Amoris Laetitia 246: Support for Children

amoris laetitia memeThe Church faces a difficult, yet sometimes self-imposed shackle when dealing with children who have experienced “irregular” situations in their parents’ marriages, unions or other choices. Some pastors vacate the opportunity, denying student placement or sacraments. It’s a telling move because it sets up Church membership or school enrollment as a reward for good behavior. The reality is that any person who has any sort of contact with the Church or its institutions is an opportunity for ministry, not membership cards.

246. The Church, while appreciating the situations of conflict that are part of marriage, cannot fail to speak out on behalf of those who are most vulnerable: the children who often suffer in silence. Today, “despite our seemingly evolved sensibilities and all our refined psychological analyses, I ask myself if we are not becoming numb to the hurt in children’s souls… Do we feel the immense psychological burden borne by children in families where the members mistreat and hurt one another, to the point of breaking the bonds of marital fidelity?”(Catechesis (24 June 2015))

For some Catholics, the answer is, “No, we do not feel the burden. We are uncomfortable with it, and think more of our own problems.”

The Church cannot abandon parents who have divorced and remarried:

Such harmful experiences do not help children to grow in the maturity needed to make definitive commitments. For this reason, Christian communities must not abandon divorced parents who have entered a new union, but should include and support them in their efforts to bring up their children. “How can we encourage those parents to do everything possible to raise their children in the Christian life, to give them an example of committed and practical faith, if we keep them at arm’s length from the life of the community, as if they were somehow excommunicated? We must keep from acting in a way that adds even more to the burdens that children in these situations already have to bear!”(Catechesis (5 August 2015))

Pope Francis asked this question, and then proceeds to answer:

Helping heal the wounds of parents and supporting them spiritually is also beneficial for children, who need the familiar face of the Church to see them through this traumatic experience. Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling. Hence, our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to prevent the spread of this drama of our times.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Star Dawn

In a liturgy/music/astronomy/science fiction mash-up, I’d like to nominate Alan Hovhaness’ mini-symphony “Star Dawn” for your December listening experience. From the review at a tribute site for the composer:

In this work evoking space travel, bells symbolize the stars, flowing melodies a sense of journey, and chorales symbolize (humankind). The first movement describes a journey from Earth, the second mankind’s arrival at a distant planet. The first movement contains a noteworthy chromatic vibraphone passage of some length. The work’s ‘symphonic’ credentials, however, are somewhat questionable, with a second movement clocking in at a mere 4 minutes (the first movement is 9 minutes). Indeed, the work was originally cast in three movements, but one was discarded. Notwithstanding this, there is an excellent recording of ‘Star Dawn’ on Naxos.

I think that interstellar travel would take something longer than thirteen minutes. But for an Advent reflection, maybe it suits.

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When The Cup Is All Empty

no-chalice

PrayTell reports on the word from above in New Hampshire. One commenter there offered this opinion, which pretty much sums it up for me:

I also wish pastors and bishops would not withhold the chalice from me during flu outbreaks. It should be up to me to decide whether or not it is a risk I want to take. I don’t need daddy telling me when it’s too dangerous.

Modern life, even in churches, are full of more serious disease-spreading opportunities. The best single thing a pastor could do is outfit ushers with gloves and forbid people from opening doors. Still, lay people are not children. Pronouncements like Bishop Libasci’s are juvenile at best.

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Misericordia et Misera 12: An Extension of Penance Faculties

john-8One notable bit picked up by various media from the Mercy Jubilee was the faculty to forgive abortions. This faculty continues from here on out:

12. Given this need, lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year,[Cf. Letter According to Which an Indulgence is Granted to the Faithful on the Occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, 1 September 2015] is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary. I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.

In the US, confessors have long had this ability. I’m not sure how well bishops and local clergy make this broadly known. Pope Francis gets credit here for an initiative some bishops and conferences have already extended.

No problem also for the Holy Father to encourage the practice of confession to a priest of the SSPX:

For the Jubilee Year I had also granted that those faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, can validly and licitly receive the sacramental absolution of their sins.[Cf. ibid] For the pastoral benefit of these faithful, and trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church, I have personally decided to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee Year, until further provisions are made, lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the Church’s pardon.

Follow this link for the full document, Misericordia et Misera.

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Amoris Laetitia 245: Consequences For Children In Broken Families

amoris laetitia memeToday, concern for children:

245. The Synod Fathers also pointed to “the consequences of separation or divorce on children, in every case the innocent victims of the situation”.(Relatio Synodi 2014, 47) Apart from every other consideration, the good of children should be the primary concern, and not overshadowed by any ulterior interest or objective. I make this appeal to parents who are separated: “Never ever, take your child hostage! You separated for many problems and reasons. Life gave you this trial, but your children should not have to bear the burden of this separation or be used as hostages against the other spouse. They should grow up hearing their mother speak well of their father, even though they are not together, and their father speak well of their mother”.(Catechesis (20 May 2015)) It is irresponsible to disparage the other parent as a means of winning a child’s affection, or out of revenge or self-justification. Doing so will affect the child’s interior tranquillity and cause wounds hard to heal.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Misericordia et Misera 11: Other Penance Practices

john-8We continue looking at Pope Francis teaching on the Sacrament of Penance in his recent apostolic letter. His reflection in section 11 begins with Saint Paul’s personal awareness of sin, a theme in at least four of his letters to early Christians:

11. I would like us all to meditate upon the words of the Apostle, written towards the end of his life, when he confesses to Timothy that he was the greatest of sinners, “but for this reason I received mercy” (1 Tim 1:16). Paul’s words, powerful as they are, make us reflect on our lives and see God’s mercy at work in changing, converting and reforming our hearts. “I thank him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service, though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him. But I received mercy” (1 Tim 1:12-13).

Paul confesses his own serious sin.

As a pharisee, Paul had a deep respect and regard for the Law. But the Law has a higher goal–it is not the end:

Let us recall with renewed pastoral zeal another saying of the Apostle: “God has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18). We were the first to be forgiven in view of this ministry, made witnesses at first hand of the universality of God’s forgiveness. No law or precept can prevent God from once more embracing the son who returns to him, admitting that he has done wrong but intending to start his life anew. Remaining only at the level of the law is equivalent to thwarting faith and divine mercy. The law has a propaedeutic value (cf. Gal 3:24) with charity as its goal (cf. 1 Tim 1:5). Nonetheless, Christians are called to experience the newness of the Gospel, the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2). Even in the most complex cases, where there is a temptation to apply a justice derived from rules alone, we must believe in the power flowing from divine grace.

The Holy Father is careful here not to dismiss the “rules” entirely. But clearly, rules alone are insufficient to communicate the full mercy of the Father. That was undoubtedly part of the Gospel witness of Jesus. Keep priorities straight, confessors are urged:

We confessors have experienced many conversions that took place before our very eyes. We feel responsible, then, for actions and words that can touch the heart of penitents and enable them to discover the closeness and tenderness of the Father who forgives. Let us not lose such occasions by acting in a way that can contradict the experience of mercy that the penitent seeks. Rather, let us help light up the space of personal conscience with God’s infinite love (cf. 1 Jn 3:20).

Sincere penitents drawing close: this is the hope.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation must regain its central place in the Christian life. This requires priests capable of putting their lives at the service of the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18), in such a way that, while no sincerely repentant sinner is prevented from drawing near to the love of the Father who awaits his return, everyone is afforded the opportunity of experiencing the liberating power of forgiveness.

How many places provide these twenty-four hours:

A favorable occasion for this could be the 24 Hours for the Lord, a celebration held in proximity to the Fourth Sunday of Lent. This initiative, already in place in many dioceses, has great pastoral value in encouraging a more fervent experience of the sacrament of Confession.

Follow this link for the full document, Misericordia et Misera.

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Amoris Laetitia 244: Declarations of Nullity

amoris laetitia memePope Francis has already directed a streamlining of the process to determine the sacramental nature of broken marriages. This was supported by the synod bishops.

244. A large number of Synod Fathers also “emphasized the need to make the procedure in cases of nullity more accessible and less time consuming, and, if possible, free of charge”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 48) The slowness of the process causes distress and strain on the parties. My two recent documents dealing with this issue* have simplified the procedures for the declarations of matrimonial nullity. With these, I wished “to make clear that the bishop himself, in the Church over which he has been appointed shepherd and head, is by that very fact the judge of those faithful entrusted to his care”.+

This, a good move, I think. Bishops are responsible in the most significant way in their sees to ensure a level of pastoral care that the larger institution cannot deliver to lay people.

It’s not always about hands-on work. Some of this ministry must be delegated, and might include that significant ministry mentioned in the previous paragraph, the ability to provide counseling and discernment and accompaniment for couples in crisis.

“The implementation of these documents is therefore a great responsibility for Ordinaries in dioceses, who are called upon to judge some cases themselves and, in every case, to ensure the faithful an easier access to justice. This involves preparing a sufficient staff, composed of clerics and lay persons who are primarily deputed to this ecclesial service. Information, counseling and mediation services associated with the family apostolate should also be made available to individuals who are separated or couples in crisis. These services could also include meeting with individuals in view of the preliminary inquiry of a matrimonial process (cf. Mitis Iudex, art. 2-3)”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 82)

* Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (15 August 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 9 September 2015, pp. 3-4; cf. Motu Proprio Mitis et Misericors Iesus (15 August 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 9 September 2015, pp. 5-6.
+ Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (15 August 2015), Preamble, III: L’Osservatore Romano, 9 September 2015, p. 3.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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