Showing posts with label Cardinal Kasper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cardinal Kasper. Show all posts

Thursday, June 4, 2015

"At Long Last, Have You Left No Sense of Decency?" Reflections on the Anti-Francis Mindset

(See: Cardinal Kasper Backpedals on Papal Endorsement of Controversial Proposal | Daily News | NCRegister.com)

I’ve often had to defend Pope Francis from the charge that he intends to change Church teaching. To me, it was obvious that what the Pope actually had to say about marriage and family was nothing like what his detractors accused him of. But his detractors continued to speak against the Pope, ignoring what he did say and relying on partial quotes. When they were shown to be in the wrong, the result was to claim the Vatican was “issuing more clarifications,” implying that the Church was involved with damage control, and that the Pope was in the wrong.

In other words, the Pope was blamed for saying what he did not say, and for not saying what he actually said. People relied on biased sources, whether secular news sources with whom a person agreed with ideologically, or from religious oriented blogs who have a strong hatred of the Pope and, because of that hatred, portray what he does in a negative spin. While the sources of these distorted presentation will no doubt bear responsibility for grossly misrepresenting the Pope, that does not excuse the members of the faithful from learning the truth about a claim before repeating it to others. Rash judgment is a sin.

The latest bit of shame involves the response that came in response to the interview of Cardinal Kasper where he was forced to admit that his proposals did not ever have the support of the Pope:

ARROYO: Well you did say, and the quote is: “Clearly this is what he wants,” and the Pope has approved of my proposal. [To admit the divorced and remarried to Communion] Those were the quotes from the time …

CARDINAL KASPER:  No … he did not approve my proposal. The Pope wanted that I put the question [forward], and, afterwards, in a general way, before all the cardinals, he expressed his satisfaction with my talk. But not the end, not in the … I wouldn’t say he approved the proposal, no, no, no.

This was a point where opponents to the Pope constantly bashed him, accusing him of intending to change Church teaching (contrary to all evidence), and it turns out that it was all relying on a fabrication. The Pope had expressed an interest in finding out how to better reach out to Catholics estranged from the Church, but he never said anything about permitting the divorced and remarried to receive the Eucharist.

That hasn’t changed anything when it comes to the anti-Francis crowd. I’ve seen some call this “a clarification.” I’ve seen others accuse the Pope of telling Kasper to be the Fall Guy. They won’t admit the fact that the Pope never was guilty in the first place. They still accuse him of being a Marxist or a Modernist or a Heretic. Personally, I see these antics and am reminded of the Psalms:

19 You give your mouth free rein for evil; 

you yoke your tongue to deceit. 

20 You sit and speak against your brother, 

slandering your mother’s son. 

21 When you do these things should I be silent? 

Do you think that I am like you? 

I accuse you, I lay out the matter before your eyes

(Psalm 50:19-21)

It is time for the “super Catholics” to consider the consequences of their actions. In being so certain of their righteousness and refusing to consider the possibility of error on their part, they cause division in the Church and disturb the peace of the faithful (cf. Acts 15:24). They have to ask themselves whether they will trust God and follow the Church, or whether they will trust in themselves and disobey the Church. The first choice leads to salvation, the other to ruin.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Approaching the Sinner: Reaching Out in Love? Or in Judgment?

I can understand the reactions of the current rebellion in the Church—I don’t condone it, but I understand it. There is a dual reaction to anything that sounds funny. There is fear that those who are dissenters against Church teaching will get their way and change the teaching of the Church. There is also anger over the apparent inactivity of those responsible for leading the Church when it comes to these dissenters. When you think of it this way, it’s easy to start thinking of the Church in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys.” This is entirely natural.

However, even though it is natural, it is not what we are called to be as members of the Catholic Church. We’re called to take part in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-19):

18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.* And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

God does not rejoice in the death of the sinner (See Ezekiel 18:31-32 and Ezekiel 33:11), and wants their salvation. He also sends His Church to reach them. In different ages, the Church can use different means to reach them. While individually we may have a preference for a specific method, we need to recognize that ultimately the teaching authority of the Church sets the tone, and we need to avoid undermining their work.

What we always need to keep in mind is that our task is not to take part in the condemning of sinners to damnation, but to reach out to them in love, telling them of the need for salvation, but letting them know that they are loved. At times, we need to admonish and warn the sinner. But if we don’t show our love for the sinner, instead giving them a sense of “you sinners disgust me,” then we will not be effective in our ministry.

Pope Francis gets a lot of flack here. Some Catholics accuse him of being too soft, too lenient when it comes to dealing with the sinners. But I am reminded of a similar story about another man named Francis—St. Francis de Sales. Consider this from an 1887 book on saints speaking about St. Francis de Sales and his approach as bishop of Geneva.

At times the exceeding gentleness with which he received heretics and sinners almost scandalized his friends, and one of them said to him, “Francis of Sales will go to Paradise, of course; but I am not so sure of the Bishop of Geneva: I am almost afraid his gentleness will play him a shrewd turn.” “Ah,” said the saint, “I would rather account to God for too great gentleness than for too great severity. Is not God all love? God the Father is the Father of mercy; God the Son is a Lamb; God the Holy Ghost is a Dove, that is, gentleness itself. And are you wiser than God?”

 

[From: John Gilmary Shea, Pictorial Lives of the Saints (New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers, 1887), 67–68.] 

The concern for showing love for the sinner was not an example of “modernism,” or other errors. 

Unfortunately, some people fall into the other error. They believe that if we are called to love, we cannot say that what they do is wrong. That’s never been taught by the Church at all, and those who accuse (or praise) the Pope of saying so have missed the point. Our Lord Himself has spoken about the dangers of hell and the need to repent. In Matthew 7, (the chapter where He warns about judging—so often taken out of context), He warned:

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. 14 How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.

and:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.* Depart from me, you evildoers.’

But Jesus, even when warning of the reality of hell, never stopped loving the sinners. He loved the tax collector. He also loved the Pharisee.

So, this makes me think about how we are acting in the blogosphere and in the comboxes. What kind of witness are we leaving? Do we show that we love, and desire the salvation of, Obama or Pelosi? Or the person struggling with same sex attraction? Or the atheist? Or how about Fr. Hans K√ľng? Cardinal Kasper? Fr. Richard McBrien (who died recently) How that bishop or pastor you can’t stand? Do we pray for them? And by pray, I don’t mean “Oh Lord, please make Bishop So-and-so not be an idiot!” Do we show our love for these people in our prayers?

I don’t say this judgmentally. Lord knows I have been rude and sarcastic. I get pissed off with the Super Catholic who thinks they cannot err while the Pope can. So I certainly need to learn to practice what I am preaching here. Indeed, next week I might be back to being sarcastic and mocking of those I disagree with, and I certainly need your prayers.

I just ask that all of us who witness the Catholic faith, whether face to face, by blog, by Facebook or Twitter (or whatever else is popular out there)—let’s remember that how we act is a part of our witness as part of the Great Commission. And let’s pray for each other as well.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thoughts on German Bishops and the Church Tax

Article: For German Bishops, Sacramental Mercy Has a Price

The Problem

Certain Catholic news sources have been talking about a new story—that isn’t really new. I personally wrote about it in 2012. What’s different about it is it’s no longer just the liberal Catholics. Now conservative Catholics are speaking about the story—and using bad logic in doing so.

The situation is uniquely German. Since the 1870s, Germany has deducted taxes from every citizen according to their religious belief—Protestant, Catholic or Jewish—and given it to the religious denominations. It’s not something I think should be done, but the churches have nothing to do with it. It’s going to happen no matter what the churches say. The problem is this: Some Catholics, in order to avoid paying the taxes, have legally declared themselves as belonging to no religion. The Church in Germany has responded by denying these people the sacraments, except for emergency situations.

The Assessment of Fallacies

The problem is, I do not think the accusations are just when it comes to the sense that the bishops should take no action. Rather, it seems to me that certain Catholics are using the unpopularity of the German bishops to make their own behavior look better . . . using rhetoric that plays off of emotions instead of the facts of the case. But in justly assessing something, that is exactly what we must not be led by.

The article starts out by mentioning Cardinal Kasper, saying:

As Cardinal Walter Kasper prepares to receive an award and give a speech at The Catholic University of America later today, some are accusing him and his episcopal colleagues of Germany of hypocrisy.

The critics point out that while Cardinal Kasper and most of his fellow German bishops have been leading the charge to allow those in “irregular” marital situations — those who are divorced and remarried — to receive Communion, they have simultaneously denied the sacraments, including even Confession, to those who opt out of paying Germany’s “church tax.”

Invoking Kasper is a good way to slant the article right off the bat. Hes unpopular with conservative Catholics, and invoking him is a good way to turn them against the situation being described. So introducing the article with the Cardinal is the Red Herring fallacy. Citing him is gratuitous. The article could be written without him. Moreover, invoking the German position on divorce and remarriage is an example of the tu quoque fallacy. Whether or not the sins of divorced and remarried Catholics are dealt with is irrelevant as to whether or not the bishops deal with the people who renounce their faith legally to avoid paying the Church tax.

In other words, just because the German Bishops were wrong on their views on divorce and remarriage, doesn’t mean they’re wrong on the issue of people who claim they’re not Catholic to avoid taxes.

Using slogans like “Pay to Pray” is an appeal to emotion and a straw man. That is simply not what this is about. The affair is over Catholics believing they can renounce the faith legally and not face the consequences. These are not innocent people being “picked on.” They did make a legal act renouncing their faith, and the question is to ask what is the appropriate response. If sanctions are justified, they have no cause to object.

The Church Teaching Says This Is Not The Same As Apostasy

Now, it is true that separation from the Church for legal purposes was decreed as not being the same thing as real apostasy. The exact quote is: 

2.  The substance of the act of the will must be the rupture of those bonds of communion – faith, sacraments, and pastoral governance – that permit the Faithful to receive the life of grace within the Church. This means that the formal act of defection must have more than a juridical-administrative character (the removal of one’s name from a Church membership registry maintained by the government in order to produce certain civil consequences), but be configured as a true separation from the constitutive elements of the life of the Church: it supposes, therefore, an act of apostasy, heresy or schism.

3.  The juridical-administrative act of abandoning the Church does not per se constitute a formal act of defection as understood in the Code, given that there could still be the will to remain in the communion of the faith.

That’s fair enough. Unless a person intends to break with the Church in fact, he can’t be charged with apostasy or a formal act of defection. But there’s a problem. There’s nothing in the document that says that the people do this suffer no penalty. It just says they do not fall under the category of choosing to leave the faith.

So, this document means we don’t call such Catholics apostates and don’t punish them like apostates. But that doesn’t mean they are free of penalty.

My Personal Opinion On the Subject

Personally, I am inclined to think (always recognizing the Pope as the one who makes the final decision, willing to submit if he decides in a manner different than this opinion) that even though this is not an act of apostasy, it is an act of scandal. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines scandal as:

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense. (2847)

2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing. (1903)

2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. (1887; 2498)

Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.” This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,89 or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!”

In terms of this incident, possible scandal is caused by giving the impression that they really are rejecting the faith in fact, not just as a legal fiction. That can cause doubt among the faithful and give the unbelievers something to point fingers at.

In Church history, even giving the appearance of renouncing the Catholic faith is a serious issue, even if it is done insincerely. For example, during the Roman Empire, Christians were given a choice of sacrificing to idols or death. Many Christians died for their faith. Some apostatized. But a third group (called libellatici) thought they could be clever. They managed to get certificates claiming they had sacrificed when they really did not. They thought they had been faithful . . . but the Church did not see it this way. This was a matter of scandal because, to anybody who saw it, it looked like the person was denying his or her faith. The Church required penance before they could be returned to the faith.

Even today, in the face of ISIS, we see people who are given a choice of death, paying the jizya tax or converting. Catholics have witnessed for their faith by choosing hardship and exile.

So I don’t think that the people who do this in Germany are doing right. Are the bishops being too harsh? Maybe. I would support an investigation into what should be done in these cases. I also think a friend of mine had the right idea. He offered the opinion that the Church in Germany should refuse the tax funds to prevent government intrusion into the life of the Church.

But the bishops do have the right to determine how to apply Catholic moral teaching and the Canon Law insofar as this determination does not go against Catholic teaching. So that’s the point of investigation: Is the bishops action in keeping or not in keeping with the Church teaching?

Of course, Pope Francis and his calls for finding a way to reconcile people to the Church is fitting here as well as with people in irregular marriage situations. Obviously the unrepentant can’t be treated like the repentant, but finding the best way to bring each individual back to the Church applies to the tax-cheat as well as the divorced and remarried. The sin has to be rejected, but the Church is called to find out how to help them do so.

Conclusion

But rhetoric seeking to add more dislike to the German bishops after their stand during the extraordinary synod is not just. The issue would be present regardless of what position the German bishops took on divorce and remarriage. We can’t assume, “They were wrong on marriage, therefore they are wrong on tax-dodging.” So let’s not judge them rashly here.

Thoughts on German Bishops and the Church Tax

Article: For German Bishops, Sacramental Mercy Has a Price

The Problem

Certain Catholic news sources have been talking about a new story—that isn’t really new. I personally wrote about it in 2012. What’s different about it is it’s no longer just the liberal Catholics. Now conservative Catholics are speaking about the story—and using bad logic in doing so.

The situation is uniquely German. Since the 1870s, Germany has deducted taxes from every citizen according to their religious belief—Protestant, Catholic or Jewish—and given it to the religious denominations. It’s not something I think should be done, but the churches have nothing to do with it. It’s going to happen no matter what the churches say. The problem is this: Some Catholics, in order to avoid paying the taxes, have legally declared themselves as belonging to no religion. The Church in Germany has responded by denying these people the sacraments, except for emergency situations.

The Assessment of Fallacies

The problem is, I do not think the accusations are just when it comes to the sense that the bishops should take no action. Rather, it seems to me that certain Catholics are using the unpopularity of the German bishops to make their own behavior look better . . . using rhetoric that plays off of emotions instead of the facts of the case. But in justly assessing something, that is exactly what we must not be led by.

The article starts out by mentioning Cardinal Kasper, saying:

As Cardinal Walter Kasper prepares to receive an award and give a speech at The Catholic University of America later today, some are accusing him and his episcopal colleagues of Germany of hypocrisy.

The critics point out that while Cardinal Kasper and most of his fellow German bishops have been leading the charge to allow those in “irregular” marital situations — those who are divorced and remarried — to receive Communion, they have simultaneously denied the sacraments, including even Confession, to those who opt out of paying Germany’s “church tax.”

Invoking Kasper is a good way to slant the article right off the bat. Hes unpopular with conservative Catholics, and invoking him is a good way to turn them against the situation being described. So introducing the article with the Cardinal is the Red Herring fallacy. Citing him is gratuitous. The article could be written without him. Moreover, invoking the German position on divorce and remarriage is an example of the tu quoque fallacy. Whether or not the sins of divorced and remarried Catholics are dealt with is irrelevant as to whether or not the bishops deal with the people who renounce their faith legally to avoid paying the Church tax.

In other words, just because the German Bishops were wrong on their views on divorce and remarriage, doesn’t mean they’re wrong on the issue of people who claim they’re not Catholic to avoid taxes.

Using slogans like “Pay to Pray” is an appeal to emotion and a straw man. That is simply not what this is about. The affair is over Catholics believing they can renounce the faith legally and not face the consequences. These are not innocent people being “picked on.” They did make a legal act renouncing their faith, and the question is to ask what is the appropriate response. If sanctions are justified, they have no cause to object.

The Church Teaching Says This Is Not The Same As Apostasy

Now, it is true that separation from the Church for legal purposes was decreed as not being the same thing as real apostasy. The exact quote is: 

2.  The substance of the act of the will must be the rupture of those bonds of communion – faith, sacraments, and pastoral governance – that permit the Faithful to receive the life of grace within the Church. This means that the formal act of defection must have more than a juridical-administrative character (the removal of one’s name from a Church membership registry maintained by the government in order to produce certain civil consequences), but be configured as a true separation from the constitutive elements of the life of the Church: it supposes, therefore, an act of apostasy, heresy or schism.

3.  The juridical-administrative act of abandoning the Church does not per se constitute a formal act of defection as understood in the Code, given that there could still be the will to remain in the communion of the faith.

That’s fair enough. Unless a person intends to break with the Church in fact, he can’t be charged with apostasy or a formal act of defection. But there’s a problem. There’s nothing in the document that says that the people do this suffer no penalty. It just says they do not fall under the category of choosing to leave the faith.

So, this document means we don’t call such Catholics apostates and don’t punish them like apostates. But that doesn’t mean they are free of penalty.

My Personal Opinion On the Subject

Personally, I am inclined to think (always recognizing the Pope as the one who makes the final decision, willing to submit if he decides in a manner different than this opinion) that even though this is not an act of apostasy, it is an act of scandal. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines scandal as:

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense. (2847)

2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing. (1903)

2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion. (1887; 2498)

Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.” This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,89 or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.

2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!”

In terms of this incident, possible scandal is caused by giving the impression that they really are rejecting the faith in fact, not just as a legal fiction. That can cause doubt among the faithful and give the unbelievers something to point fingers at.

In Church history, even giving the appearance of renouncing the Catholic faith is a serious issue, even if it is done insincerely. For example, during the Roman Empire, Christians were given a choice of sacrificing to idols or death. Many Christians died for their faith. Some apostatized. But a third group (called libellatici) thought they could be clever. They managed to get certificates claiming they had sacrificed when they really did not. They thought they had been faithful . . . but the Church did not see it this way. This was a matter of scandal because, to anybody who saw it, it looked like the person was denying his or her faith. The Church required penance before they could be returned to the faith.

Even today, in the face of ISIS, we see people who are given a choice of death, paying the jizya tax or converting. Catholics have witnessed for their faith by choosing hardship and exile.

So I don’t think that the people who do this in Germany are doing right. Are the bishops being too harsh? Maybe. I would support an investigation into what should be done in these cases. I also think a friend of mine had the right idea. He offered the opinion that the Church in Germany should refuse the tax funds to prevent government intrusion into the life of the Church.

But the bishops do have the right to determine how to apply Catholic moral teaching and the Canon Law insofar as this determination does not go against Catholic teaching. So that’s the point of investigation: Is the bishops action in keeping or not in keeping with the Church teaching?

Of course, Pope Francis and his calls for finding a way to reconcile people to the Church is fitting here as well as with people in irregular marriage situations. Obviously the unrepentant can’t be treated like the repentant, but finding the best way to bring each individual back to the Church applies to the tax-cheat as well as the divorced and remarried. The sin has to be rejected, but the Church is called to find out how to help them do so.

Conclusion

But rhetoric seeking to add more dislike to the German bishops after their stand during the extraordinary synod is not just. The issue would be present regardless of what position the German bishops took on divorce and remarriage. We can’t assume, “They were wrong on marriage, therefore they are wrong on tax-dodging.” So let’s not judge them rashly here.