THE BODY, BREAKING
Posted on by Mark
The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover,
when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.
—Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 677
Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
DO you want some real hope today? Hope is born, not in the denial of reality, but in a living faith, in spite of it.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took Bread, broke it and said, “This is my body.”  So too, on this eve of the Church’s Passion, His mystical Body seems to be breaking apart as another controversy has rammed the hull of the Barque of Peter. How should we respond?
As I described in The Great Shipwreck?, the main issue at hand is Pope Francis’ comments in a new documentary (according to the English subtitle):
Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that. —Catholic News Agency, October 21st, 2020
What has followed has been hair-splitting over the comments; whether he was intending to change Church teaching; whether the editing misconstrued what the Holy Father intended and whether the English translation is correct.
But it doesn’t really matter, and here’s why.
Despite repeated requests for clarification from the Vatican, none has been forthcoming as of this writing (though one Vatican staffer allegedly said that “talks are underway to deal with the current media crisis.”)Vatican correspondent, Gerald O’Connell surmises: “My years of experience covering the Vatican leads me to conclude that the press office has remained silent only because it knows that this is what the pope wants.” According to Time, the director Evgeny Afineevsky “ended up so close to Francis by the end of the project that he showed the pope the movie on his iPad in August.” If that being the case, Francis has known the contents, and how they would be presented, months before the documentary’s premiere this weekend. The prefect of the Vatican’s communications office, Paolo Ruffini, has also seen the documentary and praised it without further comment. 
The significance of all this was not missed by the controversial gay rights advocate Fr. James Martin, who now in clear opposition to Church teaching, tweeted:
What makes Pope Francis’ comments supporting same-sex civil unions today so momentous? First, he is saying them as Pope, not Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Second, he is clearly supporting, not simply tolerating, civil unions. Third, he is saying it on camera, not privately. Historic. —https://twitter.com/
For the record, one priest attempted to explain that the subtitle is a mistranslation of Francis’ words. However, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a theological advisor to Francis, said the translation is accurate.
Archbishop Fernandez, a theologian who has long been close to the pope, said that the pope’s phrase is substantially equivalent to the phrase “civil union.” —Catholic News Agency, October 22nd, 2020
As headlines around the world blared ‘Francis becomes 1st pope to endorse same-sex civil unions’, debate erupted on how the video was edited. It turns out that two different interviews were combined for the whole controversial segment. The first few sentences were constructed from a lengthier comment that Fr. Gerald Murray of EWTN says altered the original context of the Pope’s comments on families (see here):
Pope Francis was in fact speaking about the right of homosexuals not to be rejected by their own families, not about homosexuals creating new families of their own, presumably by adoption or through surrogate motherhood. The problem, though, remains that the Vatican has publicly embraced this film. —Fr. Gerald Murray, October 24th, 2020; thecatholicthing.org
But it is the second part of the quote where the Pope seems to call for a civil union law that has drawn the most attention and controversy. It comes from raw footage from the Vatican’s archives of a long television interview with Pope Francis made by Valentina Alazraki, a reporter for Mexico’s Televisa, in May 2019. Catholic News Agency and O’Connell give the missing context of the Televisa interview:
Alazraki asked [Pope Francis]: “You waged a whole battle over egalitarian weddings, of couples of the same sex in Argentina. And later they say that you arrived here, they elected you pope and you appeared much more liberal than what you were in Argentina. Do you recognize yourself in this description that some people who knew you before make, and was it the grace of the Holy Spirit that gave you a boost? (laughs)”
According to America Magazine, the pope responded that: “The grace of the Holy Spirit certainly exists. I have always defended the doctrine. And it is curious that in the law on homosexual marriage…. It is an incongruity to speak of homosexual marriage. But what we have to have is a law of civil union (ley de convivencia civil), so they have the right to be legally covered.”—Catholic News Agency, October 24th, 2020
The context in this account is clear: civil unions instead of “homosexual marriage.”
Pope Francis has been outspoken on a number of occasions reaffirming the Church’s teaching on the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman, and he has unequivocally rejected any notion of “gay marriage” and “gender ideology.”Nonetheless, when Pope Francis said in the documentary, “I stood up for that” being “civil unions”, it confirmed what two biographers have likewise reported in the past about his support of civil unions of some kind as an alternative to same-sex “marriage.” In his biography on Francis, journalist Austen Ivereigh wrote:
Bergoglio knew many gay people and had spiritually accompanied a number of them. He knew their stories of rejection by their families and what it was like to live in fear of being singled out and beaten up. He told a Catholic gay activist, a former theology professor named Marcelo Márquez, that he favored gay rights as well as legal recognition for civil unions, which gay couples could also access. But he was utterly opposed to any attempt to redefine marriage in law. ‘He wanted to defend marriage but without wounding anybody’s dignity or reinforcing their exclusion,’ says a close collaborator of the cardinal’s. ‘He favored the greatest possible legal inclusion of gay people and their human rights expressed in law, but would never compromise the uniqueness of marriage as being between a man and a woman for the good of children’” —The Great Reformer, 2015; (p. 312)
This position was also put forward by Sergio Rubin, an Argentine journalist and the authorized biographer of Pope Francis. None of this is new and has been widely reported for years. But no pope has ever said this in front of a rolling camera.
Some have tried to explain away this controversy by pointing to Francis’ efforts to support a broader definition of civil union to include “any two people cohabiting for more than two years, independent of their gender or sexual orientation.” This may appear as a workaround, except for the fact that the documentary presents this issue in the context of homosexual couples—and thus far, neither Francis nor the Vatican communications office is disputing this.
On the contrary, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under St. John Paul II’s blessing could not have been clearer about giving any kind of support for civil unions between same-sex partners.
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage… all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions. —Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons; n. 5, 6, 10
So, as they say, “the damage is done.” As I was writing this article, Fr. James Martin was on CNN declaring to the entire world:
It’s not simply he’s tolerating it, he’s supporting it…[Pope Francis] may have in a sense, as we say in the church, developed his own doctrine… We have to reckon with the fact that the head of the church has now said that he feels that civil unions are ok. And we can’t dismiss that… Bishops and other people can’t dismiss that as easily as they might want to. This is in a sense, this is a kind of teaching that he is giving us. —CNN.com
And Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, citing Pope Francis’ comments, asked the country’s National Assembly to now make same-sex marriage part of their discussion during the next term— which is what retired Philippine Bishop Arturo Bastes predicted:
This is a shocking statement coming from the pope. I am really scandalized by his defense of homosexual union, which surely leads to immoral acts. —October 22nd, 2020; thehill.com (nb. Francis was not defending homosexual unions but speaking of civil unions)
Whether the documentary misquoted the Pope, whether the phrase supporting civil unions was intended for public consumption, whether the translation is correct, whether the Pope was framed, whether he said exactly what he wanted to say… the perception is out there that the Pope is “renovating” the Barque of Peter.
But in truth, it’s hit a rocky shoal.
The consequences will be felt for some time, even if the whole thing is eventually retracted. People are angry and frustrated, feeling betrayed and confused, especially after the theologically pristine years of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Bishop Joseph Strickland, in a moment of raw honesty this week, echoed the warning of Pope St. Paul VI last century that “the smoke of Satan is seeping into the Church of God through the cracks in the walls.”
I certainly don’t put it all on Pope Francis. The machine of the Vatican, there is evil there. There is darkness in the Vatican. I mean, that’s very clear. —Bishop Joseph Strickland, October 22nd, 2020; ncronline.org
Those are painful words to hear. But they should not surprise us. 2000 years ago, St. Paul warned:
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. (Acts 20:29-30)
…today we see it in truly terrifying form: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, interview on flight to Lisbon, Portugal; LifeSiteNews, May 12th, 2010
Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Inaugural Homily, April 24, 2005, St. Peter’s Square
This controversy has the potential to set off a wave of new laws and persecution of the Church the likes of which we have not seen in our time in the West. Of course, I have been warning about this for decades, but it is no less painful on how it appears to be coming. For me, this is not about Pope Francis. It’s about Jesus. It’s about defending Him, defending the truth He died to give us so that we would be free. It’s about souls. I have several readers who are struggling with same-sex attraction and I love them dearly. They deserve to be fed the truth in love by their shepherds.
Talk of schism by some, which is spiritually reckless, is nonetheless real. But as St. Cyprian of Carthage warned:
If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” —The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition (A.D. 251)
The call, from cardinals and bishops to renowned theologians like Dr. Scott Hahn for Pope Francis to clarify his remarks, are not an attack on the papacy but, in fact, a help to it so that souls struggling with same-sex attraction are not misled and the integrity of the office of Peter is preserved. To be absolutely clear, I have and continue to defend our Church and our popes where justice and fidelity demands it. Some people, even a priest, have tried to pressure me to revolt against the Holy Father. I have been threatened, called a Freemason, and verbally abused by others for not adopting their “hermeneutic of suspicion” that sees every word and action of the Pope through a dark filter, that seeks to judge his motives rather than to understand them.
To avoid rash judgment… Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2478
Yes, that’s a two way street. Those who have been gracious, having given Francis the benefit of the doubt, now await the Vicar of Christ to help them if they have somehow understood this documentary “badly.” Nor should we be intimidated by those voices who, claiming to “defend the truth,” discard all charity and accuse those of us remaining in unity with the Holy Father as somehow betraying Christ. They deem their bullying and name-calling as a virtue and your fidelity and patience as a weakness. The message from Our Lady of Medjugorje today is particularly relevant:
Satan is strong and is fighting to draw all the more hearts to himself. He wants war and hatred. That is why I am with you for this long, to lead you to the way of salvation, to Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Little children, return to the love for God and He will be your strength and refuge. —October 25, 2020 Message to Marija
But the saints revealed how to crush the head of Satan—through humility and docililty:
Even if the Pope were Satan incarnate, we ought not to raise up our heads against him… I know very well that many defend themselves by boasting: “They are so corrupt, and work all manner of evil!” But God has commanded that, even if the priests, the pastors, and Christ-on-earth were incarnate devils, we be obedient and subject to them, not for their sakes, but for the sake of God, and out of obedience to Him. —St. Catherine of Siena, SCS, p. 201-202, p. 222, (quoted in Apostolic Digest, by Michael Malone, Book 5: “The Book of Obedience”, Chapter 1: “There is No Salvation Without Personal Submission to the Pope”). In Luke 10:16, Jesus says to His disciples: “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
My sentiments follow those of Cardinal Gerhard Müller:
There is a front of traditionalist groups, just as there is with the progressivists, that would like to see me as head of a movement against the Pope. But I will never do this…. I believe in the unity of the Church and I will not allow anyone to exploit my negative experiences of these last few months. Church authorities, on the other hand, need to listen to those who have serious questions or justified complaints; not ignoring them, or worse, humiliating them. Otherwise, without desiring it, there can be an increase of the risk of a slow separation that might result in the schism of a part of the Catholic world, disorientated and disillusioned. —Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Corriere della Sera, Nov. 26, 2017; quote from the Moynihan Letters, #64, Nov. 27th, 2017
A senior Russian Orthodox Church official predicts that this latest controversy will see Catholics “convert en masse to Orthodox Christianity and Protestantism” as a result. While I think that’s a bit of stretch, I am already aware of one person who jumped ship because of such ongoing controversies surrounding the papacy, and I hear others waffling.
But lest we hear Our Lord rebuke us too as waves crash over the Barque—“Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”(Mk 4:37-40)—we ought to…
…live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon his Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing. —EMERITUS POPE BENEDICT XVI, on the occasion of the funeral Mass of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, July 15th, 2017; rorate-caeli.blogspot.com
If the Church is indeed following her Lord in her own Passion, then we will experience much of what Our Lord and the Apostles did also—including the confusion, division, and chaos of Gethsemane—and the presence of wolves.
Yes, there are unfaithful priests, bishops, and even cardinals who fail to observe chastity. But also, and this is also very grave, they fail to hold fast to doctrinal truth! They disorient the Christian faithful by their confusing and ambiguous language. They adulterate and falsify the Word of God, willing to twist and bend it to gain the world’s approval. They are the Judas Iscariots of our time. —Cardinal Robert Sarah, Catholic Herald, April 5th, 2019
THE ANSWER: PRAYER OF THE HEART
Of Gethsemane, Luke writes:
When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. (Luke 22:45)
I know that you, Our Lady’s Little Rabble, are tired. Many are grieving, stunned by the daily events unfolding in both the Church and the world. The temptation is to just turn it all off, ignore it, run, hide, even sleep. Still, lest we fall into despair and self-pity, today I feel Our Lady stirring us, telling us like Our Lord did to his Apostles:
Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test. (Luke 22:46)
Jesus did not say, “Aw, I see how sad you are. Go ahead, sleep away my dear ones.” No! Get up, be men and women of God, be true disciples and face what it is coming proactively in prayer. Why prayer? Because the Passion was ultimately a test of their relationship with Jesus.
…prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is “the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity… with the whole human spirit.”—Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.2565
Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. —Ibid. n. 2010
Have you noticed how hard it is to pray lately? Yes, this is how we fall asleep in our souls, by letting grief and discouragement, temptation and sin to distract us from the divine conversation. In this way, we become dull to the Lord and if we let it persist, blind.
It’s our very sleepiness to the presence of God that renders us insensitive to evil: we don’t hear God because we don’t want to be disturbed, and so we remain indifferent to evil… the disciples’ sleepiness is not problem of that one moment, rather of the whole of history, ‘the sleepiness’ is ours, of those of us who do not want to see the full force of evil and do not want to enter into His Passion. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Catholic News Agency, Vatican City, Apr 20, 2011, General Audience
As I began writing this article, a reader sent this to me:
The Church is presently in the midst of her Passion, Christ’s Passion… This is a shocking time in the Church’s history, a brutal time. She is dying, and Catholics need to mourn this lest we fall into denialism—while looking with hope at the resurrection to come. —Matthew Bates
Perfectly said. I have been writing about this coming Passion of the Church for fifteen years (shaking my brothers and sisters awake!) and now it is upon us. But this is not a call to fear and terror but faith and courage and above all hope. The Passion is not the end but the beginning of the final stage of the Church’s sanctification. Is God not permitting all this, then, so that all things work to the good for those who love Him? Would the Lord abandon His Bride?
The Barque of Peter is not like other ships. The Barque of Peter, despite the waves, remains firm because Jesus is inside, and He will never leave it. —Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Chaldeans in Baghdad, Iraq; November 11th, 2018, “Defend the Church From Those Who Seek to Destroy It”, mississippicatholic.com
The mystical Body of Christ is breaking, straining under growing divisions that have begun to emanate from a fault-line beneath Rome. As I said in The Great Shipwreck?, the only side we have to choose is the side of the Gospel. We must give the Holy Father the benefit of the doubt and a chance to clarify his personal comments, but at the end of the day, the Gospel must still be clearly and loudly proclaimed. If “the truth will set us free,” then the world has a right to know the truth!
This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. —POPE SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Homily, Cherry Creek State Park Homily, Denver, Colorado, August 15th, 1993; vatican.va
…the Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ—riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth. —POPE ST. PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 53; vatican.va
Christ asks to dine with heterosexuals, homosexuals, and sinners of all stripes, precisely to deliver them from the power of sin. The message of love and mercy that Francis has tried to convey to those far from the Church has, for a fact, drawn many back to the confessional and to Christ. In obedience to the Vicar of Christ, we also need to take up the call, which is Christ’s call, to go out to the ends of the earth in search of the lost.
…all of us are asked to obey His call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 20
But as we also heard in yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus demands that everyone align with His Word, with the truth, with reality, with their biological sex, and with one another so that, ultimately, we can be one with Him.
Jesus is demanding, because He wishes our genuine happiness. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, World Youth Day Message for 2005, Vatican City, Aug. 27th, 2004, Zenit.org
The Gospel is a message of love, incredible love of God for poor sinners. But it’s also a Gospel of consequences for those who reject it:
Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 15:15-16)
To enter the Passion of Christ, then, is to become a “sign of contradiction” that will be rejected as well. We must prepare for this persecution. And to that end, part of the Passion is indeed the time of sorrows that are now upon us.
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three… (Luke 12:51-52)
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
On a coming schism… The Sorrow of Sorrows
Bless you and thank you.
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