Fidelity, and Trust in God

I have been thinking a bit lately about ‘Fidelity’.  What does it mean to be faithful?  ‘Faithful’ means loyal, full of faith or trust; firmly and resolutely staying with a person, group, cause, belief, or idea, without waver, despite the circumstances.  However, we use it most when talking about a dog, not people, as we talk about a dog’s trust and love and one who is a ‘faithful’ companion.

Yet God asks us for fidelity; to trust in Him with a childlike trust.  We are called to be like children who trust in their parents.  Do this, and they do it.  We have lost that trustful obedience.  Is God asking that of us?

When we look at the first apparition of the angel to the children of Fatima,  Look at what he told the children.

He knelt, bending his forehead to the ground. With a supernatural impulse we did the same, repeating the words we heard him say:  My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You. After repeating this prayer three times the angel rose and said to us: Pray in this way. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are ready to listen to you.

Notice that he did not say, do this until I am gone! Or, do this until you are older! Or do this until you consider yourself above these things!  Do this, pray in this way.  Similarly, we have the teaching of Jesus.  Are we so ‘adult’, so ‘grown-up’ so ‘intellectual’, so ‘liberal’ that we forget that God wants us to be faithful, just as He is faithful.  That means abiding by what He says, and tells the Church to do.  It does not mean changing the teachings to fit my own ‘idiosyncratic, subjective opinions, and sins’.  Remain true to God, His teaching, and His Magisterium as codified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  All other ideas and concepts are opinions, and are to be avoided.

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Church and State: Mandatory Reporting and the Confessional

On the 7th June, in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, (and now in South Australia, starting on October 1st), it has been enshrined in law through the introduction of the Ombudsman Amendment Bill 2018[1] giving the State[s] power to compel ‘minister of religion, religious leader, officers of a religious body, an individual primarily in charge, or any person who provides services for the religious body’ to report ‘Reportable Conduct’ heard in a confession.

Confession, as outlined in the Explanatory Statement[2], as presented by Andrew Barr MLA, is not just within the Catholic Church.

Many of the religious institutions examined in Royal Commission case studies had an institutional culture that discouraged reporting of child abuse. This culture was often based on traditions and practices that acted as an institution-wide barrier to reporting abuse to an external authority. One of those traditions is the practice of religious confession, which is relevant to the adherents of Judaism, and other Christian churches including the Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Lutheran churches.

… In the Australian Uniform Evidence Act jurisdictions – the Commonwealth, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory – a religious confessions privilege operates so that clergy can refuse to disclose to a court the fact or content of a religious confession, except where the confession was made for a criminal purpose: section 127 Evidence Act 2011.

The importance here is that in some ways, nothing has changed.  Yet the ACT Legislative Assembly has extended the ‘Reportable Conduct Scheme’ to include what is heard in Confession as it applies to the safe conduct of children.  The reasoning, and the attitude, behind this are laudable.  Yes, we must do all in our power to protect the most innocent, the vulnerable, and those without voice in our country.

However, the Bill has brought into being, not just the reporting of criminal behaviour, but the ‘reasonable grounds’ and ‘suspicion’ of ‘reportable’ behaviour, a lesser form of testimonial than ‘something that is criminal’.  Andrew Marr Marr MLA in his Explanatory Statement[3] explains what ‘reasonable grounds’ are;

Sections 863B, 863C and 863CA of the Children and Young People Act 2008 enable the head of a designated entity to request or provide reportable conduct information where they are satisfied on reasonable grounds that the information is relevant to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person. This reasonable grounds limitation protects and restricts the sharing of information and is necessary to protect an individual’s right to privacy, as it ensures that information can only be obtained and disseminated in the interests of an individual’s safety, welfare or wellbeing.

I am not a lawyer, and yet, it seems to me that the Law is already set in the words above, in the Evidence Act ‘confession made for a criminal purpose’. What has been brought into being with the Ombudsman Amendment Bill in the ACT is that ‘reportable conduct’ becomes a subjective assessment of wrongdoing, or innocence, by the person hearing the confession.

For priests, and other ministers of religion, such reporting strikes at the heart of religious freedom.  The ability to go to one’s Pastor, Minister, and priest, and be able to discuss things with them in camera without knowledge of what was discussed made public is fundamental to our religious freedoms.  Taking away the confidential and inviolable nature of a ‘confession’ between a penitent and their Minister, strikes at the heart of religion itself.  Who would go for spiritual counselling, confession, and aid if what you say can be reported?  Who would go to counselling if what they want counselling for is a criminal act? Who would trust a priest to keep under the Seal what they have heard within confession?

Speaking as a Catholic, a priest cannot break the seal for any reason.  A priest cannot divulge what is heard in the confessional even to save his own life, to protect his family, to counter a false accusation, or any other reason that people may think of, as reasons to divulge what is heard in a confession.  Perhaps a look into the past may help.  Historically, there have been priests who have been killed rather than reveal what they heard in the confessional,[4] St. John Nepomucene, St. Mateo Correa Magallanes. Fr. Felipe Císcar Puig, Fr. Fernando Olmedo Reguera.

Confession, or the Sacrament of Penance as it is known to Catholics, is considered to be a central tenet of Catholicism. The Catholic Code of Canon Law states that ‘The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason: Can.  983 §1’. [5]

In an article for the ABC, titled The Seal Cannot Be Broken: Priestly Identity and the Sacrament of Confession[6] Fr Richard Umbers (now Bishop) stated that

… mandatory reporting of crimes heard in confession would lead to an inevitable clash of Church against State. If, God forbid, a priest should ever be placed in the dock and inquiry made as to another person’s confession, the faithful priest will have no recourse but to be found in contempt of the very court he strives to uphold. Indeed, we have already seen this play out in the United States when a certain Father Kohlmann was asked to testify about a thief whom he had directed to restore stolen goods. The Protestant judge in the matter of People vs. Phillips[7] (1813) described the dilemma as follows:

“If he tells the truth, he violates his ecclesiastical oath; if he prevaricates, he violates his judicial oath. Whether he lies or whether he testifies the truth, he is wicked, and it is impossible for him to act without acting against the laws of rectitude and the light of conscience.”

Of course, when confessions were made anonymously, in a confessional, behind a screen and curtain, all of the above would be a moot point.  It is early days yet, and much has to be worked out between the Churches, and the States, on what is entailed, in the widening of the Reportable Conduct Scheme.

It is never easy being a Christian, and trying to follow the will of God.  However, in the end, we must all come to the realisation of who is in charge.

[1] http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/b/db_58071/current/pdf/db_58071.pdf
[2] http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/es/db_58055/current/pdf/db_58055.pdf
[3] http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/es/db_58055/current/pdf/db_58055.pdf, p. 3 of 8
[4] https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/these-priests-were-martyred-for-refusing-to-violate-the-seal-of-confession-44847
[5] Explanatory Statement http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/es/db_58055/current/pdf/db_58055.pdf
[6] http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2014/08/27/4075554.htm
[7] http://knowledge.sagepub.com/view/encyclopedia-of-the-first-amendment/n1007.xml

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Holiness and you

If we want the Church to spread the good news of Christ, we have to be the Good News of Christ.  We have to become saints, nothing else matters.  The reformation of the Church starts here, now, with us.  Pray each day that you/I become Holy.  Pester Christ to make us Holy.  Invite the Holy Spirit into our lives so that God becomes the center, not something that is on the periphery. If you are not becoming Holy, if becoming like Christ is not your aim.  If self, sin, ego, worldly pursuits get in the way then let them go.  It is only Jesus that matters, He who is Love Incarnate.

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Breaking the Seal …. I will not comply

I will not comply with any laws that ask a priest to break the Seal of the Confessional.

The persecution begins soon and is coming to a State near you, laws that demand a priest breaks the Seal of Confession.  Most people by now would have heard of the ACT Legislative Assembly’s Bill to cover the Confessional, in certain cases. Basically, this means that the ACT Legislative Assembly has extended the ‘Reportable Conduct Scheme’ to include what is heard Confession. From March 2019, in the ACT, the Seal of the Confession will no longer be exempt under the Law in this Australian Territory.  This is the first time this has been tried in Australia, though it has been tried in the US.

I would like to remind all people, not just Catholics, that the Seal in Inviolable.

Canon 983.1 of the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism states, “…It is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason” (#2490).

A priest cannot break the seal for any reason even to save his own life, to protect his family, to counter a false accusation, or anything else that people may dream up as reasons to break the Seal.  It cannot happen. (Read more)

Creating Laws that try to ‘compel’ a priest to break the Seal will not do anything.  All it will mean is that the Priest will face common law sanctions, up to, and including time in jail.

Perhaps a look into the past may help.  Remember these priest who were martyred for ‘refusing to betray the seal‘.

  • St. John Nepomucene
  • St. Mateo Correa Magallanes
  • Fr. Felipe Císcar Puig
  •  Fr. Fernando Olmedo Reguera

Will they try to force us? Yes.

Will they try to have a false confession to snare us? Yes.

new confessionary in rebuilded church

Confessional

Do I think that at sometime, someplace, some loony priest will reveal what he heard in confession? Yes/probably.

Will some priests be sanctioned? Yes.

Will some go to jail? Yes.

Will I, and other priests comply? No.

For consideration; what I think should happen from hereon:

  1. Bring back the old confessional, with doors, and curtain.  Make confessions anonymous once again.
  2. Clear uncompromising catechesis on Confession which has been severely lacking in the Church.
  3. Clear unambiguous catechesis on what the Seal is. and its Divine Imperative.
  4. Re-introduce the Profession of Faith, and the Oath of Fidelity.
  5. Be proud to be Catholics, and do not bow down to the spirit of this age.

 

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The Reformation Starts with one

Someone asked me, “Father, …child abuse, sexual abuse,, and God knows what else. What is the truth. As a catholic I am devastated.”  This is a man struggling to remain faithful to Christ and His Church, but faced with the reality of major crimes by ‘priests, bishops, and others, is hurting, as we are all hurting.  What can one say in the face of such deep hurt, anger, bewilderment, and disgust at the ‘evil and filth’ who have infiltrated our Church.

  • We have to be open and honest.  Where there is criminal activity, report it.  Whereslide_1 there have been major failings in the past – be truthful, we failed.  If there are perpetrators out there hiding in clerical status, let the courts hunt them down.
  • Be open and honest about oneself. People within the Church have taken their focus off Christ, and His call, to holiness.  We, in the Church, have become to obsessed with worldly glory/fame/etcetera.  We have become a ‘church of nice’.  Being nice does not cut it, we must be Holy.  Are we Holy?  Are you Holy? It starts with one, that is oneself.
  • We have to look to Christ, His promise, and become as Holy as we can be. The reformation of the Church starts with one person, one person who becomes Holy as Christ is Holy, and then spreads that Holiness to others. People fail all the time. Of course we have evil in the institution that is the Church, it is run by humans, fallible and fallen. But to really save the Church, even from itself will take courage, love, forgiveness – those things that Christ always spoke of, “Do you ‘Love’ me”. The love that Christ spoke of was agape – sacrificial love, love that knows no boundaries, that says to the world “Would you die so that others may live”.
  • Do we in the Church have ‘agape’ love.

Agape is not love that is grounded in any external value.  What do you mean by that?  Well God loved us, demonstrated his love for us by sacrificing his Son, while we were yet sinners.  He couldn’t have based it on our value, we didn’t have any.  He had to base it on his value.  You and I have value because God gave it to us.  While we were despicable and unlovable, he loved us.  So it couldn’t have been our value, as we were unlovable, and worthless, that caused him to do it.  Agape is pure love, and as such does not have its source in the loved object.  Agape says I must act a certain way toward this other person, not because of them, but because of me, because I must be agape.  It is motivated completely from within it’s own nature (which comes from God), it is not based on an expectation of getting anything in return (Pete Benson, http://www.unityinchrist.com/Agape/Agape%20I.htm)

  • Jesus was speaking of a love that says, not only would you die for me, but would you die for those who hate me, crucify me. Would you die for the ISIS soldiers who are beheading, raping, pillaging. That is the sort of love that we are to have in the Church, and that is the sort of love that is expected of even the least in the church. We are far from that – though there is always hope – what has worked in the past, is to be faithful to the Call of Christ, not oneself, or one’s own ego, but to Christ, His Church (a church that is Holy – Christ centred, that centered not on self, nor on power/prestige/glory), the Sacraments, the Magisterium (the teachings of the Church).  We are called to be Holy as Christ Himself is Holy.  Until people change themselves, and look to their own holiness, become Christ, be Christ, then we will always fail.

I said to my parishioners the other day,

II we want the Church to spread the good news of Christ, we have to be the Good News of Christ.  We have to become saints, nothing else matters.  The reformation of the Church starts here, now, with us.  Pray each day that you/I become Holy.  Pester Christ to make us Holy.  Invite the Holy Spirit into our lives so that God becomes the center, not something that is on the periphery. If you are not becoming Holy, if becoming like Christ is not your aim.  If self, sin, ego, worldly pursuits get in the way then let them go.  It is only Jesus that matters, He who is Love Incarnate.

Reposted from May 2015

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The Octave of Pentecost

holy-spirit-1412527_960_720.png

What is the Octave of Pentecost?  Why have I not heard about it?  Why is it necessary?  Not many people in the Church today wold have heard about this Octave celebrated from Pentecost to the Ember Saturday before Trinity Sunday.  The Octave was never abrogated in the Usus Antiquior, and when the Divine Worship: the Missal was promulgated for the Personal Ordinariates, the calendar included the Octave.

The Octave was abrogated by Blessed Paul VI in the Ordinary Form of the mass in 1970 which is why many Catholics have not heard about it.  It is a grand occasion, Pentecost, and the beginning of the Church, the excitement of Pentecost, the awe of the coming of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles, and disciples.  And in the Ordinary Form, over in a day.

The Revd Dr Guy Nicholls Cong. Orat., in an article titled, the Power of Octaves; cites Blessed Henry Newman’s statement that the Octave of Pentecost is “the grandest…of the whole year”.

It is more difficult to rouse an emotional response to the person and role of the Holy Spirit simply as they are revealed to us in Scripture, and conveyed as they are in the seemingly impersonal images of a dove and tongues of fire. But Newman invites us to ‘consider the breviary offices for Pentecost and its Octave’, which he even suggests are ‘the grandest, perhaps, in the whole year’. This is Newman’s strongest argument, and best illustration for acknowledging the affective power of a feast to inflame the imagination yet more powerfully through an Octave, which not merely prolongs the celebration, but allows for the expansion and development of its principal ideas.

In the Development of Christian Doctrine, Newman drew attention to the power of the Veni Creator and the Veni Sancte Spiritus to inflame the heart, describing the ‘indescribably majestic, solemn and soothing’ effect of the words Altissimi donum Dei, Fons vivus, ignis, caritas, an effect which he had first noted in his journal on the day of his Anglican ordination. It was the singing of that hymn, albeit in English, but to a version of the familiar Gregorian melody, which had uplifted his spirits where until that moment he had only felt fear and foreboding. Newman suggests in the Grammar of Assent, in the full maturity of his Catholic years, that the power of these
meditations lies in their evocation of the personhood of the Spirit in his dispensation of grace in the Church, and its consequent impression upon the imagination.

Newman suggests that it was the grandeur of the liturgical celebration of Pentecost prolonged in its Octave, which generated the power to impress and arouse the imagination that created a momentum such as ‘to give birth to the noble hymns Veni Creator, and Veni Sancte Spiritus.’ Therefore, according to Newman, the Feast and its Octave together provided the necessary stimulus to realise imaginatively what was being celebrated in them, thereby lending even greater solemnity and impressive power to the mystery embodied therein. It is the character and effect of octaves generally to give greater weight to their Feasts, and the opportunity for the texts and rituals which embody their message to penetrate so much more profoundly the hearts and imagination of the Church’s faithful, both corporately and individually. (Dr Guy Nicholls, The Power of Octaves)

Pentecost is foundational for the Church, and just as important as the Christmas and Easter Octaves.  Having the Octave gives us time to reflect on what Pentecost is, the role of the Holy Ghost in our mission, and His ongoing leadership of the Church, and its members to the Truth, who is Christ. Every day of the Octave is a Pentecost Day, except for Mary, Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia, which is a Solemnity here.

… the character of Pentecost as a consummation and fulfilment of the Paschal Mystery suggests that it is fitting to celebrate it with an Octave similar in character and rank to that of Easter. Easter looks both backwards to Our Lord’s Passion as His “passing to the Father” and forwards to Eastertide as the season in which the resurrection and its meaning for our eternal life is unfolded for us. In a parallel way Pentecost looks both backwards to the promise of the gift of the Paraclete made at Easter and forwards to “Tempus post Pentecosten”, representing the life of the Church under the Holy Spirit’s constant guidance and enriched with His lifegiving sacraments. (Fr Guy Nicholls, Pentecost: The Grandest Octave)

The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles, and the Disciples, transforming the nascent Church, to further the ministry of Our Lord. The Holy Ghost was not poured on the world.  It is only through the Church, and its members, that the Holy Ghost works in the world.  We are given the Spirit to boldly proclaim Christ, and Him Crucified, Risen, and Glorified. It is He, the Holy Spirit that will lead us to the truth in Christ, and it is He, the Holy Spirit, that gives us what we need for our mission, to lead all people to the Truth, who is Jesus Christ.

The Octave gives us this time to reflect on our mission, our calling, the Holy Spirit, and His work in the world.

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Pentecost/Whitsunday

Pentecost Sunday today. What an experience it must have been for the Apostles and Our Lady, to be in the room when the Holy Spirit was out-poured on the Church. Such amazement, such faith, such joy, and probably – awe, bewilderment, and some fear. All of these rolled into one Godly experience.

And the fruits of the Spirit are (Gal 5: 22-23);

  • Love (Greek: agape, Latin: caritas),
  • Joy (Greek: chara, Latin: gaudium),
  • Peace (Greek: eirene, Latin: pax),
  • Patience (Greek: makrothumia, Latin: longanimitas),
  • Kindness (Greek: chrestotes, Latin: benignitas),
  • Goodness (Greek: agathosune, Latin: bonitas),
  • Faithfulness (Greek: pistis, Latin: fides),
  • Gentleness (Greek: prautes, Latin: modestia),
  • Self-control (Greek: egkrateia, Latin: continentia).

HHhhhmmmm! Looking at that list we are a long way from demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit, not just in the world, but in the Church, and in our private lives as well. If the Spirit is to change the world, it has to change us first. We have to let the Holy Spirit work in our lives. We must be humble and ask, “Come Holy Spirit, come into my life. Change me. Make me into what God wants of me. Create in my a new heart, one dedicated to Our Lord, one filled with zeal, and love.”

Remember, the Holy Spirit was poured on the Apostles, and the Church, to further the ministry of Our Lord. We are not given the fruits of the Spirit to feel good, or to speak in tongues for our own benefit, to heal so that people can see our miracles. We are given the Spirit to boldly proclaim Christ, and Him Crucified, Risen, and Glorified. It is He, the Holy Spirit that will lead us to the truth in Christ, and it is He, the Holy Spirit, that gives us what we need for our mission, ‘to go into all the world, tell people about Christ, and to baptise in His Name’.

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