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Monday, August 28, 2017

What Kind of god Did Mohammed Create?

One Who Does not Possess the Truth

by Lawrence Fox

This is the Quran: 
“Who could prevent Allah from destroying the Messiah, the son of Mary along with his mother and all the people of the
earth? His is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. He creates what He will and has power over all things." (Surah 5:19,20)

In the UK
That’s right Mohammed (570-632 AD), alleged prophet, founder of Islam and the author of the Quran, says that his god, allah, could destroy Jesus, the Messiah, and His mother Mary. Not to mention the rest of humanity. What kind of god did Mohammed create? 

This was allah’s wake of destruction in 2017: the Palm Sunday bombings in Egypt with 45  killed;  23 murders in Manchester, London by a British Muslim; and deaths in the Philippines top 500 with 381 of those ISIS fighters. In seaside towns near Barcelona, Spain, 13 are dead. There are countless others injured in all those locations and hundreds of thousands fled their homes in the southern Philippines to escape Islamic terror. 

I am repeating the following observation:

We must understand Mohammed’s justification of violence in the name of his god, allah, by reflecting on the Islamic doctrine of unitarianism in the Quran. Islamic unitarianism is the belief that god is a solitary person. He has no inner reflective life. And he — the god allah — is revealed in violence and power. 

Allah tells Mohammad, “Unbelievers are those who declare, ‘Allah is the Messiah, the Son of Mary.’ Allah then says to Mohammad, say: 'Who could prevent Allah from destroying the Messiah, the son of Mary along with his mother and all the people of the earth?' His is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. He creates what He will and has power over all things." (Surah 5:19)

This so-called unitarian god is totally opposite of the Christian God. God has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, His Son. He is self-sacrificing Love. He will not  act against His own Goodness. He has an inner reflective relationship -- a trinitarian communion of Three Persons in One God. In Islam, allah is a master of slaves. We are all slaves. In Christianity, God is Our Father. Jesus came in the flesh and revealed that to us.

 “I’m your boss because I am your boss. Allah is god because he destroys.” Islam believes it has the right to destroy and when it does, it demonstrates the will and nature of allah. It is a circular argument within the Quran and as such is lived in a circular manner throughout the life of Mohammad and Islamic History. 

“O Prophet ! Urge the believers to fight...they will overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because the disbelievers (non-Muslims) are people who do not understand.” (Surah 8:65,66) and again, “It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war and free them for ransom until he had made a great slaughter among his enemies in the land.” (Surah 8:68) 

Allah argues in the Quran that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because allah is able to destroy Jesus and his mother Mary and every other living thing. The destruction of all living things would be for allah a sort of Pyrrhic victory, Who would be left behind to give allah glory? This is satanic teaching. 

It is also a strange revelation since allah recites elsewhere in the Quran, “They plotted and Allah plotted. Allah is the supreme Plotter. He said: “Jesus I am about to cause you to die and lift you up to Me. I shall take you away from the unbelievers and exalt your followers (Muslims) above them till the Day or Resurrection. Then to me you shall return and I judge your disputes.” (Surah 3:47) 

This Surah refers to the fact that -- while the Muslims do not believe Christ died on the cross -- allah supposedly killed Jesus in the first century before the Quran was written. If the Quran  proposes Jesus’ death -- given that Jesus is already once dead and revived  -- then the argument is absurd.  

The ability to destroy is void of any evidence of divinity, it is a non-sequitur (does not follow from the premise). Human beings are quite capable of destroying other human beings
as well as whole cities, cultures, churches, libraries, monuments, images, and anything else related to human history.  But none of these men are gods. 

Tragically, men rise and fall throughout human history arguing, “power as justice, power as truth, power as good” only to leave behind the ashes of destruction and pain. 

The promotion of violence as means of demonstrating truth betrays a weakness in one’s knowledge of the truth; a confusion of the mind and
an absence of Wisdom.

“For the Lord God did not make Death, He takes no pleasure in destroying the living.(Wisdom. 1:13)  Allah is not arguing from a position of strength but weakness. He does not possess the Truth. 

Note that while I read through the Quran a number of times, it became quite obvious that the author of the Quran was unable to comprehend what is Orthodox Christianity.  

According to the Quran, Christians worshipped Jesus and Mary as two separate gods along side allah; and the Jews worshipped Ezra the Priest, “The Jews say, ‘Ezra is a son of God’; and the Christians say, ‘The Messiah is a son of God.’ Such are the saying in their mouths. They resemble the sayings of the infidels of old. Allah, Do battle with them! How are they so misguided! They take their teachers, and their monks, and the Messiah, the son of Mary for Lords (masters) beside Allah, though bidden to worship Allah alone. There is no Allah by Allah! Far from His glory be what they associate with Him.” (Surah 9:30) 

One would think that allah “being all knowing” would be able to grasp what Christians and Jews actually wrote and believed.  Christianity never taught that Jesus and Mary are other gods. Jesus is True God and True Man, One in Being with the Father. Mary, His mother, is a human being. The Jews never said Ezra is the son of God. It's not in the Old Testament.  

Anyway, Mohammed was taught to discern truth, virtue, and justice (right and wrong) from this perspective of power and violence. It is no wonder that after his journey to Medina; he becomes a warrior Prophet; recitals are begotten alongside acts of terror on neighbouring Arab and Jewish tribes. 

While in Medina, Mohammad received the revelation, “Kill the pagans (polytheists) wherever your find them, and capture 
The Yazidi  captives -- regarded as pagans by ISIS --  are lined up 
before execution in Iraq in 2014
them and besiege them and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush.”
(Surah 9:5) 

After Mohammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina -- known as the Hijra -- the swell of violence begins. Mohammed and his merry men attack Meccan caravans traveling between Syria and Mecca. In 624 AD Quraysh tribesmen respond and engage Mohammad and his followers at the Battle of Badr; which did not go well for Mohammad. The same scenario was played out again in 625 AD when Quraysh tribesmen engaged Mohammad and his followers at the Battle of Uhud; which again did not go well for Mohammad. So Mohammad changes his tactics. In 626 AD, Mohammad attacks the Jewish tribe of Al-Nadir and expels them from Medina. In 627 AD, Mohammad and his followers defeat the Meccans at the Battle of the Ditch. Things are now turned around and Mohammad is willing to attack the city of Mecca directly. In the same year (627 AD) Mohammad slaughters the Jewish tribe of Qurayza, beheading eight
ISIS victims in Paris 2015
hundred Jewish men allowing only one man to live and takes as slaves all the women and children. In 629 AD, Mohammad and his men slaughter the Jews of Kybar during a night raid. Mohammad’s tenth wife (Safiya bint Houyay) is the result of this slaughter. 

In the same year Mohammad -- according to Islamic Tradition -- sends letters to various Kings inviting them to embrace Islam including: Kings of Persia, Yemen, and Ethiopia and the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. These letters were Mohammad’s last will and testament to his followers, “Who is more wicked than the man who invents a falsehood about Allah or denies his revelation? Truly the evil doers shall not triumph.” (Surah 10:18) He is referring to Jews, Christians and pagans -- all non-Muslims.

In 630 AD, Mohammad takes Mecca and the city’s population is forcibly converted.  The Kaaba — a polytheistic shrine of the Quraysh Tribe — is turned into an Islamic religious site. The same thing happens to the Cathedral Hagia Sophia located in Constantinople. It was conquered by Turkish Muslims in 1453 AD. 

By the time Mohammad dies in 632 AD,  all of Arabia was conquered for Islam. When
Mohammad died, a number of the Arabian tribes had to be re-conquered including the tribes in present day Kuwait.  Between 639 AD and 651 AD, the land of Egypt, Syria and Persia were put under the foot of allah. Before the end of the 17th Century, lands today known as Persia, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Libya, Algiers, Spain, Sicily, Greece, Balkans, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Ukraine were under the sword of the Quran, “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), until they pay the jizya (tax) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Surah 9:29) Prior to collapse of the Turkish Islamic Ottoman Empire, they slaughtered about 1.5 million Armenians in the name of allah. 

Tragically, those who today adhere to a literal reading of the Quran continue to reason that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because he (allah) is able to destroy Jesus and His mother Mary and every other living thing.

However, we report that allah has not succeeded. Jesus and Mary prosper. Many have survived Islamic violence. 

To the serpent in the Garden of Eden, God said, 
“And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,

    and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Who Do You Say I Am?

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai, FMH
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 27, 2017
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge…To him be all the glory. Amen!” 

It is on the note of this amazing and beautiful outburst of joy from Romans 11:33-36 that we begin our reflection on this 21st Sunday of ordinary time. In a special way the church enjoins us to recognize, reverence with
sacred awe, praise, and glorify the Sovereign, the All Powerful and Wise Lord. It is only when we know Him (as much as he chooses to reveal himself to us), that we can respect his ordinances, appreciate his greatness, burst out in amazement and declare to others who he really is as Paul and Peter did today. (Matt. 16:13-20)

A young girl was asked: “Who is your father, and how would you describe him?” She was quiet for a couple of seconds as if she was lost in a wondering contemplation. Eventually, she mustered enough courage and
responded thus: “My Father?” She retorted. “He is that man who leaves home before I wake up in the morning; that man who comes back home when I am already asleep, at times with some bars of chocolate, ice cream, cake, peanuts, and fried potato chips; that man who punches mummy in the face whenever he returns home drunk and, he is that man who never cares or gives me a hug.” Tears rolled down her cheeks as she concludes: “That is my father, but how I wish I never knew him.” 
Is this little girl wrong or to blame? Not at all!  Like this little girl (who was right in her case), some of us have a very pejorative view of God. Some have a wrong notion of what he stands for, and yet others are indifferent in their opinion.
Who is Jesus to you?

In the first reading of today (Isaiah 22:19-23), God exhibits his power over all sovereignty, throne and kingdom. In His wise judgment, he reduces the proud and wicked hearted while exalting the lowly and faithful. While Shebna was dethroned because of his pride, wickedness and lack of obedience to the ordinances of the Almighty God, the humble Eliakim was elevated to the throne. In this, Eliakim becomes a prophecy of the Messiah, because Jesus told us this passage spoke of himself.
In the second reading, we see Paul this Sunday bursting out in jubilant excitement and exaltation over the wisdom of God. Like a mountaineer who has reached the apex of Mt Kenya, the apostle turns and contemplates.
Depths are at his feet, but waves of light illumine them, and there spreads all around him an immense horizon which his eye commands. 

The plan of God in the government of mankind spreads out before Paul, and he expresses the feelings of admiration and gratitude with which the prospect fills his heart. Today therefore, Paul not only presents to us the greatness of the wisdom of God, but also His sovereignty over all creation. The Lord’s plans are as marvelous as his wisdom, acts and justice; his designs are as profound as his doings are vast. Paul presents to us the Creator not created by any one, the Counselor not counseled by any one, and the one whose ways, methods and designs are obviously different from ours. Of course, when we realize this we cannot but burst out in jubilant praise: “How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge…” and “How great is your name O, Lord our God, through all the earth…” (Ps 8, 1). How do I see God is a pertinent question we must ask ourselves today!

For time, it suffices only, to take note of the importance of today’s gospel to the Apostolic Succession and the Papacy of the Holy, One and Catholic Church. So, we leave it for the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul or the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. In this gospel, Jesus fully aware of the on-going debate about Him and the ignorance of the people about his personality, decided to also know the mind of those close to him – His disciples: “Who do people say I am…and…You, who do you say I am?” We must not distance ourselves from this question today. Rather, we must ask
ourselves: “Who is Jesus to me? So we find Jesus in today’s gospel asking: “Who do you say that I am?” And we find Simon Peter answering the question by identifying Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Evidently Peter recognized something deep within Jesus a Divine Person, Someone coming from God. Jesus in response sees something deep within Peter that Peter couldn’t see for himself.

In a sense Jesus introduced Peter to himself. “Okay,” Jesus said, “you told Me Who I am. Now let me tell you who you are. You are Rock!” This quality was not something that
Simon Peter recognized within himself. No doubt it was a big surprise, not only to Peter, but also to all who knew him. 

Nevertheless he was previously known as Simon and now, because of Jesus, he was entering into a new self-identity. It took a long time for this new identity to be realised,  however, because Peter’s behavior with respect to Jesus was not solid nor rock-like until after Christ’s resurrection.

All of this was typical of Jesus. We judge people by appearances… Jesus judges with penetrating insight. He went deep inside  and saw the best that they could be with His grace.

St. Augustine once said: “Dig deep enough in any person and you will find something divine.” That’s a perfect description of how Jesus works with us. Put Jesus with any person and He will dig until He finds something divine within us.
It can happen that we have been baptized, received Holy Communion, got married in the church, ordained as a pastor, served, and in fact we are still serving in the church; yet we do not know who is Jesus. I am not kidding you brethren! A very sincere and humble priest once confessed that he never had an encounter with Jesus Christ until after he had been ordained seven years.

Many of us have a distorted view of God. So much of our lives and time is spent worshiping a figment of our own imagination. We fail to realize is that God exists independently of our views of him.  Our goal as Christians should be to bring our
understanding of God in line with the truth of Who He really is.

My dear, you cannot answer this question of
your own accord.
Fr. Joe Mungai, FMH
Therefore, like Peter and Paul, we must seek the counsel of the wise God. We must ask the Holy Spirit to help us and, we must ask God himself to reveal His Son to us as He did to Peter today, or else we will have distorted opinions about Jesus Christ as the Jews had: “…Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah…” 

Who do I say Jesus is? Maybe, we think He is the “cosmic policeman” waiting at every corner  for us to break the law so that He can punish us. Maybe He is the “indulgent old man” --  senile but very friendly; Or the  “frantic manager,” sweating profusely because the world is such a mess and He is trying to hold it all together. For some of us, He might be the “workaholic father” trying to meet the needs of his family; or the miracle worker, the healer, the problem solver, the defender, the rock of ages etc. Indeed, He is the Healer, the Defender, the Miracle Worker, the Problem Solver, the Rock of Ages. But only God in His great wisdom can make Himself fully known to us if we humble ourselves. Peter got the answer not just by his own power, but by the grace of God. It was a gift given to him by God to prepare him for more responsibility and service. He is blessed and happy today because he knew who is Jesus.

This coming week we will all go out to face a very difficult world. Be kind to everyone you meet. Every one of them is fighting his or her own hard battle. There are many things in our world that appeal to the worst within us. That’s why we must hear the words that Jesus addressed to Peter. He said to Simon: “You are rock.” Jesus is finding good in each of us.  Listen to what Jesus is saying to you, and then face each day remembering who it is Jesus says you are and who He meant you to be.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

*Fr. Joe Mungai, FMH, is a Franciscan Missionary of Hope, a relatively new congregation started in Nairobi, Kenya in 1993. He was ordained June 7, 2014. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Love is Faithful; Marriage is Indissoluble until Death

Amoris Laetitia is a Hymn to Fidelity in Marriage, And How to Get There

No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries. There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment 
Amoris Laetitia
that bears fruit in new life. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society.
But  nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond?
(Amoris Laetitia 52)

by Susan Fox

“Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water?”  (John 4:12)

So the Samaritan woman continues to haggle with Jesus, who asked her for a cup of water. He told her that if she knew Who asked for water, she would ask Him for Living Water. 

I'm sitting on the edge of my chair. Doesn’t Our Lord get a drink of water? But clearly, Jesus is speaking of a spiritual reality, the Holy Spirit. And the woman thinks He means a material reality — plain drinking water.

Jesus explains the difference: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Ah, now she is hooked. She thinks she will never have to return to the well and draw water again, if she has this Living Water. “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (John 4:15)

But Jesus’ response is surprising:  “Go, call your husband, and come here.” (John 4:16)

Whoops. “I have no husband.” she replied. She offered Him the truth, and this is the root of her moral dilemma. Jesus is the Truth. He  can work with truth.

“You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband;’ for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you say truly.” (John 4: 17-18)

So Jesus  begins the process of accompaniment which will end in her conversion. For the problem of the woman at the well is not her living situation, but her bone deep desire for God, which was not being met with a live-in boyfriend. 

Pope Francis realised this truth in his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love, when he cried, But nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond? (Amoris Laetitia 52)

In Amoris Laetitia, the pope is personally going to meet the woman at the well. He is leading the Church to assist couples in irregular situations so they might reinstate their lives in conformity with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Helping them does not make marriage dissolvable, nor does it allow communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The pope is not giving up on marriage:  “The Synod Fathers noted that Jesus, “in speaking of God’s original plan for man and woman, reaffirmed the indissoluble union between them, even stating that ‘it was for your hardness of heart that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so’ (Mt 19:8). The indissolubility of marriage – ‘what God has joined together, let no man put asunder’ (Mt 19:6) – should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage” Pope Francis concluded. (Amoris Laetitia 62)

Coming on the heels of the 2015 Synod on the Bishops, many orthodox Catholics feared the Church was planning to change 2,000 years of Catholic tradition on marriage,  turning it into a more fluid situation, including stable gay relationships. They apparently believed that Jesus Christ lied when He said,  “I am with you always to the end of the world.” (Matt 28:20)

Jesus didn’t lie. Amoris Laetitia is a magisterial document binding on Catholics. And thankfully it upholds the indissolubility of marriage between one man and woman open to new life and prepared to share their whole lives together exclusively and in faithfulness until death. 

Tragically, one year later, some bishops still doubt. They believe the document says the Church can give Holy Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, who  are not living as brother and sister and have not obtained a declaration of nullity of their first marriage from the Church. Conservative Catholic bloggers and new services very rudely call this “giving communion to adulterers.”

But in fact Catholics, who are divorced and remarried may not receive Holy Communion, and Amoris Laetitia makes that clear. 

Footnoted clearly in the controversial Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia (Footnote #345) on “accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness,” is the Church’s document, Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who Are Divorced and Remarried (2000). 

It  refers to Canon Law 915, which says those objectively  persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion. People divorced, remarried civilly or in another church are living objectively in grave sin, though they may not realise it. And we cannot judge them. 

Not clear enough? Pope Francis footnotes Familiaris Consortio (footnote 329) in Chapter 8: “However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based on 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.” 

The state of life of a person technically co-habitating with another cannot be said to model that union of love between Christ and His Bride. Christ doesn’t co-habitate with the Church, which implies He is using her. He marries her, gives His life for her.  Therefore a cohabitating couple — even civilly remarried — may not go to communion even if they are in a state of grace through ignorance or diminished responsibility. 

So why have we gone through the drama of four orthodox churchmen led by Cardinal Raymond Burke requesting clarification of Amoris Laetitia, because of their doubts about its teaching. Where is the doubt? 

Formally allowing the reception of communion among Catholics who are sexually active, divorced and remarried would contradict the indissolubility of marriage. It’s impossible! But bishops in Belgian, Malta, Sicily and San Diego, California, and numerous other places have openly declared they will give communion to divorced remarried, claiming it is in Amoris Laetitia.

At no point does the document say that divorced remarried can receive communion. I have thoroughly read it. 

Based on Amoris Laetitia’ paragraph 37, which states, “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them,” the Belgian bishops concluded that divorced Catholics, who are sexually active, may follow their conscience to the communion rail. 

Why? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the same thing. A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.”(Catechism of the Catholic Church #1790) 
No one thought the Catechism published in 1992 gave divorced remarried the right to Holy Communion. Why does Amoris Laetitia give this right when it quotes the catechism? 

The Belgian bishops speak of respecting the decision that the laity may make in this matter. But Pope Francis speaks of accompaniment.

Accompaniment means assisting people pastorally in irregular situations to reinstate in their lives the truth of marriage, according to the Gospel. The word is not used, but it is clearly a process of conversion. Amoris Laetitia does not see the Church throwing up her hands in despair, and saying, “Oh go to communion. It’s your conscience.” No Pope Francis calls the Church to holy meddling.

“Although she constantly holds up the call to perfection and asks for a fuller response to God, “the Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port or a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way or who are in the midst of a storm,” so tenderly begins Pope Francis in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia’(Amoris Laetitia 291).

The Polish bishops clearly understood Amoris Laetitia does
Couples in non-sacramental unions should be
led to "true repentance," the Polish bishops said.
not allow communion for divorced remarried. The Polish Episcopal Conference on June 6-7, 2017 affirmed that
Amoris Laetitia has not changed Church doctrine on the issue.  Of course not, Amoris Laetitia reiterates the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage.  

How did the Polish bishops understand, and the Belgian bishops did not? 

They stayed close to Our Lady. They dedicated their whole meeting to the 100th anniversary of Fatima. The Beloved Disciple John was the only apostle who remained faithfully at the foot of the cross, while the others hid, because he was with Our Lady.

Secondly, they read their own Polish pope’s works, those of Pope Saint  John Paul II. While much of the world buried the words of John Paul II in the library, the Polish bishops faithfully studied them. 

Familiaris Consortio (by John Paul II) and Amoris Laetitia are in the same line, with this linear understanding of these documents” the Polish bishops said. Pope Francis is spiritually the little Argentine brother of Pope John Paul II. But he is gravely misunderstood. 

“The apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia is the catalyst that has divided not only bishops and Episcopal Conferences from each other but, priests from their bishops and from each other, and (left) the laity, anxious and confused.  As a Trojan
Fr. Linus Clovis thinks the Church's magisterial
document is a Trojan horse. 
Amoris Laetitia spells spiritual ruin for the entire Church,” thundered Fr. Linus Clovis of Family Life International at the Rome Life Forum May 18, 2017.  

I agree with Fr. Clovis that the false interpretation of Amoris Laetitia — like the false spirit of Vatican II — is separating priests from their bishops and bishops from their fellow bishops and cardinals from their pope!  Lies always do that.  But the solution is not to malign Pope Francis.  The solution is to read the document and explain it to your bishop. Such an act will save the Church in this crisis. 

Marriage Theologian Rev. Dr. Jean-Yves Brachet O.P. said Amoris Laetitia can be difficult to understand because you need a theological background. “It has to be read in the light of the whole teaching of the Church, especially Familiaris Consortio (1981) for the teaching on marriage and family, and Veritatis Splendour (1993) for the moral teaching.” 

Fr. Brachet admitted the existence of the document has raised false hopes about eventual changes in the teaching of the Church on marriage and divorce, or the opposite, unjustified fear of such changes.

Fr. Brachet speaking to two ITI students
 in Sopron, Hungary
“In both cases it seems that there is a lack of confidence in the fact that the Holy Spirit leads the Church,” Fr. Brachet said. “Thus it is important to read the text, the whole text, but the text only, in the light of the teaching of the Church.” 

“The documents of the magisterium, including those on moral issues, must be interpreted according to the hermeneutic of continuity and development. And certainly not according to the hermeneutic of discontinuity, rupture, or transformation with respect to the perennial magisterium,” said Fr. Angelo Bellon, O.P., Professor of Moral Theology, Archdiocese of Genoa. 

Communion for divorced & remarried Catholics
 would destroy
the Church's teaching on Marriage, which is indissoluble. 
To give communion to divorced remarried Catholics — without demanding they live chastely —  would rupture 2,000 years of Catholic teaching on marriage. “The progress of the moral doctrine of the Church takes place under the action of the Holy Spirit that gradually leads to the  knowledge of the whole truth, without ever contradicting or denying the previous magisterium,” Fr. Bellon wrote. 

Not only that, but he points out that Pope Francis himself in the text of Amoris Laetitia repeatedly says he is following this hermeneutic of continuity: “Therefore while clearly stating the Church’s teaching, pastors are to avoid judgements that do not take into account the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition,” Pope Francis wrote (Amoris Laetitia 79).

It is chapter 8 on “accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness” that has caused the most consternation in the Catholic world. And it is probably the most fascinating document that the Church has produced in some time. 

All of the Church’s magisterial documents on marriage have been undergoing a quiet development since the Middle Ages. As late as 1880, Pope Leo XIII spoke about the ends of marriage as an institution, the first and primary end being the procreation and education of children. The spouses were to give “mutual help.” That was a secondary end. My Catholic in-laws were schooled in that view of marriage. Marriage was the foundation of the family, and the family was the foundation of civilisation. 

But something changed in the last century. The Church turned the lens of her camera to the intimate relationship between husband and wife, instead of marriage as an objective institution. By 1968, Humanae Vitae rhapsodised  about married love in which man and wife become “one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfilment.” A Theology of the Body took it further, and we discovered it was possible to commit adultery with our own spouse. Oh boy. The Church in the Middle Ages never mentioned that. 

Pope Saint John Paul II: "They cannot look
on the law as merely an ideal to be
achieved in the future."
The same development of doctrine is taking place in the pastoral issues related to contraception and divorce.  Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio began the development  when he applied the law of gradualness in the use of contraception, while still cautioning that it doesn’t change the moral law. “They cannot look on the law as merely an ideal to be achieved in the future: they must consider it as a command of Christ the Lord to overcome difficulties with constancy. “And so what is known as the ‘law of gradualness’ or step-by-step advance cannot be identified with ‘gradualness of the law,’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations.” 

In Familiaris Consortio 34, Pope John Paul II  is urging couples to recognise the teaching of Humanae Vitae as the norm for exercising their sexuality. He is also saying that they may take step by step advances to living the truth that every marital act must be open to new life. But he is warning confessors not to mix up the law of gradualness with the inflexibility of the objective law. Whether the couple understands it or not, contraception is always intrinsically evil.

The law of gradualness has been in the church since the woman met Christ at the well. It simply means that we sinners take our time getting converted to the truth and the Church must be patient with us.

St. Paul used this gradual pastoral approach: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for solid food. In fact, you are still not ready, for you are still worldly. For since there is
jealousy and dissension among you, are you not worldly? Are you not walking in the way of man? For when one of you says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?” (1Cor 3:2-4)

Pope Francis breaks new ground in doctrine using the law of gradualness (step-by-step advance to living in the truth) in Amoris Laetitia, Fr. Brachet told Christ’s Faithful Witness in an interview It is the same principal that Pope John Paul II used in Familiaris Consortio in 1981.Pope Francis calls it accompaniment. 

Pope Saint John Paul II applied the law of gradualness to life issues'; Pope Francis applies it to pastoral situations. This is a stunning development in moral theology.

“Priests have the duty to “accompany [the divorced and remarried] in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop. . . What we are speaking of is a process of accompaniment and discernment which guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God. Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on what steps can foster it and make it grow. Given that gradualness is not in the law itself, this discernment can never prescind (be separated) from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church.” (Amoris Laetitia  300)

In other words, Pope Francis says the discernment process is to take place in the context of the traditional teachings of the Church, including the prohibition against giving  communion to the divorced and remarried. 

Catholic Church now focuses on the
subjective conscience of the soul.
So as the lens of the Church’s camera shifted from marriage as an institution to relationships within the family, now the church is changing her emphasis to look inside the conscience of the sinner and not at the place where his foot is stuck. It still doesn’t change the fact that an unrepentant Catholic in a second marriage is not living in communion with the Catholic Church, and may not receive Holy Communion.

“We must accompany the persons, not the situations,” Fr. Brachet emphasised. And with that, we see the objective state of the couple, which may radically contradict the ideal of marriage, is to no longer be the focus. Their situation and its wrongness doesn’t change, but we will be working intensely with the human beings wanting to return to God’s grace, i.e. the woman at the well. 

Their objective state may be that of serious sin. Veritatis Splendour showed us that certain moral acts like adultery are always intrinsically evil. But the persons living a second marriage may be living in diminished freedom and/or invincible ignorance. I know I had a hard time understanding this concept until I remembered that I had lived through this state in my own life 25 years ago. 

Though I went to regular confession since I was a child, I did not recognise certain sins of omission. I never confessed them, and indeed I never subjectively sinned by committing them. I lived in invincible ignorance. 

Then a priest in confession told me to go home and look at all the projects I had left unfinished. I did. There were my husband’s shoes waiting to be taken in for repairs, a statue I wanted to get painted, my poems collecting dust unpublished. Suddenly, I woke up and I was responsible for these actions in the future. Though my habits had been disordered before, now I could live my life in conformity with the gospel. Finish your projects or don’t start them, that was the priest’s advice. The truth set me free. 

A  Catholic married couple may live in invincible ignorance with respect to contraception.  Their mothers introduced their daughters to the pill and their sons to the condom to protect them. Their teachers told them to use contraception to prevent abortion. Their boyfriends carried condoms. Their girlfriends were on the pill. It was the responsible thing to do, according to the media. Their priest said it was okay sometimes. (He was incorrect). 

Thus they are married, using contraception, and living in invincible ignorance while going to communion every Sunday. The objective sin of contraception cannot be imputed to them. They are actually living in a state of grace. What? You think the priest should tell them to stop? Yes, according to Pope Saint John Paul II, they should be led to the truth. 

But in actuality, it  may take a lot of time, and a lot of convincing to overcome everything they have already been taught about contraception. They may not believe their new confessor. The same is true for a second marriage. A person entering a second marriage doesn’t think to himself, “Well, I am going to make my adultery formal.” Who thinks that? No they think, “I am in love! Can love be wrong?”

So Pope Francis writes, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735) In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability”(CCC 2352) For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved.” (Amoris Laetitia  302)

Say that again? It says a couple can be living objectively in a state of serious sin, but subjectively may be living in a state of grace because of diminished freedom or knowledge. Here the bishops in Belgian become confused. If they are living in a state of grace, why can’t they receive communion? 

“But this is not the only criterium!” Fr. Brachet warns us. 

The objective union of the married divorced does not model that of Christ and the Church! And "Those who are publicly unworthy are forbidden from receiving the Divine Eucharist" (Canon 712).”  This is all helpfully footnoted in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.

The Catholic Church cannot just lay down and let the sinner decide for himself whether he will go to communion. The Catholic Church has its own conscience!  It is the Conscience of Jesus Christ led by the Holy Spirit. The Church cannot violate her own conscience by giving communion to divorced and remarried. It would amount to an admission that marriage is not indissoluble.

“In effect, the reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion: it is a behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion. In the concrete case of the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, the scandal, understood as an action that prompts others towards wrongdoing, affects at the same time both the sacrament of the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage. That scandal exists even if such behavior, unfortunately, no longer arouses surprise: in fact it is precisely with respect to the deformation of the conscience that it becomes more necessary for Pastors to act, with as much patience as firmness, as a protection to the sanctity of the Sacraments and a defence of Christian morality, and for the correct formation of the faithful.” (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who Are Divorced and Remarried)  This is helpfully footnoted in Amoris Laetitia. 

Amoris Laetitia has one controversial footnote in chapter 8. When Pope Francis writes that “it is possible that in an objective situation of sin… a person can be living in God’s grace," that is footnoted with 351: “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 44). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47).(Amoris Laetitia 305)

“The text says ‘in certain cases,’  the text does not say that divorced who have entered a new union are such a case!” Fr Brachet again cautions us. Yes, and such an interpretation of footnote 351 would contradict footnotes 345 and 329 in Amoris Laetitia.

“In the case of divorced who have entered a new union, it can happen that there is no sin because of the absence of imputation (they don’t know they are in sin, or they not free), but the meaning of their objective situation remains (they are living in adultery),” Fr. Brachet explained. “The specific reason of their non-access to the communion is the objective meaning of their situation: their objective situation is in contradiction with the objective meaning of the (Holy) Communion” Fr. Brachet said referring to Familiaris Consortio 84. And also I would add giving communion to divorced and remarried objectively contradicts the meaning of marriage, which is indissoluble.

Fr. Brachet emphasised Pope Francis’ point in quoting Pope John Paul II: “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.”

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” (1Cor 11:27)

With respect to Amoris Laetitia, many are obsessed with the issue of communion for divorced and remarriage. But Amoris Laetitia is talking about all types of strange and irregular situations that have to be discerned. My little friend "Jane" was a “certain case.” She was 62 years old, Catholic, slightly retarded and unmarried. She dressed in a frumpy manner and she wasn’t pretty. But a 50-year-old man visited her regularly and manipulated her into having sexual relations with him. I tried my best to talk her out of letting this man into her house. But he promised someday he would take her on a date. I heard so much about this fabled date.  Jane desperately needed to feel important.  Someday, she would dress up and be treated like a princess. That was her dream, and so she was a victim.  

I told Jane, “You need to go to confession.” She agreed. I went to my pastor, and told him "Jane"  would appear in his confessional and she was slightly retarded and definitely emotionally childlike. With childlike confidence, she went to confession.  LOL, according to Jane,  Father wasn’t going to absolve her. Jane was pacing back and forth in the confessional, wringing her hands. The confessional definitely felt like a torture chamber! Finally, she said, “Susan Fox said you would help me!” The situation changed immediately, and Father did give her absolution. I’m sure Pope Francis would agree "Jane" was one of those “certain cases” in need of the sacrament of reconciliation.

The only situation in which Amoris Laetitia allows communion for divorced and remarried who are unable to separate, is in the case of Canon Law 915: 
  1. they are living chastely as brother and sister, and
  2. the situation is not public. 
If it becomes openly known that they are living together in a second marriage or cohabitating, it could cause a scandal and they may not receive Holy Communion. Hence Amoris Laetitia clearly does not suggest the bishops give communion to "adulterers."  

Because of the misunderstanding regarding Amoris Laetitia, conservative bloggers and news services have created an image of Pope Francis as someone guilty of doublespeak. He gives lip service to marriage, but wiggles his eyebrows and denies it. Such a false allegation has sadly made even the most devout Catholic lay person doubt the pope. 

No matter what the pope says now, they are poised to believe he means the opposite.  Rather strangely, Fr Brachet, a Dominican, has the opposite opinion. He knows Jesuits.  He says orthodox Jesuits do not  engage in doublespeak. Our Jesuit Pope Francis says what he means, and if he says “in certain cases…” he doesn’t mean he is giving communion to divorced remarried. “That is not the Jesuit way,” Fr. Brachet said. Besides as Fr. Bellon points out such an interpretation of that comment “in certain cases” would introduce the hermeneutic of rupture and not continuity. And Pope Francis has made it clear in the text that he is following the previous magisterium completely. 

When the controversy over the false spirit of Amoris Laetitia is over and people can sit down and read the wonderful text that it is, we hope that the Church is able to indeed work with troubled marriages and bring couples to Christ. Sadly, for decades,  the Catholic Church has been bleeding divorced Catholics to Protestant Churches where they find the  indissolubility of marriage is not so rock solid and they can relax in a new union.  Now Pope Francis has given the Church a beautiful plan for calling these couples home to the Catholic Church.

If the Church is able to overcome her differences and work with the woman at the well, there will be a specific fruit eaten that Christ also enjoyed. For after Christ’s encounter with the woman at the well, the apostles arrived begging Him to eat. He refused. 

It was a message to our Church in this time. “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 

So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought him food?”

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest?’ I tell you, lift up your eyes and see how the fields are already white for the harvest.” (John 4:31-35) 

Susan Fox is a former investigative reporter, who worked for several daily newspapers and newswire in the 1980s and 90s, including the San Francisco Examiner and the San Diego Union,  under her maiden name Susan Burkhardt. She won many awards for her work then, which was in the area of economics and business reporting. Currently she is working on a master's degree in Marriage and Family at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria. This is a paper she did for Catholic Marriage Theologian Rev. Dr. Jean-Yves Brachet O.P. Bishop, who approved its publication.  

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Baklinski, Pete, “Pope’s doctrine chief: Those in ‘grave sin’ cannot receive Communion until contrition, confession and reparation,”  Life Site News, (June 21, 2017)

Baklinski, Peter,  “U.S. Cardinal Writes Foreward to New Book Approving Communion for Adulterers,” Life Site News, (June 9, 2017) https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/u.s.-cardinal-writes-forward-to-new-book-approving-communion-for-adulterers

Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who Are Divorced and Remarried (2000)     http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/intrptxt/documents/rc_pc_intrptxt_doc_20000706_declaration_en.html

Pope Saint John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio on the Role if the Christian Family in the Modern World (November 1981).

Eli, Bradley, M. Div., Ma.Th, “Belgian Bishops: Divorced & Civilly Remarried May Receive Holy Communion,” Church Militant (May 30, 2017) https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/belgian-bishops-divorced-civilly-remarried-may-receive-holy-communion 

“Polish bishops: Amoris Laetitia does not allow Communion for the divorced and remarried,” Catholic Herald (June 12, 2017)  http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2017/06/12/polish-bishops-amoris-laetitia-does-not-allow-communion-for-the-divorced-and-remarried/

Clovis, Fr. Linus, “The anti-Church has come. Why faithful Catholics should not be afraid,” (May 18, 2017)  https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/the-anti-church-has-arrived-and-it

Resume of Rev. Dr. Jean-Yves Brachet O.P.

Bellon, Angelo, O.P.,  “Instructions for reading the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia,” Settimo Cielo (May 5, 2016) http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1351288bdc4.html?eng=y

Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae, (July 25, 1968).