The Synod on Synodality has been rightly critiqued for numerous reasons. That doesn’t mean we should ignore the results of the local meetings…
Today I read a nice synopsis of the Irish meetings. Ireland has of course been in a cultural and ecclesiastical free fall for a while now. But still about 75% of people who live there identify themselves as Catholic, regardless of whether they actually believe and practice the Faith regularly (a much lower number to be sure, maybe around 15%). There might be some lessons to reflect upon.
Thoughts? Let us know in the comments. Did you go to a synod meeting? What was your experience?
In the wake of the monumental overruling of Roe v. Wade in the USA, I offer a “reblog” of this old post on the 4 pro-choice arguments… it is more important than ever to know how to talk about this issue reasonably – with those who are open to discussion at all.
Naturally, being a moralist who is active in western society, I have encountered and thought a lot about various arguments in favor of the “pro-choice” position. Summarizing all of the arguments, we find that there are really only four; while they can be mixed together, they are nonetheless discernible in basically every argument ever made in favor of the “right” to have an abortion, or that abortion is morally acceptable. And yes, they are each erroneous. Let’s go through them: they are the physical (or biological) error, the metaphysical error, the ethical error, and the metaethical error.
The Physical Error
The first error is that the fetus is not a distinct living organism. Any biologist can debunk this. If the fetus is not a distinct living organism, there is no such thing. It is true that there is a physical connection through the umbilical cord, but first…
So I was at the mass for the Sicilian clergy-pilgrims a little while ago. Before the bishops went for their meeting with Francis, where he decried the use of “grandma’s lace” in the liturgy, they had a mass at Mary Major. Let me tell you, lace is not the issue. A friend in the sacristy told me there were bishops who didn’t know how to put on an amice… I stood and watched many priests taking pictures during the liturgy. One guy, just in front of me, was wearing an alb whose neckline was hanging very low, almost halfway down his chest, and he had a tab collar shirt that was unbuttoned at the top, with the tab sticking out.
There are two points to lace in liturgy. First, in a place like Sicily, it is very functional: it breathes. Extremely hot weather begs for lace. Second, lace, like incense or chant or any number of things, indicates that something special is occurring… something out of the ordinary… something sacred.
Now, it can be overdone. “More lace, more grace,” goes the derisive mantra. I once was going to a shop to buy some vestments, including a surplice, and in the area of the store I ran across another shop with the same name – it happened to be a lingerie store! “I love lace, but this is too much, even for me,” I quipped. But, just as it can be overdone, it can be underdone. I would suggest that the Sicilians luck out with the heat, giving them the impetus to use fine albs and such; the fact that they aren’t bothering with other items and behaviors of liturgical decorum that are always due gives the impression that they just don’t really care very much about the liturgy, they just care about not sweating to death (this also perhaps explains the low hanging alb, the neglect of amices, etc.).
I was complaining yesterday again about the fake candle phenomenon in Roman churches – even papal basilicas. It’s cheaper and more convenient, but that sort of defeats the purpose. Likewise, wearing all the right vestments in the right way can be uncomfortable – but that is fitting when one is offering a sacrifice. On the other hand, if one is just having a ritual meal… comfort matters much more. It is beginning to dawn on me that one of the most significant changes made to the liturgy after the Council is the offertory… Formerly it emphasized the Mass is a sacrifice, but now it uses a modified Jewish prayer before meals. One wants to be comfortable at dinner… but at a public sacrifice? Maybe it’s worth being drenched with sweat to get it right.
I don’t normally do personal posts, let alone lifestyle posts, but… the past two days have been particularly Roman.
Today is the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Normally, it would be tomorrow, but it has been moved because tomorrow is Sacred Heart. So yesterday was the vigil, which means…
It is an ancient Roman tradition – originally connected with the solstice and warding off ghosts, and now connected with the Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist – to eat snails. So eat them I did, with several friends and several bottles of white wine, in the Monti neighborhood. Lumache alla Romana, at Osteria della Suburra. Great stuff!
Today I meandered down, for the first time in almost a calendar year, to St. John Lateran. The full name of the basilica, which is the cathedral of Rome, thus the “mother church” of all Christendom, is the Archbasilica Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Lateran. Despite the name there is no relic of either saint as far as I know – but John the Baptist’s head (at least the “Roman” contender) is at San Silvestro in Capito, where I did not make it today unfortunately.
Some details of the left transept:
That is Leo XIII’s tomb on the right. He looks a little camera shy – or just got out of the movie theater and can’t take the sunlight?
One of the most striking things about the basilica is the statues of the apostles. They are very large, lining the right and left sides of the nave. Many of them are depicted with the instruments of their martyrdom.
You can see one of the dedication crosses on the right, which were smeared with oil at (I suppose) the re-dedication of the basilica after its last major renovation (under Innocent X, his name is everywhere). I really dislike the fake candles, as I explained in a post a long time ago. It is especially bad when it is a papal basilica… the things we offer to God matter, especially in formal worship and sacred spaces.
There was another curious statue, in a side chapel on the right. It’s a saint who looks like she is playing table tennis, and she is holding a snake as well. I guess it is supposed to be a mirror, but… I like to think saints liked ping pong. But I have no clue who this is. Anyone got any idea?
The gate to the chapel is its own great piece of art. I think the guys who made it would have eschewed fake candles, for what it’s worth…
Look at the detail, and the creativity… I would wager the thinking with these creatures is similar to the gargoyles of French fame… scaring away evil angels. (Wait – they aren’t snails, are they!?)
There was a little exhibit going on about St. Therese of Lisieux. I was especially interested in the fact that they had a whole section on Pius XI’s devotion and teaching on her, as he is the object of my doctoral studies. The posters are a bit out of date… I wonder if you can see why.
Speaking of Pius XI, here is a plaque about him in the basilica:
My Latin is not good, but luckily I ran into a friend (whose monastery I will be staying at in Poland next week – yes, pictures will be forthcoming), and his Latin is excellent. Had I bothered to work out the date, I would have figured out what this was, but… I took a shortcut.
It is commemorating this chapel, which is where the young Achille Ratti was ordained a priest. I knew he was ordained in the Lateran, but I always thought it was at the main altar. It was not… it was here, in this small side chapel.
On my way out, I stopped by the baptistry. Constantine was baptized here – before the structure existed, which essentially serves to commemorate that blessed event.
Here is one of the famous obelisks of Rome. This one is Egyptian – one of 8. (Several others are Roman.)
It is the tallest in Rome, if one doesn’t include the base in the calculations. (With the base included the tallest is the obelisk at St. Peter’s.) This one weighs 330 tons, after reconstruction trimmed it down a bit, from 455 tons (quite a diet). It was in the temple of Amun in Karnak, near Luxor. It came over to Rome in 357 to be a decoration in the Circus Maximus.
And finally, a quick look in toward where the educational facilities are… including the main Roman diocesan seminary (I think Rome has about 30-40 seminarians of its own – incredible…), and the now-destroyed JPII Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. So sad. I think they have very few students. People vote with their feet – and their wallets. That includes candidates for the priesthood!
Well, that is it. Despite my rare “lifestyle” posts, another one coming up soon, from the Archabbey of Jędrzejów. But, with 5 likes on this post, I will do these more often!
Several stories have run about the recent “mass of thanksgiving” offered for a “gay wedding” that took place across the street. It is particularly noteworthy due to its having taken place in Bologna, the diocese of the highly prominent papal candidate and new Italian Bishops’ Conference president, Cardinal Zuppi. So, it seems like some “motivated” journalism… people trying to take some swings, perhaps in an effort to influence the next conclave.
The journalism has been less than good. (First disclosure, I used to do work for the main paper reporting the story, doing some translations, so I have a bias opposite my conclusion here.)
One problem with the headlines is that, in fact, this was not the first “gay wedding blessing” that has happened in Italy, not even in the past few years, depending on how broad that category is understood to be. Read about the last instance of something like this happening here, ironically reported on also by the same paper when it happened. (Second disclosure – I spent some good time in that diocese, and around its bishop – it is not exactly a conservative place, but it’s not “Left” either.) While it was not in a liturgical context per se, it was an actual “wedding” – or at least a civil union. In any case, the failure to note this event was a mistake.
Furthermore, and much more importantly, there are at least four questions that the stories have left unanswered, at least as far as I can tell, given that the parish priest claims he “told” the Cardinal about this event. First, what exactly did the parish priest tell the Cardinal? That there were some gay men who would be acknowledged at a mass? That they would be present? That they were coming to mass after a “wedding”? That they would be celebrated for having just gotten “married”? Something else? Second, when did he tell him what he told him? Was it even ahead of time? If so, how long in advance? Third, how did he tell him? Text message, phone call, letter, in person, and in what detail? Fourth, and perhaps more importantly, what exactly did the Cardinal say in response, if anything?
Lots of work left to do here… and maybe some of that work includes giving the benefit of the doubt, until more information appears.
Many Catholics today do not feel comfortable around new ideas, much less around people who are not like them. But Jesus told us to accept the new idea of the Gospel, and to love everybody.
It’s true Jesus didn’t say we should love everyone’s actions, but hey, everyone is a sinner, so we should just ignore sins. This is the motivation for Fr. Martin James, SJ’s new book, Creating a Path, wherein he skillfully airbrushes the temptations and sins as such of LGBTQ Catholics qua LGBTQ, meanwhile lamenting that we are talking about this in the first place because of a widespread hatred for people rather than a widespread disgust with certain desires and behaviors by which this very same group of people is categorized by the author.
It is everyone’s Church, but it especially belongs to those of us who are LGBTQ. I do not mean to imply that I am homosexual – I am definitely, definitely, clearly not, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be even a little bit, it is unthinkable, no other bishops I know are gay either, and I will not say anything more about it – but we are all walking together as one body. But since homosexual acts and self-mutilation to change genders are special kinds of acts, such people who engage in them deserve special recognition. We are all sinners, but our frail psychology means that we need to try especially hard to welcome those whose sins are harder to ignore. After all, welcoming the sinner simply is the same as ignoring the sin. To do anything else would be unloving, because it feels all judgy and stuff.
But Fr. Martin James goes beyond these traditional categories of “sin,” “temptation,” and “vice.” He opens up a new horizon of theological principles altogether which sidesteps these old-fashioned ideas which many Catholics don’t believe in anyway, except when it comes to things like underage smoking, eating at Chik-fil-A, voting for Trump, racism, cat-calling, and some kinds of murder.
To begin with, he reassures the reader that the fundamental principle of holiness is to do what feels good, because God made your feelings, and God never makes mistakes. Second, following on this, he reaffirms the perennial Catholic moral teaching that nothing can be wrong if it is justified by you feeling deeply fulfilled in life (except maybe the things mentioned above). Third, he roots all of this in a Christology which is at once both profound and simple, noting that Jesus didn’t say anything about LGBTQ issues and maybe wasn’t even sure of his own resurrection, so despite any fancy Church documents that might say negative things about homosexuality or transgenderism, it is 1) not the direct teaching of the Gospels, which liberate us from moral “rules,” as St. Paul also teaches, and 2) can be doubted anyway, because if Jesus didn’t know a dogma then how are we supposed to be held to believe what some pope once taught about human sexuality?
Certainly, there will be many haters who criticize this work, but that shows that they don’t know what the Bible says, and it means that those of us who support Fr. Martin James’ important work are the most loving-est of all. Furthermore, just as the Church technically doesn’t allow for gay weddings, Fr. James technically doesn’t propose anything to the contrary, strictly speaking.
Finally, the book presents so many helpful resources and strategies to integrate LGBTQ Catholics into normal parish life. He argues that we must be celebrating such diversity rather than rigidly holding onto one vision of human nature… After all, if “there is no longer male or female” (Gal. 3:28), then how can we possibly have any stigma related to sexual desires, which are obviously the most important thing about someone’s identity as a human being? Fr. Martin James masterfully shows not only how we can welcome LGBTQ Catholics into ministries created for them and for their needs, but also how to empower them to direct ministries of their own – LGBTQ ally clubs, singles mixers programs, adoption ministries, liturgical ministries, marriage preparation, childhood catechesis, and even getting them ordained!
All this and more awaits the reader in the following pages, with my warmest and most affectionate endorsement of Fr. Martin James, SJ, and his work.
+Aaron Churchman Bishop of Cityville August 12, 2094
See His Excellency’s other writings here (on the evil thing that has happened), here (on vocations), and here (on the novel donkeypox virus).
Lest you think my new satirical character, Bishop Aaron Churchman, is so unrealistic as to be totally unbelievable, I present the diocesan report from the Archdiocese of Wellington on the diocesan phase of the Synod on Synodality.
I like having fun. But seriously, we really need to be praying and fasting and doing penances for bishops. Really.
Granted, this text is not written by the local ordinary per se, but I think Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum “Call me John” Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Dew probably should have filtered some of the heresies out of this text.
Bishop Aaron Churchman Diocese of Cityville February 3, 2094
Dear people of the Diocese of Cityville,
I wish to express my concern and heartfelt regret for the evil thing that has happened. As you know, it has been on the news, and everyone can see how evil it is. Therefore, I too, as your Bishop, wish to announce that it is evil. I will pray for all those affected by the evil thing. I condemn the evil thing in the strongest terms. It has no place in our society. I will not speak to the possibility of the lack of religion as it bears on the roots of the evil thing having happened, or even the possibility of demonic possession on the part of the one who did the evil thing – that would be seen as too fanatical on my part.
There are other things which are not on the news which I do not wish to discuss but which affect your spiritual life much more than the evil thing and which belong to my office as bishop to be more concerned with. These things are subtler and more spiritual in nature, and subsequently they do not appear evil to most people, even perhaps to many of you who show up on most Sundays of the year. It would be considered impolite of me to mention them bluntly either in public or in private, let alone advise you that it might be best to avoid such evil things. Never would I threaten the existence of dialogue with those of you whose souls are in fact careening toward the flames of Hell where you will burn for all eternity unless you make a good confession, where perhaps I might join you for failing to warn you of your fate should you not repent. We can continue our dialogue then. I look forward to walking down that easy road to death with you as your shepherd.
If we can work together, maybe no more evil things that are clearly evil will ever happen again. I am already publicly calling for political reforms which are not really my competence, which will not succeed, and which will alienate half of you. But I want to know how the Church itself can improve.
To this end, I will be inaugurating in the Diocese of Cityville a special Year of Listening. You do not want a Church that teaches, after all, and who am I to judge you for that? You know better. As for your kids, I just assume that you are teaching your children the Faith, you assume that the Catholic schools I technically oversee are teaching them the Faith, and the schools assume that the Sunday homilies are enough, homilies that the kids are probably not hearing because you often don’t bring them to Mass. And those homilies, it is true, are often not that catechetical or personally challenging. Oh well, we will make sure that we get your kids confirmed, even though at least 1/3 don’t really believe in sacraments anyway, or openly disagree with moral and dogmatic teachings which they plainly lack even the most rudimentary understanding of. We will try to bandage that bullet wound with a few classes and a service project, but deep down we know that it is a graduation from Church for the kids. But I’ll get them their nice photo, I suppose. I wouldn’t want to disrupt the status quo. Anyway, I look forward to 30% of them showing up to get married in the Church in a few years, and then 20% of those men and women seeking annulments in the years after. Many others will just divorce and not bother with an annulment, and hey, that’s okay, they are still in the Church if they remarry outside the Church, and despite the open scandal given by administering Holy Communion to such people if they do show up to Mass again eventually, in this diocese, that is my policy.
Such things are not ideal, it is true. But we must be gradual about this. So, back to the Year of Listening. I want to hear from those of you who don’t tithe, don’t come to Sunday Mass, don’t believe in the Real Presence, don’t follow or believe in the 6th Commandment, and don’t see anything wrong with pro-choice legislation. What can we do better as a Church? I also want to hear from those of you who have little to no catechesis, let alone any sort of formal studies in theology or canon law – what sort of attitude should the Church have towards the major hot button issues of the day? Please, let me be clear – I have already got a draft done of what the outcome of this Year of Listening will produce, as my experts assure me that, regardless of what you the People actually say, this is what you will really mean. But your voice does matter.
I do not want a Church that is far from you, the People, a mysterious Church way up on a mountain. I know that you have grown impatient with such things. No, I want you to give me the resources to create the religious experience you want, one that is less mysterious, less demanding, something you can really get excited about and invite all the non-believers to without them wondering what is even going on. Let me be upfront, it will take some money. But know that whatever comes out of this process will be your responsibility as leaders of our local Church, something you can be proud of. If it goes wrong, don’t blame me. I just really want the numbers to stay high, as I know so many of you have been thinking of leaving the Church.
It is true that God and His Church never told me to worry about numbers per se, and maybe I will regret allowing myself to be thus deceived. But His Holiness Pope Moses III has been very quiet recently, so I need to step up, as it were. Surely, he will be angrier if I fail to get all of you to remain nominal Catholics than if I were to clarify the Church’s actual perennial teaching and enforce her laws as my mandate instructs me, as then perhaps many of you would outwardly reject the Church entirely. I would prefer you to stay lukewarm than to be cold.
Therefore, please speak with your local parish cluster and let us know what you want. I really am interested in your needs, both temporal and spiritual. You have so much to offer God and His Church, even if you are wallowing in sin and have no intention of changing your life. Please, tell me what you want. I am listening to you. The Church is listening to you.
Except trads, I don’t want to hear from you. I know you have the large, young families and vocations and actually believe and all that, but I would rather have a dead diocese than have you proliferate. Ewwwwww… Gross!