What Did Jesus Teach?

broken bandsOne thing all Catholics agree on is that Jesus sets a pretty high standard. Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain says the pope cannot change the Church’s “teaching” because Jesus established it. But what did Jesus actually establish, and did he mention Communion?

As for the matter of divorce, I think there are three key passages in the Gospels:

But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32)

Looks like the instigator of divorce is on the spot, and the one who marries a divorced woman. Going by the literal text here, women don’t get called out. Hmm.

Luke zeroes in on men with the same text:

Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. (19:32)

So, is it just the men getting condemned here? The oldest gospel, includes women who divorce in the condemnation:

He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)

Mark’s account is not just a saying, like we read in Matthew 5:32 or Luke 19:32, but a longer narrative with a bit more exposition. It may be illustrative that the Pharisees use the topic of someone else’s misery and failure to trap Jesus. The religious establishment, according to the evangelist, is less concerned about actual divorce, but more interested in using God’s teaching and the Mosaic practice as a tool against the Lord.

In Matthew 19, the account of Jesus and the Pharisees gives some additional insight. Jesus provides an out for those in an “unlawful marriage,” however that may be interpreted. And none of these passages mention a culpability for people who are abandoned by their spouses. A secular law might be “no-fault.” But the Bible doesn’t seem to care, at least all the time.

The real key to Church practice with regard to sacraments for the remarried is Saint Paul’s admonition about receiving the Eucharist unworthily.

From Bishop Fernandez:

The Pope said that “this was established by Jesus Christ and the Pope cannot change it.”

The pope cannot change it. But God can. The synod might discern God’s will to be different from how it was judged earlier. The highest loyalty is to the Gospel and to the mission of Christ. Not the particulars that might have been thought once to be the means to do this.

And Pope Francis might well be saying that he, personally, as the Bishop of Rome, does not possess the power to make changes here. That was the first thing that came to mind when I read the news piece.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in bishops, Scripture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to What Did Jesus Teach?

  1. John Drake says:

    Adultery is adultery, and adultery is mortal sin, and this precludes one from receiving Holy Communion until receiving absolution in Confession. Which, of course, requires an intention to not repeat the sin. Which, of course, is challenging if one continues to inhabit the same household with the second spouse, and carry on as a couple.

    • Atheist Max says:

      So the injunctions in the Bible about Adultery are to be taken literally?

      “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except [it be] for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” – JESUS (Matthew 19:9)

      Seems kind of unforgiving, doesn’t it?

    • Chris Sullivan says:

      Adultery per se is not mortal sin. To be mortal sin there would need to be free consent and full understanding ie personal agreement that it is a grave sin. The later would be lacking in those who are divorced & remarried but see nothing wrong in their current state of life.

      In the gospels, Jesus never says the divorced and remarried are in mortal sin and must be denied Holy Communion.

      Atheist Max seems to have a better grasp of the essential compassion and forgiveness of Christ than some Christians :)

      God Bless

    • Todd says:

      And yet, John, Jesus identifies the act of divorce as “adultery,” not the second marriage for a person abandoned. Max put a few archaic suffixes on my quote he stole, but even I can observe the Church hasn’t quite gotten the literal approach quite right.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Todd, I only re-stated the verse you had already brought up. Though I used a slightly different translation which may be more accurate according to my research. But it is no matter.

  2. crystal says:

    Jesus said a lot of things and the gospels tell of lots of things, but even the church picks and chooses which of those things it wants to take literally. Keith Ward said about this adultery/remarriage bit that he thinks it’s typical of the hyperbole Jesus sometimes employed to get his point across (like ‘if your right eye offends you, tear it out;) but that his main intent was to keep women from being abandoned. If anyone’s interested in what Ward wrote, I posted it a few years ago here … http://povcrystal.blogspot.com/2009/03/jesus-on-marriage-divorce.html
    I think the church uses the eucharist as a carrot and denial of it as a stick to keep people toeing their line. I can’t imagine Jesus would be for that.

  3. FrMichael says:

    Sounds like some commentators here need to buy the new book on the subject by the five cardinals and learn where this no-Communion praxis came from. I have mine on order.

    Chris Sullivan, you are once again proving that you don’t understand moral theology and you have also overlooked an aspect of sacramental theology. With respect to mortal sin, “full understanding” does not mean “personal agreement.” Sheesh. In any case, your oft-expressed bizarre understanding of conscience doesn’t apply here anyways, because the reception of Holy Communion is both a personal and ecclesial act. That is, there are times when we as individuals absent ourselves from the Communion line due to unconfessed mortal sins or other motivations (e.g. not observing the one hour fast) as well as times when the Church exercises Her God-given authority to prevent persons from receiving (e.g. non-Catholics under most circumstances, the public status of remarriage, and marriage outside the Church). This discussion that has arisen in advance of the synod touches on both personal and ecclesial/public natures of the reception of Communion.

    • Chris Sullivan says:

      The Catechism of the Catholic teaches that mortal sin requres “knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law.”. If a divorced and remarried person does not in good conscience believe they are in mortal sin, then they aren’t and they are worthy to receive. Conscience was one of the points specifically raised by Pope Benedict in his attempts to reform current practice in favour of greater compassion and mercy to the divorced and remarried. Benedict wrote that everyone is obliged to follow their conscience even against the Pope.

      As for public status, most of our parishes are so large, and parishioners constantly come and go from all over the world that few would know the marital status of others. And divorce and remarriage are now very common. The reality is that the refusal to accept and feed the remarried is a MUCH greater scandal to the Church than any concerns over the public status of individual’s marriages. The faithful expect us to be loving, kind, compassionate and merciful and not to judge and exclude those who have problems in their lives.

      Not to mention that none of us is even capable of judging the personal and private nature of other peoples relationships, which is something God explicitly commanded us not to do : “Do not judge”.

      God Bless

      • Atheist Max says:

        Chris, “none of us is even capable of judging the personal and private nature of other peoples relationships, which is something God explicitly commanded us not to do : “Do not judge”.”

        I understand why you say this based on that one line of Jesus. But I don’t see how God ‘explicitly’ commands that we not judge.

        If we assume the Old Testament is to be disregarded on this question with its 607 stoning laws and injunctions to judge others, and if we leave only the New Testament preachings of Jesus….there are several places where Jesus explicitly puts judgement of others in the hands of each of us. He also encourages us to judge harshly those who do not comport with his specific outlook. He also encourages us to look for difference among each other:

        “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his daughter, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother-in-law; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.” – JESUS (Matthew 10:35)

        Jesus is very divisive. I think we all know this very well.
        And using our judgement is how he creates the divisions.

        Don’t you agree?
        Can love survive? I hope so. But I don’t see it with Jesus.

      • Chris Sullivan says:

        One could apply Mat 10:35 to any divisive figure eg Martin Luther King Jr. Anyone who challenges the status quo and calls for radical change is going to meet opposition, as Jesus did, and still does.

        God bless

      • Atheist Max says:

        “Anyone who challenges the status quo and calls for radical change is going to meet opposition..”

        I guess so. But in a house where Love is already the status quo Jesus is not doing something good by destroying it.

        “hate your mother and father…hate your very life” – JESUS (Luke 14:26)

        I’m sure you know the context here. Jesus is saying you must prefer and LOVE Him more than everyone else you have ever known if you want to be his disciple. It is jarring.

        How do we avoid the feeling of abjection and self-debasement this encourages? Is it mentally healthy? After all, Jesus is placing a standard nobody can follow.

        Furthermore, To value love is to value your mother and father and the love you all have for each other – to disregard their love to follow Jesus (who is preaching love?) is completely counterproductive.

        Challenging the status quo is one thing. To attack the dearest loves of a person’s life and send them away seems simply a destructive and profoundly counterproductive preachment. Who could be sophisticated enough, and diplomatic enough to interpret it carefully and follow it without breaking everyone’s heart?

      • Chris Sullivan says:

        Consider someone orastacised from their family because they got involved in some good group which their family objected to (an experience common for early Christians who families were Jewish), and I’ll think you’ll get a feel for what Jesus was getting at here.

        God Bless

  4. Jim McCrea says:

    I guess the good bishop believes that he, as a successor of the apostles, has the power to bind and to loose when it conveniences him but when it doesn’t ……

  5. Atheist Max says:

    “The faithful expect us to be loving, kind, compassionate and merciful and not to judge and exclude those who have problems in their lives.”

    I applaud that very loudly.
    Loving, Kind, Compassionate and (mostly) Merciful is an excellent way of life. I try to live that way myself as does my atheist wife and non believing (grown) children. But naturally we fail at it as Christians do. It is important to be reflect on our behavior.

    But what are we to make of the difficult hurdles Paul puts in front of all this – the injunctions to shame and shun? Mustn’t the proper Christian adhere to those as well? Otherwise, to whom are they addressed?

    Do these teachings not destroy the Golden Rule of the Good Samaritan?

    “do not associate with anyone..if he is guilty.”
    (1 Corinthians 5:11)

    “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

    “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

    “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting” (2 John 1:10)

    “Avoid Them” (Romans 16:17)

    “For whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” (2 John 1:11)

    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault…” (Matthew 18:15)

    “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:9-11)

    “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:13)

    “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonian 3:14)

    Seems very, very cruel to me.
    Love and Compassion should be stronger than this.

    • Chris Sullivan says:

      I agree.

      Paul, of course, was a sinner. He started out as something of a religious fanatic, persecuting Christians. Fanatics do not always drop their fanaticism when they become Christians.

      I agree that there is a gap between what Jesus did and said and what Paul (or others) wrote in his letters. The later writings of the New Testament often seem to contain sectarian and autocratic elements in stark contrast to the gospel. As has the behaviour of the Church down the centuries.

      The teachings and actions of Jesus are the gold standard. The Church, and Paul, have not always lived up to them.

      There are many good atheists who are closer to the Kingdom of Heaven than some Christians.

      God Bless

      • FrMichael says:

        Mr. Sullivan: You have now crossed from public demonstration of your poor understanding of moral theology into outright heresy.

        Quoting from the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent, Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures:

        After listing the books of the Old and New Testament, which include the Pauline Epistles, the decree stated that “If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema.”

      • Todd says:

        Hmm. I don’t see the heresy. Looks like wishful thinking for one’s opponent to me.

        The letters, at least the ones authored by Paul, preceded the Gospels, but there are indeed pieces of culture, caste, and autocracy in the New Testament.

  6. Atheist Max says:

    I’m with you, Chris Sullivan.
    As you say, “Paul, of course, was a sinner. He started out as something of a religious fanatic..”

    As an Atheist (I am a non-believer, but I don’t claim a god to be impossible) I look at Jesus to see if he supports the ‘sinner’ Paul. When I was a Christian I would never even consider such research. Now it is routine.

    “Any place that does not receive you or listen…shake the dust off the soles of your feet for A TESTIMONY against them.” (MARK 6:11)
    “If you deem [the house] not worthy, take back your blessing of peace” – JESUS (Matthew 10:13)

    Passages like this are not the reason I am an Atheist. But they reinforce the feeling in my heart that something is not right about the things Jesus taught. Love is not about taking back any blessing. Ever. Compassion does not mark someone for cold judgement. Ever.

    Yesterday, for example, I had an incident on the roadway where I was cut off by another car. The driver did not like how I was driving and he angrily did the best to distract me, mocking my handling of the wheel. It was a dangerous moment and an example of road rage.
    I thought, “this poor person is angry at something and he is taking it out on me. I can’t stop him but neither will I engage him as it has nothing to do with me personally.” And he drove away, speeding.

    My reaction was measured, empathetic and calm. But I treated him as I would like to be treated were I in his predicament – so I grant myself no special medal for my calm behavior.

    But to read Jesus’ reaction to being personally crossed we find the opposite reaction much of the time. He gets very angry and is ready to condemn. Only when being nailed to the cross does he say, “forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)
    It is an almost impossibly beautiful sentiment and my favorite line in the Bible. Yet there is no sign these men asked for forgiveness. It was granted nonetheless.

    But shouldn’t all be forgiven, then? Really?
    how many ‘sinners’ really KNOW what they are doing?
    Isn’t it true that no sinner truly comprehends or knows the consequences of eternal hell? Isn’t it impossible to ‘know’?

    And, furthermore, isn’t it the definition of an infinitely merciful and loving god forgive and understand us better than we can understand Him?

    Compassion and Love demand no less. Right?

  7. Chris Sullivan says:


    I read Matthew 10:13, “let your peace return to you” is a better translation, as keep your peace even when your greeting of peace is rejected.

    The gospels do not record the exact words of Jesus. They express the historical memory of Jesus but applied often to later situations facing the gospel writers, and expressed according to the theological understanding of the authors (which was imperfect).

    I think that God’s love, compassion and forgiveness is so awesome and beyond human capacity that his followers often have huge problems accepting it, kept alone practicing it ourselves.

    God bless

  8. muserebende Hytham Ssali says:

    we are anxiously waiting for 1st October for the final decision.

  9. Atheist Max says:

    Chris, you said,
    “The gospels do not record the exact words of Jesus.”

    I have to agree with you, again.
    As a result, I don’t know what to make of the Gospel at all.

    “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” – JESUS (Matthew 24:35)
    Jesus was wrong. That seems important.

    • Chris Sullivan says:

      I’d read the Gospel in the most loving, kind and compassionate sense; although at times there is a need for a stark prophet challenge to injustice.

      On Matthew 24:35, Matthew wrote after the devastating Jewish war of 66-70AD when the Romans destroyed the earth in a scorched earth retaliation against Israel, and destroyed “heaven” in the sense of destroying heavens abode on earth (as it was seen) in the Jerusalem temple. With “heaven” and “earth” destroyed, the message is one of hope that Christ’s words will not pass away.

      Christians believe that Christ will return to remake a new heaven and earth – so there’s a restorative meaning in the passage too. The end of the world for us is the hope of a new and better world.

      God Bless

      • Atheist Max says:

        “The end of the world for us is the hope of a new and better world.”

        I am concerned that this is a death wish of a sort. And I say that with compassion and empathy for whatever life we have on this earth.

        I mean..suppose there is no better world than this one? We could easily be drifting toward a needless Armageddon with no particular God overseeing anything.

        Much of the world’s conflict right now is based on arguments about a god
        of one kind or another: ISIS, Shiites, Sunnis, Al Queda – variations of Allah – Christian fundamentalism, Zionism, Judaism, Evangelicalism, Protestantism – variations of Yahweh.

        It really seems unlikely that any one particular sect has it right. Yet the weaponry will decide these matters, not the ‘truest’ god.

        We don’t need atheists to prove god is unlikely to exist – we only need to put each sect in a big room and listen to them destroy the logic of each other’s gods.
        These things should be questioned.

  10. crystal says:

    I think about this issue a lot. Historical biblical criticism has made literal belief in specific sayings of Jesus tough for me, but I try to take two things into consideration – one is that the gospels are examples of what people believed about Jesus, people who were willing to die based on those beliefs, and that seems to give their beliefs some weight … but also there’s religious experience. If God exists, if the risen Jesus exists, I think there should be a way to experience that in one’s life. The two interweave somehow for me and prop each other up.

    • Atheist Max says:

      Crystal, you said, “people who were willing to die based on those beliefs”

      I understand the logic of that to a point. I felt that way when I was a Christian and it held my faith for a long time. But we must acknowledge in the end that other people of other faiths claim to have literally witnessed Allah or Mohammed and done the same.

      It is ugly to contemplate but is ‘death for faith’ not what was conducted on 9/11?
      Did Mohammed Atta not believe completely that had a personal message from Allah that eternal heaven was waiting for him with 72 virgins?

      If martyrdom validated religions, there would be none that were untrue.

      • crystal says:


        No, you’re right – I don’t mean that their willingness to die makes what they believed true … people are willing to die for lots of nutty reasons. I guess I meant that the fact that it seemed so important to them makes me at least curious about what so affected them.

        When I was becoming a Christian – I was an atheist too – I was really disturbed to read about the non-canonical gospels and disturbed to read about how like the canonical gospels were written, the possible transcription errors and the “propaganda” in them particular to different communities, the additions and subtractions, etc.

        I asked the guy who was then my spiritual director about all this and he tried to provide some perspective … though the gospels have all those flaws, we don’t really realize how sketchy what we take for granted about ancient historical figures really is. As he said of the gospels, there were more copies extant, more agreement between copies, than we have for documents about, for instance, Plato or Julius Caesar or Alexander. And he said that the gospels aren’t supposed to be histories of Jesus exactly (like Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War) but are more the experiences of different Christian communities in relation to him. This Wikipedia page gives an idea of the issues …. Historical reliability of the Gospels … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_reliability_of_the_Gospels

        But at the end of the day, if all you have is an historical document but no actual experience, I don’t think that will be enough, or at least it wouldn’t be for me.

      • Atheist Max says:


        Yes. Thanks for clarifying that.

        You said, “the gospels aren’t supposed to be histories of Jesus exactly”
        Yes and this is my understanding as well.

        But I confess I don’t know what to do with these texts. I don’t know how anyone knows what Jesus actually taught vs. what is attributed to him in the Bible. He contradicts almost everything from gospel to gospel and it is unsettling.

        God exists or He does not.
        Or perhaps there are other gods we don’t know about. More than 90,000 Gods have been claimed to be true over the course of history and today almost all of them have been discarded as merely man-made myths.

        What then of the gods who remain on the list as living Gods? Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, Vishnu, Ganesha?

        Are some of them man-made? Who knows?
        Billions of people swear by each one – killing people ‘to protect’ their god is still a universal activity. Yet each god denies the existence of the other gods.

        I care about what is true. I have found many good things in life to be true.
        But if I can’t confirm something to be true, I can’t believe it.

      • Chris Sullivan says:

        “Yet each god denies the existence of the other gods”.

        I dunno, Max. In the gospels Jesus speaks of gods in the plural. And Christianity speaks of humans becoming gods. Each god doesn’t deny necessarily the existence of other gods.

        God Bless

  11. Atheist Max says:

    “I’d read the Gospel in the most loving, kind and compassionate sense”
    I agree with you again, Chris.

    Loving, Kind and Compassionate. I try to behave that way every day and meditate on how to fill my world with it – but without the gospels at all (texts which I find astoundingly cruel).

    I don’t know if there is an afterlife or not. I doubt that it matters much.
    It certainly doesn’t matter to me.

    But this life and the people we love are what appears to be important. And if we are cruel and leave a legacy of hatred our lives are somehow wasted entirely.

    “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!” (1 Corinthians 16:22)

    Profoundly cruel. I would curse nobody.

    • Chris Sullivan says:

      I’d suggest a better way of reading 1 Corinthians 16:22

      For Christians, “the Lord” is Love, Kindness, Compassion (“God is Love”). Not to love those is to be the opposite. Which in itself is a kind of curse because it leads to misery, sadness, and evil.

      For the Church, anyone who does good, athesists included, are in fact loving God, even though they may not evenbelieve in God.

      God Bless

      • Atheist Max says:

        Chris Sullivan,
        Thank you for that point of view on 1 Corinthians 16:22

        You explain the meaning as a clear dichotomy.
        One MUST choose to LOVE God; God is Love.
        or choose otherwise head toward misery, sadness & evil without God and His Love.

        You said, “Anyone who does good, Atheists included are loving God..”

        But you already established that the CHOICE TO LOVE GOD is the way to avoid heading into misery, sadness & evil. So the one who cannot love God (because of unbelief) will not have CHOSEN love.

        In other words, if Love without regard to God is no different from Love with God what is the value of the love of God?

      • Atheist Max says:

        I must sharpen that last question and make it clearer:

        If Love without regard to God is no different from Love with God
        what, then, is the value of loving God?
        God appears superfluous to the question.

        So, as you acknowledged, Atheists can love without CHOOSING God at all.

        So your explanation of Paul’s dichotomy from 1 Corinthians 16:22 needs a closer look.
        “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!”

        ‘The Lord’ and ‘Love’ are two different things.

        I’m back to suspecting that Paul meant ‘cursed’
        to really mean desiring someone a Loveless fate; to be outcast
        and shunned, as when Paul writes to the Thessalonians,

        “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonian 3:14)

        There is genuine cruelty here.

      • Chris Sullivan says:

        A choice to love is a choice for God, even if one doesn’t believe in God.

        You are correct that the bible can be interpreted in a cruel sense, and Christians often have.

        God Bless

      • Atheist Max says:

        Chris Sullivan, Thank you for that. I appreciate this.

        You said, “If you choose Love you are choosing God even if you don’t believe in God”
        Your answer is fascinating. So to love is to ‘choose God.’

        Please explain this:
        “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple…”(Luke 14:26-27)

        First, I’m curious why this doesn’t contradict your statement.

        Second, You said choosing ‘love’ is the same as choosing God. So suppose someone chose to love of his father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sister AND his own life — wouldn’t that be a much better way to love God?

        Isn’t Jesus completely wrong?

      • Chris Sullivan says:


        Luke 14:26-27 is semitic hyperbole, common in scripture.

        In Hebrew the way to say one has a preferential love for A over B is to say one loves A but hates B. But it doesn’t actually mean one hates B !

        Scripture is something of a foreign land a long time ago. One needs to read with the literary techniques of the human author in mind in order to grasp what he was really trying to say.

        As FrMichael has correctly pointed out, the Catholic way of reading the bible is to read with the mind of the Church. The Church doesn’t teach us to hate our parents (which would contradict one of the 10 commandments).

        God Bless

  12. FrMichael says:

    “I agree that there is a GAP between what Jesus did and said and what Paul (or others) wrote in his letters. The later writings of the New Testament often seem to contain sectarian and autocratic elements in STARK CONTRAST to the gospel.” Emphases are mine.

    The same Holy Spirit that inspired the Four Evangelists also inspired St. Paul and other Epistle writers. The Holy Spirit does not have gaps and does not contradict Himself. The only gaps here are the gaps in Mr. Sullivan’s knowledge and the only contrast between the writings of Paul and the Gospels are those which exist in Mr. Sullivan’s head and others of his ilk. Unfortunately these gaps and contrasts are not the minor sort one expects to find among the majority of the Christian faithful who are busy earning a living instead of being able to attend Bible studies. Instead, Mr. Sullivan seems to glory in his heretical belief challenging the divine inspiration of the Pauline Epistles.

    • Todd says:

      Thanks for the clarification, but I still see no heresy. Unless we’re counting definition #2 for the 21st century: religious opinions with which I disagree.

    • Atheist Max says:

      You said, “The later writings of the New Testament often seem to contain sectarian and autocratic elements in STARK CONTRAST to the gospel.”

      Not sure I’m following you.

      The first writings of the New Testament are the Epistles (c. 51-58 AD).
      The later writings would be the Gospels themselves, latest of the Canonicals being the Gospel of John (c. 90-95 AD) and Revelation (c 85-98).

      So did you mean to say the earliest writings of the NT are starkly contrasted to the Gospels? I’ll assume so until you correct me.

      If Jesus is ‘the Gold Standard’ (as Chris said) it is odd that those words are not relevant to much of Paul’s writing.

  13. FrMichael says:

    Atheist Max:

    I was quoting Chris Sullivan’s bizarre and heretical take on St. Paul’s writings: that they contain elements in “stark contrast” to the Gospel. In fact, the Catholic Church (and indeed, all Christian bodies to my knowledge) holds to the New Testament being canonical as a whole as it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore it needs to be understand as a whole under the guidance of Sacred Tradition. Mr. Sullivan seems to think otherwise to his shame. His confusion about which came first in time, the Pauline Epistles and the four written Gospels, which you remark upon (I was quoting him in my comment) is therefore small beer.

    Todd: let me put Trent in simple terms– there is no conflict or contrast between writings of the New Testament. There are only apparent contrasts for those who are ignorant of Church Tradition. He who “…knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema.”

    • Todd says:

      Still a stretch. The New Testament does not consist of 100% religious content. And Saint Paul, though an honored figure in Christianity, was not a perfect man. Chris is free to correct me, but I think he was discussing the accidentals of culture as Paul experienced it. Submission for women, for example, is a cultural artifact, not a core principle of theology. And indeed, some would say the authentic Paul is somewhat less of a misogynist than the author of the pseudo-Paulne letters.

      There are elements of culture in the Pauline letters which many Christians would find antigospel, as they have been taken to extremes.

      And no doubt, there is some wiggle room in some Gospel accounts of divorce, and none in others.

      There’s no heresy here.

    • Atheist Max says:


      “Therefore it needs to be understand as a whole under the guidance of Sacred Tradition.”
      Understood, thank you for the reminder.

  14. Chris Sullivan says:

    I’m not denying the inspiration of scared scripture. But one also needs to emphasis that this divine inspiration is always expressed through the limitations of the human author: his worldview, limited theological understanding, social predjudices, culture, personality, social class, male worldview etc. This is what the Church teaches. Inspiration does not mean that the human author was merely a passive scribe taking dictation from the Holy Spirit – that would not be love, but servile slavery. God always works with us and respects our humanity.

    On stark contrasts: the Gospel of John and it’s anti-Jewish line reflective of late 1st century tensions with the synagogue, and Revelations glorification of a bloody end of ones enemies. The poor interpretation of these passages has often resulted in bloody violence by Christians.

    Trent’s whole “anathema” thing is another example of a limited worldview, one of power and domination opposed to the gospel message of love, and one rejected by the Church today as counterproductive to evangelisation.

    God Bless

    • Atheist Max says:

      Chris Sullivan:

      “the gospel message of love.”
      But I believe very strongly in the importance, and beauty of love. It is our reason to live.
      It is what brings joy to life and makes everything worthwhile.

      I’m very tempted to ask, ‘what does God have to do with it’?
      I suspect you’ll tell me that I am already a believer in God but that I deny it because I want to sin or something?

      But as one who is dedicated to Loving people…according to your analysis…I’m in the clear. I’m going to Heaven even though I am an Atheist who does not believe that God is real and even though I can’t muster too many nice things to say about God or Jesus. In fact, I’m leaning sort of anti-Jesus.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with not going to Heaven. I don’t believe in Heaven either.
      But your analysis is begging a question. If belief in God is just belief in Love – isn’t ‘god’ in everyone? Are we not ALL saved?

    • Chris Sullivan says:

      Yes, God is in everyone. And yes, the Church hopes and prays that all will be saved. And she teaches that atheists can be saved.

      God Bless

      • Atheist Max says:

        Chris Sullivan,
        Thanks again. I’m having trouble here. Thanks for your patience.

        I asked, “If belief in God is just belief in Love – isn’t ‘god’ in everyone? Are we not ALL saved?”

        You said,
        “Yes…The Church hopes and prays that all will be saved. And she teaches that atheists can be saved.”

        You are saying ‘prays that all will’ and ‘can be’ saved. But I’m having trouble finding out where the missing link is. Because I am already saved if I choose God and even though I do not believe in God at all, I do choose LOVE very much so.

        If I have chosen to love, I have already chosen God. What more is to be done to be saved?
        If I am already saved I can close the Bible, skip church, stop praying and just love people. The entire institution of the Church would be superfluous.

        Unless you tell me Love and God are different things
        there is nothing further I need to ‘hope’ for.
        As an Atheist, I have love so I should be saved.


      • Chris Sullivan says:


        To be saved: keep on loving as your conscience tells you is right.

        God Bless

  15. FrMichael says:

    “Trent’s whole “anathema” thing is another example of a limited worldview, one of power and domination opposed to the gospel message of love, and one rejected by the Church today as counterproductive to evangelisation.”

    Good grief! Trent is an ecumenical council, whose dogmatic teachings stand the test of time even now. Indeed, I just glanced at the glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and saw that it is the second-most cited ecumenical council by the CCC, eclipse only by Vatican II.

  16. Scott Smith says:

    “The pope cannot change it. But God can. The synod might discern God’s will to be different from how it was judged earlier. The highest loyalty is to the Gospel and to the mission of Christ. Not the particulars that might have been thought once to be the means to do this.”

    And how might God change it? There is no further public revelation – We only have what he has already provided.

    • Todd says:

      Who gets to receive Communion is a matter of administration and practice. Not doctrine. Doesn’t Peter, in union with the apostles, have the power of the keys? Don’t the Orthodox, with entirely valid sacraments, have a different practice than Roman Catholicism? What if the remarried need the Eucharist more than the rest of us need to withhold it from them?

  17. Scott Smith says:

    There are doctrinal matters in respect of the reception of communion, Peter’s power is not unlimited, and the Orthodox can be wrong.

    But at the core, the point is the remarried will not be helped by the Eucharist, as it is the wrong medicine. Encouraging people to eat to their own judgement is hardly helping.

    • Todd says:

      Thanks for visiting to comment, Scott.

      It would seem that Saint Paul isn’t terribly specific about what constitutes consuming one’s judgment. Tying together a selective reading of what Jesus taught on divorce (which isn’t totally consistent in the Gospels) and a caution from an apostle on something either totally different or only a piece of what he had in mind strikes a lot of people as a stretch.

      How do you know the Eucharist is the wrong medicine? Because someone told you? It seems likely we are going to get a very interesting discussion this month. Hopefully there will be enough meat to nourish marriages that are holding together, and substantially less finger-wagging.

  18. Scott Smith says:

    In case the links do not clear moderation over on Praytell, I am just going to post my answer to your query on 1 Cor 11:27ff here as well:

    “I believe it has. In fact, I think that is why Cardinal Kasper’s proposal is based very much on quotes from Early Church Father that he thinks are exceptions to the general rule.

    Here (http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/holycom/denial.htm) and here (http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/3234/cardinal_kasper_and_the_church_fathers.aspx) provide some examples.”

    In terms of your comment here, I suppose my point is that we have a long tradition of interpretating of these scriptural passages as applied to the question at hand. The traditional argument is not just some form of protestant proof texting.

    And so if someone wants to make a Catholic argument for a different practice, they are going to need to engage with these scriptural passages as received by the Tradition.

    • Todd says:

      I just finished my reply over at PrayTell, and it’s not my practice to repeat postings. I will add:

      1. Even your cited sources concede the Patristics do not have a uniform approach. And we would expect that of an era centuries before canon law.

      2. I don’t think laxity is on the table at the synod. Even your commentators cited acknowledge the discernment is between maintaining rigor and finding a middle way. Unlike in some of the Catholic blogosphere, there seems to be an acknowledgement that Cardinal Kasper and others are not attempting to bring down the house on our married heads.

      3. I think the Scriptures are somewhat more lively, especially when there hasn’t been located in the canon of the New Testament and explicit, single approach to remarriage and participating in the sacraments.

      4. Scandal is cited, yes. But many people are scandalized by four-month relationships legalized in haste, even outside of the Church, trumping long-term marriages with obvious benefits. Some people these days go looking for scandal where, perhaps, they could be minding their own business.

      5. If the present practice is not working, it is vital that all work on something that would. That is part of what it means to be a living tradition, as opposed to rigor (mortis).

  19. Scott Smith says:

    Oh, and always happy to come visit. I often come to read the parsing of Church documents you do here, which are very interesting.

  20. Rod says:

    Re: http://www.wdjt.org/index.html

    A gateway to the teachings of Jesus as presented in the “fifth epochal revelation”
    (Papers were published in book form in 1955). Save the linked WDJT.txt file as
    WDJT.html for offline viewing/study with a computer browser.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s