To think with the Church

To think with the Church

Clare, a newcomer to this blog, has posted many comments in the last 24 hours relating especially to my posts on homosexuality.

I have been asked to state whether or not I agree with certain sections of the Catechism, and respond to a few other queries.

I’m happy to oblige. Clare is asking me to respond in my capacity as a Catholic priest. Priests are not only public figures, but also servants of the Church. I think any Catholic is entitled to query a priest’s position vis a vis Catholic teaching. Moreover, I applaud it. In the words of Fulton Sheen:

Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops like bishops and your religious act like religious.

So, in response to Clare’s request:

Doctrinal clarification

I hereby confirm and state officially that I wholeheartedly accept Catholic teaching on homosexuality, as it is related in the Catechism. Specifically, I accept that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (2357), and “homosexual persons are called to chastity.” (2359)

That’s not a glib statement on my part. I take seriously my duty to “think with the mind of the Church.” I was ordained to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not to promote my own views.

Insofar as anything I have written on this blog implies the contrary, I apologise. That was not my intention.

I do not, however, retract anything I’ve written. I am accused of being ambiguous. I accept that Catholic teaching is not ambiguous. But I do insist that Catholic teaching is nuanced. The Church dares to pronounce on such mysteries as the unutterable depths of the human heart and the ineffable mercy of God. Chesterton is right to characterise “the thrilling romance of orthodoxy:”

People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad.

It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic.

The Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse; yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along one idea, like a vulgar fanaticism. She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles.

I can see why someone who does not know me, but who has encountered dissident priests, might find “many statements and views on this blog and many comments on this blog to be deeply confusing, worrying and troublesome.”

But I’d also like to think that my posts and comments are reconcilable with orthodoxy, and that this clarification facilitates that. In future, I will endeavour to more clearly articulate Catholic teaching.

A more detailed clarification on my pastoral approach follows.

Pastoral clarification

(1) How often do you preach on ‘true devotion’ to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the power of Our Lady’s intercession?

Not often. In fact — to my shame — I don’t remember the last time I preached about this, and here we are in the month of May.

(2) How often do you preach on the intrinsic moral evils of contraception, abortion, lust, immodest fashions, masturbation and fornication? NB: the Blessed Virgin Mary said at Fatima that most people go to Hell bc of sins of the flesh.

I have never preached about lust or modesty or masturbation or fornication. I have preached about contraception and abortion only rarely. However, I do broach these subjects in other fora.

(3) How often do you preach or inform your parish about mortal sin and the fact that a single mortal sin will send a person to hell for all eternity?

I have never preached about this.

(4) How often do you preach or inform your parish that the ONLY way to be forgiven with 100% confidence and certainty of mortal sin is through the sacrament of confession? (perfect contrition alone is never certain)

I have never preached this. However, I often exhort people to avail themselves of sacramental confession.

(5) How often do you inform your parishioners that unless they confess every single mortal sin since their last VALID confession then their present confession is NOT valid and in fact they have committed the further sin of sacrilege.

I don’t preach this, but I frequently relate this teaching within the confessional.

(6) Have you managed to increase the rates of confession in your parish? Have you managed to encourage monthly and weekly confessions?

Yes. But not enough. Pray for this apostolate!

(7) Have you been able to get people to return to confession and make a good general confession to ensure they are free from mortal sin and therefore free from going to hell?

Yes. But not enough. Pray for this apostolate!

(8) Do you make sure that you do NOT give the Blessed Sacrament to a person when you are AWARE that they are a divorcee, practicing homosexual, use contraception or support abortion?

I’m not sure this is a very helpful question. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is impertinent. I’ve never knowingly given communion to any person so described. But nor have I ever investigated my communicants. Nor will I.

(9) How often do you preach on the fact that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church and outside of Christ (as properly understood of course) and that the Catholic religion is the one and only true religion?

I have never preached about this.

(10) How often do you tell your parishioners that as faithful Catholics they cannot and must not vote for intrinsic moral evils like contraception and same-sex marriage, since the Church teaches you can never support or give way to an intrinsic moral evil?

I have never preached about this.

As Clare acknowledges, this clarification on my pastoral approach is quite different to the clarification on my doctrinal position. I suspect that some of my answers will dissatisfy some readers, but even so, these answers don’t necessarily mean I’m unfaithful or heretical.

I believe in hell. I believe souls can and do go to hell. I believe souls in my care might go to hell, and I believe that I might go to hell myself. This worries me, and it’s an object of my prayers.

Pray for me and for all priests.

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