In the past few months and especially in the past few weeks, supposed reports of what various Bishops and Cardinals have said in regards to the Church’s teaching and discipline in regards to the difficult issue of divorced and remarried Catholics have been swirling around like hurricane force winds.
Some have been very vocal in public, leaving no doubt about what they believe and are pushing for changes to the Church’s discipline in regards to reception of Holy Communion. Others want changes that are so extreme, that it would reflect on doctrine itself. They won’t say it right out, but you can read between the lines. With all that’s been going on, I’ve been expecting Bernardo Gui to appear on the scene to clarify it all.
Then there are those who have been calling for a new pastoral style based on “mercy.” Whether it has to do with marriage and divorce or homosexuality, it’s time to take off the gloves and drop the bobby stick. Now is the time for the Church to move beyond Her penchant for justice and finally embrace the lovable, fluffy Jesus. Enough of the enforcer, it’s time to be a loving mother! It’s as if the Church has been a big bad ogre all these years.
There are also some who have have been constantly reaffirming the constant teaching and discipline of the Church and the reasoning behind it all.
I for one don’t think the Church has been walking around with a big stick all these years. The Church in the US has avoided all of these issues out of fear of loosing people and loosing budget envelopes. There has be a lack of teaching in most parishes and dioceses. No matter how hard I stretch my little mind, I cannot for the life of me remember a homily on divorce and remarriage, and I have never heard of a priest deny someone Holy Communion because they were married outside the Church. Many do make some form of announcement at weddings and funerals, but leave it up to the conscience of the individual. I have never witnessed a priest chasing people up and down the Communion aisles because they should not be receiving. Anyone who thinks that’s the case has been living on another planet. Most of us have been loving fathers, trying to make the best of people’s broken lives.
Now for my predictions. I think we are living in a climate similar to that which preceded Humanae Vitae. The expectations of people have been raised very high. Those who want radical change think it is coming down the pipe. How could it not happen with the first loving Pope in history. As some say, “he’s the most wonderfulest Pope evahhh.” The “magisterium of the media” have also built up grand expectations, and many have bought into it.
There can only be two outcomes to this big brouhaha. And whatever outcome, there will be a similar effect.
The first outcome is what the liberals expect. The Pope will accept and reaffirm the many compromises being played out in the medial. He will allow not only divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion, but non-Catholics, non-Christians and anyone who wants to receive Communion will be free to do so as their conscience dictates. After this, all the liberals will dance around the streets and hold a victory party with the Nuns on the Bus and the conservatives and traditionalists will start their own Church. This is a fantasy!
The second outcome is what I ascribe to. After all the commotion is over, the bishops and cardinals return to their dioceses, the Holy Father will prayer over and study all of the work of the theologians and bishops. Pope Francis, as the Vicar of Christ on earth, will speak as every Pope has before him. He will “strengthen his brethren” and reaffirm the Catholic Faith.
The Holy Father will teach the truths that have been proclaimed by the Church for 2000 years. He will not un-teach what his predecessors have taught. Nor will he come out with a teaching or pastoral plan contrary to what St. John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio or the moral law. What Pope Francis will do is encourage people living ins these difficult situations to persevere in faith. Strive to remedy their painful and difficult situations. And he will encourage all clergy to treat those in these difficult situations with love and compassion. (Something that I think most of us have been doing all along, but there are the exceptions to the rule.)
The effect of reaffirming the Church’s teaching and discipline on marriage and the family will be devastating. All of the debates and the “magisterium of the media” have build up a bubble of halse hopes. It will have the same effect, but much strong than that cause by Venerable Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. Many clergy and laity will reject it outright saying the Pope has compromised to the pressure of the conservatives, and the Church are behind the times. It will cause droves of those who loose their dreams of modernizing the Church to finally abandon Her forever. The prophetic warning of Fr. Joseph Ratzinger will come to greater fulfillment.
“From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision.
As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly she will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Alongside this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly.
But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize her true center and experience the sacraments again as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.
The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystalization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek.
The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism of the eve of the French Revolution—when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain—to the renewal of the nineteenth century.
But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.
Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already with Gobel, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”
UPDATE: This comes from “Faith and the Future” by Joseph Ratzinger
So, what can we do? Pray and hold on for your dear life, because the ride is going to get much rougher before it gets better!
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!