Why I signed the letter urging the synod to stand firm on marriage

Pope Francis with a newly married couple (CNS)

I had not the slightest hesitation in signing the letter, and I was grateful to the organisers for undertaking the task

Back in the day, shortly after the publication of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, a group of well-regarded British Catholics wrote a letter to The Times expressing their dissent from the teaching of the encyclical. This at the time, I once heard, caused quite a sensation. Virtually every signatory of that letter of dissent must be dead by now, but I can remember someone pointing out an elderly retired University chaplain to me as a signatory some years ago, purely as a matter of historical curiosity. The letter of dissent to the Times has been forgotten. The encyclical letter Humane Vitae lives on, and indeed has only become more important, in my opinion, as time has passed.

Now we have a new letter, but not of dissent: nearly five hundred British priests (of which I am one) writing in support of traditional Church teaching, in obedience to the Bishops who asked us to make our views known, and indeed in obedience to the Pope, who has asked people to speak freely, indeed boldly. That is what the word “parrhesia”, of which the Pope is quite fond, means.

I had not the slightest hesitation in signing the letter, and I was grateful to the organisers for undertaking the task. There are several reasons for this. Here are a few of them…

First, I am a moral theologian. That’s my job, and it seems incredibly important to me that the underlying moral issue is not obscured here. Yes, there are pastoral issues, but there can be no pastoral solution without taking account of moral truth. Rather oddly there seem to be very few moral theologians taking part in the Synod. Pastoral theology is about the application of moral theology. Talking about pastoral provisions without reference to morals is a bit like having a discussion in a room from which the oxygen has been pumped out.

Secondly, I am, like almost all the signatories, a parish priest. As such I know that divorce is no longer really an issue in the way it was. There are, of course, people who are divorced and remarried in my parish. But there are many more who have never been married. Divorce is not the problem in developed societies like ours: the problem is that divorce has been so successful that it has undermined marriage. Marriage has become “a piece of paper”, a devalued currency. We need to rebuild the institution of marriage from the foundations up.

This applies to developed societies like ours. What about developing societies? I spent four years in Nairobi working in many pastoral situations as well as teaching, and there too we are building an awareness of marriage; and we need to keep on building. We need to build up the Christian model of marriage, against the models of polygamy and temporary marriage and concubinage. We have made a start, but there is a long way to go. It is vital that the Synod does not undermine the task either here, or in the developing world.

Thirdly, I signed because I worry about the future. What will a society without marriage look like? We seem to be heading that way. If we somehow or another allow or give permission for second unions, where the first union has been proved to be consummatum ac ratum, we effectively give permission for temporary marriage, and worse than that, we make every marriage, formerly absolute, contingent. This would be a catastrophe.

This has already happened in other spheres. The civil wedding ceremony (and please remember we regard civil marriages between non-Catholics as binding) speaks of permanence and a lifelong union, but given the ease of divorce, are people who witness civil weddings convinced that they are seeing a lifelong partnership being undertaken? Again, speaking to a friend in another ecclesial community recently, he told me that his own church, which has a wedding ceremony that speaks of lifelong union, has effectively abandoned the concept. “Every marriage is indissoluble,” he said, “until we say it is dissolved.” Is this the way we want to go?

Finally, as Rowan Williams once said – Jesus is the one who questions our answers, rather than answers our questions. And he has certainly done this in the field of marriage. The words of the Lord are clear, words the historicity of which no one has seriously questioned:

The Pharisees approached and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He said to them in reply, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They replied, ‘Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her. But Jesus told them, ‘Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.’ In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’ (Mark 10:2-12).

No one can deny, either, that this is a challenging teaching. But let us not despair. We can rise to the challenge. That’s why Christ died on the Cross for us.

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Does the Archdiocese of Bombay concur with the liberal views of Fr. Reese?

1. From: michaelprabhu@vsnl.net To: director@gmail.com Subject: “Law of graduality: living with the imperfect” by Fr. Thomas Reese SJ.

Date: Tue, 17 Mar 2015 17:05:27 +0530

Dear Fr. Cajetan Menezes, Director, Snehalaya, Mumbai,
We are informed that in the Family Link, the bulletin of the Archdiocesan Family Commission, Mumbai, Vol. 13, no. 2 of December 2014, you have published an article titled “Law of graduality: living with the imperfect” by Fr. Thomas Reese SJ.

I am certain that you must be aware that Fr. Reese is a dissenting theologian who has had a run-in with Rome on a few occasions and he is in the “progressive” camp on the issues that have been and are to be taken up at the Synods on the Family (October 2014 and October 2015).
Since you are on the national level committee of five persons that has been constituted by the CCBI to gather information, feedback and responses to the Synod-related, Questionnaire from the faithful and religious, we were wondering if you had realized the consequences of the mal-influence that Fr. Reese’s article could have on individuals especially since his arguments in favour of the “Law of graduality” are not compatible with Catholic orthodoxy?

Since Family Link is the journal of the Bombay Archdiocesan Family Commission, does the inclusion of the article in its December issue mean that the Archdiocese of Bombay concurs with the liberal views of Fr. Reese?
I would like to hear your views on the matter.
Thanking you,
Michael


2.
From: michaelprabhu@vsnl.net To: agnelorg@gmail.com; CC: director@gmail.com Subject: Fw: “Law of graduality: living with the imperfect” by Fr. Thomas Reese SJ. Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2015 15:11:56 +0530

Dear Bishop Agnelo,
Fr. Cajetan Menezes has not deigned to respond to the clarification sought by me in my communication of 5 days ago, see below.
From my enquiries, I understand that you are the publisher of Family Link and Fr. Menezes heads the Family Link team.
I hope that you will clarify both, Family Link’s and the Bombay Archdiocese’s stand on the matter.
Michael Prabhu

Posted in Church in India | 1 Comment

Has the seal of the confessional been broken?

The Snehalaya Family Service Centre of the Archdiocese of Bombay under its director Fr. Cajetan Menezes conducted a  survey of the porn viewing habits of two groups of people in 16 of the city’s parishes and seven of its colleges said the Mumbai Mirror of 20th March, 2015. 
 
Does the Cardinal approve of such a survey being made public and thus exposing the young Catholic boys and girls to suspicion and stalking from people of other communities. Our community has been made vulnerable for personal gain and media attention! 
 
Has not Fr. Cajetan Menezes acted ultra vires and thus abused his powers as a priest and made use of a church institution to seek out information that are meant for the confessional and made it public in the secular media? 
 
How many years has he completed in Snehalaya FSC and why has he been encouraged for so long in this position?  Will the Bishops act against such abuse? 
 
Many have called up to say that they can no longer trust the priests now to keep things secret: How did Nisha D’costa. as quoted by the Mumbai Mirror, come to know that faithful are seeking forgiveness in confession? “According to her (i.e Nisha D’costa), the exercise was prompted by, among other reasons, increasing instances of the faithful seeking forgiveness in the confessional for having watched porn on mobile phones or computers” – quote from Mumbai Mirror  
 
The buck may stop at you Cardinal Oswald Gracias, because in your recent statement on the rape, in the 1.36th minute you spoke about giving women equal opportunities in position of responsibility: “Could it be that under the garb of research you are allowing women to sit in the confessionals or could this be the beginning of the abuse” 
 
 Fr.  Conrad Saldanha has already pointed out about how an attempt was made to break the seal of confession.
It is high time action is taken on such serious issues otherwise people will lose faith .
A.M.Sodder
Posted in Church News in Mumbai/Thane/Navi Mumbai, General Articles | 5 Comments

The 3D information in the image on the Shroud of Turin

 
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The face on the Shroud

The face on the Shroud

The origin of the Shroud is still a mystery. But despite all attempts to recreate it, Professor Nello Balossino says the figure on the cloth is a bit like a negative but with additional three dimensional information and so far no one has been able to replicate it

andrea tornielli Taken from VAtican Insider
rome The spotlight is back on the Turin Shroud ahead of the next Ostension, which Pope Francis will be attending along with all the other pilgrims. The Shroud is considered one of the most important icons or relics of Jesus’ Passion. While the history of the cloth remains shrouded in mystery and lacks watertight testimonies that can vouch for its existence before the Medieval period, the formation of the image on the Shroud remains unexplainable: So far, no one has succeeded in producing a satisfactory replica of it. As Nello Balossino, a Professor at the University of Turin and an expert on the Shroud explained to Vatican Insider, the Shroud contains “three dimensional information” within it.

 

It has often been said that the image on the Shroud  resembles a photographic negative. Is this true?

“In terms of formation, an image is created through the interaction of light energy coming from a setting through the acquisition system. But it is only the light intensity that is recorded, not the phase in which the depth is codified: a photographic negative does not therefore possess three-dimensional information. The image on the Shroud behaves like a negative in as far as the inverting chiaroscuro and special dimension are concerned but it is not a negative in terms of photographic acceptation. The Shroud image contains evident  reddish chromatic nuances which form a body in terms of the morphometry: this is the three-dimensional content. By inverting the intensity and specularity we can get a real-life view of the figure, preserving the elevation aspect.”

 

So the Shroud behaves like a special kind of photographic negative…

“As I said, an ordinary photographic negative does not reproduce three-dimensional information. The image on the Shroud contains this information, which is codified in a series of nuances. In other words, what we have before us is an image formed through a three-dimensional process, which cannot yet be explained and simulated in practice in order to obtain replica images of the Shroud. The difference in tonality between the light and dark elements of the image is so low that the eye is only able to perceive the general features of a human face, but the details are not easy to make out. In fact the light distribution on the face depicted in the image is exactly the opposite to what we perceive in reality, with protruding elements appearing darker than the hollows of the face. The inversion process presents the face of a man from a real-life perspective.”

 

What would need to be done in order to replicate it?

“I have examined the various attempts through the use of different techniques to reproduce the Tutrin Shroud. In none of these cases did the images last in time or contain the three-dimensional information contained in the Shroud and the features that are unique to the image such as the superficiality in the chromatic variation of the cloth fibres and their integrity. These details certainly make it harder to justify the explanation according to which the Shroud image is a medieval forgery.

Posted in Church Worldwide news | 1 Comment

Williamson ordains a new bishop

 

Williamson (left) with Faure

Williamson (left) with Faure

Save for any last minute change of mind, the prelate consecrated by Lefebvre and dismissed from the Fraternity of St. Pius X in 2012 will ordain Fr. Jean-Michel Faure in a matter of hours

ANDREA TORNIELLI Taken from Vatican Insider
Rome

Richard Williamson, the bishop consecrated by Lefebvre and dismissed from the Fraternity of St. Pius X in 2012 will be ordaining a new bishop in a matter of hours. The cleric in question is the 73-year-old priest Jean-Michel Faure, who was ordained a priest by Lefebvre himself in 1977 and was also expelled from the Fraternity headed by Mgr. Fellay for allegedly being too compliant with Rome.

 

The consecartion ceremony will take place on the feast of St. Joseph in the monastery of Santa Cruz in Nova Friburgo, Brazil. To justify the consecration without a papal mandate, Williamson will invoke a “state of necessity” (or “state of emergency”). This was the same notion Mgr. Lefebvre resorted to in 1988 to ordain four new bishops. The consecration of a bishop without a papal mandate will make the ordaining party, Williamson and the person being ordained, Faure, liable to a latae sententiae excommunication.

 

In 1988, both Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the four new bishops automatically incurred excommunications. These excommunications were revoked by Benedict XVI in January 2009 in order to encourage the dialogue process between the Holy See and the Fraternity of St. Pius X.

 

The now 75-year-old British bishop Williamson, who was originally an Anglican, is renowned for his denial of the Holocaust, a stance he reiterated in an interview on Swedish television in November 2008. The case exploded the following January just as Benedict XVI announced his decision to revoke the excommunication of the four Lefebvrian bishops, one of whom was Williamson.

 

At the end of 2012 Williamson was dismissed from the Fraternity of St. Pius X. He had always disagreed with the possibility of the Fraternity engaging in dialogue with the Holy See and did not hide his belief that Bishop Bernard Fellay, the current Lefebvrian Superior, was too compliant towards Rome.

 

Tomorrow’s illicit consecration represents yet another gesture of separation. The illegal new bishop adds to the list of the various other illegal bishops who were consecrated in recent years, joining the circle of conservative groups that sprang up around Lefebvre.

Posted in Church Worldwide news | 1 Comment

14 Christians killed in Pakistan church bombings

Pakistanis light candles during a vigil for the victims of a suicide bombing attack on churches (PA)

Christians across Pakistan took to the streets to protest after the latest deadly attacks

Two suicide bombings at churches in Pakistan have claimed the lives of more than a dozen Christians in what is the latest deadly attack on the country’s Christian minorities.

At least 78 people were reportedly injured and 14 killed in the explosions at a Catholic church and nearby Christ Church in Youhanabad, Lahore.

The area is the country’s most densely populated Christian colony, with about 40,000 of the minorities and fifty churches. Both churches that were attacked attract between 300 to 400 worshippers every Sunday, which is why they were targeted. The blasts occurred minutes apart.

Because of an increased threat against Christians, all churches have their own security and it is believed that one police guard prevented the situation from being much worse.

As he spotted a suicide bomber trying to enter the Catholic church, he stepped in to stop him, forcing the terrorist to detonate the bomb where he stood and preventing him from entering the church.

At Christ Church, another guard – Zahid Goga, confronted the second bomber but was shot in the head by his accomplice.

Following the attacks Christians across the country took to the streets to protest, and some reports even suggest that they burnt alive those they believed to be involved in the attacks.

According to reports, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistan Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the bombings and threatened to carry out similar attacks in the future.

Nasir Saeed, director of Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (UK), an inter-denominational organisation working on behalf of Christians who are being persecuted because of their faith in Pakistan, said that Christians live “in constant fear for their lives” in the country.

“Although the incident has been condemned by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, President and the majority of politicians, and compensation has been announced for the dead and injured, this is not enough,” he said.

“Christians are constantly under attack, especially with their churches and colonies being attacked under the cover of blasphemy accusations, and sometimes by Taliban and extremists. Christians are living under constant fear for their lives and many have fled the country.

“I believe these attacks are sustained attempts to force Christians out of Pakistan.”

There is a constant demand to provide security to Christians and even the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered security to be provided to them, but the government has not done anything about it, Mr Saeed continued.

“I would like to salute to the bravery and sacrifice of Zahid Goga who martyred himself to save hundreds of faithful who were worshiping in church. I also salute the bravery of the policeman who was killed at Catholic church in his attempt to stop the attacker,” he said.

Mr Saeed added that the government had failed to provide justice to Christians in light of previous attacks, as most of the incidents had taken place in Punjab where the ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N), has close ties with extremist groups.

“This attack is a reflection of the government’s failure and unfortunately I fear this is not going to be last attack against Christians. The international community must pay attention to the ongoing persecution of Christians in Pakistan,” said Mr Saeed.

He welcomed those who had condemned this attack, particularly the Pope’s condemnation, saying it gives the very important message to the world and particularly to the Pakistani government and leadership that Pakistani Christians are not left alone in such difficult times.

“Such statements from the international Christian leadership are highly appreciated and encourage the Pakistani Christian community and keep their morale high,” Mr Saeed concluded.

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Pakistan PM must take blame for failing to protecting Christians, says archbishop

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (PA)

Archbishop Coutts has accused Nawaz Sharif of leaving minority faith communities open to attack

Pakistan’s Prime Minister must take part of the blame for yesterday’s deadly attacks on Sunday churchgoers, according to the leader of the country’s Catholics.

Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Kararchi accused Nawaz Sharif and his chief ministers of leaving minority faith communities open to attack by failing to act on a 2014 order from the Supreme Court to provide security in all places of worship.

Outlining the significance of the court order, the archbishop, who is President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, said: “This order of the Supreme Court has not been implemented.”

In his message, which he sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the archbishop added: “This new act of terrorism has cruelly shown how defenceless we are due to this neglect.”

The archbishop’s statement came after two suicide bombings were carried out during Sunday services in Lahore in the district of Youhanabad, which is densely populated by Christians – one outside St John’s Catholic Church and the other at Christ Church, part of the Church of Pakistan.

Pakistan Taliban splinter group Jamatul Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack, which targeted one of the largest Christian communities in the country. According to reports, 14 were killed and more than 70 were injured.

Meanwhile, further criticism of the government came from leaders of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), which acts on behalf of the Catholic Church in Pakistan.

The NCJP accused the authorities and the police of failing to provide basic security for churches despite an ongoing threat of violence faced by Christian communities in Youhanabad and elsewhere.

NCJP national director Fr Emmanuel Asi and executive director Cecil S Chaudhry said: “Although [extremists] claim responsibility for the twin church attack in Youhanabad, Lahore, the fact remains that the… security at the time of [the] attack were busy watching [a] cricket match rather than performing their duty of protecting the churches.

“In result of this negligence, many Christian people have lost their life and families their loved ones.”

Violent protests erupted after the blasts, with reports of the killing of two men, accused by the mob of being implicated in the explosions.

Calling for calm, Archbishop Coutts in his message said: “I particularly appeal to all Christians to voice their protests in a peaceful manner and not to resort to violence and destruction of public property, which serves no purpose.”

The archbishop said that as a mark of respect for the dead and those in mourning all Catholic schools and educational centres in the diocese would remain closed on Monday.

With acts of violence and intimidation against Christians and other minorities commonplace in Pakistan, the archbishop also stated: “Once again, the state has not been able to provide safety to its citizens. Millions of citizens continue to live in a state of constant tension and fear, not knowing what to expect next.”

The archbishop said the faithful should, during this period of Lent, focus on helping the injured and traumatised.

He added: “I appeal to all citizens of goodwill to be united in this time of sadness and loss. Our solidarity is essential to show the terrorists that we condemn their methods of senseless violence.”

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