Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Extraordinary Synod of Bishops. This last week, as 200 bishops from around the world gathered at the Vatican for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops discussing family and evangelization, the press was all abuzz about a supposedly new report from “the Vatican.” They acted almost as if the Church was about to set aside its ancient teaching on sexuality, marriage and family in favor of a more 21st century and worldly approach to divorce, remarriage, cohabitation and “gay marriage.”

 

The real story is that at the midpoint of every Bishops’ Synod a very small committee of bishops produces a brief report summarizing the open discussions (mainly speeches) of the Synod so far. This report is then distributed as a working document to help the Bishops during the second half of the Synod as they gather privately in small groups to intensify their discussions and work out specifics of final conclusions. At the end of those small group discussions, their conclusions will be summarized in a final report which will then be voted on by all 200 bishops in the Synod. If that document is approved (as I understand it, approval requires a two thirds majority of the bishops) it will then be sent on to the Pope as the Synod’s official recommendations. In this case, with this Extraordinary Synod, the Pope has announced that he will not issue the usual papal teaching document that follows a Synod (an “apostolic exhortation”). Rather he will forward this report to another Ordinary Synod of Bishops that is gathering this time next year (October 2015) to discuss “the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.”

 

In other words, the document released this week was the equivalent of an “internal memo” not actually drafted or approved by the bishops themselves. It is meant to be used to facilitate internal discussions, not to teach, much less to change anything in the Church. It has no authority whatsoever, magisterially or disciplinary. These kinds of documents are so unimportant almost no one outside of the bishops gathered in Synods ever bothers to read them. Only the ignorant and biased press would place such great importance on them.

 

Moreover, many of the Synod bishops, seeing the outrageous press coverage, have publicly denounced both the press reports and the preliminary report as not only not accurately or fully reflecting the actual discussions of the Synod, but also being filled with theological and doctrinal ambiguity and errors, and to remind us that even the final report from the Synod has no teaching or disciplinary authority on its own since it only represents the suggestions of only 200 bishops (or even only two-thirds of those).

 

All this reminds me of the manipulation that took place during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), or “Vatican II.” It is well documented how certain factions of bishops and theologians at Vatican II used the press to manipulate public expectations and understanding of the Council and its documents. This “spin” led to the wide-acceptance of what Pope Benedict XVI called an erroneous “hermeneutic of discontinuity”—as if Vatican II changed everything about the Church. Both St. John Paul and Benedict, who as young men had played important roles at Vatican II, spent their whole pontificates trying to undo this gravely erroneous understanding. The same thing seems to be happing with this Synod, except this time the press is much more often a co-conspirator. I pray that this current manipulation will not cause the same kind of terrible confusion that happened after Vatican II.

 

Because of the almost total unimportance of the “preliminary report” I will not comment on either the content of the report itself or the particular claims in the media. Besides, they are already completely outdated, because as I write this column, the Synod bishops are meeting to work out their actual final recommendations to the Pope. And as you read this they would have most surely finished that process, and perhaps even voted on the final report to His Holiness. So let us pray that the Holy Spirit may save the Church from the terrible confusion that comes not from God but from weak and sinful men. And I encourage you to remember two things. First, whatever comes from this Synod, remember to be very careful in interpreting what you hear in the biased and/or ignorant press about Catholicism. And second, understand everything in the days ahead in the “hermeneutic of continuity”—there is one Catholic Church, before and after this Synod, and everything taught today and tomorrow must be understood only in the light of and as being consistent with the Catholic teaching of the past two millennia.

 

Annual Parish Financial Report. Today’s bulletin includes an insert providing a summary of our financial results for the fiscal year June 30, 2014. While the previous year saw a slight increase in collections, this year saw a 5% decrease, in the amount of $102,000. Moreover this year also saw a 5% increase in operating expenses of $87,000. As a result net income of $469,628, was down from the previous year by 33%, or $230,000. Increases in expenses were largely budgeted and attributable to additional paid staff and unusual maintenance and construction expenses (including cry room improvements, refinishing exterior doors, a new church boiler, and new rectory hvac units). The decrease in collections, however, was not expected, especially since there was a 3% increase in registered parishioners.

 

During the year we paid down our bank loan by $497,628, leaving us $1,687,143 in debt. Our cash balance at year end was a strong $1,193,697.

 

If there are any questions about this report or any other financial matters do not hesitate to contact me. I once again thank you for your continued generosity, and let us all thank Almighty God for his continuing munificence.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 12, 2014

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 12, 2014

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

One of the strongest themes in the Old Testament is

that God provides his people with all good things,

and this especially symbolized by an abundance of the choicest food.

We see this in our first reading today, from the prophet Isaiah:

“the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples

a feast of rich food and choice wines.”

And we see it again in today’s Psalm, the famous Psalm 23:

“You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Now, for the ancient Jews, as for many ancient people,

there was one meal on earth, one banquet

that people would spend all sorts of money to provide

the most delicious treats and finest wines—and all in abundance.

We do the same today.

The meal I’m talking about, of course, is the wedding banquet.

 

Now, marriage was also an OT symbol of the love of God for Israel,

not only providing for her but giving her everything he has

including His passionate love, and his very life.

So when you combine these two themes of abundant food and marriage,

the wedding feast because the symbol par excellence

of God’s love for Israel—heaven itself.

 

And so in today’s Gospel Our Lord tells the parable:

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king

who gave a wedding feast for his son.” And he goes on to say:

“I have prepared my banquet,

my calves and fattened cattle are killed,

and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’

It’s interesting, this idea of the wedding feast as a symbol of God’s love

is revealed right at the very beginning of Scripture, in the Garden of Eden.

God creates man  as male and female, the first married couple,

and puts them in this luscious Garden, filled with all sorts of plants,

and tell them: “you shall have them for food.”

This is the first wedding feast, celebrated when God gave life to the human race

and gave us every good thing in paradise to fill us with happiness,

to show us his love.

 

____

Now, we all know how delightful good food and drink can be.

And how food that is good not only in flavor but also in nutrition

can also make us strong and healthy.

 

But we also know the opposite is true.

Bad food can make sick, even kill us.

And sometimes food tastes very good, but it’s still deadly.

Sometimes it kills us quickly, like a poison mushroom.

But sometimes it might take years, like eating lot of unhealthy foods,

and dying from heart disease or diabetes.

 

_____

The deadliness of food also goes back to Genesis.

In the second chapter God warns Adam not to eat from a particular tree:

“for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Genesis says the devil tempted them, but it also says they thought the apple,

“was good for food and pleasing to the eye,”

And so they ate what God had told them was bad for them,

and were cast out of God’s Garden of abundance

and would eventually die.

 

_____

My friends not everything that looks or seems good,

is actually really good for you.

Sometimes fruit is delicious food, and sometime it’s just attractive poison.

 

This is especially true when it comes to understanding

the very first good thing God gave us after life itself:

the wonderful gift of marriage.

The last few decades some folks

has tried to convince us that something that is very bad for us

is as good as marriage.

I’m talking about so-called same-sex “marriage”–or “gay marriage.”

 

This last week this effort seems to have taken  a new step forward,

as the Supreme Court of the United States got involved, sort of.

Over the last year 3 Circuit Courts of Appeal had overturned

5 states’ laws banning same sex marriage,

and on Monday the Supreme Court announced

it would not hear an appeal of those cases.

And because of this Virginia and 4 other states are immediately required

to allow same-sex weddings,

and 6 other states will soon have to follow suit.

 

Now let me be clear: as I explain in today’s bulletin, which I hope you read,

by passing on these cases, the Supreme Court

left itself free to revisit the issue in another case in the next year or so.

The fight is not over.

In fact, I’m guessing that one or more of the 4 solidly conservative justices,

who also happen to be good Catholics,

might have seen this as sort of strategic retreat for the time being

—to live to fight another day.

I leave that to those good men, and the grace God gives them.

Even so, in the meantime, we have same-sex marriage in Virginia.

 

____

But we cannot let our state, and our country,

swallow the poison of same-sex marriage.

Scripture is very clear on this,

but we don’t need the Bible to tell us that marriage

is the union of “male and female…”

Just look at how men and women are naturally, and you see it.

Male and female are not only obviously physically different,

scientists also tell us that even our brains work differently.

But it’s also clear that those differences also complement each other,

complete each other.

Man and woman, literally and figurative, fit together in every way.

 

And one of the remarkable gifts that comes from those differences fitting together

is the creation of new life–babies!

For all of human history the union of one man and one woman

to love each other and to raise children

has been the source of stability and progress for civilized societies.

A union where the two complementary halves of humanity come together

to nurture the fruit of their love, children,

and teach them to how to love and respect

the dignity of both men and women, and their complementarity.

 

There is nothing more natural to mankind than heterosexual love and marriage.

It’s as natural and as healthy as eating truly delicious and healthy food.

 

______

But some say same sex attraction and marriage are equally natural and good.

Really? How?

Do our bodies indicate this, or the way or brains work?

No.

They don’t fit.

Not naturally.

 

Is it healthy?

No—the bodies were obviously not made for this,

and studies after study shows the geometrically increased health risks.

 

Some say, “but they love each other.”

But mutual love doesn’t give you a right to sexually interact or to marry.

We don’t permit grown men to sexually interact with young girls,

and mothers can’t marry their adult sons.

No matter how much they love each other.

 

Some say, but “gays” were “born that way,” so it’s “natural to them.”

But, is cancer natural?

After all, it appears in nature?

Does that make it “good”?

If someone is born with a heart defect, do we smile and say,

“that’s great, it’s natural!”

 

Some say, hey, “they’re not hurting anyone, let them marry.”

But is that true?

Setting aside the ways “gay marriage” can hurt the “partners” and their children,

let’s look at the bigger picture.

 

For all of history,

there has never been a human society that has had “gay marriage.”

Marriage has always and only meant   the union of male and female,

and that union has been the foundation of society.

 

But now the courts are telling us to believe that

if we change the composition of the very foundation of society,

nothing bad will happen.

And they’re not saying, “let’s try an experiment in a small society

and see what happens over a few generations.”

Their saying,

“hey, they like it in Vermont, so you will like it in Virginia—right now!”

They won’t even let us use new drugs until they’re tested on lab rats,

but they want to accept this into society, untested,

and just trust them it will have no negative effect.

 

Some say, “but this doesn’t affect “straight” people, so don’t worry about it”

But that’s not true.

They’re changing the meaning of shared social institution,

and that can have huge consequences.

 

First of all, society gives married couples all sort of benefits,

benefits that your tax dollars pay for,

like Medicaid and Social security.

Doesn’t paying taxes to support these marital benefits affect us? ,

That’s why Congress prohibits the spending of taxpayer funds on abortion.

So it does affect us all, financially.

 

But it also has deeper fundamental effects on all of us.

Like a body eating poisonous fruit,

the whole body will get sick and even die.

 

Think of this.

They’re taking away the fundamental definition of marriage,

and not really replacing it with anything.

Marriage is no longer a sacred institution rooted in the nature of man itself,

meant to create loving families that nurture good children,

and so build a just and happy citizens in society.

All that’s left now is a relationship between people who say they love each other

—and want their love publically approved.

Marriage is now rooted in nature and the sacred,

but something contrived by capricious human laws.

 

Friends, that is poison to the body politic.

Think about it.

With this new wide open definition,

what will prohibit polygamy

—having two or three or 20 spouses at the same time,

if they love each other?

Nothing.

Some scoff at that, but back in December a federal judge in Utah

declared that state’s law against polygamy to be unconstitutional.

It’s being appealed, but to the same Circuit Court

that overturned Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage last year.

They will win that case, and it will go on and on like this,

extending marriage to every strange combination you can imagine

— because nothing can stop them.

 

You say, well so what? Live and let live.

But will you be saying that when they legalize incest?

How will you explain that to your children, or protect them from that?

 

And when, after changing the meaning of “marriage,”

they change the meaning of “parenthood,”

what will you say when they take your children away from you

calling you an “unfit parent” because you taught them

that same sex marriage, polygamy and incest are wrong?

______

Some of you are saying, you’re crazy father, none of that can happen.

But 50 years ago, no one even dreamed same sex marriage could ever happen.

Just 10 short years ago 60 percent opposed it.

Now, out of nowhere, only 42% oppose it.

 

______

Finally, some of you are saying, Father, “you just hate gay people.”

[That is a dirty lie.]

I do not hate them: they are created in the image of God,

they are my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters, and I love them.

But they have a problem, just like you and I have our own problems.

And in love, as a spiritual Father,

I can’t let them, or you, be poisoned by the lies others are feeding us

—I must give the bread of truth and life.

 

______

So what do we do?

One simple thing: we vote.

Some think the election in 3 weeks isn’t very important.

Wrong.

Right now, the fate of traditional marriage,

not to mention the right to life and religious liberty,

is in the hands of the Supreme Court.

And in the next 6 years the senator we elect next month will have a big say

in choosing three or four new Supreme Court Justices!

But the incumbent is a strong supporter of “gay marriage”,

as well as abortion and the HHS contraception mandate

–you know, the regs that will close down

the Little Sisters of the Poor.

But his opponent is on the opposite side on all those issues

—pro-traditional marriage, pro-life, pro-religious liberty.

 

And the same seems to be true in the races for Representative.

From what I’ve seen, it looks like they’re all towing their own party’s lines:

and the Democrat Party is officially strongly

for gay marriage, abortion and the contraception mandate,

while the Republican Party opposes all that.

 

I don’t endorse candidates, or parties, but I do ask:

how can a Catholic vote for a candidate who’s pro-“gay marriage,”

much less one who’s also pro-abortion, anti-religious liberty?

And how can any Catholic think this election is not important enough

for you to take a few minutes to vote on November 4?

 

____

And then there’s prayer.

October is the month of the Rosary, so get those beads out and pray every day,

asking Our Lord and His Mother to intervene

to save marriage and family in America.

 

And most importantly, there’s the great prayer of Christ and His Church:

the Eucharist.

It is in the Eucharist that is the fulfillment on earth of God’s promise

“provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines.”

This is the wedding feast of the Lord and His Bride the Church,

blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb of God,

as we feast on the food of angels, the Lord’s own Body.

 

Let us turn now to the Lord at His Marriage Feast,

and pray that he may protect our nation

from the poison of false notions of love.

And nourished and strengthened by this most wonderful food from heaven

let us leave here today to spread the good news of God’s

generous and life-giving gift of marriage and family.

Twenty Eighth Sunday In Ordinary Time

Monday, October 6, was a dark day in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia, as the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) effectively legalized “gay marriage” in Virginia and five other states. Even worse, the long term effect of its decision may be to make “gay marriage” legal in every state.

 

What happened was this: The five states each had passed laws prohibiting same-sex (SS) marriage, and each of these laws had been overturned as unconstitutional by the three Circuit Courts of Appeal (the 10th, 7th and 4th) having jurisdiction in those five states. The states then appealed the three Circuit Court decisions to SCOTUS. On Monday the SCOTUS announced its decision to not even hear their appeal, effectively leaving the Circuit Court rulings as the last word in those states and in six other states (with laws against SS marriage) falling under the jurisdiction of those Circuit Courts.

 

The decision was a shock to most of us who assumed SCOTUS would want to take the cases, hear arguments and make a decision/ruling, once and for all, on the constitutional status of SS marriage. So its decision not to hear–they decided to refuse to decide–leaves us confused and with lots of questions. Why not accept the case? Why not decide? And what does this mean for the future of SS marriage in other states? Does this effectively establish a constitutional “right” to SS marriage? Is the war defending traditional marriage over? Do traditional marriage advocates have any hope?

 

Since only four of the nine Justices have to vote to accept a case, the math shows that SCOTUS’ nondecision means that at least six Justices voted not to accept the case. (Note: the exact vote tally was not disclosed).This leads many to infer that a similar majority of at least six would vote in favor of SS marriage if they did hear the appeal. That is not necessarily correct, but it is what most people—including many traditional marriage advocates—are inferring, and this will have a chilling effect on the debate, both in social and legal circles, and may sway the thinking of judges in other Circuit Courts currently considering the SS marriage bans in other states.

 

But we must keep in mind that SCOTUS has made no ruling/decision, so that there is no final word on the issue, and cases can proceed in other Circuits without any consideration given to SCOTUS indecision. Many experts point out that SCOTUS often rejects appeals when there is no conflict in the decisions of different Circuit Courts, as it was in this situation: all three Circuits supported SS marriage. However, such a conflict may soon present itself: cases are currently before 6th and 11th Circuits, as well as the conservative 5th Circuit Court.

 

Some advocates of traditional marriage are concerned because they hoped that at least the four solidly “conservative” Justices—Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts (all good Catholics)—would vote to accept the appeals. But there are many reasons all of these good men might vote against taking the case. For example, besides the lack of conflict, it’s possible that they believed they needed more time to convince one of the other Justices (e.g., the fickle Justice Anthony Kennedy) to vote to uphold the bans on SS marriage.

 

So what do we take away from all this? After much prayer, consideration, and discussion, I am not very hopeful, but not without hope. Although the war is not over, traditional marriage has been dealt a great blow. No matter what SCOTUS intended, its nondecision is a huge public relations victory for SS marriage advocates. Worst of all, SS weddings have begun in Virginia and will soon begin ten others, bringing the number of states allowing SS marriage to thirty. Can SCOTUS come back later and overturn this? Yes, clearly. But it’s very hard to get “toothpaste back in the tube.”

 

Even so, the war in defense of marriage is not over, and even if SCOTUS eventually finds a “constitutional right” to SS marriage, the war won’t be over then either. In 1973 SCOTUS found a “constitutional right” to abortion, and we’ve been fighting that ever since—and we’re finally winning, as most Americans are now pro-life.

 

So, we must not stop defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman, according to natural design and God’s plan. Because if SS marriage takes root, this will only be the latest step in the destruction of the family, and western civilization itself. Next comes polygamy (cases are in the courts already), and not too far after that acceptance of incest. And if they can redefine what it means to be a spouse, they can, and will, redefine what it means to be a parent: who says you are in charge of your children—shouldn’t we appoint experts to raise children? Et cetera…

 

There are many ways to join in the battle—all of them peaceful and charitable (remember, this is not a war on homosexuals). First of all, prayer; October is the Month of the Rosary, so renew your dedication to this powerful devotion and pray the Rosary for the defense of marriage and family. Second, we need to educate ourselves, our friends and our families, especially our children on the meaning, dignity and rights of families and marriage.

 

And third, there is the ballot. As I write this the pro-“gay marriage” candidate for U.S. Senator from Virginia, Mark Warner (who is also pro-abortion and supportive of Obamacare’s anti-religious liberty provisions, e.g., that will close down the Little Sisters of the Poor), is 12% points ahead of the pro-traditional marriage candidate, Ed Gillespie (who is also pro-life and defends religious liberty). Think about this: all these issues seemed to be destined to be decided by SCOTUS, and in the next 6 years our senator will help select three or four SCOTUS judges! I don’t endorse candidates, but I do ask: how can a Catholic vote for a pro-“gay marriage,” pro-abortion, anti-religious liberty candidate? Or why would a Catholic think this election is not important enough for you to take a few minutes to vote on November 4?

 

Holy Hour and Mass for Deceased Children. This Wednesday, October 15, at 6 p.m., we will have a very special Holy Hour to pray for our children who have preceded us in death. Many of our families have lost children, some very young, some even unborn. Please join us at this Holy Hour and the Holy Mass that follows at 7 p.m. to entrust our little ones to the infinite mercy of our Lord.

 

Finally, Some Very Good News. I’m truly delighted to announce that Monica Montanaro has joined our staff as parish secretary. Monica is a 2011 graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California, and spent the last year in Belize helping to establish a fledgling Catholic Junior College. Although she and her family live in Fredericksburg, they have been active in our choir for several years. I look forward to her getting very involved in the life of our parish.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Oktoberfest October 11th 6PM!

The Knights of Columbus, St. John Bosco Council #12846 is hosting their annual Oktoberfest this Saturday in the Parish Hall!  Music will be featured by the authentic German Band “Alte Kameraden”!  This is fun for the entire family!  Refreshments and Snacks begin at 6PM and Dinner at 6:30 PM.  See the flyer under Ministries and Groups go to Knights of Columbus.

Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today is “Respect Life Sunday,” beginning “Respect Life Month,” in which the American Bishops call us to remember that over 3000 innocent American babies are killed every day by abortions, over 1 million a year, for a total of over 57 million dead since 1973. But even as horrible as that death toll is, as we mourn the death of all these babies, we can’t forget that abortion has other consequences as well. First and foremost we can never forget or fail to have compassion for those women who have had abortions. The toll it takes on them physically, emotionally and spiritually is devastating. And so I encourage you to help them in any way you can: showing them personal compassion, leading them to Christ and His mercy, keeping them in prayer, and continuing to fight to end abortion. And we must do everything we can, with charity, compassion, and patience, to help those women who are considering abortions, and to give them clear options to help them to carry their babies to term.

With all this in mind I invite you all to come and hear Melissa Ohden tell her story here at St. Raymond’s, this Thursday October 9th at 7 p.m. in the Parish Hall. She was aborted in her mother’s womb, but survived. Come and learn about Christ’s healing mercy even in the face of such a terrible evil. Learn about His love for babies and all their mothers.

 

Synod of Bishop. Last week I wrote about the upcoming Extraordinary Synod of Bishops gathering in the Vatican  from October 5 to 19. Below are two quotations from papal writings that apply to this event.

 

The first is taken from the great St. John Paul II’s famous letter (“Apostolic Exhortation”) Familiaris Consortio, [art. 84], of Nov. 22, 1981, issued after the last Synod on the family in 1980:

            Daily experience unfortunately shows that people who have obtained a divorce usually intend to enter into a new union, obviously not with a Catholic religious ceremony [and without annulment of the first]. Since this is an evil that like the others is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay. The synod fathers studied it expressly. The church, which was set up to lead to salvation all people and especially the baptized, cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage. The church will therefore make untiring efforts to put at their disposal her means of salvation.

            Pastors must know that for the sake of truth they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is, in fact, a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned and those who, through their own grave fault, have destroyed a canonically valid marriage.

            Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.

            Together with the synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the church, for as baptized persons they can and indeed must share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother and thus sustain them in faith and hope.

            However, the church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon sacred scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this there is another special pastoral reason: If these people were admitted to the Eucharist the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

            Reconciliation in the sacrament of penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.

            This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons such as, for example, the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”[180]

            Similarly, the respect due to the sacrament of matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful forbids any pastor for whatever reason or pretext, even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new, sacramentally valid marriage and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.

            By acting in this way the church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to his truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner.

            With firm confidence she believes that those who have rejected the Lord’s command and are still living in this state will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance and charity.

The second papal “quotation” is a prayer Pope Francis has asked us to pray for the synod:

 

Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod

            Jesus, Mary and Joseph, / in you we contemplate / the splendor of true love, / to you we turn with trust.

            Holy Family of Nazareth, / grant that our families too / may be places of communion and prayer, / authentic schools of the Gospel / and small domestic Churches.

            Holy Family of Nazareth, / may families never again / experience violence, rejection and division: / may all who have been hurt or scandalized / find ready comfort and healing.

            Holy Family of Nazareth, / may the approaching Synod of Bishops / make us once more mindful / of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, / and its beauty in God’s plan.

            Jesus, Mary and Joseph, / graciously hear our prayer. / Amen.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

ELECTIONS. We are exactly one month away from Election Day, November 4, 2014, when we will vote for our U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives. There are many important issues at stake in this election, so it is imperative that Catholics vote, and vote like Catholics. It’s become easy to become unenthusiastic about “off year elections” (non-presidential-election years) like this, but that’s nonsense. Every election matters, and the choice of who will represent us in the U.S. Congress—who will write our laws and approve judicial appointments—is especially important. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2240)  teaches, it is: “morally obligatory to …to exercise the right to vote…”

But you can’t vote if you don’t register. So this Sunday and next there will be a table in the narthex with information and forms to register to vote and to apply to vote absentee. The deadline to register to vote is October 14th; all mail-in applications for an absentee ballot must be received by election officials by October 28. You can also update your status or even register to vote online at:  www.vote.virginia.gov.

If you have recently moved from out of state, you need to register to vote in Virginia. If you have recently changed addresses within Virginia you must notify the election officials of your new address or you will not be able to vote in your new precinct, or be eligible to vote for the U.S. Representative in your new district.

More on voting later…

 

SYNOD OF BISHOPS. The Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be convened from October 5 to 19. 192 Bishops from all over the world will gather in the Vatican to discuss the topic: “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” They will be joined by 61 other priests and lay experts and consultants.

Much has been written about this Synod in the media. While many important topics related to the family will be discussed, the media has largely focused on one topic: whether the Church will change its “stance” of not allowing  Catholics who are “divorced and remarried” (without a Church annulment of the first marriage, and living as husband and wife) to receive Holy Communion.

It’s understandable that the media has focused on this issue. Pope Francis himself drew special attention to it by inviting Cardinal Walter Kasper to address, at length, all the cardinals gathered together in Rome last February. Kasper has long been a proponent of allowing Catholics in this situation to receive Communion, although he has been very low key on the topic since Pope St. John Paul II (through and with his Prefect for Doctrine, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI) publicly rebuked him for his stance in 1993. Kasper has now renewed his public stance, and advocated for it before the cardinals in February. Pope Francis later expressed appreciation for, although not agreement with, Kasper’s speech.

Kasper’s speech has led to an extremely unusual public debate between cardinals. In particular there has been a strong public defense of the Church’s current “stance,” and debunking Kasper’s arguments. In the last few weeks two of the Church’s most renowned scholars, Cardinals Angelo Scola (Archbishop of Milan, largest diocese in Europe) and Marc Ouellette (Vatican prefect in charge of appointing new bishops) published papers in scholarly journals. And in the next few days a new book, “Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” will be released presenting the clear historical, scriptural and doctrinal record of the Church’s current “stance.” The book will include chapters written by 9 world renowned scholars, including Cardinals Gerhard Müller (Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith), Walter Brandmüller (world-class history professor), Carlo Caffarra (archbishop of Bologna, revered scholar on the doctrine of Marriage),  Raymond Burke (“chief justice” of the Church’s “supreme court”), and Velasio De Paolis.

What’s the fuss about? First, let me say that the Church loves and is very concerned about those who find themselves in this situation. They are welcome at all the activities of the Church life, and to all the assistance the Church can give. But there are some things the Church cannot do, and truth and mercy must go hand in hand.

Very simply stated: the Church teaches that when a couple gets married they are married for life, and no “divorce” in civil courts can end marriage in God’s eyes. So to attempt to “marry” someone else, and to live as husband and wife, is the mortal sin of adultery, that is not simply a onetime event, but continues as long as the “remarried” couple live as husband and wife. This teaching comes directly from Jesus Himself: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder…Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:9,11-12; cf. Matt. 19:9). (Note: a Church annulment is not a divorce, but a judicial ruling that there never was a valid marriage to begin with).

The Church also teaches that no one guilty of an unrepented mortal sin (not absolved through sacramental confession) may receive Communion. This too is revealed in Scripture, by St. Paul: “Whoever…eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.…” [1 Cor. 11:27].

Thus, a Catholic who is divorced and remarried (without an annulment) is objectively committing the mortal sin of adultery, and so cannot receive Communion. This is not, as some say, Church “law” or “discipline,” or “current stance.” It flows directly from the Scriptures and is the constant and defined doctrine of the Church, and therefore unchangeable. Sadly, many of the proposals advanced by Cardinal Kasper et al, seem to fail to take this into account.

I don’t know what the Synod will propose to Pope Francis on this particular issue, or what he will do with their proposals. I hope with all my heart that some way will be found to more clearly express and share the Church’s mercy with “divorced and remarried” Catholics, and to help them to be reconciled with Christ and His Church.

But Jesus calls Himself, “the truth,” and no denial of the truth can be an act of true mercy. So I can tell you what the Synod and Pope will not do: they will not change the unchangeable doctrine of Christ and His Church.

So let us pray for the bishops convened in Synod, that they may be inspired by the Holy Spirit to seek and defend Christ’s truth, and find new ways to share His mercy. And let us pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, that the Lord may bless him for his continued fidelity to Him and to us.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

“Our Lady of Ransom and Mercy, and St. Raymond of Peñafort, pray for us, for all persecuted Christians and for the conversion of Muslims. Amen