The Toughies of the Synod

A new revelation is needed to solve this puzzle. The Holy Spirit needs to arise anew upon the land of the Magisterium if a solution to this enigma is to be found soon. This one is not easy. This is the second synod within a year, yet the same concerns and barriers linger. Yes it is about the Synod on the Family currently happening in Rome under the watchful eyes of Pope Francis. The three most burning issues are deemed the “vexed questions” by the media. Here they are: Should divorced and remarried Catholics be allowed to receive the Eucharist? Can the church recognize some positive values in cohabitation? How can the church take a more positive, welcoming approach to homosexuality? For some, the answer to these questions is clear-cut. Others are persuaded that a pastoral solution is possible.

imagesThe dilemma is the following: a) some divorced and remarried or cohabitating catholic couples maintain that they are starved for the Eucharist; b) the world who has gone bombastic about homosexuality in the last five years. Both of these groups are demanding to be given a seat of honor at the cathedral of the church while Jesus says “whoever divorces his wife… and marries or cohabits with another commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). Further yet, neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).

As of now, there are no pastoral answers for these pressuring questions. So the synod is an effort to discover an answer. That would be swimmingly easy had revelation not been very pronounced on these issues. The Pope, the bishops, every pastor, the faithful understand there is a problem, but everyone who understand revelation also understand that whatever solution we find must be faithful to the living tradition of the church.

Iran1If we were a parliament or congress, we could just reverse the law and move forward. But we are not for good or for ill. Whatever we have to pronounce on this topic must be compatible with the “hierarchy of truth”. That means the solution must be measured against the overarching economy of salvation to see if it fits it. Every element of the faith, every particular issue we decide on takes its meaning and force from the central doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. The Christian life is an ever striving to be conformed to the Trinitarian life, who is an indissoluble communion of persons. Faithful to her duty of being the mirror through which the three persons see themselves, she knows that she has no authority to make decisions that do not correspond to their ideal. Hence, no solution is within our power so far.

The discussion has focused a lot on mercy and rightly so because the ministry of Jesus Christ, continued by the church, has mercy at its center. However, mercy and the truth about the human person are intrinsically linked. Out of mercy for this people who long to receive the sacraments, we must do something, but no matter how merciful we are, we have to act within the limit set by He who is the Truth. Concerns to find a pastoral answer cannot trump the truth. Hopefully, prayer and fasting can provide clarity in this one.

family_0About whether there’s value in the so-called cohabitation with a view to marriage, some African bishops would like this to be dealt with according to each region’s culture. in Africa, marriage is negotiated between families and realized in stages, with the couple living together at a certain point before the formal marriage. The delay in marrying is often linked to the man’s inability to come up with the dowry immediately sometimes— interesting huh! They cohabit with a view to marriage. So culture is very entrenched on the issue; the church in the west needs time, wisdom, and prudence to find the best way to proceed on issues like this. Now should the church recognize Christian value in such cohabitation? What do you say?

In an interesting speech given recently at the synod, Pope Francis reminds everyone “the synod journey culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, [who is] called to speak authoritatively as ‘the Pastor and Teacher of all Christians.’” We hope he also lets the Holy Spirit speak in him. Let us pray while our fingers are crossed in hope of a bright future for the church centered on Christ and his teachings and where people feel they belong and care for.

The Winnable Fight

It is a sad fact that we are living in a world that’s becoming increasingly less religious. While lawmakers are directly passing laws challenging religious freedom, many people are publicly expressing their disagreement with religious teachings/doctrines. (Check out the latest survey on abortion, gay marriage, contraception… you will understand how controversial the church’s position is on these issues among people who called themselves religious). The interesting phenomenon is that those same individuals maintain that though they don’t see eye to eye with their church, they are still active members of the Church as if being a member of the Church does not mean following her teachings. Does that not simply confirm what St Paul had said: a time will come when people will not endure sound teaching… they will accumulate teachers that suits their own likings and will turn away from listening to the truth (2 Tim 3: 3-4). I believe what is at the foundation of this rejection of religious teachings is simply a lack of understanding of the Nature of God and the role of the Church in society. Hence, the dire need for a New Evangelization is manifest.

When we tell these people about God as the indwelling principle beauty, truth, and goodness, when we speak of a great spiritual force pervading all things, a common mind of which we are all parts, a pool of generalized spirituality to which we can all flow, they all tilt their ears to listen. They feel right at home. When we present God as loving, peaceful, forgiving, defender of the weak, they all feel drawn to Him. But the temperature quickly drops as soon as we mention God as One who has a purpose and a plan for each individual. They all turn away when we introduce that same God as concrete, prohibiting God with a determinate character who chastises those He loves. C. S. Lewis classified these kinds of people as Pantheists.  Allow me to scrutinize the credentials of pantheism.

C. S. Lewis noticed that pantheism is a natural inclination of the mind when it is left with no direction. It is the permanent ordinary level the mind sinks into under the influence of superstition. It becomes in that way a religion on its own. Of course, when great thinkers’ thoughts like Aristotle’s Four Causes, Plato’s method of thinking are rejected, what else could be expected? That’s when the church comes in; the leaders of the church, when making moral decision are not defending their personal interest; they are under the influence of the Holy Spirit inspiring them about what to decide. Two thousand years they have been doing that. That’s why they are still standing despite the many hardships she endured under the hands of government leaders. Had they been defending their baseless interest and not under the guidance of the Paraclete, no longer would they be a light for those in darkness, a voice for the voiceless, truth for those living in lies. “Those members of the Church” must recognize that truth before they start disagreeing with the Church. It is not about being insightful; it is not about using logic to come to lofty conclusion (though logic is very helpful); it is about having a peek into the Truth. Had they not, they would have been just like these people who use their reason to come up with hurtful conclusions. So are those members wrong then for making those conclusions? Yes because we tell them the truth; they reject it for their own selfish reason. Rejection of the truth is a sin; ignorance is not.

It is important to know that pantheism is not a false concept; however, it is even more important to acknowledge that it is not completely true. Christianity, for instance, agrees with it on many of the ways it understands God and man, but they disagree on where they go from there. Their conclusions are most of time incompatible.

They agree that God is present everywhere. Pantheists then conclude that He is concealed in all things and therefore a universal medium rather than a concrete thing. Christians conclude that God is present at every point of space and time, and locally present in none. This fatal conception also pushes pantheists to conclude that God must be equally present in both evil and good.  Both agree that we all depend on God and intimately related to Him. Christians defines that relation in term of Creator and created, whereas pantheists say that we are parts of Him, and contained in Him. They both see God as super-personal, but they understand that word differently. For the Christians, it means that God has a positive structure which we could never have guessed in advance, any more than knowledge of squares would have enabled us to guess at a cube. Christians so maintains that God is three persons while remaining one God just as a cube contains six squares while remaining a cube. Though Pantheists use super-personal to describe God, they treat Him as sub-personal.

It is always a mistake to conceive God as one of many. God is a particular Thing. In fact, He is the Real Thing or the Really Real (Torchia). He is the opaque center of all existences, the thing that simply and entirely is, the fountain of Facthood (C. S. Lewis), the unmoved mover (Aristotle), the thing that which nothing greater can be thought of (St Anselm). That’s exactly what pantheists fail to understand; they halfway understand Him, but sadly they refuse to embrace the portrayal of those who have had a glimpse into the depth. They rely on what their reason tells them while reason herself urges us not to rely solely on her. She knows her limits; she knows she cannot deal with mystery, with the transcendent.

The reality is that the pantheists’ conception of God does nothing, demands nothing, and expects nothing. He is like a book on a shell. He will not pursue you. There is no need to be faithful to Him; whereas, the Christians’ God is a loving God who will pursue us until He gets us. He wants nothing but the best out of us. He prunes us when we stop producing fruits. He rewards us when we produce 30, 60 or 100 barrels of grain. He cares. He looks for us when we go astray and celebrates when He finds us. That’s the God people who are not in sync with the Church fail to conceive; that’s why there is a need for a better, and a more aggressive evangelization. An evangelization centered on the way this people think while teaching them the truth of God. One that does not act as if it has no clue about the thought processes of the society we live in. One that understands what people go through daily in order to bring a humane solution while adhering to the truth of God. We need all kinds of people—men as well as women, doctors, teachers, journalists, artists, Hollywood Superstar, lawyers, as well lawmakers, and people from all background and places. We need all kind of modes to get the truth out—the internet (especially the social networks) as well as cable TV.  We need to present a friendlier image of who we really are. Most non Christians think that we have nothing to offer them or to talk to them about; our religion is so rich, there is no one we cannot inspire. We need to only understand where they are on their journey so we can meet them there.