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Scots Catholic Blog
|Posted on December 13, 2016 at 8:22 AM||comments ()|
|Posted on October 6, 2016 at 6:03 AM||comments ()|
Pope Francis has spoken out against the theory of gender, something he has stated as being the “great enemy of marriage today”. The pope, speaking to a group of religious men and women in Tbilisi, Georgia, said: “Today, there is a global war trying to destroy marriage…they don’t destroy it with weapons, but with ideas. It’s certain ideological ways of thinking that are destroying it…we have to defend ourselves from ideological colonisation.”
The pontiff has often spoken about ideological colonisation and gender theory and the dangers they pose to society. The ideological colonisation he refers to is primarily to do with developed countries – mainly in the West – imposing their ideas and values into developing nations and potentially withholding aid where those ideas and values are resisted. Gender theory, on the other hand, is what an individual person believes himself or herself to be and it may not necessarily correspond with their biological sex. Indeed, it may even be non-binary; that is, neither male nor female.
The next day, during an in-flight press conference on his way home to Rome, the pope spoke once more about gender theory and expressed deep concern about “teaching in school about this [gender theory], to change mentalities.” This, he says, “is what I call ideological colonisation.”
He then spoke more specifically about homosexuality and the pastoral call of the Church with regard to people who experience same-sex attraction. He said: “First of all, I’ve accompanied in my life as a priest, a bishop, and even as pope, people with homosexual tendencies or even homosexual practices, I’ve led them closer to the Lord.” He called on all people within the Church to accompany people in such situations “as Jesus accompanies” because “when a person who has this condition gets in front of Jesus, Jesus won’t say ‘leave because you’re homosexual.’”
The pope was, however, cautious about the more liberal headlines that have been attributed to him in terms of a possibly softer Church attitude towards homosexual acts when he said: “I want to be clear, this is a problem of morals. It’s a problem. It’s a human problem that has to be resolved as it can, always with God’s mercy.”
|Posted on May 6, 2016 at 12:32 PM||comments ()|
‘Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep.’
While sitting at my desk at work earlier this week a conversation about religion was struck up among my colleagues. Religious chat is generally taboo these days and where it does exist it tends to take the form of an attack on whatever religion happens to be in the spotlight. This time it was the Catholic faith; my faith. I was asked to explain the Catholic Church’s belief in the Eucharist. No easy task in a very secular environment I can assure you. But I tried my best to explain it in terms acceptable to the ears of my audience.
My colleagues listened to what I had to say and once I had finished a stony silence followed. This was followed soon thereafter by a change of subject, diverting away from the ridiculous notion that a piece of bread and a cup of wine could be turned into the body and blood of a two thousand year old Jew. The truth is, my colleagues probably felt not only confused but also a little uncomfortable by all the body and blood chat. And I can assure you that I most certainly felt uncomfortable with having to explain it to a cynical crowd.
Yet our discomfort at explaining our faith can never match the discomfort that must have been experienced by the Christian martyrs. In today’s first reading St Stephen shows incredible courage as he stands before a cynical crowd and tells them that he has seen ‘heaven thrown open’ and that he has also seen ‘the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God’. Despite knowing that such words would likely lead to his death he was still not afraid to speak them. And he even echoed the words of Christ on the Cross when he begged God to forgive those who were killing him. Like any human being in that situation he would have been absolutely terrified, but he never once denied his faith in order to save his earthly life.
It’s not easy to talk about our faith to others. We can feel embarrassed, afraid, and even silly. But thankfully the UK is not like the world St Stephen lived in. It is a place where, despite some arguments to the contrary, people are generally free to talk openly about their faith. We must not be afraid to use this freedom, but to do it sensibly and proportionately. Our world needs a message of love, mercy and peace; a message that was so profoundly illustrated in the words and actions of St Stephen just before his death. We can give the world hope with our message; a message that comes in the shape of one man….Jesus Christ.
|Posted on May 3, 2016 at 9:43 AM||comments ()|
Accompaniment. Could this be one of the most important words in the life of the Church today?
One thing above all else struck me in reading Pope Francis’ recent exhortation Amoris Laetitia. It is the call to accompaniment. While we are well aware of our call to love and to be merciful towards all people, do we know how to achieve this? Think about those who live in ways or relationships that do not entirely accord with God’s divine plan, such as same-sex unions, cohabitation and the divorced and remarried. Pope Francis refers to these ways/relationships as ‘irregular’ and he suggests a need for accompaniment for people in such situations. Not just the need to love and be merciful; but the need to commit to actual one-to-one accompaniment.
I don’t intend going into the fine detail of Amoris Laetitia as there have been numerous commentaries on the document and many different views expressed. For me, I would sum up the document as being insightful in many ways, but especially when it comes to the love we are expected to show our spouse and our children. I found it incredibly helpful, directing me towards being more patient and understanding in family life. It is in many ways a challenge to live a holy and wholesome home life.
But like a fine thread running through the document, there is this call to accompaniment. The Pope isn’t advocating anything that is contrary to the teaching of the Church. There is no call to change doctrine and this is confirmed in the Pope’s own words: ““To show understanding in the face of exceptional circumstances never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.” Quite simply, Church doctrine continues to stand strong and will always do so. But perhaps the Pope’s call to “show understanding” is something we should dwell on for a moment.
The Church has always called its people to be loving, compassionate and merciful; to understand the difficulties experienced by others. It is after all a hospital for sinners. So, in that sense, there is nothing new here. The truth is, we should already be accompanying people in their difficulties and bringing them to Christ.
Sadly, however, the reality is somewhat different. Too often the Church (that is, the Catholic people) is seen as being judgmental, lacking compassion with a tendency to take the moral high ground. We are often quick to go on the defensive, preferring to argue rather than listen. Whether these accusations are justified is not something we should waste our time arguing about. The important thing is to focus our minds on accompanying all people, whatever their circumstances, and to show them the loving face of Jesus. We need to stop being defensive and, instead, be positive. If we come across someone in an irregular situation; be it a same-sex union, or perhaps someone who is divorced and remarried, we are first and foremost called to show that person what it is like to meet the loving Christ, to feel the closeness of his endless love and his unfailing mercy. We must accompany them.
Only by imitating the love of Christ and accompanying our brothers and sisters can we hope to bring them ever closer to Christ and his teaching. In essence we are offering them an alternative to what the world offers them. The world, with all its riches and ill-thought-out ‘freedoms’ offers people what they want, whenever they want it, seemingly satisfying every desire they could ever wish for. Yet this is never the case. People always want more. Always. The truth is this: people are never satisfied with what the world can give them.
Our patient, loving accompaniment may offer an alternative to the world’s failure to satisfy. By understanding the difficulties experienced by people and walking with them as Christ would we can bring them closer to the One who can satisfy the longings of each and every heart.
Our mission as Disciples of Christ is to bring people to know him and to know his Truth. If we want to succeed in this we must first and foremost accept and act on our call to accompaniment. That must be our first step. Only then, once we have established a loving, trusting relationship, can we hope to change hearts to acknowledge and perhaps even accept the Truth; a truth that brings real love, real mercy, and ultimately, real freedom.
If we want to build God’s Kingdom in our world today, we must take people by the hand and walk with them.
|Posted on April 26, 2016 at 9:03 AM||comments ()|
Pope Francis has given a lesson in love and freedom during his homily at the Jubilee Mass for Young People in Rome.
The Pope, speaking to thousands of youth in St Peter’s Square, said that Jesus himself declared that Christians would be known “by the way they love one another.” The Pope continued saying, “love, in other words, is the Christian’s identity card.”
The Pope then tackled the meaning of love, stating that love is something you give. He also added: “it [love] is caring for others, respecting them, protecting them, and waiting for them.”
Francis then challenged the young people on the true meaning of freedom, stating that “freedom is not the ability to simply do what I want. This makes us self-centred and aloof.”
“Freedom” he said “is the gift of being able to choose the good: this is true freedom. The free person is the one who chooses what is good, what is pleasing to God, even if it requires effort, even if it is not easy.”
He then called on the young people to grow in love and told them how they could do this: “the secret, once again, is the Lord: Jesus gives us himself in the Mass, he offers us forgiveness and peace in Confession.”
The Pope’s call to the young people can be summed up nicely in the term ‘free love’. He wants Christians to give themselves freely to others in love, and he wants us to choose to do this as it is pleasing to God. He then tells us that the nourishment we need for this task can be found in the Holy Mass and in the Sacrament of Confession.
Let us be under no illusions. Our mission as Christians is to spread the love of Christ throughout the world. We must let his Truth be known to all people and we must deliver this Truth in a spirit of love; a love that is freely given and that always has the other person’s best interests at its core. This message is not just for our young, but for all Christian people.
The Christian message is one of great hope, mercy and peace for all people. But, above all, it is a message of love.
Click this link for the full text of Pope Francis’ homily: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-homily-at-jubilee-mass-for-teens/
|Posted on March 22, 2016 at 1:09 PM||comments ()|
From today’s Gospel:
‘Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.’ Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’’
This small passage from today’s Gospel follows on nicely from our reflection on yesterday’s Gospel when we compared the simple love Mary had for Jesus in needing to be close to him with Martha’s need to be on the go. In being so preoccupied Martha missed out on precious quality time with Jesus, a mistake Mary was not prepared to make.
And today we have Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, claiming that he would lay down his life for Jesus. That, you would think, is a step up from the love shown by Mary. And it is. And Peter would, of course, eventually become a martyr for Christ in Rome. But for now Jesus has an unfortunate surprise for Peter. He tells him that he is going to deny him. Imagine your best friend, or even your spouse, telling you that they know you will betray them in some way. You, like Peter, would be very disappointed to hear such news! But then don’t we betray people every day, denying their true value as fellow human beings and children of God? Don’t we gossip, complain and criticise other people behind their back on a regular basis? These are human weaknesses and no human is exempt from them. Even St Peter fell into this trap! So, in that sense, we are in good company.
But, like St Peter, we are called to greater things. We are called to overcome our human weakness and realise the hurt caused by some of our actions. How can we forget the look on Peter’s face in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ when he heard the cock crow? How can we forget the way he then rushed to the feet of Mary and sobbed uncontrollably as he clung to her garment, realising how foolish and weak he had been?
We are all capable of moments of weakness in our lives, even to the point of mistreating or even denying those most precious to us. The next time you fall into this trap look for the comforting arms of your mother Mary, just as Peter did, and seek reconciliation with Jesus in the Sacrament of Confession. This is how we can overcome our weakness and become saints. If Peter can do it, so can we.
|Posted on March 11, 2016 at 12:03 PM||comments ()|
Sunday’s Gospel (John 8:1-11):
‘Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.
The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’’
In the Jubilee Year of Mercy this particular passage of scripture stands out more than most. It is a perfect example of the new world order that Jesus seeks to achieve. It is a world of mercy, where no sin is incapable of forgiveness. It is a world where hate, grudges, complaints and criticism reign no more.
What Jesus wrote in the sand is a mystery. But his message is abundantly clear. We must be careful not to judge and condemn the goodness or otherwise of people when we ourselves are in a sinful state. If we are aware of someone acting contrary to the Gospel we are called to be like Jesus and do two things. First, we are called to show kindness, mercy and compassion and to put our arm around the person to show them that they are loved. Second, we are called to encourage them to seek the forgiveness of God, to live in accordance with the Gospel, and to refrain from committing sin again.
This is precisely how things are played out when we go to Confession. Jesus welcomes us, puts his loving arms around us and forgives our sins. He then asks us to go and sin no more. And while we must take Jesus’ call to refrain from further sin very seriously, he understands our weaknesses and the difficulties and struggles we experience in our world. That is why he welcomes us again and again in Confession. He never tires of pouring out his forgiveness. He just needs us to be willing to make the effort to go to him.
|Posted on March 4, 2016 at 12:22 PM||comments ()|
|Posted on February 4, 2016 at 12:37 PM||comments ()|
Following a recent discussion on our Facebook page I thought it might be useful to draft up a short note on our Catholic faith and homosexuality. It is intentionally brief. For a more in-depth article on the matter please click this link.
Our Catholic faith tells us that homosexual acts are wrong. I think it's hard for us to hear this in such an abrupt way in today's world but this is what we are taught by faith. The reason such acts are wrong is that God has ordered us male and female for the authentic union that is marriage between man and woman and to be completely open to the precious gift of new life. Homosexual acts are not ordered in this way and are thus sinful. There are many sinful acts so this isn't necessarily a singling out of homosexual people. Consider sex outside marriage between a man and a woman, which is also wrong, as is the use of contraception.
It’s absolutely critical to also bear in mind that having same-sex attraction is different to homosexual acts. Mere attraction is not of itself sinful. It is only when these feelings are acted upon where it is deemed to be wrong. This is something that many people get confused about.
I think it's also important to see the positive side of the Church's teaching on homosexuality. It seeks to protect humanity by promoting the love between a man and a woman for the sake of giving new life to the world and raising this new life in marriage, which throughout history has been the best place for kids to thrive. The Church doesn't say a man can't love a man or a woman can't love a woman. Indeed, such a notion is completely contrary to Church teaching. It simply states that it is wrong to interfere with God's clear and natural plan for humanity.
It's not about hating homosexuals as many people wrongly think. It's actually about loving everyone and calling them all to live in accordance with God's plan. That too is a form of love though it is often hard for this society to see it in this modern age of relativism. In my time running the Scots Catholic website and social media accounts I have often been corrected for straying out of line with respect to Church teaching. I have learned so much in terms of my faith and I am grateful to those who have offered their generous help. For me, they are simply doing God’s work. They are doing what Jesus did and are challenging me, and I shouldn’t be afraid to be challenged.
In fairness to anyone who abides by the teaching of Christ and his Church on this matter, they are simply trying to live out their lives as God intended and they are well within their rights to stay true to God no matter what the world may tell them. Jesus and the Apostles were ridiculed and even put to death for going against the tide and remaining faithful to God's teaching. But they remained faithful. And we are called to do the same.
It is also very important to note that there are many, many gay people living out their Catholic faith chastely in the Church. Their call to chastity is no different to the call to chastity of single people in the Church.
And we must remember, the Church is open to all people and she loves all people, especially those of us who sin. That's why I'm a member.
Many people query whether the Church might change its stance with respect to homosexual acts. This is highly unlikely given the wrongs of homosexual acts is contained in scripture, the Word of God. It's also entrenched in nature itself and the ability of man and woman to procreate (something the Church wants to protect for the sake of the family). I appreciate this is a difficult teaching for some, especially in today's society, but the Church can't fit around the whims of society. First and foremost, the Church can't stray from the Truth it has protected for 2000 years. And secondly, it would be impossible to satisfy everyone all of the time. The Church, like Jesus, is here to challenge us with the Truth. It is not here so that we can abuse it for our own ends.
The Church is also here to bring God’s mercy to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is no sin we can commit that is too great that we can’t reconcile ourselves to God. He loves us like no other.
For more information on reconciling our Catholic faith with same-sex attraction, click this link to go to the Courage RC website.
|Posted on January 11, 2016 at 8:39 AM||comments ()|
Jesus was compassionate but firm in the Truth
Pope Francis, during his Sunday Angelus, has spoken about the importance of Baptism and the role it plays in our lives. Having earlier baptised 26 baby girls and boys at morning Mass, the pope was keen to impress upon the gathered faithful the critical nature of this sacrament.
The pope said that in Baptism the Holy Spirit "burns and destroys original sin, returning to baptism the beauty of divine grace.”
The pope then stressed the importance of following Jesus and being obedient to the Truth whilst remaining true to Christ’s qualities of tenderness and humility. And here, I think, is the critical issue for us Christians today. While we must speak the Truth we must do it in a spirit of tenderness and humility. But similarly, while we must be tender and humble in our approach, we can never stray from the Truth. It's not a balancing act because that would suggest compromising one or both aspects. Instead we are called to deliver the Truth in its fullness and to do this in a fully humble and completely tender way.
In my experience people tend to be more inclined to do one more than the other. For example, some people may reject certain elements of Christ’s teaching with the aim of showing more compassion and tenderness to people. This is because some elements of teaching are difficult to accept, especially set against the backdrop of an increasingly liberal and relativist society. Others may be more determined to stick rigidly to the Truth but seem to lack that tenderness and humility, especially when they see a threat to Christ's teaching.
Ultimately we need to be firm in both elements. We need to be firm in our faith, in the same way that Christ was and in the way that God calls us to be. Jesus’ disciples died unimaginable deaths because they were firm in their faith and didn’t go along with the popular views of society. They stuck to their beliefs even though everybody mocked them and thought they were talking nonsense. They refused to reject the truth of Christ and the Church he established, preferring to invest their lives in being the men Jesus called them to be with the sure and certain hope of an eternal reward. Similarly, we need to be firm in our tenderness and humility. Jesus had an uncanny knack of being firm but also loving, gentle and kind. When he prevented the prostitute from being stoned by the scribes and the Pharisees he was careful to tell her to “go and sin no more”. But he did this while telling her that he didn't condemn her. He wanted her to stop sinning, to stick to the Truth. But he also wanted her to know that she was loved and that mercy would be shown to her.
It's important for us to remain true to both aspects when it comes to our faith. We must be true to Christ and his teaching and we must be tender and humble in remaining faithful to that teaching. The Truth is what it is and it doesn’t change. It can be found in your copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And the tenderness and humility we need in order to take that Truth to others can be found in the loving person of Jesus Christ.
So, is it possible to be both faithful to the Truth and be tender and humble? Yes. Just look to the example of Jesus and in him you will find the perfection of fulfilling both aspects.