Part V: Convert’s Surprise – Confusion
Having converted to Catholicism in my late 40s (Part I), then finding my husband Larry and myself in the middle of a schism at our parish (Part II), subsequently receiving blessings and feeling joy from a Movement in the Church (Part III) which transformed into pain and sadness because of the Founder’s Scandal (Part IV), things were calmer until the current crisis: “Confusion.” So I have been initiated again into the Sufferings of our Lord!
A Very Grave Crisis
The crisis, of which you are likely aware, concerns criteria for proper disposition / preparation for receipt of the Holy Eucharist and is directly related to the Papacy of Pope Francis. More specifically, should those who are divorced and remarried without annulment now be permitted to “receive Communion”? What seemed initially as an impossibility in the practical sense (according to Doctrine and Dogma) was publicly raised as a possibility by prelates during and since recent Synods. I was so relieved when this unbelievable change was put down very quickly by respected Catholics as being truly impossible. Catholic Teaching is rock-solid. My Spiritual Director explained that the Sacraments were taught directly to the Church by Christ and, as such, are NOT amendable!
New Possibilities Were NOT Completely DIsmissed
Oh, but wait — the initial dismissal of new possibilities wasn’t the end of the story. More prelates joined the “change” bandwagon and Pope Francis introduced his Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” which left everyone hanging because he neither declared clear support for the changes nor took a clear stand against them.
The downside of this situation is big as it has bearing on the whole Church. It has caused turmoil among prelates, priests, and spiritual directors and has allowed for new, incorrect expectations through the Church. And it pertains to proposed CHANGES to UNCHANGEABLE Dogma. These modifications were allegedly proposed for the Church to become more responsive to the “times.” Does someone think that Christ Himself neglected to take this into account?
Already, changes in practice (criteria to “Receive Communion”) have been instituted and expectations of change are growing. A lot of Catholics are confused, many assuming from headlines that the Church is going through a wonderful reform. There are those who insist that nothing has changed (i.e. that nothing CAN change). But as various prelates instituted changes in practice for receiving Communion, there is no denying that CHANGE HAS OCCURRED! And many prelates claim that their direction is FROM THE POPE.
My respect for the judgment of Pope Francis has diminished because of this stream of events and his resistance to clarify. I don’t like having less respect for my Pope. But I clearly understand that his behavior is separate from his soul — that I can love him while not liking certain behaviors of his. So, yes, I love the Pope, know he is a child of God, and want his salvation! However, I see these behaviors as risky to souls, such as in Argentina.
The Pope sent a letter to the Bishops in Argentina about this issue. When it was subsequently leaked, the Pope acknowledged that he had truly sent it and that it had indicated that “Amoris Laetitia” offered the possibility of relaxed standards for receiving Holy Communion. The Pope gave an admission of sorts, but not an official, public clarification.
It seems to me that his restraint has allowed confusion to fester and now division is growing among prelates, between bishop and priest, between the ordained and the laity, and also among the laity. There are divisions within families and between parishioners or friends.
Hearsay or Heresy? Enter the “Dubia”
Four Cardinals, including Cardinal Burke, privately presented to the Pope five relevant, written questions requiring simple yes / no answers. I believe that it was done out of charity and gave him an opportunity to resolve the crisis. When sufficient time had passed, without a response from the Pope, they brought public what they had done privately. Months have passed since then, with no answers to the Dubia.
Some have said that the Pope CANNOT answer these questions. But to me this comment suggests that the Pope MAY NOT WANT to answer them, as he could be officially in heresy or, contrariwise, be seen as betraying his supporters who want the changes.
Truth and its Eternal Nature
Shouldn’t we be searching for Truth? Truth is unchangeable — Truth IS Christ. It cannot be the case that BOTH the Immutability of the Sacraments AND changeability of the Sacraments are correct. God is not divided against Himself. Furthermore, aren’t Christ’s teachings eternal? Or is He blind, deaf, short-sighted or dead to some persons? If Christ wanted His teachings to be updated with societal changes, He would have told us. To Larry and me, there’s a familiar ring of disobedience. I’m no theologian but my own take is that “bucking authority” (the authority being Church Dogma and Doctrine) was allowed to happen. Even without the Pope officially ADVOCATING these revisions, his resistance to “nipping them in the bud” allows disobedience to persist. Jesus is being ignored!
Some prelates and priests are leading the flock astray – in their own way. But Jesus proclaimed, “Woe” to those who mislead the flock. (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2) Christ warned us against conforming to the world — we are to bring the Light (Him) TO the world! (John 17:15) In my view, this tendency has crept into the Church – to please the world, rather than Christ!
I have found that people tend to be very hesitant to talk about this crisis. I have seen it in myself and in others. What’s happened to us? Have our virtues been declining so greatly that we lack courage to speak honestly about Christ’s teachings? Have many “declared Catholics” become pagans? In 1958, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about this as “the new pagans!”
Even “Katherine the Shrew” Chooses Obedience in the End
This reminds me of Shakespeare’s play, “The Taming of the Shrew.” As a teenager I was cast into the role of Katherine. She underwent a conversion to “my Lord, my King, My Governor …” (her husband, but analogously: Christ!) and proclaims brilliantly, and clearly her obedience to her husband in her final, dramatic, virtuous speech: “Fie, Fie, unknit that threatening unkind brow….” She tells women how to respect, love, and stand up for their husbands. Well, Christ is Our Lord, Our King, and our Savior! Why aren’t we standing up for Him? Indifference, poor formation, or hearts of disobedience have inhibited dialogue. So have the following familiar statements (related to this crisis):
- The Pope stated, “Who am I to judge?”, setting the stage for our keeping quiet.
- “The Pope needs to refrain from spontaneous and unprepared comments.”
- “The press distorts his intentions.
- “That reporter doesn’t record interviews”
- “Translations are poor” / “The translations don’t agree”
- “He is from “Argentina” – the culture there is different”
- “He is a pastoral Pope rather than a theologian”
Let’s Remember Who is King
If we are not Christ-centered, what are we? If our Ordained are not Christ-centered, what are they? If the Pope is not centered on Christ’s teachings, where is he leading us? Consider our Blessed Mother; who is more Christ-centered than she? Therefore, we can go to her as well!
Prayer is an indescribable Gift from God. Relevant is this statement from the “Novena to Divine Mercy – Day 2”: “For the love of the Heart of Your Son, in which they (souls of priests and religious) are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.” EWTN Devotionals
New or “Same Old?”
A timely article by Deacon Jim Russell of the Archdiocese of St. Louis appeared online in “Crisis Magazine” on April 18, 2017. In “Does History Repeat With Amoris Laetitia Confusion?”, he writes that attempts at Doctrinal and Dogmatic change are not new. But what’s new is that “this time our Holy Father did not publish an official magisterial decision to resolve the issue at hand.” Similarly, the Pope thus far has not answered the Dubia. Yet he is the only one who can put a conclusive halt to the corrupt changes in expectations and practice. We pray to God for the Pope to reform these errors and restore the Church as God intended it to be.
This confusion is really the workings of the father of lies. He is trying to confuse us and thereby run (or ruin) our Church. The evil one’s seeds are being sown at all levels of the Church. We’ve been allowing ourselves to be confused. But should we really be confused? No. Our Bible gives us the definitive answers. No amount of articles written by others (including me) can answer for the Pope.
- Christ gives His clear declaration about marriage and its indissolubility. Luke 16:18
- We are warned gravely about taking the Body and Blood of our Lord when not properly disposed. 1Corinthians 11:27. (Moreover, it is our responsibility as Catholics to know what the Church teaches. Anyone of authority who leads others incorrectly incurs guilt on their shoulders)
- To whom should we listen – God or Man? To whom should we turn for the Way to Salvation? Whom should we obey? Over 2000 years ago God made it clear that He is the answer! Acts 4:19
Your Holiness Pope Francis, how can and why would you entertain any way other than what Christ has taught us? Why would you allow confusion about this to continue? It is God we have to obey and, therefore, there should be no confusion — no debate. And yet there is URGENCY for the Pope to definitively proclaim his complete support for Church Teaching, because of risk to souls!
This has been one person’s voyage through Faith, accompanied by my husband. God called me. I chose and I choose to follow Him — my Alpha and Omega.
This is the last in a 5-part series by guest writer, Rhonda Jones, convert from Judaism to Catholicism and retired Clinical Psychologist, recounting her experiences. We hope you have found this guest series to be of interest, helpful and relevant to current concerns in the Church.