachings?
            Thirdly, do your actions reflect your beliefs?

            If the answer to the first is “No” then by definition you cannot be Catholic.
            If the answer to the second is “No” then you cannot be in Communion with the Church, and can therefore not receive Communion.
            If the answer to the third is “No” then you’re also not in a state of Communion, and cannot receive Communion.

            You are correct in the most important question in regards to Catholicism not being “Is it alright to be gay?” The answer to that is “Yes.” The important question on that issue has never been whether or not it’s okay to be gay. The important question on that issue has been “Is it okay to act on my sexual desires outside of marriage?” which is always “No,” regardless of your sexual orientation.

            Simply because it is not the most important question or issue though doesn’t mean it isn’t important, or shouldn’t be addressed and explained. The fact that it’s less important than some things doesn’t negate what importance it does have.

          • samuel Johnston

            Alex-in response to
            “You have your beliefs, and I have my own.”
            Really? You belief consists of cowering behind the skirts of the priests.
            It is often referred to as the Nuremberg defense. “I am just guilty of taking orders”.
            As to your disingenuous quote, parodying mine – It really is a cheap rhetorical device to use a word in a is clearly a different sense than that of the author that you are criticizing. A child’s truth is not that of understanding correctly.
            As for men creating gods, the evidence is overwhelming:
            gods of stone,
            gods of clay,
            gods they make most every way
            (my doggerel).

            Finally, one of my father’s favorite quotes- “God must have loved fools, because he made so many”

          • Samuel, you make me laugh and in a good way. You are the fighter! Keep on questioning, raising challenges and holding feet to the fire! Garry

          • You assume that simply because I’m in agreement with the Catholic Church it is because of a lack of understanding, not because I’ve actually formed my own ideas, and have found them to be the same. So what I’m guilty of, if anything, is being Catholic by Conviction, not a Catholic by Incident of birth.

            Also, you mistake the concept of God with the concept of idol-worship. People choose to worship things that they have made with their own hands, yes. That is not what the Catholic Church does. while there are representations of Jesus in churches, we don’t worship those, nor have we ever. In the case of the Eucharist, it is not worshiping of bread and wine, but the belief that it is transfigured through the power of God into his being, and is a part of the faith. Whether you choose to believe it or not is irrelevant to the faith, because that is what it is: faith.

            As far as being a cheap shot or not, my religion calls humans “Children of God” in that we are made by him, and calls that we act as children, being innocent in mind and body, to enter heaven. Also, Xenophanes’ philosophy on truth fails in that even if the person who says it doesn’t realize it, any person who may hear it could recognize it as such. Christians believe that we do not know the entire Truth, but that we may know a part of it, and that some truths are ingrained so deeply in all of humanity that we need not even know it is there to follow it and recognize it when we see it or hear of it.

            As for men creating gods, you believe because of your faith that there is no God, and I believe on faith that there is. So no matter what each of us may say in regards to the existence of God, we will disagree. I do agree that people make gods, but I disagree as far as nature of those gods, and whether or not all that are made are bad, and if not, which ones are good, and which are bad.

            Finally, two of my favorite quotes, reused by most of the people I know and around long before: “There can be no greater love than this: to give one’s life for a friend.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.”

            Would you look at that, Christians and your dad agree! Our God loves everyone, no matter what. It’s just actions that he hates. Looking down on people for any reason is wrong, including foolishness. However, calling a person out on actions that are wrong is not looking down on them, or condemning them, but condemnation of the action.

          • “Firstly, do you believe the entirety of Church teachings on morality and faith to be true and authoritative in nature?”

            No – the devil is in the details. The Church once taught that eating meat on Friday was a mortal sin. Then it went back to the original “fast” on Fridays. The Church once taught that if the choice, during a birth, was to be the mother or the child, the child was the correct choice. Now it says otherwise. Which belief, by your definition, causes one to not be a Catholic. Or is the belief to be determined by the teachings of the day? Many of the Church’s beliefs have not been stated under the guise of “infallibility”. The Church of today is not the same as that of the second century, or the fifth, or the twelfth, or the fifteenth. The Church in all of those centuries had the same core of beliefs. But definitely not the “entirety”.

            Before his Papacy, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger had explored this issue and hinted at the possibility of relaxation of the rules of Communion in the cases of re-married Catholics without annulments in cases where the second marriage was long-term and stable, with the approval of the confessor. Which part is “the entirety” ? Or is the choice forbidden?

            The problem I have with all of your posts is that you posit what very much appears to be the traddy conservative perspective and demand that it be taken as authoritative. That this tradition carries the entirety of authority. One must obey without question and hesitation. If one doesn’t, one is a heretic. You focus on the bureaucratic details and ignore the overall picture, yet demand that your view of authority be the only acceptable one. You ignore the fact that the Catholic Church is not monolithic in the entirety of its teachings. You refuse to acknowledge that the more detailed, comprehensive, and mandatory the body of doctrine is, the more splits there will be among people who have honest disagreements.

            You really seem to have a problem understanding that there are core beliefs that must be held. And are, by people like me. And that there are others which the Church has derived over time and are therefore heavily nuanced. And that questioning those is not the same as dismissing the Church’s authority and teachings.

          • No, you misunderstand the difference between the two “T” traditions.

            Divine Tradition refers to the Deposit of Faith, something that was revealed in Public Revelation. As such, its source was either the teaching of Christ Himself or one of the Apostles.

            Thus, Divine Tradition must be at least 1,900 years old (i.e. before the close of public revelation at the death of the last apostle).

            Regular traditions refer to customs established by men. The difference is one of origin.

            The Tradition currently being discussed is of the form of Divine Tradition, as it is quite firmly established in the Bible, and specifically in the New Testament. For the sake of simplicity of communication, I’ll refrain from referring to these Traditions as being “Tradition,” “Dogma,” “Doctrine,” or “Teachings,” as equivalents, although it should be noted that in Catholic Theology, they are used as such. I will refer to the collection thereof as “doctrine,” and a particular subject within it as either “teaching” or “dogma.”

            Meanwhile, little ‘t’ tradition refers specifically to those teachings which are not rooted in the Bible, either in action or in word. (An example of such tradition would include having only males as altar servers, or receiving the Eucharist on the tongue only.) Since you are continuously acting as if this is the same as Doctrine, I will refer to this as “human tradition,” or “tradition” from here on out, to make it absolutely clear on the differences. M’kay?

            Debating the relevance of human tradition is not heretical in nature, nor will it ever be. Human tradition is based solely in the cultural aspects of a specific time period and place, and will change and evolve as time goes on. Any Catholic who objects to human tradition is neither considered heretical, nor necessarily in err, nor does it show a lack of belief, nor anything else of the sort.

            Disagreeing on Doctrine, however, unless you can provide significant evidence pointing towards an erroneous translation of the particular passages involved, or something in the New Testament which renders it obsolete (such as the abstinence from certain types of meat being rendered obsolete due to the fulfillment of that section of Mosaic law), it is heretical.

            In the case of priests and other religious, specifically, they must follow both Doctrine and human tradition, because they have taken vows that say as such. If they wish to actively disagree (note, not question, but disagree) with either, then it is expected that they first be layicized (sp?).

            In the case of questioning vs. disagreeing on Doctrine, and in regards theologians vs. heretics:

            There are multiple differences between what theologians do, and heresy. This is primarily established though in the difference between the actions of questioning, and the action of disagreeing.

            When questions are asked on doctrine, and given the established answer, theologians will examine and look at arguments for and against the belief established therein, on basis of what is being referenced by those who support or contest it. However, they firstly, take into account the workings of the religion; secondly, do not claim to believe a religion which they don’t; thirdly, question and examine for sake of understanding, doing research for and against both sides; and fourthly (and most importantly), do not try to change religious teachings as such unless or until they find an error in translation of some relevant work, and after having done extensive research on the matter. In such cases as they do, they continue to treat with respect the decision held by the leaders of the religion.

            This differs from heresy in that the theologian acts with respect to religious beliefs, and asks questions in order to clarify teachings and increase understanding. Theologians opinions may vary on things, but the profession is not based on agreement or disagreement, but a search for knowledge and understanding.

            Heresy is simply straight up and up disagreement in doctrine. While heretics may question in much the same manner as theologians, at the end of the day, the result is the same: no matter what is said, they do not believe that a particular religion is right about something.

            So, questioning works out fine, because the purpose of honest questioning is to increase knowledge and understanding of something. That is a fantastic thing to want to do; looking for answers makes sense. Once the answer is given, reasons included, in the case of Doctrine, that’s that. In the case of human tradition, disagreement is not only allowable, but depending on the exact subject, encouraged and ‘egged on’ so to speak by the Pope even (in having only male altar servers, or having both female and male altar servers), as it is a matter of cultural changes and doesn’t have anything to do with morals or faith as addressed in the Bible.

            Now, since this discussion is rather well into whether or not the doctrine is taught infallibly by the priests, bishops, and pope, although I think I might be able to give a relatively decent explanation thereof normally, for now I’ll not risk it (boo for recurring medical issues which require drugs that cause extreme drowsiness), and preferring to not cause a miscommunication on the exact usage and differences in terms and their usage, I’ll defer to another person’s explanation: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/papal-infallibility

            Hence, my question was warranted as to the exact nature and totality of belief, as was my statement that the responses of X to the questions posed are heretical in nature.

          • “yada yada yada – you aren’t a Catholic”. – Alex

            The Church’s position is that a person who is baptized a Catholic remains a Catholic until that person renounces the Church. So Alex’s view is his and the Church disagrees. The bigger issue is that, per the logical extension of his belief, 99+% of humans will not make it to heaven. Since God knew this even before creating them, if that is God’s plan, that would make God the ultimate sadist, a monster beyond belief. Since that is the polar opposite of the God of Christ, I have believe Alex is wrong.

            With all of Alex’s condemnations (heresy, not a Catholic) I would think that he needs to prepare to explain when God asks him when he was made God’s surrogate judge, since God doesn’t remember doing that. The charge, I believe, would be taking God’s name in vain.

        • No, Alex you are a good man and I admire you for speaking your truth. I appreciate you opening up. I can relate to feeling out of it among crowds and to feel less than the popular guys or the guys who were deemed attractive. I felt so alone so unwanted at times in my life. I hated myself for being gay and attracted to men. My parents made fun of gay men and my peers bullied any guy that was not a stereotyped jock. But when I got to college, I got a chance to meet others like me. I found friends who I could relate and who I could enjoy. I had some good adventures. You will too. The world is full of people like yourself and who like you have to learn how to reach out and join in. You might be amazed to hear the guys who you felt so intimidated by sharing the ‘real truth’ about how they feel and see themselves. Blessings to you Alex! You belong too!! Garry

          • Oh, I know that I’m not alone. I don’t hate that I have flaws, nor do I hate the flaws in other people. What I hate, and the only two things I well and truly hate (unrelated to particular food items) is when a person either refuses to recognize that some behaviors of theirs are a problem, or, if they do, they refuse to do anything about it. I find it a sad thing that people find failure to accomplish a goal to overcome a problem to be worse than failure to attempt to overcome it at all.

  27. samuel Johnston

    Well, you will get to spend the remainder of your life with doctrinaire folks like Alex, telling you that you are not fit to be a member of the club. I vastly prefer the Will Durants of this world, the kindly old scholars who are studious but tolerant, open minded, and think/judge for themselves and have a sense of irony.
    I also agree with Socrates. God must be just because if he is not, he is a demon.
    Limited being that I am, I cannot be certain that what I see/perceive is true, but nonetheless I must judge and live with the consequences. In my view, the Christian God is not just, or even kind. The Jesus of the Bible was simply wrong when he compared God to a loving father. That being my view, it is better for all concerned that I am convinced that there are no gods with whom to curry favor. Life is an opportunity, that is all, and it is churlish to complain that it does not go on forever.

  28. Samuel, I love your passion. You are amazing. By all means keep fighting for justice. There are bigots everywhere and they are legion in the Church!
    But they are not the only ones–there are some really good people there. My father meant well but he was absent physically and emotionally. He did not protect me. He abused me. He dumped a lot of his self-hatred on me. So, I had trouble relating to God as a loving father. I did not know what they meant. God to me was a God of wrath and vengeance and hatred and did not suffer fools gladly. But, I could relate to Jesus and that helped me to forgive my father’s many shortcomings. I could also see the good that he gave me. But, you are a good man, Samuel. I am glad you are on this planet. You are fierc man!! You know that! But, you don’t want anyone to bull shit you. Good for you! Jesus did not either! He stood up to bull shit!! My best to you, Samuel. Garry

  29. samuel Johnston

    Alex- in response to the “Since you claim to practice law” lecture.
    Admitted to the Alabama S.C. Bar, Sept 1976, Fed Bar 1976.
    You really are not accustomed to someone objecting to your premises.
    As for the Zen parable, Silly me, I saw the major point of the parable as the Zen monk understanding the purpose of the law, therefore he did not need it anymore. Law is a guide, not a destination.

    Appealing to improper authorities:
    1. If one opines, as I do, that Christianity is not merely wrong, but it is both dishonest and inconsistent,
    then why would I appeal to the authority of those that tell everyone the dangerous lie that those who disagree with them deserve to to be worse than killed, they deserve to be eternally tortured.
    2. Dr. Edgar is hardly an improper authority. Likewise, I disagree with your other characterizations of my arguments.
    3. I will now present Jesus as witness against Christianity. Luke 10: 25–37
    On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
    His reply was a parable which did not include any reference to any belief or doctrine at all. It was all about actions. Jesus then instructed “Then go and do the same.”
    If this teaching is true, then Christianity is a fabrication and does not originate with Jesus.

    • Except that if you wish to debate with someone on their own religious principles, then it is pointless to debate with them on whether or not other people agree with them, since that doesn’t actually hold relevance to the issue. So, while you can believe that my religion is false, if you wish to prove me false on what I know my religion teaches, you have to debate me in the confines of the religion itself, not through the use of other religions.

      Secondly, your comments show a lack of understanding of the workings of Catholicism, in that among other things, the Church doesn’t teach that people who aren’t Catholic, or who disagree with Catholic teachings are damned, but that it is easier to get to heaven through the Church. Indeed, it’s taught that even if a person has never heard of any God at all, but lives a moral life (i.e., follows the ten commandments in their full spirit), then they will be given entrance to heaven.

      Thirdly, in response to your claim that Jesus stood against religion, it is not a stance against religion, but a stance against immoral actions. Having knowledge of what is and isn’t immoral is therefore exceptionally useful. Also, note Jesus also said, “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” Apostolic succession follows through it and other parts of Jesus’ actions and teachings. However, as pointed out, “Faith without works is dead,” and so one must not only have faith, but also act on it, in a moral manner. Rather than negate it, your reference supports what I’ve been saying.

      As for your appeal to Dr. Edgar’s work, I’ve found very little information to very whether or not he would qualify as being an a proper authority, outside of the single book I’ve managed to find written by him, being the one you’ve referenced. Currently, I’m checking in with a more knowledgeable source on the issue.

      While law may be a guide, not a destination, in order to reach a chosen destination, you must still follow in the confines of the law in order to truly reach the destination.

      A parable then, to illustrate the point;

      Three runners are in a race. The first is fast, and determined to win. The second, slower, and lazy, but competitive. The third, is slow, but not competitive. The race is along a set course, which as in all races, must be followed. The first runner runs the course and reaches the finish line in a reasonable time. The second runner, wishing to win, but not wishing to run the distance, takes a shortcut which is not a part of the course, and because of it, crosses the finish line before the first runner. The third runner crosses last, having also followed the set path. No one saw the second runner take the shortcut, so he is awarded first place, and the other runner is given second, and the third runner takes last, but does so honestly.

      So, did the second runner actually win the race? Most people would think not, because he cheated. The first runner won, because he followed the rules to reach the destination. The second would normally be disqualified, since he chose not to follow the rules. The third runner, although he may have come in last either way, still accomplished the actual goal, and reached the destination fairly; by running the course.

      Laws are guidelines, not a destination, but that doesn’t mean that you can ignore the law in order to reach your goal. The ends don’t justify the means, the means have to be able to justify themselves.

      Also, saying that you do practice law, however you choose to say it, does not change the fact that this is the internet, and for all I know you’re a twelve year old girl sitting on the computer, or a brilliant physicist. I don’t mean to dispute your claim one way or another, simply pointing out that, especially if you do practice law, you would probably want to know the logical flaws in arguments you put forth, so that you can avoid them in the future.

      Finally, I’m actually quite used to people disagreeing with the premise of my arguments, as well as conclusions, and in general, disagreeing with me about anything they care to. Generally, however, they have the sense to recognize that if they wish to debate on a particular subject, they need to recognize the particular factors that govern the subject. Arguing with a Lutheran about how their religion works, for example, I would have to recognize that they use a different bible than Catholics, and would have to take that into account. Arguing with a Catholic, you need to take into account the fact that Catholics don’t operate Sola Scriptura, for one, and the workings of the religion in regards to the historical versus the doctrinal parts of the bible, and how they’re related. Also, the difference in translations, the difference in the exact nature of the meanings of words based in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, the differences between big ‘T’ and little ‘t’ tradition, etc.

      Debating on the general workings of a particular religion without taking into mind the beliefs, morals, and given reasoning behind the workings and such of that religion is comparable to watching someone who’s never studied law trying to act as a criminal lawyer, or watching someone who’s never studied or payed any attention to chemistry trying to teach a college-level, advanced chemistry course. While you could put people in such a scenario and they might do something that’s right, it would work much better to either give them the education and skills they need before putting them into that situation, or else put someone who already understands the subject in the situation instead.

  30. samuel Johnston

    Wow Alex!! I must have really struck a nerve! What are you so afraid of? Why must you so tediously defend the world’s largest and most successful institution from someone as insignificant as myself?
    I suspect it is because you feel how flimsy the stack of cards that your Authority has constructed really is, and how it is loosing ground everyday (mixed metaphor alert).
    As for whether this is an appropriate forum for this wide ranging discussion, that is up to Dr. Silk, not you.

    “Without freedom of speech I’d be dead in the swamp”
    Bob Dylan

    • You mistake testing my patience with striking a nerve. Debate is pointless if people refuse to pick a specific topic to debate, because it’s tantamount to having two entirely separate conversations. I was not saying that this comment section is only for a specific topic, but rather that I was addressing a specific topic, and if you wish to continue a discussion with me, it is in your interest to stay on that topic, or else state that you wish to move on to another topic, instead of trying to debate two topics at once and treat them as if they’re the same conversation.

      Again, you assume that I’m afraid of anything you’ve said or done, as if you have somehow managed to do anything other than be a mildly amusing distraction from my regular internet browsing. However, your continued lack of anything even beginning to resemble an argument that has not already been addressed multiple times not only by myself, but by various doctors of the Church, and your attempts to try and change the topic of conversation without actually presenting any coherent argument with which to begin with is annoying and at best, crass.

      Freedom of speech gains one nothing if it is misused.

  31. samuel Johnston

    Yet another post from Alex full of additional instructions, so the fun continues!
    “You assume that simply because I’m in agreement with the Catholic Church it is because of a lack of understanding, not because I’ve actually formed my own ideas, and have found them to be the same.”
    Absolutely. You got up one morning and independently devised the product of two thousand years of contention, convention, war, and fraud. I would love to read your book explaining this amazing feat. Me, I borrow most of my ideas from smarter folks than myself.
    Idol worship: I accuse you and many others of worshipping ideas (idols). Ideas should never be confused with God.
    Beliefs: I have none in the sense that the Church would accept if I were to offer them for their acceptance. Therefore it is WRONG, and just plain stupid for you to say “you believe because of your faith that there is no God”. The Romans called the Jews atheists because they claimed that the Roman gods were false. I am only an atheist in that sense. I refuse to let my opponents define the terms of discussion, and that appears to be the sum total of you complaint!

    • “Absolutely. You got up one morning and independently devised the product of two thousand years of contention, convention, war, and fraud. I would love to read your book explaining this amazing feat. Me, I borrow most of my ideas from smarter folks than myself.”

      I independently devise the morals which I choose to follow. That is not something which is particularly hard to do, as evidenced by the many people who do it throughout the course of their lives. I base it off of research done in matters that I find interesting, or that affect me or people I deal with specifically. Since that tends towards being rather wide-ranging, I have developed moral stands that cover a rather broad range of things. I also chose to believe that there is a God, for many reasons, and it was a faith formed based on my own observations, my own reasoning, independent of anything else. This doesn’t require that I decide the exactness of history of my faith, nor the exactness that is given in any religion. It is a personal conviction. After having done this, I researched various religions, both Christian and non-Christian, and found that Catholicism best matched my own personal beliefs. Ergo, I’m Catholic by Conviction, not Incident of Birth. That doesn’t mean that I sat there detailing the exactness of my faith, but the exactness of my morals. This is neither uncommon, nor is it illogical to form beliefs in such a manner. While my beliefs are supported by the beliefs of those who came before me, no matter intelligence, my reasoning and convictions are my own.

      As to why I defend my religion, well, it’s my religion. It’s a central part of my life, as are the moral beliefs and the faith of a person in any other religion. I don’t care who it is I defend my religion against, or whether or not it convinces anyone. It is not my job to change anyone’s faith, but I wish to address the ignorance of people who misinterpret and misrepresent what it teaches, or attack it for any reason, born of ignorance, personal prejudice, or simply a difference in morals. If I ever eventually choose to abandon my faith, and my religion, then it will not be for a lack of understanding of it on my part, nor would I wish that anyone do such due to a lack of understanding of it. Debating online, while I don’t believe it will change anyone’s minds if they’re inclined for any reason to disagree, will hopefully at least be read by someone who is open to explanation.

      As to the “additional instructions,” those would be the most basic courtesies on the part of any person wishing to communicate with someone else on something. Being, first and foremost, they must specify what it is that they’re trying to talk about. Trying to tell a person about a banana doesn’t work if they are talking about an orange, and you are not treating them as separate but related, and instead treating them as one and the same fruit.

      In the same manner, if you wish to discuss a particular religion’s teachings, and argue with a person on how they work within that religion, you need to work within the confines of the religion. If you wish to simply disagree with someone about their religion in morality thereof, then you can logically work outside the confines of the religion, since it is an examination of the religion as a whole from a secular standpoint. If you wish to have a general religious debate, then again, it is not necessary to work within the confines of any particular religion, or moral standpoint, or indeed, logical standpoint.

      I have up till now, been simply debating over why the Catholic Church has the teachings on sexuality and morality that it does, based on the perspective of someone who believes that the Church was established by Christ. If you wish to debate about whether or not it is indeed the Church established by Christ, you should state as such, instead of treating them as being the same conversation. If you wish to debate morals from a solely secular standpoint, again, simply stating so and providing your opening arguments would be a much more effective method than trying to treat it as the same conversation and topic, or debating on religion’s value in general would again be more fruitful if you were to first state what you wish to discuss, and then give your opening arguments for your position.

      What you have done up to now, however, has not followed any such notion, and indeed, has mainly been opinion of disagreement followed by things, whether quotes or references irrelevant to the workings of the Catholic Church as far as the morality and faith that have been brought up in my posts, or indeed, basically any point I’ve made. When you actually wish to state what you want to discuss and begin articulating your arguments in a manner that demonstrates an actual point or points in favor of your argument, then we can discuss it.

    • Also, I’m not trying to define the terms of the discussion myself, but rather, what exactly the desired terms are, so that I can treat the conversation accordingly. Without a clear definition from you, I work with the ones I chose to based on what it was I wish to discuss, and how you were addressing it.

  32. samuel Johnston

    Your story is that you were born in a Catholic home, went to Catholic school, and as an adult always felt most at home in the Catholic Church. What a Biblical story! You deserve to be known as the Prodigal son’s irritable little brother.

    • Point to the section in which I ever said I attended a Catholic school, or “felt most at home” in the Catholic Church as an adult. I attended theology classes offered by my parish as a young child, however, attendance does not implicate belief, but obedience to parents.

      Also, if your argument is that because I was also born into the Church, and therefore could not or did not choose to continue to be Catholic because of actual belief, but convenience, or that my morals are all just regurgitated bits that I picked up as a child, you will have a rather hard time arguing that. Simply because I don’t relate to you my entire life’s story, or my entire story in regards to the nature and relation of my faith to my life does not mean that you can suddenly claim to be right on basis of an assumption. Knowledge does not beget belief, and that is what my theology classes consisted of; the relation of the knowledge of the basic beliefs of a particular religion.

      My parents and my theology teachers didn’t sit there pointing out things as being wrong or right as far as such morals as these are concerned. In the case of my parents, they addressed lying, stealing, and obedience while a minor. My theology teachers didn’t address any other moral ideas, but addressed beliefs on the nature of the Eucharist, confession, baptism, and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in confirmation. That was about it (having not been around long enough for the classes after confirmation, and being confirmed slightly earlier than normal for special circumstances). Those sections really don’t brush on morals, and the moral stands I’ve developed over the years have been based on listening, reading, and examining arguments for and against various issues. The fact is, I chose my beliefs based on my own convictions, not the convictions of others.

      Agreeing with beliefs or ideals, agreeing with other people in general, doesn’t mean that a person cannot think for themselves, but that they recognize that others may have already explained the belief better, or more completely, or for any number of other reasons.

      I do find it interesting that you have such skepticism when you yourself claim to have done the same basic thing; finding philosophies that express your own personal convictions and views.

      On a side note, the prodigal’s son’s brother was older, not younger.

      • samuel Johnston

        “On a side note, the prodigal’s son’s brother was older, not younger.”
        Really Alex? You are so pompous, that I could not resist the joke, plus the reward
        of counting on your correcting the error. In that regard, I am not a nice person. My only excuse is that I have an older brother, who like you, is imagination deprived, and therefore drives me crazy.
        Re: “finding philosophies that express your own personal convictions and views.”
        You bet I have. The key word is “found”- and often after long searching. I was feed on a diet of Bible belt fundamentalism, indeed I am still surrounded by it. Does anyone really think that in Birmingham Alabama, we have regular public discussions of Pre Socratic Greek Philosophy? I would love for some bored Jesuit priest to be available to me for the stimulation of worthy opposition. At least the current Pope is providing amusement. I strongly suspect he gives you heartburn.

        • Again, you assume I’m pompous, failing to realize that I appreciate serious conversation, and generally don’t care much for jokes at the expense of others, unless it is done due to being friends, and having a good understanding of their personality when it comes to jokes, and mature enough to recognize which are in good taste and when to be serious. You lack that knowledge of me, and I of you, and as the conversation up to now has been generally a serious discussion, at least on my part, it is generally considered courteous to act in the same manner.

          I agree, the key word is found. You assume that because I wound up back where you believe I began, I didn’t do anything, or didn’t truly find my own convictions, or find my belief. Since you can’t actually know this without having intimate knowledge of my life, you can’t accurately judge it.

          Imagination-deprived, again, is a baseless assumption. You know nothing of me outside of the confines of what I have said in this discussion, which as to my personal life or amusements is precious little. The sum total of your actual knowledge of me is this:

          *I was raised in a Catholic home, and attend theology classes till I was confirmed.
          *I am attracted to males and my family, friends, and parish know, accept, and love me regardless of it.
          *I believe the doctrine of the RCC, through my own convictions.
          *I have studied other religions.
          *I, up till now, have wished to converse seriously with others on the matters addressed in the questionnaire.
          *I have several behavioral disorders, including anger management issues.

          This gives you precious little justification for any assumption you make about me.

        • Oh, and the fact that I correct in the case of a possible mistake, not for any other reason is not pompous. Having known people who do make simple mess-ups, if I notice, I correct, because there are people out there who would rather make fun of a person for any mistake than accept that they are human, give them the knowledge to prevent such a mistake from happening again, and moving on.

          Generally, tone is rather hard to convey in any way other than direct conversation, so most joking online that I see is done in a rather obvious manner, so as not to be mistaken for a mistake, rudeness, or a miscommunication.

          As for Pope Francis, I’m quite happy that he was given the papacy. I’m not so terribly thrilled that people take what he says out of context, but considering the fact that people have taken things that have been said by popes out of context for years, it’s not particularly surprising. All in all, he seems to be an excellent pope so far.

  33. samuel Johnston

    OK, you have shamed me. I am very sorry to have behaved badly. We all carry
    heavy loads. I forget sometimes that some others have even heaver loads than I.

    • I apologize for anything I said that came off as being pompous; I am not trying to be, and if it seems that way, or seems rude in any other manner, I do not mean it as such, and never will.

  34. Mark Silk

    Thanks to all of you for your comments. I’m impressed and heartened that the three principal interlocutors — Garry, Samuel Johnson, and Alex — were able to achieve a degree of civility seldom found in hammer-and-tongs discussions among blog commentators of widely divergent views. Special credit, I think, goes to Garry for turning the other cheek in two directions at once (turning both cheeks?). And thanks to my friend, Father X, for donating his time and energy to producing such an extended and thoughtful response to the Vatican’s questions. Best wishes to everyone for the New Year.

  35. “The Tradition currently being discussed is of the form of Divine Tradition …”

    The issues I’m responding to revolve around the throwing around of the term “heresy” and branding people as not Catholics. The core of the Church’s teachings are not something I have questioned, nor do. What falls into that category, and the lumping of all teachings into your definition of “required Catholicism” is what I’m focusing on.

    During the Middle Ages, the following three beliefs were (among others) at the core of the Church’s teachings: the earth is the center of the universe, Adam and Eve were real and true parents of the human race, and burning hell literally exists. Denying any of these would subject a person to excommunication, if not execution.

    Galileo’s big sin wasn’t what he was saying. The realization that universe did not revolve around the earth had been around since the times of the ancient Greeks. The Church’s own scientists had been saying as much even before Galileo’s discovery. The problem was that the Church wanted to disseminate that knowledge at its pace. To adapt various of its teachings and the understanding of the people in the way it desired. Galileo insisted on stating his discovery, full force, at once. So, he had to be muzzled.

    The Church’s view on Adam and Eve has changed much since the Middle Ages. And it has realized it may need to change even more. Even Pius XII stated that the present Church’s position should continue to be taught – until proof is shown otherwise. Admitting that it can, even will, happen. Yet some Catholics claim Cardinal Ratzinger wasn’t a true pope because he had the wrong (per them) view of Adam and Eve.

    Dante’s view of hell didn’t spring entirely from his imagination. It was been, even still is in many circles, considered reality. The Church, however, now teaches that hell is the deprivation of God, not any burning pit.
    Thus, all three of the present positions of the Church would have subjected it to charges of heresy during the Middle Ages.

    The Church’s “infallibility” reside within the pope’s proclamation, ex-cathedra – which has happened maybe only twice. And within the extraordinary magistrate of the Church. Yet people act as though everything the Church says and teaches is infallible. Nope.

    Stay away from branding people “heretics” and “non-Catholics” and I don’t have a problem (well, a few) with your positions. Defend the Church, explain its positions (per your understanding) all you want, fine. Start labeling – and that makes you a saboteur of the Church.

  36. samuel Johnston

    GJ
    “Because they believe that the Church is the successor of Jesus as the teacher and guide, not a militant organization. No, the responsibility of a Catholic isn’t to obey the Church, mindlessly. It is to learn how to live to get to God in the afterlife. One doesn’t learn by memorizing and regurgitating. One learns by understanding.
    When the Church teaches what Jesus taught, it is acting as it should. And, as a Catholic, one should believe and accept those teachings. And on such topics, it can claim infallibility.”

    Pardon my curiosity, but speaking as a heretic (or worse ) myself, I have trouble understanding why a person of such obvious learning as yourself, would buy into any of the claims of the Church. None of the claims of special status conferred by anyone (other than themselves) is historically credible. One would think that even as patient as a benevolent deity might be, after twenty centuries his special group would have done better. Christians are still a minority of a minority. They do not behave better than non Christians. They do not pass the test of lighting the way by example. In short, they are a failure at their self proclaimed tasks. How does this historical fact support any of their unverifiable claims.
    As you know, all Historians who have attempted to write a biography of Jesus have merely ended up looking ridiculous. My favorite is Albert Schweitzer, who took it on himself to explain what Jesus misunderstood!
    His Holiness, Pope St. Pius X ,topped off the soap opera by issuing, THE OATH AGAINST MODERNISM,
    given by His Holiness on September 1, 1910, to be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.
    This most embarrassing testament to ignorance and petulance has mostly been forgotten, but it has not been refuted or retracted, to my knowledge. I would think a public apology (at least) is in order, and by the way, Alfred Loisy should be reinstated.

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  38. After I initially commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are
    added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get four emails
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