Cleansing Fire

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Disappointment of Soul — Part II: End Times? Emerging Issues

November 4th, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

End Times?

And, so, the questions of end-times understandably arise. What do we expect of the end-times?  I would like to write separately on many of the signs we presently see, but won’t burden this writing with those details.  I will only say there is nothing, in my opinion, wrong with keeping the eschatological reality in mind, because although Christ said only the Father knows, nevertheless the Lord gave His Apostles specific signs to watch for (Mark, Chapter 13, e.g.)

Rather, let us simply bring to bear the same question which Jesus asked His disciples in Luke 18:8: “… when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?”  What strange words!  Jesus is sending His disciples forth to convert the world, yet He wonders aloud whether or not there is a kind of failure at the end? Or a natural ending when the ‘full number’ has entered the Kingdom? He warns them (and us) in John 15:18: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”  If indeed the “end(s) of the earth” have been reached, as witnessed by both Pope Francis’ election and his words, then what is the state of “faith on earth”? Would Jesus have asked those words if the whole world had been converted and was spiritually thriving? Or is the tapering off part of the end times, accompanied by a falling away among the faithful? Is a decrease in faith another sign of the end times? We remember the promise to the Church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:25:  “But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching*, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay upon you any other burden; only hold fast what you have, until I come.”  [*Read the preceding few verses in Revelation to understand more of what “this teaching” is and ask whether or not that has already entered the world.]

Issues in Pope Francis’ Papacy

I remember in those early months of Pope Francis’ papacy, looking for works he’d written, trying to learn more about his thoughts, inspirations, exhortations.  Unfortunately, I found little in English, and had to “wait and see.” A few months later, there were words spoken by Pope Francis on the plane returning from World Youth Day in Brazil: “Who am I to judge?” he said, when asked about matters relating to homosexual relationships. Those words raced like wildfire around the world to make the Pope seem as if he were going to relax some long held same-sex Church Teaching. Blame was placed on the media for not understanding, and for blowing words out of proportion. His words are among the most devastating because of the deliberate confusion between “judge,” meaning discern, as we are called to do, vs. “judge” as deciding on the state of another person’s soul. And those words pave the way for the laity to think they need to “back off” defense of the Faith, which is most unfortunate. But, as St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, we are reminded: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!  Unfortunately, Pope Francis did not clarify his words spoken on the plane. I was very disappointed. It seemed a lost opportunity to reflect what the Church really teaches.

Cardinal Burke: Faithful Son of the Church

Cardinal Burke 2It was Cardinal Burke who stuck his neck out to “explain” what the Pope meant, on several occasions.  His explanations were good, solid, faithful to centuries of Church Teaching, and personally supportive of the Successor of Peter.  Perhaps the Pope did not want that kind of support. In the end, it was Cardinal Burke who was removed by the Pope, first in late 2013 as a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, which is responsible for recommending new prelates around the world to the pope, and a year later as head of the powerful Apostolic Signatura, unfortunately clearing the way for more local control of annulments, a kind of  “decentralization” which seemed to some prelates as striking at the heart of the Oneness mark of the Church. In what was perceived by media and Vatican-watchers as a demotion of Cardinal Burke, it was fascinating and ironic that Cardinal Burke’s new position, rather than being a powerless figurehead, actually gave him the opportunity to operate anywhere in the world as the Patron of the Order of Malta, and on a wide variety of matters.  See: https://cruxnow.com/church/2014/12/07/pope-francis-demotion-of-burke-not-punishment/  While I was disappointed in Cardinal Burke’s removal, nevertheless the work of the Holy Spirit seemed present in his new work being undertaken, and which is still growing and evolving.

Emergence of Cardinal Kasper – the Pope’s “Theologian”

Removal of Cardinal Burke was perhaps the first open shot across the bow of the more traditional wing of the Catholic Church. Instead of healing rifts, they widened and deepened. And during this period my disappointment also widened and deepened, although I clung to the hope that there was some rationale which would suddenly emerge, and delightfully surprise us.  Instead, Cardinal Walter Kasper emerged.  As a prelude to thescreenshot349Synod, in February 2014, the German Cardinal Kasper, whom I would characterize as a dissident to traditional Church Teaching on marriage / divorce / no annulment / remarriage was spotlighted by Pope Francis and given a stage to advocate the Cardinal’s own views, views I find difficult not to call ‘heretical.’  At the very least, the views are scandalous to at least some Catholics in the pew, and I believe divisive in the Church.  Rather than Pope Francis’ disciplining someone with such aberrant views, in advance of the Synod, he seemed very supportive of them. Again, the hope for clarification and action against those attacking church doctrine disappointed.  I felt as if I were watching the Synod unfold as the Arian debates all over again, but without Truth prevailing.

Then came the Synod in Fall 2014, just before Cardinal Burke was removed from the Apostolic Signatura. Cardinal Burke and a number of his colleagues rushed to press with a book speaking strongly for the Church’s traditional position on marriage (entitled: “Remaining in the Truth of Christ”). http://www.cleansingfire.org/2015/03/cardinal-burke-a-light-upon-the-lampstand/  The emergency response of publishing this book did not disappoint; it was a proactive defense of Christ Himself and well done. In time, I believe it will stand as a voice of righteousness, no matter what else happens, as a proof that at least part of the hierarchy did not collapse in cowardice , ashamed of Christ and His Teaching.

ScreenShot238It was reported that the distribution of the book to the Synod attendees didn’t happen because of a ‘mixup’ in the Vatican Post Office.  The traditional position expressed in that book was effectively suppressed while the “Kasper” position was advanced.  The English summary of the Fall 2014 Synod was inconsistent in several positions in the Italian, which eliminated three points voted down by attendees, but which nevertheless found their way into the English summary, causing quite a bit of consternation. The “voting down” still had a significant percentage of adherents to Cardinal Kasper’s positions, and I had hoped that the open opposition to Church Teaching would actually result in the Pope’s finally phasing out the disloyal and unfaithful. Rather, it seemed to be the opposite, even leading to elevation to Cardinal of some who dissented from one or more Church Teachings. By the second session in Spring 2015, Cardinal Kasper’s push to admit divorced Catholics (whose marriages were not annulled) to approach the Eucharist was stronger than ever. It was very disappointing that time and dialogue had only strengthened the upstart interpretation which denied Christ’s very clear words in Luke 16:18:

“Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

The Church has always taught that those in a state of adultery must not approach the Eucharist. As a matter of fact, the desire to receive the Eucharist has brought many souls back to their faith, an impetus lost when sinners without reconciliation partake of Christ’s Body and Blood and add more sins to their souls. What would drive anyone to push for such sacrilege? Well, there is a significant tax remuneration to churches which is at stake in Germany, rather than the mercy Cardinal Kasper alleges; i.e. “The root of all evil!” Now THAT is disappointing! It is especially disappointing to me that the flock has been so endangered.

The Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, which is the Pope’s summary of both Synod meetings, is said not to have changed Church Teaching, “only” Pastoral Care, but some very credible Cardinals and bishops have written that we can’t have one without the other.  Rather than confronting the matter head on, the interpretation in Amoris Laetitia  is ambiguous, hinging even on an obscure footnote. Splits are emerging in the Church, with Argentina, Granada, Germany and others permitting what in the heritage of thought and teaching would be sacrilege. Even in Italy, it is said that the Diocese of Rome admits to communion those who will not be admitted in the Diocese of Florence. One can try to argue, with the passion that Cardinal Burke showed in loyally defending the Pope in 2013 and 2014, that teaching hasn’t changed, but that ignores the damage being done.  It is difficult to sort out all the details, and surely more will change or be corrected, but the uncertainty layered onto the faith is severely damaging. And some even see the “Year of Mercy,” at least in part, as having been orchestrated as preparation for ignoring violations of Church Teaching. What is devolving in the church, and for me personally, is Trust. I wish I found some of the accusations more difficult to believe, but an obvious track record is building.

–to be continued in Part III–

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