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Saturday, November 1, 2014


by Susan Fox

This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'" (Zechariah 13:9)

 The process of refining gold brings lesser metals or impurities to the surface so they can be broken off later, while the denser pure gold sinks to the bottom of the mold.

The stuff rising to the top is called slag. It is rather ugly. Pure gold is lovely.

It seems our childlike and cagey new Pope Francis has plunged the Roman Catholic Church into this process. Many were shocked to see the slag surface from the Church at the recent Synod on the Family, affectionately called Synod 14 for the year in which it occurred.  But the world rejoiced.

An interim report of the Synod released on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014 seemed to single handedly overturn Christ’s own admonition that a man should cling to his wife, and the two become one.

It questioned why divorced and remarried Catholics could not receive Holy Communion and said that people who self identify by their homosexuality should be celebrated for the gifts that arise from their unchaste behaviors.

Bethlehem Chapel, Brandeis University
This slag has been hiding inside the Church for a good 40 years during the reign of three canonized popes. It has been suggested from the pulpit, mentioned in confession, and discussed behind closed doors. A priest in Boston  hung a rainbow “gay pride” flag over the Catholic chapel at Brandeis University outside Boston during the month of October. More slag.

But when the slag was actually visible in a Vatican document, people were shocked. “Like man, where did that come from?”

I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 20:38)

It almost seemed like we orthodox Catholics were all on the same acid trip during these past decades unaware the corrosive forces surrounding us were rising to the top. We did suffer when others, especially others in authority, held these false beliefs and called themselves Catholic. Now the interim report seemed to shake our foundations.

“We may see that attacks against the Pope and the Church do not only come from outside; rather, the sufferings of the Church come from inside the Church.” Pope Benedict noted in an interview in 2010. “This was always common knowledge, but today we see it in truly terrifying form: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church.”

Is the Church still Catholic?

I went to one small-faith sharing group during this crisis, and everyone there had called a devout family member or a favorite nun to find out if everything was okay. They were all shaken to their core. Some are still muttering.

“The Princesses (cardinals) of the church have all been diagnosed with DDD (Diabolical Disorientation Disorder). It’s very catchy,” said Theresa on Friday (Oct. 31) upset over the Synod and the rainbow flag over her Boston chapel.

Do not despair Theresa! The authentic Catholic Magisterium – the same teaching authority that has carefully guarded the deposit of faith held by the apostles for 2,000 years -- rose up and rejected these paragraphs in the original document.

Cardinals, bishops and priests worldwide spoke out in every way possible via You Tube, News Conferences and their votes. They explained that everyone has gifts to offer the Church, but these gifts do not arise from sinful behaviors, and divorced remarried Catholics cannot receive communion because if they did it would negate the sanctity of marriage. Hallelujah! How wonderful God gave his cardinals the opportunity to teach the faith publicly. So the gold of the Catholic Church shone.

The document was changed by Friday Oct. 17, and the offending paragraphs removed. It was as if the words had never been written. I could not find them anywhere online except at the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper favoring the offensive positions.

The world didn’t listen. Secular news articles covering this event said the pope’s own cardinals defeated him. The New Yorker magazine called it a “bombshell document,” lamenting the fact that Pope Francis’ immediate predecessors locked the Church into positions on divorce, remarriage, contraception, homosexuality and the celibate male priesthood, which are at “radical variance with the beliefs and practices of the majority of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.” I must have missed the memo. I still believe in the Church’s traditional position on divorce, contraception, homosexuality and the celibate male priesthood. I think Pope Francis does too.

The New Yorker opined that Pope Francis would be hard-pressed to break the Catholic Church out of that “recent mold” set by his predecessors. I think he is trying to do the opposite.

Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand. (Daniel 12:10)

Orthodox Catholics – many of my friends – were in shock, and wondered if indeed Pope Francis had manipulated events so these false positions would be in the report.

Such is nonsense, but the pope’s subsequent remarks made this clear. On Oct. 19, he described the temptations of the Synod:
Ø “The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them... It is the temptation of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”
Ø The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]”
Ø The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfill the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.”

By that he described the temptations of those who changed the words of the interim document so it did not actually reflect what was being said in the Synod, nor what the Church has taught for the past 2,000 years.

“Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.” (Daniel 11:35)

"No disciple is greater than his master"
Pope Francis himself told us not to be dismayed by these temptations “because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebub (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.”

On Oct. 25, the pope clearly spoke against the union called “same-sex marriage.” To the best of my knowledge he is the first pope to do so.  “The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” the pope said, adding the common view in society is that “you can call everything family, right?”

“What is being proposed is not marriage, it’s an association. But it’s not marriage! It’s necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” He added that “new forms” of unions are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”

Regarding marriage, Pope Francis explained that our society has “devalued” the sacrament by turning it into a social rite, removing its foundation, which is union with God. “So many families are divided, so many marriages broken, (there is) such relativism in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage,” he cried.

Such sentiments should reassure every Catholic that Pope Francis did not manipulate the synod to devalue marriage or glorify “same-sex” associations.

However orthodox Catholics continued to be uneasy because the pope had also discussed on Oct. 19 at the conclusion of the Synod temptations that might be considered “conservative:”

Ø “a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.”

By this he did not mean that we should ignore the precepts of our faith handed down to us from the apostles. He already stated that the deposit of faith is to be guarded, preserved, not mastered, not changed nor controlled. 

Pope Francis is right!

There is a tendency in the Church today to hole up inside our walls and never go out. Too often our pastors believe their parish is limited to only the people they see in the pew. Lay people busy themselves cleaning the church and cooking soup suppers, but they won’t visit a neighbor who might be interested in becoming Catholic. As far as I am concerned, this temptation can be laid at the door of both those who call themselves liberal and those who think of themselves as conservative.

I have seen situations where a priest faced with a dying man requesting Baptism refused to visit him because he was too sick for RCIA, the year long process of becoming Catholic. Lay ministers would not send a priest to a homebound Catholic needing the sacraments because she had to phone the Rectory directly herself. Never mind that she was a painfully shy Native American woman who didn’t want to bother anybody. She died without the sacraments on a Tuesday; her family calling vainly for a priest on a day when most priests in her diocese did not work.  She was a victim of “hostile inflexibility.”

I have multiple friends who witness at abortion clinics. They leave their house and go into the community, interact, listen and witness. They wait for the “God of surprises.”

One of them told me last week, a baby was saved on her watch. “We - rather God! - saved a baby a couple of weeks ago at the Abortion Clinic.  The parents-to-be came out absolutely beaming, announcing they'd changed their minds.  We gave them literature and jumped around laughing, crying, hugging and praying!!  There is still good in the world!”

When Catholics are closed inside the small world of a parish, a community and even the Roman Curia, “then you do not grasp the truth,”

the pope said further on Oct. 25. “Everything is working well, everything is well organized,” the pontiff observed, “but they could do with less functionalism and more apostolic zeal, more interior freedom, more prayer, (and) this interior freedom is the courage to go out.”

True witness takes us out of ourselves and into the streets, the pope continued. A Church, movement or community, which doesn’t go out of itself “becomes sick.”
Catholics walk!

 “A movement, a Church or a community that doesn't go out, is mistaken,” he said. “Don't be afraid! Go out in mission; go out on the road. We are walkers.”

It is ironic in light of what happened at the Synod that Pope Francis has spoken many times about the figure of Judas in his talks since becoming pope.
On Palm Sunday, he took the people through an exam of conscience, using various people involved in Christ’s death:  “Am I like Judas, who pretends to love and kissed the Master to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor?”

Mostly recently, he explained that he felt sorry for Judas. Though he may not have been the worst sinner among the apostles, he was the one who walled himself up against mercy.

“Judas, poor man, is the one who closed himself to love and that is why he became a traitor. And they all ran away during the difficult time of the Passion and left Jesus alone. They are all sinners. But He chose (them).”

After he betrayed Jesus with a kiss, Judas – realizing he had spilled innocent blood – hung himself. Peter denied Jesus three times, but he wept and sought Christ’s forgiveness. He became the first pope.

Pope Francis talks about this “night (of Peter’s denial) and the sweetness of Christ’s forgiveness,” which Judas seemingly did not seek.  “How beautiful it is to be holy, but also how beautiful to be forgiven.”

It’s good that Pope Francis has prayed and meditated on Judas’ betrayal. It’s almost as if he was preparing for what would take place in the Synod.

The world betrayed Christ.  Pretending to sincerely love Pope Francis, the world deliberately twisted his message of love into a false acceptance of sin. St. Augustine called these kinds of “false friends” the unfriendly friendlies.

Some cardinals apparently betrayed Christ when they arranged to put those untruthful paragraphs into the first document without the approval of the whole body of cardinals.

But Pope Francis remained tranquil, and firm in his trust in the Holy Spirit, Who was guiding the Synod, forcing the slag from the Church.

How could the impurities in the Church have remained while we had such holy popes: John XXIII, John Paul II and Paul VI? Obviously, many did not read what they wrote about the human family. Now, the Synod on the Family will force all to do so. The Holy Spirit is squeezing the slag to the top where we can all see it, recognize it and reject it.

“Many commentators ... have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners,” Pope Francis said in his concluding remarks for the Synod.

“And, as I have dared to tell you, [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquility, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.”

It certainly is, especially when we can relax and know that the Pope does believe in the sanctity of marriage and the value of chastity.

Entering the refiner’s fire is a harrowing process, but we must put our trust in the Holy Spirit, who will remove all the impurities from our hearts and our Church and turn them into pure gold.

Enjoy this piece on the Synod? See also: Synod on the Family: Treachery in the Vatican?

1 comment:

  1. Really great piece. The reassurance is needed by so many. When the Pope came out with his statement on marriage I was greatly consoled. Thanks be to God. We need to pray a great deal this coming year that the Church’s message will be clear at the next synod. People who are struggling to live chastity in their state of life need encouragement. People who aren’t even trying need the tonic of clear teaching.