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Valerie SchultzMarch 13, 2011

The question that needs answering is this: Can a person be a practicing Catholic and a member of PFLAG? More exactly, can a person be a practicing Catholic and the head of the PFLAG publicity committee? Or do the two organizations contradict each other’s missions to the point that my head might explode?

I live in a small town that has recently put itself on the map and into the national consciousness for being a place where gay teenagers, bullied beyond endurance, hang themselves in their own backyards. Our rep is that of an unenlightened village of intolerance and despair. And while we do live in an uber-conservative pocket in the mountains of central California, there actually are people here who are horrified by what has happened, and who want to make our community a safer, more loving, more accepting place to raise our kids, both the gay ones and the straight ones.

My daughter came out as a lesbian eight years ago, and headed for more tolerant climes, first the state university in Santa Cruz, where she earned her B.A., and then to Portland, Oregon, where she now lives happily with her partner. She suffered in silence throughout her teenage years. She knows what it’s like to be whispered about, harassed, rejected, and ostracized. But overall, our family reacted well to her coming-out, and she and her partner are loved, accepted, and celebrated.

I wish, in retrospect, that I had realized before a young man killed himself in our midst that the personal is political: that just because our family was all right didn’t mean that we were not called to help other families, with other struggling teens, that mirrored our own. I wish we had mobilized then. We didn’t.

Eight years later, a suicide has jolted us out of complacency. Hence, PFLAG: Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. About ten of us started a discussion in a living room five months ago. We are wading through the paperwork to be able to call ourselves an official PFLAG chapter. PFLAG was founded by a mom in 1973, and supports, advocates, and educates on behalf of the beloved gay and lesbians in our circles of families and friends, and beyond.

Our town is so thirsty for change that we welcomed almost 40 people at our last monthly meeting. We are currently looking for a bigger space: after filling the living room, we have outgrown the Art Center that was generously offered by an organizing member. We are here. We are energetic, dedicated, open-armed. We are nervously considering marching in the parade at the annual Mountain Festival in August. As we gather in the name of love and equality and justice, we are most of all striving to be people of service.

I am the PR person, and I am still a practicing Catholic. At the moment, an uneasy truce rules my heart. The thing is that I am also a practicing mom. Right now, PFLAG is my ministry, even if a secular group would back away from that term. My devout hope is that no child here will ever again conclude that because of his or her sexual orientation, the only way out of this existential misery is through a violent death.

The answer I perceive to my question is yes, or more precisely, yes, yes, and no. Nothing has exploded yet. I suspect that, whenever I fumble for the courage to follow the lead of Christ’s love, I am also practicing Eucharist.


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Stephen SCHEWE
13 years 2 months ago
Rembert Weakland used to say that to be a good Catholic you needed to pray with the community and work in a soup kitchen once a week.
david power
13 years 2 months ago

No problem.

Can you have a relationship with Jesus and not be a Catholic?
Good question filled with subtle questions that are not apparent at first.

Can you be a Catholic without having a relationship with Jesus?
Answer is simple and everybody will agree with me that the answer is Yes!
Well of course you wont all agree with me (this is America),but you get my drift.

A very holy Irish monk once said to me that people can be "very close to the Church and very far from God".
I disagreed with him at the time but time has proven the wisdom of many things he said.
Peter was/is not perfect but he is the chosen head of the family. Whatever ears he cuts off Christ Himself will heal. Peter is important not because of his erudtion or even his orthodoxy but because of his friendship with Jesus. All of us here have been touched by that friendship and have our lives changed in many ways by that friendship, between a carpenter and a fisherman.      

Anne Chapman
13 years 2 months ago
My apologies - I used the same URL for both articles. The correct URL for ''When Wrong Turns Out to Be Right'' is


Excerpt from beginning of article: 

''Robert McClory takes some well-known instances of dissenting voices in the Church, from Galileo to John Courtney Murray, and explains how they have helped the Church to see more clearly.

Dissent! It is not a nice word. it makes you think of other “dis” words like disagreement, dissension, disobedience, and disgrace. There’s no doubt that Catholic Church officials down through the centuries have taken a dim view of dissent, whether it was dissent from official doctrine or dissent from the orders of a legitimately appointed church superior. And, as recent directives from the Vatican indicate, the view is getting dimmer still.
Bring up the subject of dissent at a gathering in your parish, and you may get a fiery reaction: “Dissent? It’s terrible, it’s a scandal, it tears the church apart! Catholics who dissent ought to have the decency to get out of the church and go somewhere else!”
Jim McCrea
13 years 2 months ago
“It is better to die excommunicated while following your conscience than to die canonized while acting against your conscience."
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica.
Jim McCrea
13 years 2 months ago
Juan:  I have only seen this reference to Aquinas stated elsewhere.  I have no idea where in the ST it is found.
But, as you did see the NCR posting, will you accept this as a similar point?
"For Newman, conscience represents the inner complement and limit of the church principle. Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which is in the last resort beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle of opposition to increasing totalitarianism. Genuine ecclesiastical obedience is distinguished from any totalitarian claim which cannot accept any ultimate obligation of this kind beyond the reach of its dominating will."
Joseph Ratzinger on article 16 of Gaudem et Spes, in Volume 5 of the "Commentary on Documents of Vatican II", edited by Vorgrimler (New York/London 1969).
Juan Lino
13 years 1 month ago
Jim, As I am sure you know, to rip a sentence out of its cultural and literary context and to read it entirely as if it had been written in the present violates basic historical rules and does not allow for its correct understanding. And so, I asked for the citation because I wanted to look up the sentence and I had two Thomistic scholars help me to ensure that I was understanding the context correctly.

Here’s what I learned from my friends.

First, for St. Thomas, "conscience" is dynamic; it is actively constitutive of the moral act; more simply, conscience is that knowing act by which one applies one's knowledge to make a particular decision. It is of the intellect. Prudence is the virtue by which we act conscientiously. Consequently, for St. Thomas, conscience is neither an innate nor intuitive sensibility for what is right and what is wrong. Conscience is much less a noun than an adverb. We do not "have" a conscience; rather, we act in con-science.

Second, Thomas’s doctrine on conscience has been misused in recent decades to the effect of claiming that Thomas gives license for dissent. Indeed, Thomas believes one is bound even to an “erring conscience”; but this does not necessarily excuse from sin, which is often left unregarded. (One can read his treatment of this in his Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 19, aa. 5-6.)

Regarding the citation: The Commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences is an early work of Thomas', but his doctrine on conscience did not later change. The context in the Sentences is not that of a general treatment of moral action or a specific consideration of “conscience” because your quotation is in the 4th of 4 Books, wherein the Lombard treats the Sacraments, and in the case of your citation, marriage.

Specifically, the Lombard is considering the impediments to marriage, i.e., those things that would get in the way of a validly established contract; more specifically in our case, the vow that was freely rendered; and most specifically, whether or not there are cases where one could contract a marriage without sin with a second spouse, when in fact the person is still bound to the first spouse (and therefore, in fact, not free to contract a true marriage).The hypothetical but not unrealistic situation is whether or not a woman, e.g., whose husband has been away at war for a long time, and who has good reason to believe he is dead, whether or not she is capable of contracting another marriage without sin.

Finally, the quotation falls on the heels of questioning whether or not we can or ought to forgo the truth lest scandal be given. For Thomas, and relevantly contra Peter Lombard, if an occult fact cannot be publicly proved, that does not remove what would otherwise be an impediment to a validly contracted marriage.

Crucial for St. Thomas is the knowledge the wife has that her spouse had (or had not, in fact) died. So, with regard to your quotation, the concern is whether or not the conscience of the spouse in this case ought to be forsaken in order not to give scandal (we shall shortly see why and how).

Thomas will ultimately decide, contra the Lombard, that conscience binds, even were it to render one excommunicate.

Let's say that after the woman has contracted a second marriage, having acted in good faith that her first husband was dead, she has now been given reason to doubt the death of her first husband. What is she now to do about the conjugal "debt" (of lawful carnal union) that she ostensibly owes to her second husband (which could, pursuant to her knowledge, now become unlawful carnal union)?

(1) For Thomas, if that doubt is such that it could come to render knowledge of the first husband's life certain, she is neither to pay nor demand the debt.

(2) If that doubt is by way of a reason that is not morally certain but nonetheless probable, (by way of its relatively authoritative provenance), she ought to pay the debt but never ask for it herself.

(3) If her suspicion, however, is negligible, she may both render and request payment of the debt (i.e., as if she were indeed validly bound to him in marriage). Thomas's reason here is that one does better to abjure the slight cause for doubt than to form one's conscience according to this strongly doubtable suspicion. And this is contrary to what Lombard has said, since even in the first case he would hold that one must be willing (and heartily so!) to pay the debt that accords with what has ostensibly taken place, namely, the contracting of (another) lawful union. Lombard contends that the sacrament initiated in good faith would excuse the sin. But since this would be gravely contrary to the truth of life and therefore against one's conscience, Thomas cannot accept this reasoning: One may not forsake the truth in favor of not giving scandal to the second spouse.

So, yes, Thomas does say it is better to die excommunicate than to disobey one's conscience. But recognize how important it is to safeguard the integrity of one's knowledge; and also recognize his concern: It is better that the Church wrongly excommunicate you than you knowingly commit adultery!

So St. Thomas' point is about the nature of conscience (knowledgeable action) rather than about how we can contravene the Church's authority. So, to take a contemporary possibility; one cannot for oneself determine with moral certainty that one’s first marriage was invalid due to a defect of consent (e.g., “I was too young to understand the commitment I was making”). This would not be grounds for conscientiously establishing a nuptial bond with another person.

Moreover, the issue is not a doubt with respect to the Church's teaching, (e.g., whether she is speaking truthfully in her discussions of what marriage is and is not), but a doubt about some fact or human condition in the midst of applying that teaching, held to be true. It has to do with the practical, not theoretical order.

I hope this helps clarify what St. Thomas is actually saying.
Winifred Holloway
13 years 2 months ago
Do it, Valerie.  Practicing Catholics are for justice, mercy, compassion, humility and above all, love.  Let's all hope and pray that there will be a time when a group like PFLAG is not necessary.  For the posters who will surely respond that real Christian love means instructing gays that they must remain celibate, let me reiterate that humility, i.e," we don't know everything" must guide us to our default position which should be toward love and acceptance of those God has formed in His image and likeness with a minority sexual identity.  Dominus vobiscum
Crystal Watson
13 years 2 months ago
I think you're doing a good thing! We Catholics who aren't lesbian or gay need to speak up in solidarity with LGBT people, not just despite what the church says of them but also because of it.
13 years 2 months ago
To say that the sacrifice of our own ideas and way's calls for humility is only to restate what must be a spectacle to the angels. The Church's authority tells the faithful to accept her teaching and her directives on pre-marital chastity, on priestly celibacy, on chastity in marriage by not interfering with the life process, on the value of confession for children, on the strict and very rare conditions for general absolution. on the vestments that a priest is to wear at Mass, or the recitation of the Divine Office by those in priestly orders, on the rubrics to be observed in the Eucharistic Liturgy, on the whole gamut of Catholic doctrine like the papal primacy, the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the meaning of sin. I said when the angels see what's going on on earth it's a spectacle. I don't quite know what I am saying, but I am sure the angels must weep at the lack of humility as a result of which those whom God has called, even to His deepest intimacy, fail in loving Him. They reverse the prayer of Jesus in the Garden, "Not your will, but mine be done"-and they mean it, they really mean it. I've reasoned, I've argued, given people every possible cogent reason for not insisting on something which the Church said was wrong. "Don't you see that the Church insists: 'You may not do this, you may not teach this'?" But they have a reason and the reason is their will. In the bible of Satan the first verse reads: "in the beginning was the deed. And the deed was contrary to the will of God; and God was left to take the consequences.
John Hardo SJ
david power
13 years 2 months ago

You are wasted on this site.The real place for you would be in the Vatican, if even a fraction of bishops and Cardinals took the teaching of the Church as seriously as you the Church would be taken seriously by others.
As regards what Valerie wrote I would only say that you are faced with the same temptation that the hierarchy is.To give the final word. Christianity has been reduced to a set of "donts" as Pope Benedict says but it is so much more than that. It is the encounter with Christ. The Church trying to codify our sexual behaviour down to the tiniest detail is not Christian but Kantian. If those who you "minister" to can have a true friendship with Jesus then you will be ok if not you are just being as bogus as many of the Bishops.
The reason ,in my opinion, that there is so much morality and moralism in the Church both by Liberals and conservatives is because there is such little faith in God.
The last thing we want is something hanging in the air! Quick,over there in the corner is mystery go and carve it up with some biblical allocutions and a sprinkling of latin. 
I hope that these people you speak to feel loved and know that God loves them but if they get too comfortable in their skins they will be as bad  if not worse than the rest of us. No cathechism or op-ed from the New York times can take the place of what is going on in the human heart.
Long Live Mystery! 
Bill Mazzella
13 years 2 months ago
Maria and David,

I take it you are for persecuting gays and lesbians and would say it is a necessary evil thay they hang themselves or that others will torture or kill them. Compassion is the sina qua non virtue of the gospel. God forgave David who did the most terrible thing by insuring that the wife of his lover be set up for certain death. God forgave him. You do not have to agree with gays or lesbians. We are asked not to bully nor torture them. Do you feel they are a threat to  you. Your anger towards them does not appear edifying. 

Good for you Valerie, for seeking a Christ-like way of dealing with this issue. May God be with you in your endeavors.  
david power
13 years 2 months ago

I think you have misread my comments.
But if reading them  that way makes you happy dont bother re-reading them.  
13 years 2 months ago
Doesn't the devil love to weave these threads that cause us to rise up and fight one another..we question ourselves, what the church says, we attack attack attack. And there the devil is, laughing as he throws down his arrows of destruction, and we feel we can't help but get involved, putting in our two cents which can ultimately add fuel to the fire!  
Get back to the truth, the truth will set you free. Yes,Our God is a God of mercy, a God of compassion, He forgives us when we seek forgiveness, He loves us. He also has a voice, which we have to be very still and quiet at times to listen to. It's okay to ask others what they think, but don't rely solely on it. Ask Our Lord to guide you, seek His wisdom, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you, give him the weight that falls heavily on your shoulders. Place your question to Him, not us, he will never let you down.  Seek and ye shall find.
Be at peace my friend 
John Barbieri
13 years 2 months ago
Question: why are there so many songs, poems, and essays about love?
Answer: because it is so much easier to sing. recite, and write about love than to practice loving!
Bill Mazzella
13 years 2 months ago

If I misread  your comments, i apologize.  
Jim McCrea
13 years 2 months ago
Maria:  what can you and your favorite Jesuit possibly find wrong with an organization  with a mission statement such as this?
Mission Statement:  PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends through: support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. 
God bless Valerie and people like her who support not only PFLAG but Fortunate Families! 
Juan Lino
13 years 2 months ago

Have you ever heard of EnCourage?  If not, check out the Courage Apostolate site and consider starting a chapter in your area. 

Here’s a description of EnCourage from the website:

“EnCourage is a ministry within Courage dedicated to the spiritual needs of parents, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends of persons who have same-sex attractions.

Standing by the true teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, EnCourage members support one another and their loved ones through discussion, prayer and fellowship.”

Here’s the website: http://www.couragerc.net/
13 years 2 months ago
I suppose the key questions are for us to define our terms with what a Catholic is and what makes one a 'good' Catholic? It might also help to define what the Church teaches about same sex attraction vs. what 'the world' teaches about it as it seems crucial to know there is a distinction between the two and this distinction is crucial in deciding whose 'side' is right.

In seeking for these fundamental definitions we also need to decide whether a single definition exists as objective, one-size fits all definitions or are we dealing with a world view that holds an infinite number of private, self-referential 'definitions'? If the latter, then it would seem no one could be a good or bad member of anything.

Can anyone decide for themselves what the Church is and therefore what a member is expected to believe and do or is this a reality towards which we either agree to sign up for and take it as it is? 

Once a member, is 'good' or 'bad' membership a function of our subjective feelings or an objective judgment call on the degree to which we conform our minds and actions to a set of propositions, beliefs, and actions?

I'm going to assume the author believes there is ''a'' definition of Catholic and 'good Catholic' which presumably applies to everyone, everywhere, for all time, inasmuch as she critiques 'the Church' and any one who disagrees with her.

Since she believes a single definition of ''good Catholic'' exists and she fits the bill, she must conclude that her rejection of the Church's ancient and consistent moral doctrine on the use of sexuality outside of sacramental marriage is right and just, and that the Church is wrong....because she says so.

By happy coincident, most of what passes for our pop-culture and half the voting public agrees on this score too: they don't need reasons to disagree with the Church, it's wrong because they say so. And ''they'' are infallible whereas the Church ''obviously'' is not....because they say so.   

The Catholic Church has always taught that sexual expression is to be reserved to marriage. Regardless of one's 'orientation', one's actions must never use sex outside of marriage on penalty of sin. The Church's 'reasoning' was both theological and 'cultural'/wisdom from experience of the consequences.

The secular world has taught since 1973's APA conference on the DSM-III that same sex attraction is a perfectly healthy expression of perfectly harmless human nature and that ALL negatives were due to social norms. And they based this doctrine on..... a single white paper writen by a Dr Spitzer. Not on some exhaustive multi-decade 'scientific' study. In fact, the APA itself put the matter to a vote and a slim majority of those who bothered to vote won the day. It's never been put to a vote since. So, they took it ''on faith'', all evidence of mental illness be damned.

Since then, any and all evidence of the existence of objective disorders has been blamed on bigots and haters. Not from evidence or ''science'' but because the faith of the secular world is infallible. Data from twin studies, genetics, developmental psych and CDC data notwithstanding. The Church is wrong....just because. The world is right....just because. 

The problems experienced by individuals assumed - on faith - to be inflicted by outsiders.... they being always victims ''of society'', never victims of natural disease or mental impairment in need of treatment.

If one believes the evidence points to SSA being a mental impairment, one also believes IT IS NOT EVIL or a ''sin'' to be so attracted, anymore than all the other mental impairments are evil or sinful or less needy of treatment. The only moral issue would be SOME actions taken as a result (not including friendship, involvement in our lives, business and civic participation, etc.).

If one accepts the faith-based secular vision, the above paragraph is a smokescreen for murderous, irrational, but also evil rage, based no doubt on 'the bible' or 'Church' authority which itself is nothing but biased opinion of long dead white men (unlike, say, the doctrine of the Trinity or Incarnation).

My opinion is that most people get into trouble by not defining their terms and not even thinking whether their arguments can be turned around on them.

So, let's look at her argument: A good Catholic is a ''Catholic who rejects an ancient and consistant teaching'' for the sake of not rocking the current socially acceptable norms of behavior, the currently political correct world views, and running the risk of filial anger. 

The child exhibits behavior that is relatively rare and hence may expose the child to the age-old tendency of all children in schools to engage in teasing, whisper campaigns, and other mean, petty mistreatment. Now, either this behavior has always existed in schools everywhere or it's unique to children experiencing this particular behavior. The author seems to presume the latter, which bolsters her case that the Church's doctrine = school yard bullies. To disagree = murderous hatred.

Obviously the child's beliefs and actions can not be wrong even if it includes behavior and belief at odds with the Catholic Church's age-old understanding of the human condition and sexual morality in general. That the Catholic Church teaches a doctrine at odds with the secular world (of our time and all times) obviously means it's not 'with the times' and must necessarilly be wrong. The world is right. And we know this is so because.....

Regardless, we're good members of this organization despite vociferous disagreement about its doctrines of behavior and belief. And to disagree with our self-assessment is evil. Because we say so.

And it gets published in America magazine blog because..... because the Jesuit editors know who subscribes and have never studied either Church teaching or Aristotelian logic. Or relevant data from twin studies (SSA is neither genetic nor 'innate'.... if it were, identical twins would always exhibit 100% traits, but they don't.... so.... it's a highly complex phenomenon which defies easy pigeon holing but does show similar signs with other more socially acceptible mental disorders).

The Church teaches the latter....it's a mental disorder needing treatment, not political/ideological agenda driven praise. I agree. Because i've seen the data and I trust the Church and Jesus' Spirit more than the spirit of the world. And I think this makes me both a 'good Catholic' and a good modern man who follows the science.

13 years 2 months ago
Can a person be a practicing Catholic and a member of PFLAG?

Even the most sinful person can be a practicing Catholic, so I don’t think that’s the right question.  Whether being a member of PFLAG would be pleasing to God and to the Church might be a better question. 

I think there's a difference between supporting a child with same-sex attraction and encouraging and promoting same-sex attraction through organizations such as PFLAG. 

Being a parent, I understand the emotions that a parent experiences when they have a child who is not like the other kids, who participates in activities with which he/she does not agree, who turns out different from how he/she had hoped.  And oftentimes, we conclude that the problem is not with our kid, but with something beyond the kid's control: the teacher, the school, the friends, society, TV.  And we fight to change what we perceive can only be injustice; regardless of what others tell us, no matter what the church teaches, no matter how this might affect others  (So, e.g., my kid can’t bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school anymore, but I digress).  Parents of alcholics and drug addicts deal with similar emotions; they end up enabling the bad behavior of their children instead of dealing with the problem head on.
Same-sex attraction is learned behavior, at least in part.  No one likes to talk about that, especially parents of homosexuals, because it implies that the parents are somehow responsible for their child's sexual preference, and parents can’t handle that guilt.  When we participate in groups promoting acceptance of homosexuality as normal behavior, we are advocating the teaching of others, other people’s children, to become homosexual.  Is that what God would want?  Would the Church agree with that? 

13 years 2 months ago
I read somewhere that human beings are the only creatures on the planet who are prone to categorizing, defining, measuring, ranking, grading and judging one another.  Must be the result of Adam's and Eve's transgression in Eden!?  From then on the blame game was/is played ever since.  Then Jesus came along and went around telling stories that there's another way to be truly a human being!  And the rest is history.   It is up to us to believe Him and live as He did, and be transformed, or go our merry way and continue to irritate and provoke one another and be completely miserable!  That's the choice, folks.  
13 years 2 months ago
Pope says sin calls for 'spritual combat,' not denial:

"In fact," said the Pope, "it is true: if God is eliminated from the horizons of the world, one can no longer speak of sin."
He compared humanity's sense of sin to a shadow that only exists in the presence of the sun, and disappears when the sun is hidden. In such a way, he said, "the eclipse of God brings with it necessarily the eclipse of sin."

Catholic News Agency
Stephen SCHEWE
13 years 2 months ago
Whoever has valid research and data demonstrating that homosexuality (or same sex attraction, if you like) is a mental disorder possesses a valuable commodity.  The defense in Perry vs. Schwarzenegger (the litigation over Prop 8 in California) only cited studies that were scientifically invalid.  By all means, John __________, you should file a friend of the court brief citing the research and the data you've seen as that case moves through the appeals process.

I myself am not aware of any research that definitively speaks to the underlying causes of homosexuality, so for the moment I rely on "by their fruits you will know them." The returns on that perspective from GLBT family, friends, and colleagues are overwhelmingly positve.  So hang in there, Valerie!  My best wishes to you, your daughter and to her partner!  I have the feeling that Heaven is bigger and more merciful than any of us can imagine!
Jim McCrea
13 years 2 months ago
Attraction by definition is NOT a learned behavior!  It is an emotional psychological orientation toward something.  If you are not gay or lesbian, no matter how much you might act out, you will not be one.  Ditto for being straight.
Groups like PFLAG and Fortunate Families help parents and others to deal with their children at a time and in a place where they are being rejected by a great deal of society and church.  And so are the parents in many cases.  The consequences can be disasterous, as Valerie pointed out above.
I can't speak for Jesus, but I sure as heck can say that the Catholic church - and Maria's favorite jesuit - can be and have been wrong about more things than most of us can remember.  And to equate the Catholic church, the pope, a bishop or any other minion thereof with Jesus is rank heresy.
13 years 2 months ago
Jim: lol. RE the Pope, Bishops IN COMMUNION with Rome. Apostolic succession rears its ugly head, but we won't go there.

"Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat".

Matthew 7:13
Juan Lino
13 years 2 months ago
Jim - if you are implying that you can have "Jesus" without "the Church that He established and maintains" that is also rank heresy sir.  So what are you saying?
Crystal Watson
13 years 2 months ago
 I think one can indeed  have a relationship with Jesus without being a member of the Catholic Church. 
13 years 2 months ago
To the editors of America: In light of Crystal's comment about relationships with Jesus and the issue raised by the current post, I'd like to see a post about what defines a "member of the Catholic Church."

Lots of people are born into a Catholic family but choose to disagree with some, even much, of what the Church teaches.  Many "Catholics" have not attended Church in years and do not otherwise participate in Church ritual. 

Aside from an express declaration of leaving the Church or excommunication, isn't there a point at which an individual so disagrees with what the Church teaches and/or fails to participate that he/she can no longer be considered Catholic? 

Martin Luther had to nail 95 grievances to a church door before he was finally given the boot.  Is that the standard?  
Matthew Pettigrew
13 years 2 months ago
This blog's policy on comments is pretty clear that commentors are expected to sign their full first and last name to all comments. This is especially important, in my opinion, when someone writes something that other readers are likely to find somewhat provocative.
Liam Richardson
13 years 2 months ago

Luther proposed those theses in October 1517. It wasn't until June 1520 that the pope warned Luther to recant or face excommunication. Excommunication didn't occur until January 1521.

Anyone looking for a certificate of good standing as a Catholic may have already failed to qualify, btw. It's a safer assumption to make that we are all "bad Catholics", just of varying shades and depths of distance.
Juan Lino
13 years 2 months ago
Crystal (#21) and others: I know many Proestants that believe what you stated and if you are Protestant I understand why you would say that since they have a faulty (to a greater or lesser degree) understanding of the Church. 

If, however, you claim to be Catholic then you are confused about the One True Faith and I strongly advise you to meditate on these extracts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church - which, as I recall, were issued precisely to clear up the erroneous ideas mascarading as Truth:

Question #30 from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Why is faith a personal act, and at the same time ecclesial? (Compare with paragraph #166-169 and 181 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Faith is a personal act insofar as it is the free response of the human personto God who reveals himself.  But at the same time it is an ecclesial act which expresses itself in the proclamation, “We believe”.  It is in fact the Church that believes: and thus by the grace of the Holy Spirit precedes, engenders and nourishes the faith of each Christian.  For this reason the Church is Mother and Teacher.

Paragraph #789
in the CCC: The comparison of the Church with the body casts light on the intimate bond between Christ and His Church.  Not only is she gathered around Him; she is united in Him, in His body.  Three aspects of the Church as the Body of Christ are to be more specifically noted: the unity of all her members with each other as a result of their union with Christ; Christ as head of the Body; and the Church as bride of Christ. 

Question #162 from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Where does the one Church of Christ subsist?
(Compare with paragraph #816 and 870 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church)

The one Church of Christ, as a society constituted and organized in the world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. Only through this Church can one obtain the fullness of the means of salvation since the Lord has entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone whose head is Peter.
Kang Dole
13 years 2 months ago
Are there heresies besides "rank" heresy? Say, noisome heresy, or ripe heresy? Maybe "heresy most foul?"

Heresy "just on the edge?"

Stank heresy? Graveolent heresy? Bathroom on a Greyhound bus heresy?

What does Epiphanius have to say about it? Lots, probably.

Anyhoo, I love PFLAG. I know people who have really, really benefited from it.

But I "lack the ethical standing" to speak of such things.
Crystal Watson
13 years 2 months ago
Yes, I'm a Catholic.  Even excommunicated Catholics are still Catholics - think SSPX bishops.  

"the sole Church of Christ  ... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him ..... Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines." (LG 8).

What this does not say is that the sole Church of Christ ...  "is"  ... the Catholic Church.

Juan Lino
13 years 2 months ago
Crystal - I've earned not assume that someone is Catholic and so I ask.

Are you so sure you are on solid ground with your last statement? 

If so, you may want to take a look at an article written by Fr. Karl Josef Becker, S.J. titled “An Examination of Subsistit in: A Profound Theological Perspective.”  

It can be found here:http://www.ewtn.com/library/Theology/subsistitin.HTM

There are others I could also cite - as well as books - but that will do.
david power
13 years 2 months ago
In the north of Ireland they would say with a measure of self-awareness "Here one half are catholic and the other protestant,there are no christians".
Juan Lino
13 years 2 months ago
Perhaps this part of the CCC is relevant to the discussion that has now developed.
2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the "obedience of faith"9 as our first obligation. He shows that "ignorance of God" is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations.10 Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.
2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:
Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.
2089Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him."11
David (#29) – I am watching the videos now - interesting and evidence that the cafeteria is still open.  Other Catholics I have met told me that people used to be honest and would say "I am Catholic but I am not a faithful Catholic."
Crystal Watson
13 years 2 months ago

I think the thing about Vatican II is that what was written was in some ways kind of intentiaonally not nailed down - I mean, yes, the "subsusts in" statement has been interpreted  in opposite ways, from what Leonardo Boff wrote, that the one "Church of Christ" could subsist not only in the Catholic Church but also in Protestant and Orthodox Churches, to the 2007 Vatican document "Response to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine of the church".  Wikipedia actually has a page on Subsusts In -  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Subsistit_in%22_in_Lumen_Gentium

  I guess I agree with the idea that  the kingdom is bigger than the church.
Juan Lino
13 years 2 months ago
Since Leonardo Boff of Brazil left the priesthood and the Franciscan order several years ago after his writings were condemned by the Holy See, I wouldn’t cite him as an “orthodox” interpreter of the Catholic Faith.  Apostates are not good witnesses Crystal! 
david power
13 years 2 months ago

"I am a Catholic but I am not a faithful Catholic".
Show me the man or woman who claims to be otherwise and I will show you 
a deluded person. Show me a person who does not depart from God at least once every 23 seconds and I will know we are in a mortuary. 
Some people practise biblical positivism( not mentioning names!) and others
practise a magisterial positivism which is as equally heretical as the former.
Now I will throw in a bit of positivism of my own.

The question is "Is the Pope the Vicar of Christ?" answering yes or no to that will resolve a lot of other things. You can have a low opinion of a Pope but a yes to that question or a no to that question will divide the venials from the mortals among us.   
Anne Chapman
13 years 2 months ago
Dissenters have a lot of good company. Joan of Arc was denied communion before her death, when she was turned over to the state by the church to be burned to death for heresy.  John Cardinal Newman was fired from his job as editor of the Rambler and investigated by Rome for more than eight years because of his declarations that the church hierarchy was often wrong, and that the Holy Spirit also works through the people of God - the sensus fidelium - upheld at Vatican II.  Joan of Arc is now a ''saint.''  And John Cardinal Newman has been beatified.  Roman Catholic church history is full of such examples.  Being a ''good'' Catholic does not mean accepting all that the church teaches at any given moment of history. 

Fr. Martin does not want us to overdo either quotations or links, but here are two that hopefully don't exceed the limit.

''When Wrong turns out to be Right''  http://www.catholicireland.net/pages/index.php?nd=3&art=704


Excerpts from the second article:

Mistakes in the past and the primacy of conscience
Has the Church made mistakes in its pronouncements in the past? If a person today finds themselves in conflict with Church statements, what should they do? Seán Fagan SM tries to shed some light.
We should learn from mistakes of the past. Pope Leo X declared, against Luther, that the burning of heretics was perfectly in accordance with the will of the Holy Spirit. Pope Gregory XVI in 1832 and Pope Pius IX in 1864 declared that freedom of conscience was 'sheer madness', whereas the Second Vatican Council proclaimed it as a basic human right, rooted in our very nature. Pius XI in 1931 declared in Divini Illius Magistri, his encyclical on education, that co-education was against all Catholic principles, indeed against natural law, and he wrote a whole paragraph explaining the natural law on the subject.

On the sacredness of conscience
Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of extemal social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle: in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.'' (Joseph Ratzinger, in  Ed. Herbert Vorgrimler, Commentary on the Doctrine of Vatican II, vol V, p 134.

Jim McCrea
13 years 2 months ago

Who is a Catholic?  Well, let’s ask a pope – you know, one of those guys in apostolic succession, vicar of Christ, etc. – you know, one of those guys:
A century ago, the church was deeply divided over Pope Pius X's campaign against "Modernism," which was a catchall for anything Rome deemed suspicious.
"When Pius X died, the conclave of 1914 elected Benedict XV, who immediately issued an encyclical (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_Beatissimi_Apostolorum)calling on Catholics ‘to appease dissension and strife" so that "no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith.’
‘There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism’ he concluded. ‘It is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname’ “
David Gibson, “Who Is a Real Catholic?” The Washington Post, Sunday, May 17, 2009 
And, as Jaroslav Pelikan (one of those heretics of the Lutheran variety) put it so well:  “Heresy may be the result of poor timing.”
Jim McCrea
13 years 2 months ago
David P:  I proudly claim the role of Mortal, according to your criteria.  And I still call myself a Catholic - I follow the pope I quoted above!
13 years 2 months ago
iMr. Power: I am in agreement with you.

"Obedience to the Vicar of Christ is the acid test of being a bona fide Catholic today".
John Hardon SJ

This one is for you, Jim!

david power
13 years 2 months ago
As Don Corleone said "How did we get to this?"

Jim, I myself am not a mortal :).
The apostles did a poor job of following Jesus so we will probably not do much better.
The Church has given joy and despair to the world, in her better moments she is magnificent and reaches into the slums and deserted villages of this world with the message of the Gospel. I have witnessed this.
She posseses a  wisdom deeper than any papal pronouncement
and that is best seen in a mother(practising mom), father or friend guided by the Holy Spirit even if in a hazy way.  When the Church encourages us with the presence of Christ she is true to her mission. Don Giussani  was asked why man was abandoning the Church his response "Because the Church has abandoned Christ".
Jim McCrea
13 years 2 months ago
Ah, yes, Maria:  John Hardon, the fount of all wisdom and knowlege.  Well as I said in #40 above, I follow Benedict XV, so I guess JH is OK with me.
For those of you who get all het up about what you call dissent –
 “-while the pursuit of truth requires making presuppositions – there’s no way of pursuing truth from nowhere – these presuppositions may be an aid to the exploration or they may be an obstacle. Or they may be both. If we pursue the truth earnestly and responsibly, then no presupposition should achieve an untouchable status, a position where we hold it as unquestionable and beyond critique and contestation. To do so is to cease the pursuit of truth, and at most to pursue a particular way of thinking about it.”
Kyle R. Cupp, http://vox-nova.com/2011/01/21/remarks-on-the-willingness-to-dissent/#more-15323
Many Protestants are guilty of this failure to pursue truth under the guise of bibliolatry (“the bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”)
Many Catholics are guilty of this failure to pursue truth under the guise of papalolatry. 
Juan Lino
13 years 2 months ago
I guess I opened a Pandora's box by bringing up dissent. One can certainly dissent from matters that fall within the category of "discipline" but certainly not from matters that are part of "dogma" or "doctrine" and still claim to be an "orthodox" Catholic.

Regarding appealing to conscience as a way to legitimate dissent, the instruction Donum Veritatis has this to say about that assertion: 

38. Finally, argumentation appealing to the obligation to follow one's own conscience cannot legitimate dissent.
This is true, first of all, because conscience illumines the practical judgment about a decision to make, while here we are concerned with the truth of a doctrinal pronouncement. This is furthermore the case because while the theologian, like every believer, must follow his conscience, he is also obliged to form it. Conscience is not an independent and infallible faculty. It is an act of moral judgement regarding a responsible choice. A right conscience is one duly illumined by faith and by the objective moral law and it presupposes, as well, the uprightness of the will in the pursuit of the true good.

While one may counter that this is only for theologians, I believe that even a cursory look at the CCC will demonstrate that this is a false dualism.

To David Power - I like the Godfather quote very much.  Regarding Don Gius, have you ever read the notes from 1998 Fraternity Exercises? If not let, I suggest you look at the section that begins on page 32: "The second aspect of the present-day mentality produced by rationalism is Christ without the Church.  First of all, we said, God without Christ: the meaning of life cannot be redeemed or identified with the presence and influence of Christ.  The second aspect that is the immediate consequence of this is Christ without the Church.  This is called gnosis or gnosticism, in all its aspects or versions."

Of course, I presume, that you were taught the same thing that I was - that Don Gius was adament about the fact that we must be linked to the Church for all the reasons outlined in his book: Why the Church? 

I have inadvertently hijacked someone else's post so I will excuse myself from further comments because these are comments for an entirely different post. 

If anyone want's to continue the discussion via e-mail I am game.  I beleive all one has to do is click on my name and my e-mail address will appear. 
13 years 2 months ago
You beat me to: proper formation of conscience. I don't think that this subject, nor dissent, depart from the posting. CCC has this to say:

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.
Juan Lino
13 years 2 months ago
One last thing - for those interested in pursuing this further on their own - I'd like to recommend a book I am currently reading: Canon Law and Communio by Eugenio Correcco.  
Liam Richardson
13 years 2 months ago
Kinda begs the question of what conscience one needs to accept a teaching on the formation of conscience.  While that's rhetorically cute, it may help to understand why the Church is hobbled in trying to cut the Gordion knot in discussion on this point.
Juan Lino
13 years 2 months ago
Jim (#49) - citation please.  I'd like to at the sentence in context.  Thanks.
Juan Lino
13 years 2 months ago
And when I say "I'd like to look at it in context", please don't refer me to your comment on the NCR blog ; ) 

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