There is so much to deal with, may God give me sufficient grace to do justice to all of it.
After yesterday’s comments about God’s ombudsmen being His prophets, a further notion came into view: It was when the leaders of Israel had good working relationships with the prophets that the best results happened. When prophets and leaders are in alignment with each other and with God effective battle strategies are given and implemented, warnings of enemy raids are received and acted upon – and God’s people flourish. We need to actively encourage those the Holy Spirit has bestowed charisms of prophecy upon, especially those called by God to speak truth in His name to power.
I had let some issues pass through to the keeper from the goings on prior to the Opening Mass. But with the content of this morning’s prayer service that is no longer possible.
Let’s start with some uncomfortable truths and a reminder that it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the sovereignties and the powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army in the heavens. (Eph 6:12)
In Jeremiah 44:16-19 there is a confrontation between the followers of the Lord God and the followers of a female goddess called the queen of heaven. Forsaking the Lord God was an act of rebellion. The followers of this goddess refused to listen to God through the prophet Jeremiah. Behind every god or goddess is a demon. The worship of this particular goddess continues in our day through parts of the new age movement and in the worship of the earth mother. It includes a refusal to call God ‘Father’. Depicted as a woman with many breasts, it had women as high priests and had healing rituals with the female principal, archetypes. That kind of worship usually includes witchcraft and harlotry. The demons behind female goddesses are among the strongest in existence. But the Lord wants to give His people victory. To disarm and to expose the evil powers, is part of the Christian calling to extend the kingdom of God. If you want the glory of God to return, and evangelisation to be effective, then the evil forces behind the various forms of earth mother worship must be dealt with.
The first nations people are a spiritual people and they are acutely aware of the ongoing battle between the good spirit and the evil spirits. Some first nations were more open to the Holy Spirt and some first nations were more open to evil spirits, particularly those associated with the earth mother entity. That’s why all first nations rituals and practices need to go through a discernment process, so that only those inspired by the Holy Spirit become enculturated.
The line between what is of the Holy Spirit and what is not of Him got crossed several times this morning at the prayer service, and it was also crossed several times before the Opening Mass began on Sunday. This needs to be officially repented of.
At minimum, could we be specific and always use Holy Spirit and not the shortened ‘Spirit’, please?! There’s good reason why the Church insists on the title Holy Spirit. That way there’s no doubt at all about which Spirit is being invoked.
Which gets me started on the ‘let’s permit the spirit of the land to enter into us and flow through us’, or ‘calling upon creation, breathe in the land and let it flow through us’. That terminology is not referring to the Holy Spirit! Anything not of the Holy Spirit is spiritually dangerous stuff. The context was in drawing upon sources, but shouldn’t the deep riches we call upon be the Bible and the lived tradition of the Church and its magisterium throughout Christian history?
Bishop Bosco Puthur’s homily on 4 July 2022 is instructive, especially this excerpt:
“The conditions given for receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit are that we love God and keep God’s commandments. Do we really love Him? Do we follow the Lord’s commandments, or are we making new commandments influenced by the spirit of the world? Are we incapacitated to receive the Holy Spirit promised by the Lord because we are so consumed by the spirit of the world?”
Such worldliness includes all the popular issues of our day which do not conform to the Gospel. Feminism, relativism, transgenderism, and all the ‘if it feels good do it’ philosophies are aspects of that worldliness.
Back to procedural matters. There was an intervention this morning from the steering committee about voting on matters liturgical. Since some motions today will have to with specifics pertaining to the Latin rite liturgy (a.k.a. Western rite, Roman rite, Novus Ordo), the Eastern Rite bishops will not vote on these motions. Therefore they will abstain from voting on those specific motions. Now this brought to light that all the Plenary Council members could abstain from voting on any motion. This was news because I thought we were all under the impression that voting was mandatory. Unfortunately, further clarification was not given upon whether the two-thirds majority required was on a baseline of all eligible voters or on a baseline of total of actual votes excluding abstentions.
Bishop Hurley’s homily last night explained how ecumenism is an imperative because every missing piece in the Body of Christ jigsaw matters. We are incomplete without the missing ones, and each jig-saw piece gives context and meaning to the surrounding jigsaw pieces.
The big debates today were on two topics; about women in the Church and about whether the term LGBTQIA+ should be used in a specific motion or instead language less targeted and wider ranging.
The latter is easier to deal with, it’s a choice between explicitly naming all sub-groupings of persons and risking missing some out; or using less targeted language which encompasses everyone in a general way. It’s one of those arguments you can see both sides of. Possibly if that multi-lettered term was less politically charged it wouldn’t have been an issue.
I’ve read through the motion about the role of women in the Church as it was voted upon, and I can see why it didn’t obtain a two-thirds majority in either vote. It tried to do too much. If that big motion had been packaged into four smaller motions, some of them would have been approved. It is a great pity that resolutions concerning adequate remuneration were not in a separate motion. Although many felt like the failure to get a two-thirds majority was a slap in the face, in reality most of that motion was half-baked and needs a lot more work before the implications of implementation of every part of that motion are understood well enough for general approval to be reached. The numbers who voted Yes, even though they were insufficient, should be seen as an encouragement to keep working at it until it is fully baked.
There was also an amendment which failed to pass, something along the lines of an acknowledgment of the hurts and frustrations of womenfolk in the Church. I can see why this one didn’t pass too. Firstly, not all women in the Church are exasperated to the same extent as those who drafted the amendment, if at all. Secondly, such acknowledgement is as fraught with implications as getting a government to say sorry to first nations people. Additionally some members may have felt that the hurts and frustrations were self-evident and/or lacking the future looking aspect required for inclusion in a Plenary Council motion. Sadly some members took this failed amendment quite personally, and the most obvious reasons for not getting it approved have nothing to do with misogyny.
I think the rest is going to be rebuttal of some of the discussion in the Plenary Tracker unless I remember something else.
I found myself getting increasingly angry with the general use of the terms inclusion and exclusion without references to specifics. There is a very big difference between inclusion/exclusion from the Mass, from the parish community, from receiving Holy Communion, from being a parish council member, from being a candidate for ordination, from enrolment of children in Catholic schools, and many other things. Each has very different terms of reference.
Comment was made about how inclusion was going so well in schools, hospitals and social services, so how come it isn’t going so well in the rest of the church? There’s a simple answer. When it comes to hospitals and social services, if you are in need, you get helped. When it comes to schools, if you agree not to rock the boat too much when we get a bit Catholic, come on in, we’ll take your money and enroll your child.
Absolutely everyone is welcome to attend a Mass, or any other kind of prayer. Obviously if your intent by attending is to conduct a protest, you won’t be welcome. Ditto if you significantly interfere with the ability of people to participate in the Eucharist by screeching, demanding money in a loud voice or otherwise making a scene.
Receiving Holy Communion however is a completely different ball-game. By receiving Holy Communion you are reaffirming that you believe all that the Church believes and teaches and that you are committed to living completely according to those beliefs and teachings. Why? Because being in communion requires both love AND truth. Ask a divorced person about what happened to their marriage, and ‘we were no longer being honest with each other’ will be part of that explanation. If you have ever accompanied someone going through the R.C.I.A. programme (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) or read testimonies about someone’s R.C.I.A. experience, you will see a common theme of the struggle to be able to say with sincerity ‘I believe all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches’. Only when that milestone is reached does immediate preparation for the sacraments of initiation begin.
When it comes to receiving Jesus in Holy Communion the Church takes things deadly seriously. Jesus is giving His whole self to us; our response has to be giving our whole self to Him – nothing less is appropriate. Even though the Church looks like a bit of a bully it is a protective stance, not an exclusive one. The Church takes 1 Cor 11:28-30 very seriously. “Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the Body is eating and drinking his own condemnation. In fact, that is why many of you are weak and some of you have died.”
Where the rub comes for many is that Church teaching expects chastity according to state of life for all its members. That’s right. Sexual activity only between a husband and wife, and not acting upon their sexual inclinations for everyone else. Yes again, being Catholic isn’t easy, it isn’t for wimps.
Admittedly asking probing questions of each other is not normative unless it becomes unavoidable, or some public scandal has occurred. Don’t ask, don’t tell, is standard operating procedure, with the caveat that even if none of the rest of us knows, God does know, and if a sacrilegious communion is made, there will be God-initiated consequences and they will be unpleasant in the here and now, and most definitely in the hereafter.
Remember, during those times in your life that you are unable to make a sacramental communion, you can make a spiritual communion either according to an approved form or in your own words expressing the desire for sacramental communion and asking for Jesus to visit your soul spiritually because at this time you are unable to receive Him sacramentally. Don’t set spiritual communion at low account, great Saints have made a comparison between sacramental communion and spiritual communion as between gold and silver.
The Jesuit present at last night’s Plenary Tracker made some pertinent points. Councils are important and necessary, but change is a lot longer process than that. Historically some changes have taken 200 years to be accepted by the Church on a world-wide basis. Change normally doesn’t originate in Councils but from mavericks like Blessed Frederick Ozanam who founded the St Vincent de Paul society, like the youngsters in Melbourne who began driving a van with soup and sandwiches to the homeless, like St Francis of Assisi who founded the Franciscans not because he wanted to but because so many people wanted to live the kind of life with Jesus that he pioneered.
Somehow, we have to give up the notion that all discrimination is negative discrimination. There are very good reasons why we only permit qualified electricians to fix electrical problems. There are very good reasons why you have to be over a certain height to go on some fairground rides.
We have significant precedents in salvation history that despite living on elbow rubbing terms with cultures that had priestesses, only the male descendants of Aaron could become priests in Israel and Jesus only had His chosen Apostles, all male, at the Last Supper when the Eucharist was instituted. Women can choose to rant and rave about this to God and to everyone else, or they can re-read the passage about the thorn bush in Judges 9:7-15 and perhaps conclude that leaders accept leadership because they’re not productive at anything else – dear sisters, please take stock of those things you have excellence in doing, and happily continue to do those things. Accept that as St Paul says we can’t all be eyes in the Body of Christ, we can’t all be arms, there are things that you dear sisters can do that are absolutely necessary and that no one else can do. Just because a kidney is hidden and unseen and not as out there and visible as a mouth, when it comes to keeping the body alive and healthy - the kidney is far more essential.
I fully sympathise with all grievances about priestly ineptitude, gaslighting and high-handed behaviour. But Chesterton speaks true when he says in What’s Wrong With the World, ‘We all admit that a lazy aristocracy is a bad thing. We should not by any means all admit that an active aristocracy would be a good thing. We all feel angry with an irreligious priesthood; but some of us would go mad with disgust at a really religious one.’ In other words, yes, it is bad, but it could be a lot worse; be careful what you wish for.
But we can’t hold onto our well-earned grievances. Not if we want to pray ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’ authentically. Forgiveness is a non-negotiable. By golly gosh it is hard to do, but if we look at the crucifix and at Him who died as much for me as for the person who has hurt me, and see that Jesus wants us both to be reconciled to Him and to each other – it becomes easier. Ask for the grace to forgive, if necessary ask others to join you in seeking that grace. We can’t possibly be witnesses to His kingdom of love and mercy unless we are loving and merciful in our own lives.
In late breaking news, somehow the Plenary Council is going to divide the motion on women in the church into small parts and vote on each separately. That seems a tall order given how pressed for time the timetable already is. Perhaps they might not be having as much time off on Friday as they thought – since I can’t see any other way of squeezing it in and giving each part due consideration.
What will tomorrow bring?