Catechism of the Catholic Church (675)

Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. ~ Catechism of the Catholic Church (675)

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Victories

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Victories, otherwise known as Our Lady of the Rosary.

It's my birthday.

It's also Vladimir Putin's birthday.

"It's only a birthday cake candle. I'll blow it out in a moment."

Monday, 5 October 2015

Vatican Teams Up With Children's Storybook Company for Synod Tale

The Vatican has teamed up with Mr. Men children's books to help Catholic parents tell the story of the Synod on the Family to their children. Now your children can follow, and relive, those key moments of the Synod with Mr. Men characters. The book has been written but not yet been released. However, the characters have been published so you can tell your little lambs the full official story. Naturally, parents will be astonished that the 'story of the Synod' is to be released before the Synod ends, but Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri has made it clear that the pre-written story of the Synod is completely trustworthy and will reflect reality retrospectively.
Pope Francis (Supreme Pontiff)
Cardinal Walter Kasper (everybody loves Mr. Tickle!)
Fr Thomas Rosica of Salt and Light TV
Cardinal Godfreed Daneels (keep quiet about the conclave, and you won't be so nervous!)
Archbishop Bruno Forte (our lovable little rogue and naughty relatio expert)
Cardinal Peter Erdo (keep talking Mr Noisy!)
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga ("Come on, people!")
Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton
Cardinal Vincent Nichols (nice man, but only interested in his red hat really...)

Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan (Always thinks things are impossible, wants to thwart God's dream!)

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri (our expert in promoting topsy turvy theology)

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier (always on Twitter)
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin (Crisis? What crisis?)

Archbishop Blaise Cupich (prepared to think 'outside the box')
Fr Antonio Spadaro S.J (all journalists are like this, especially that evil Edward Pentin!)
Cardinal Reinhard Marx (outspoken, brazen, controversial, rich but still our good friend in Germany)
Cardinal George Pell (always moaning)
Fr Frederico Lombardi, S.J (has a difficult job)
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller (Calm down, it will all be okay!)
Bishop Athanasius Schneider (not invited to the Synod, because bravery is not for Christians)
Cardinal Raymond Burke (not invited because nobody likes a 'Mr. Perfect'!)

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Pope Emeritus Benedict (not invited because ex-Popes who are 'specialists of the logos' don't have anything to say to modern man)
Monsignor Pio Pinto (listen to the Holy Spirit talking through Mr Messy, or else!)
Cardinal Angelo Sodano (always fussing around, trying to control Vatican life)
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (Slow down, Mr. Rush!)
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn (Means well...)
Fr Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, Superior General of the Jesuit Order (If looks could kill...)
Cardinal Timothy Dolan (Guffaw! Chortle!)

Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa (not invited, but still made a huge impression on the whole thing)

Update: Not all readers will be familiar with these characters. This video will help you acquaint yourself with Mr Tickle.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

What's Up With the Synod?

A new group blog has been set up in order for a range of 'big-hitting' Catholic bloggers to add commentary in one forum to the ongoings at the Synod on the Family.

Follow all the news - as much news as the Pope and Cardinal Baldisseri permit us to know - at:

Entrust the work of this blog - and all Catholic bloggers, reporters and journalists, and most vitally, the Synod Fathers themselves, to Our Lady of Victories, as mentioned today by Fr John Hunwicke.

God bless readers. Fasten your seatbelts and don't buy Volkswagon.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Pope Francis on Holy Communion for the Divorced and Remarried and the Motu Proprio

Photo Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.
Courtesy of Vatican Radio

Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro
Holy Father, you obviously cannot anticipate the debate of the synod fathers, we know that well.
But we want to know just before the Synod, in your heart as a pastor, if you really want a solution for the divorced and remarried. We want to also know if your ‘motu proprio’ on the speeding-up of annulments has closed this debate. Finally, how do you respond to those who fear that with this reform, there is a de-facto creation of a so-called 'Catholic divorce.' Thank you.
Pope Francis
I’ll start with the last one. In the reform of the procedure and the way, I closed the door to the administrative path, which was the path through which divorce could have entered. You could say that those who think this is 'Catholic divorce' are wrong because this last document has closed the door to divorce by which it could have entered. It would have been easier with the administrative path. There will always be the judicial path. Continuing with the third (question): the document…. I don’t remember the third but you correct me.

Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro
The question was on the notion of Catholic divorce, if the motu proprio has closed the debate before the synod on this theme?
Pope Francis
This was called for by the majority of the Synod fathers in the synod last year: streamline the process because there are cases that last 10-15 years, no? There’s one sentence, then another sentence, and after there's an appeal, there's the appeal then another appeal. It never ends. The double sentence, when it was valid that there was an appeal, was introduced by Papa Lambertini, Benedict XIV, because in central Europe, I won’t say which country, there were some abuses, and to stop it he introduced this but it's not something essential to the process. 
The procedure changes, jurisprudence changes, it gets better. At that time it was urgent to do this, then Pius X wanted to streamline and made some changes but he didn’t have the time or the possibility to do it. The Synod fathers asked for it, the speeding up of the annulment processes. And I stop there. This document, this ‘motu proprio’ facilitates the processes and the timing, but it is not divorce because marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change. It's doctrine. It’s an indissoluble sacrament. The legal trial is to prove that what seemed to be a sacrament wasn't a sacrament, for lack of freedom for example, or for lack of maturity, or for mental illness.
There are so many reasons that bring about (an annulment), after a study, an investigation. That there was no sacrament. For example, that the person wasn't free. Another example: now it’s not so common but in some sectors of common society at least in Buenos Aires, there were weddings when the woman got pregnant: 'you have to get married.'
In Buenos Aires, I counselled my priests, strongly, I almost prohibited them to celebrate weddings in these conditions. We called them “speedy weddings”, eh? (They were) to cover up appearances. And the babies are born, and some work out but there's no freedom and then things go wrong little by little they separate (and say) 'I was forced to get married because we had to cover up this situation” and this is a reason for nullity. So many of them.

Cases of nullity, you have, you can find them (the reasons) on the internet there all there are many, eh? Then, the issue of the second weddings, the divorcees, who make a new union. You read what, you have the “instrumentum laboris.” what is put in discussion seems a bit simplistic to me to say that the Synod is the solution for these people and that they can have communion. That's not the only solution. No, what the “Instrumentum laboris” proposes is a lot more, and also the problem of the new unions of divorcees isn't the only problem. In the “Instrumentum laboris” there are many. For example, young people don’t get married. They don’t want to get married. It's a pastoral problem for the Church.
Another problem: the affective maturity for a marriage. Another problem: faith. 'Do I believe that this is for ever? Yes, yes, yes, I believe.' 'But do you believe it?' the preparation for a wedding: I think so often that to become a priest there's a preparation for 8 years, and then, its not definite, the Church can take the clerical state away from you. But, for something lifelong, they do four courses! 4 times… Something isn't right. It’s something the Synod has to deal with: how to do preparation for marriage. It’s one of the most difficult things.
There are many problems, they're all are listed in the “Instrumentum laboris." But, I like that you asked the question about 'Catholic divorce.' That doesn't exist. Either it wasn't a marriage, and this is nullity -- it didn't exist. And if it did, it's indissoluble. This is clear. Thank you.

Comments in the box, if you have any thoughts. I think you might just have some! Let's have some 'parrhesia'.

There is a lot in there and the stand-out quote centres on Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried. The answer to the question of a 'solution' that involves the divorced and remarried receiving Holy Communion is the thinly disguised non-answer of...

"That's not the only solution."

However, our survey of 2,000 years of Catholic teaching from the beginning said

'Far from a 'solution', that's not a possibility at all.' 

His Holiness discusses other issues arising from his trip to the US. The full interview with Pope Francis can be read here.

Update; Ed Peters of In the Light of the Law has made some headway through the thicket of these interview responses. His review of His Holiness's comments can be read here.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

"Failure of the Cross": Requires A Bit More Explanation

"The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross." ~ Pope Francis, 26 September 2015

I think I understand what Pope Francis is saying, but I think it is rather clumsily said and needed some additional explanation. It is clumsily said because even though, in strictly human terms, in terms, that is, of our limited human perspective, Christ's ministry on Earth led to what appeared to be failure. Yet the Cross was not failure at all, but the actual Redemption of mankind, the destroying of death itself, the defeat of the Devil and the opening of the gates of Heaven to all believers. 

In fact the hour of Christ's Death on the Cross was, in Christ's own words, the hour of his glorification and the means by which He would 'draw all men' to Himself. It cannot be overlooked, either, that three days after the Lord's Passion and Death, as He said he would, He rose again as our Risen and glorified Saviour. 

It is a little embarrassing that the Pope neglected to embellish on his words a little more in order to avoid misunderstanding, for it goes without saying that if - and I cannot believe he means it - that Jesus's Death on the Cross was an actual 'failure', rather than the appearance of it to human eyes - then mankind awaits another messiah, whose mission would be deemed, humanly speaking, to be a 'success'.

It is out of Christ's pierced side that flowed Blood and Water unto our redemption. From the pierced side of our Crucified Saviour comes His Bride, the Church, washed clean in His Blood. Anyone who receives the Body and Blood of Our Lord knows, surely, that it was by means of His Passion and Death, that man may know his Redeemer and love Him in return for such extraordinary and triumphant love.

God bless our Pope. He is wonderful at communicating Christ's love through his interaction with people on a human level, face to face, but is sometimes a little muddled, on the big stage, at communicating the Catholic Faith, what we hold, preach cherish and believe

Saturday, 26 September 2015

New Pope Francis Album Tipped to Top Christmas Charts

Like a rolling stone, humble whirlwind Pope Francis has been meeting and greeting the mighty and powerful of the USA, addressing President Obama, the United Nations and the US Congress, who still turned up to his address even though he cancelled his lunch with them at the last minute to dine with the homeless.

One can only wonder at how the Pope can cancel a lunch appointment with foreign dignitaries at such short notice (completely unplanned of course!) despite all the effort many staff will have gone to to prepare to greet him and show him hospitality, while publicly throwing them under the bus by making it know he fancied spending his time with other more humble, lowly types, and - despite this - his glowing reputation actually grows in stature. Obviously, if you or I arranged to meet someone for lunch and said, at the last minute, "Actually, I'd rather dine with some tramps I've just spotted," your hosts or mine would be equally impressed. If I rang round my friends and told them what I had done and told them to tell everyone they knew that I had done it, they'd never think I was up myself or in any way arrogant. Most people with poor manners lose friends, but Pope Francis, amazingly, gains them.

Out of character for Francis, though, his growing admirers were witness to pre-written speeches, carefully crafted in order to lay out his bold 100 year plan for the future of all mankind, a vision that will sit fairly comfortably with that of the UN's population controllers, but which is Christless enough to irritate a number of Catholics. His speeches were sometimes in English and sometimes in Spanish but anyhow, so many people were unable to digest some of Pope Francis's eloquent 'off the cuff' uses of language, usually delivered to Christians, in order to hurl accusations and insults at straw men characters who may or may not be in the room at the time. Some of the US's most prestigious music magazines are therefore promoting an exciting box set of Pope Francis's insults collated from over two years of speeches and homilies.

Edward Pentin wakes up to a nasty surprise yesterday
The 'Pope Francis Album of Insults', set to garage, electronica, trance, hip-hop and ragga (basically, anything but Gregorian Chant) will be available at Christmas and some are expecting it to reach the summit of the Album Charts in the United States and Europe.

A sneak preview has been made available of Pope Francis's album in which the many diseases of the curia are read out. Set to a backdrop of psychedelic trance, Pope Francis is heard saying...

"There is also a “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease”/The disease of existential schizophrenia/The disease of gossiping, grumbling and back-biting/The disease of idolizing superiors/The disease of poor coordination/The disease of excessive planning and of functionalism/Then too there is the disease of mental and spiritual “petrification”/The disease of thinking we are “immortal”, “immune” or downright “indispensable”, neglecting the need for regular check-ups/The disease of a lugubrious face/The disease of rivalry and vainglory..."

It has been suggested that Cardinal Daneels and an extensive "mafia" network of Pope Francis's most influential supporters are to buy 2 million copies just to make sure it goes straight to number 1. In a new biography of Cardinal Daneels, the Cardinal is said to have commented...

"We'll do whatever it takes to get our man to the top, by hook or by crook, we don't care. This is rock n' roll after all. Rules are for losers. If me and my mafia mates can organise a dodgy conclave, I think we can manage rigging the album charts. I've got powerful friends, you see. Look, I'm going to throw a TV out of my hotel room. Security, will you let me know when Edward Pentin is standing directly under my window? Cheers! Wait...I didn't say that! You'd best forget I said that. You don't want a horse's head in your bed do you? Good, well you best shut it then."

Due to the sheer number of incredible papal insults Catholics have come to endure, know and love - and want to share with those around them - the Pope's record label will be releasing an 11-track volume of insults set to a variety of musical styles every 4 months for the next ten years. At the end of that the box set will be available for a renaissance princely sum of just £99.00. All proceeds of the sales of his insults set to music will go to his personal charities for the poor and homeless.

Thursday, 24 September 2015


Courtesy of National Catholic Register

...At the launch of the book in Brussels this week, the cardinal said he was part of a secret club of cardinals opposed to Pope Benedict XVI. He called it a "mafia" club that bore the name of St. Gallen.
The group wanted a drastic reform of the Church, to make it "much more modern", and for Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to head it. The group, which also comprised Cardinal Walter Kasper and the late Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, has been documented in Austen Ivereigh's biography of Pope Francis, 'The Great Reformer'.

I'm not shocked by the news, we've heard it before, but I'm surprised he has admitted it. After all Pope Francis has railed more than once against the Mafia so you wouldn't think Cardinals invited to the Synod would confess to their involvement in one. Still,at least that's another piece of documentary evidence for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to file under 'Bergoglio, Jorge'.

I'm sure that file will be needed one day. How many witnesses are necessary nowadays? Of course, it would be foolish for anyone to pre-judge the outcome of such a tribunal. It would be equally foolish to campaign to get 'our man elected' if 'our man' was unaware of the plan and had some knowledge of why he was being touted as the new leader and moderniser. Such is illegal, invalidates an election and incurs the penalty of excommunication. But hey, don't let 'little laws' drag you down....

The Cardinal electors shall further abstain from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment of any kind which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons. If this were in fact done, even under oath, I decree that such a commitment shall be null and void and that no one shall be bound to observe it; and I hereby impose the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae upon those who violate this prohibition.
I likewise forbid the Cardinals before the election to enter into any stipulations, committing themselves of common accord to a certain course of action should one of them be elevated to the Pontificate. These promises too, should any in fact be made, even under oath, I also declare null and void.

We should presume validity, always, until the Church says otherwise.

We Cannot Insist Only On...?

Or we cannot insist at all?

Let's recall what Pope Francis said in an interview six months into his papacy which was published by America Magazine.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.'

For a moment, for a very brief moment, when His Holiness made his address to the US Congress, I thought that after he made this statement...

"The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development..."

...that a rallying cry in defense of the unborn was in the offing. Let's recall that at the current time there is a huge, epic culture battle going on in the US with the Senate voting on defunding Planned Parenthood, the biggest industrial killing machine of human beings the entire continent has ever seen. Incredibly, as if to plunge a knife into the hearts of the massive pro-life movement in the US, he followed his statement with this...

"This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of..."

You can almost hear the pro-life movement watching, thinking, 'He's going to say it! He's going to say it! Say abortion! Say abortion! Please, say abortion!' And then it comes, from out of nowhere, disjointed because it has nothing to do with a 'stage of development' but rather the application of statutory justice for criminal offenses...

"...the death penalty."

US Congress speech word cloud courtesy of CMR
And you can hear the hearts of millions breaking. He's not going to champion the unborn because the unborn are just an 'obsession', it would seem, that has held back the Church. Neither is he going to rebuke the judicial arm of Government, the Supreme Court, for having legislated same-sex marriage into the law of the land. No.

So what to make of this? I find it unfathomable. I cannot understand, when the dragon of Planned Parenthood, exposed for the evil that it is, placed at the top of the political debate in the US, there is Pope Francis in Congress. With one word, one sentence, His Holiness, like St George, can slay this accursed beast.

Yet, he doesn't. Pope Francis's US 'pastoral' visit so far makes it strikingly clear that Francis's 'new' Church does not 'only' insist on' the defense of the unborn or the sanctity of marriage and the family. No. So far, his visit it making it clear that the Church does not insist on these issues at all. But it does insist on some and here are those recurring issues on which His Holiness does insist, openly and fearlessly, at great cost to souls, at great cost to the Church, its ministers and Her mission and here they are...

  • Dialogue
  • Fraternity
  • Solidarity
  • Climate Change
  • Poverty
  • Immigration and Refugees
  • The Death Penalty

There may be others so I apologise if I have forgotten them. Neither during his first address at the White House or at the US Congress has the Successor of St Peter dared to say the Holy Name of Jesus, so it goes to show that Francis cannot even 'insist upon' the Name of the very Man he represents on Earth as Vicar! Remove a little of the religiosity and religious sentiment from his speeches so far and you could be forgiven for thinking that Ban Ki-Moon or his predecessor was visiting the corridors of power in the US. His Holiness says that...

'The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.'

However, unless the Holy Name of Jesus is mentioned without fear, unless the sanctity of life in the womb is championed in a country whose powerful representatives are reeling from videos exposing this brutal evil upon the nation's unborn children, unless the sanctity of marriage and the family is defended by the assaults made upon it by the militant homosexual movement in the United States, in what manner is the Gospel proclaimed. Neither is it really proposed concretely to his hearers. A new gospel, a false gospel instead is proposed which is no less obsessed with issues than the real one advocated by those who believe, quite rightly, that every unborn life matters to God, that marriage matters to God, that the Salvation of souls matters to God. It is just unfortunate, for you, as a Catholic, if his issues, the issues he thinks the Church needs to focus on, aren't your issues or if you think that while his issues are important, the Salvation of souls, the sanctity of human life and the defense of marriage and the family must be the highest priorities in the mission of the Church.

We cannot insist only on social and environmental issues while re-iterating masonic conceptions of a harmonious society in terms of fraternity...

Abortion and same-sex marriage are important issues as well. 

If the Pope cannot join his VOICE to the millions in the US who are protesting and campaigning for the defunding of Planned Parenthood then I ask you, in what sense is this Pope's visit 'pastoral and to whom, precisely, is he a pastor'?

If at this 'critical moment in our civilisation' the Successor of St Peter cannot bring himself to stand publicly in defense of the unborn in a nation that murders them systematically, at a particular time and peculiar context, when the US media and its politicians are being literally forced to confront the issue because of one brave Catholic investigator and his assistants, then it isn't the case that the Catholic Church shouldn't, in his view, 'obsess' about these 'issues' unduly. It is that these issues, rather, do not matter any longer at all. They are not 'as well' they are, in reality, replaced entirely. Nothing else can explain the semantics with which these issues are studiously and craftily avoided.

Baby parts for sale: The backdrop to the Papal Visit to the United States
I hope and pray that having said all that can be said about the issues listed above which appear closest to the Pope's heart in the houses of temporal power in the United States, His Holiness can redress the 'balance' a little and give new heart and new energy to those who, for the sake of Jesus Christ and His Gospel, wish to build a culture of life in the United States and do everything possible to discourage the culture of death which, to this day, throttles a beautiful, but now quite beleagured nation.

"Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life."

That is an interesting use of words of the Pope today. Is that a veiled, quite innocuous assessment of the Supreme Court's ruling? You could be forgiven for not getting it. Pope Francis says he 'cannot hide' his concern but why would a Pope want to 'hide' his concern for the family from anyone? It is just incredible how a Pope can speak so boldly in declaring his opposition to the death penalty, but can dance so gingerly around the words 'abortion' and 'same-sex marriage' as if the power of speaking these words alone could ignite a fire in the building. Was he talking about the US or the Synod in Rome? With millions of viewers, what 'can' he do? What 'can' he say?

'I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life'. 

No, your Holiness. The media and the powerful of this world are all applauding you and they are all at your feet. You can say and you can do a lot better than that. The question many Catholics in the US will be asking is why you don't seem to want to do so. You 'can' say, if you should feel so inclined, with utter conviction, with the certainty and bravery of Martin Luther King, that marriage is between one man and one woman for life and no court on Earth, no earthly power, can ever, ever change that. I still hope that during this trip His Holiness will do so, but this may be a hope in vain. After all...

After that speech: Buy your copy today!

"There is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners."

...which might go some way to explaining why not only his Congress speech, but the upcoming Synod on the Family, spells such doom for the Church and the acceleration of evil in the World. That little quote will be music to the ears of relativists both inside and outside Congress. If it isn't the Pope's responsibility to speak every now and then, especially to the mighty, of good and evil and the difference between the two, I ask you seriously, whose responsibility is that?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Wanted: For Crimes Against Mercy

As the Editors of Communio present their thoughts on the Papal annulments shockwave rippling throughout the Catholic Church, I'd like to share with readers a deep concern I have developed concerning what looks very much like the deliberate short-circuiting of the Synod before it has in earnest begun.

The great problem I'm experiencing with Pope Francis is not just the carefully cultivated public relations exercises that are going on around him, but the extraordinary way in which the presentation of his personal virtues are set at odds or in contrast to the everyday, untelevised, unreported lives of those ordinary, almost unknown priests who live their priestly vocations.

Since the beginning of this papacy much of the spin circulating around the Pope has portrayed the Catholicism as the new and merciful Francis versus the antiquated, unmerciful Church.

It must, too, be said that, thanks to various addresses and insults Pope Francis has issued to 'kinds of clergy' and 'kinds of bishops', as well as 'kinds of Christians', Francis himself has done nothing to dispel this notion that he is good and the Church, moreover, is bad.  Among those hard-working, often very holy priests will be a considerable number of canon lawyers who are trained in the detailed and nuanced laws of the Catholic Church concerning such issues as annulments. I'm not absolutely clear, having never sought an annulment, on the method by which annulments are issued or decreed, but I am aware that each Diocese has a tribunal process for such matters.

One thing I fear, in this age in which the Pope is presented to 'the masses' as being a 'cut above' the rest of the Church in terms of humility, charity and mercy, or that rare 'breath of fresh air' that still sees him portrayed as what Austen Ivereigh calls 'The Great Reformer', is that, more and more this trend of Francis battling against the Church will keep focus on Francis himself, earning the Supreme Pontiff waves of mass popularity and general goodwill, while the Church, or, at least, the average priest, continues to be perceived as the notorious, stubborn enemy within society that simply won't learn to sing the new tune. You know, the 'rigorist' canon lawyer who won't just rubber-stamp your annulment because in his conscience he thinks it is genuinely valid, or the 'restorationist' who insists on reverence for the sacred liturgy.

"Hi Father, I've bought you today's annulments post."
One serious problem, as I see it, with the new motu proprio on annulments is that it removes from bishops and priests the ability to hide behind the law of the Church, to be anonymous, inserting far more subjective notions that could present ambiguity in terms of marriage validity.

Such concepts as 'lack of faith' as a basis for an invalid marriage are just so nebulous that unless something much more detailed and concrete is produced to assist priests and bishops in this matter, faith - which, in terms of supernatural faith, let's face it, the Church has for 50 years become less and less insistent upon - validity of marriage is going to be completely in the eye of the beholder.

It will become less and less clear as to how someone seeking an annulment of a marriage which, in the consciences of those conducting the tribunal, is valid, to be turned down. Indeed, in such cases, those who are refused annulments because priests and bishops trained in canon law who know what constitutes a valid marriage and what does not constitute a valid marriage could, perhaps will, go higher up in the Church authorities to seek the overturning of that decision by appeal. Step forward, then, the personal saviour, the all merciful, the most benign and humble figure of Pope Francis or his personally hand-picked team. Does that sound unlikely?

It doesn't to me. Pope Francis has a habit of direct intervention into Diocesan life when he deems that something is awry. My opinion is that he also has a slight tendency towards micro-management. For evidence see the 'Bishop of Bling' media circus and other traditional bishops who have been taken out of action or down a peg or two by Pope Francis himself, while other more serious contenders for disciplinary action, rather than actually being disciplined, are instead invited to the Synod on the Family. In one way this measure is a 'distribution of papal power' to the Dioceses and to the Bishops (who will, if there are as many new annulments as the Pope wishes to see, simply have to delegate to priests).

What if, as a canon lawyer and priest, or a bishop, you find that, in conscience, an appeal for an annulment does not pass the criteria for invalidity of marriage, despite what the claimant says? Is the decision of that priest or bishop or panel met with the respect that it deserves, or does the boss step in and haul the miscreants over the coals for not being merciful enough? One can almost imagine the Roman crowd giving a thumbs down to let the 'unmerciful' priest or bishop keep his position while Cardinal Maradiaga whispers into the Pope's ear to let the crowd have their way and have it divinely decreed by the Supreme Pontiff.

When the laws of the Church are radically altered on a whim then it leaves a great many very vulnerable indeed, a great many married couples could be deceived and a great many priests and bishops could, because of a new subjectivism and a cult of personality, have their informed consciences over-ruled. What happens to that person or those people's vocations and place in the Church? Will any priest or bishop, in this 'new springtime' of the Church pass the Pope Francis 'mercy' test, if he should dare to obey his conscience and say 'No' to an annulment claim despite the protestations of the person in the marriage assessed as valid by the tribunal?

Will the Pope call the upset party who was refused the annulment over the phone and over-rule the decision by telephone? In other words, will it be Pope Francis saying, "The Church has spoken" in these cases, or will he simply say, "Come to Papa"? Will those Churchmen who refuse an annulment on perfectly reasonable grounds (traditionally speaking) maintain their status and dignity of office in the Church, or will they be shown some kind of door? For these reasons, as well as others, I find these developments deeply worrying. I shouldn't see a papal motu proprio as a kind of blue print for the public humiliation of priests and bishops following their consciences and obeying Jesus Christ but given the weekly homilies of Pope Francis, the soundbites, the image and the strange insults hurled in the direction of mostly straw men priests who don't fit Francis's image of the priesthood, I can't help seeing it as potentially just that.

Pray for Francis, pray for the Church of Rome, pray for all bishops and clergy.


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