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War in the church

It is a few days to Christmas, the memorial and celebrations of the birth of Jesus whom the church’s faith, belief and dogma are based on and whose life is exemplified in the church’s traditions. Christianity is a way of Christ. As some schools of thought believe, Christianity should not be regarded as a religion but a culture anchored on the principles demonstrated by Jesus.

Within the Christian faith are denominations each carved from the Catholic Church. There is belief that the Catholic Church came directly from Jesus when he transferred the authority of the church to St. Peter, the church in Vatican City in Rome – the tomb of St. Peter is located under the main altar of the Vatican Basilica, which is exemplified by the name St. Peter’s Basilica. The St Peter’s Basilica is the head of the Catholic church where the church is administered from by the Pope. The Pope is seen as the successor of Peter.

The Pope, as taught to us when we were young, is infallible and any decision made by him as the leader of the church and pontiff, seated as the ecclesiastical authority or when he speaks ex cathedra, is incontrovertible. It is seen as final and unblemished. The Catholic church at the same time is adjudged infallible which the gate of hell will not overcome. The church’s laws and reforms are adjudicated by the Synod or the Ecumenical Council.

The Catholic Church has well defined beliefs and traditions which are held tight over the centuries. These beliefs have held the church which is hierarchical and its faithful, together.

Over the decades that I have lived as a Catholic, and in recent times that there has been a concurrency of secularism and liberalism fighting to destroy Christianity, I have always believed that the Catholic Church will be the bastion and the bulwark of Christianity which the secular wave will not affect and overcome. The Catholic Church in the last few years has been in turmoil as regards church’s teaching and interpretation of marriage and family.

“It is no real surprise, then, that there are efforts to create a vision of Europe which ignore its religious heritage, and in particular, its profound Christian soul, asserting the rights of the peoples who make up Europe without grafting those rights on to the trunk which is enlivened by the sap of Christianity…Certainly Europe is not lacking in prestigious symbols of the Christian presence, yet with the slow and steady advance of secularism, these symbols risk becoming a mere vestige of the past.. This loss of Christian memory is accompanied by a kind of fear of the future. Tomorrow is often presented as something bleak and uncertain…We find ourselves before a widespread existential fragmentation. A feeling of loneliness is prevalent; divisions and conflicts are on the rise. Among other symptoms of this state of affairs, Europe is presently witnessing the grave phenomenon of family crises and the weakening of the very concept of the family.” Pope John Paul II wrote in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa. It is no longer a concern of Europe, this has become the concern of the global church.

In 1967, two years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, there was a meeting of all the presidents of the North American Catholic Universities in the United States which got the Land O’ Lakes statement. The statement declared the independence of Catholic universities and colleges from all authority and all bonds of loyalty to the teachings and authority of the Church. “To perform its teaching and research functions effectively the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself…,” the Land O’ Lakes statement read in part. The generations which passed through this ecclesiastical autonomy are today championing doctrines that are at variance to the church’s teachings.

Pope Francis who arrived at the Vatican and as the head of the church, has made pronouncements and taken actions that seemed at variance to the traditional teachings of the church.

On World Youth day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, as reported by Catholic Herald, Pope Francis said to the youths, “I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses! I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!”

His Fiducia Supplicans has encouraged the blessing of same-sex marriage; “When two people request a blessing, even if their situation as a couple is “irregular,” it will be possible for the ordained minister to consent. However, this gesture of pastoral closeness must avoid any elements that remotely resemble a marriage rite.” VaticanNews explained. This has set off the desired mess.

An image showing opinions as they come on Fiducia Supplicans from various countries as compiled by Shane Schaetzel.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, as quoted in Commentary on the Responsum ad dubium, states, “According to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided (2358).”

Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia indicates in n. 250, “so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives”. Yet in n. 251, it states, “the Synod Fathers observed that as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

“The family and life form a real unit which must be protected by society because this is the living nucleus of the succession (procreation and education) of human generations. In today’s open and democratic societies, the State and the public authorities must not institutionalize de facto unions, thereby giving them a status similar to marriage and the family, nor much less make them equivalent to the family based on marriage.” As contained in the Pontifical Council for the Family: Family, Marriage and De Facto Unions. The state has long worked to institutionalise the union.

Read Also: Inclusivity in the church

After these forth and back interventions and interpretations by the Church, it was rather surprising, without any conclusion on the subject, although Pope Francis had since indicated his perception early enough but that had been considered his personal opinion but Fiducia Supplicans is different. This is a document of authority showing the way of the church. This has not gone well with the Catholic world. The Priests and the faithful have risen in support of or in condemnation of, as some are indifferent.

The universality and the unity of the church is threatened.

Countries upon countries of Catholic congregations are stating their opinions. Bishop Athanasius Schneider who referred to the document as “a mockery of the natural and revealed law of God, also stated that “As anyone paying attention to the situation can see, the debate has only begun. But perhaps creating a state of permanent debate, generalized uncertainty, and doctrinal and practical anarchy, was precisely its aim.” Cardinal Gerhard Müller stated that “blessings” of homosexual couples constitute “blasphemy” and that the document is “self-contradictory.”

As opinions continue to come, the opinion of the College of Cardinals will be important as that will determine the future of the Conclave and the successor of Pope Francis.

The church is currently at war; liturgically, psychologically and magisterium. It calls for the rejection of the document, questions the authority of the Pope and resisting of his certain ordinances going forward. But, the raging debate also can bring unity, more understanding within the church.

“Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it… Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.” Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

When the confusion becomes unresolved, it could lead to the disintegration of the church, in fragments, according to continents or according to countries. This may not bode well for the church depending on the final outcome of this debate. The church needs healing and to retain its status as “the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth”. This question of same sex marriage should be kept in the civil spaces and not within the church, otherwise this war in the church will end in ‘doctrinal and practical anarchy.’ – a legacy of Pope Francis.

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  1. Well couched. Keep up the good work.

  2. The crime of Cardinal Bergoglio or Pope Francis or the Anti-Christ/Papa?

    Quite an interesting moment for Catholics all over the world. They are not smiling, and the arrows and bullets from this “crime” unarguably are giving them sleepless nights. Theological or a-theological fireworks from all cylinders.

    Many haters of the church have gone out with many narratives, painting the image of the church with the most brutal and ugly paint the human mind can imagine.

    To those priests here and in other platforms who have taken time to digest the document, explaining the very intention and spirit of the document in a very lucid and simplified language, Kudos to you all. Accept your vilifications or commendations in the process of doing so with indifferent poise. Fierce criticisms especially are to be expected.

    No explanations from anyone who is not the crafter (the originator(s) foreclosed any ex ufficio commentary) of any document will ever suffice; such explanations also to those minds hell bent to see the church dragged to the mud are like water off the back of a duck. But I wish them well in their wild goose chase. They are actually chasing a butterfly around a bottomless pit, as in falling, they surely would.

    To those Catholics who are getting so paranoid about the fall, shame, and disgrace of the church, my brotherly counsel is this, the church wouldn’t be scratched. Be calm and know that he is God, for the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Over 2000 years ago, it resounded from the biblical plains of Ceasarea Philipii, the unique voice of the son of man: ” _Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam, et portae inferi, non praevalebunt adversus eam, et dabo tibi claves regni caelorum._

    Of course, you may call me a hope giver in a seeming hopeless situation, no wahala, time shall tell, as it has always done over the checkered history of the Catholic church across the centuries. Me, I wasn’t there when it all started two millenia + ago, but our fathers had told us, “He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

    In my only over half a century years and still counting, of walking and/or working with God, for those who believe in Him, nothing ever overwhelms Him. As things seem changed and distorted to us, it nonetheless remains the same for Him. Because He is God and not man.

    My worry isn’t about those who are fanning the embers of this horrible propaganda, the bloggers, the social media influencers, the haters of Catholic Church, etc, I am rather peeved about those Catholics who out of paranoid, holier than thou disposition, over- sanctimonious mindset etc, are saying some unprintable things about the Pope and his Dicastery officials. Let’s be very careful, moderate ourselves, and apply restraints! If you really believe in God, you would have realised how personalised one’s journey of faith is.

    Christianity is a lifestyle, not dogmas, though dogmas unarguably help one in the journey. And theology and canonical provisions help to form and mould the best in us and perhaps whip us in line, but still not compulsively.

    Getting less distracted by the flying commentaries of devilish minds and getting attracted to the ways that would make ones personal walk with God solemn and holy should rather be the best path to chart.

    Jesus walked into Zacheus’s house, the most notoriously hated tax collector, and wined and dined with him. He allowed the most morally debased prostitute Mary Magdalene, to clean and kiss his feet. Just imagine if it were now, what the headline would be, and how bloggers and social media influencers would have misrepresented it.

    Gays are or should rather be the least of our challenge or headache. Alone we came and alone we will go. God, who is the righteous judge, will judge all according to their deeds and actions.

    You may not be any better than gays before God, contra naturam as their sexual orientations, active or passive, might be. His ways certainly are not ours. Be calming down. _Qui iniquitatis observerit Domine_ …..remains the prayerful poser of a Psamist. Oh Lord, if you will mark our guilt, who will survive? If God marks your guilt and you survive it, congratulations. You can go ahead and condemn gays and question why the mercy and blessings of God should be given to them. Nothing much might change, blessed or not blessed, of your life and/or theirs.

    Recently, a place where fake drinks are poisonously brewed was discovered somewhere in Asaba and Aba. May be the perpetrators of this wicked act may be condemning gays. Hypocrisy at its best!

    Distorter of facts, wicked fake stories tellers to tarnish people’s image, blackmailing experts that even have alters of various saints and mini devotional dedicated rooms that pretend they love the pope and priest, abound in our parish.
    Do I party with homosexuals, no! Do I approve of their lifestyle? Far from it. Am I worried about they approaching me for formal or informal blessings in singles or couples, and what to do at that moment? Wait until they do! The good, holy bird will always teach you what to do.

    BUT AS POST SCRIPTUM, HITHERTO AT THE END OF EVERY CATHOLIC MASS, the Priests, I, for one, do pray: “May almighty God BLESS YOU (emphasis), the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
    Congregants respond: Amen.
    The Priest or the Deacon then says: “The Mass is ended, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
    They again chorus in unison: “Thanks be to God!”

    All kinds of sinners become beneficiaries of the BLESSING. Among the congregants who received this BLESSING are those involved in the “seven deadly sins” of: lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, wrath, envy, and pride.

    Many others within the congregation are involved in:
    Sexual Immorality
    Slander …etc
    And yet ?????
    Heavens have not fallen. God is not MAN.
    It is biblically clear that not only homosexuals were condemned not to inherit heaven.

    Di consequenza, let the wind and storm of propaganda blow in a whirlwind manner. Let the fire of malicious distortion of facts fall in a brimstone manner. Let the gates of hell be flung open against the church, and the arrows of scandal fired on her. Let the earthly head of the church in error attract attacks no matter how ferocious, the good news remains that the church wouldn’t be prevailed against.

    Know this and know peace! Cry for your sins. The church will be fine!
    Popes come, and Popes go, the barque of Peter, remains.

    I, Hils Odili BenEzenwa, acknowledge the anonymous, whose intervention on the subject matter, read elsewhere, provided the inspiration and impetus to improve greatly on that original text. It still remains my adoptive and personal opinion on matter, to be taken or rejected by you, the reader. Am conscious that our thoughts or reservations on this issue may never converge until His Kingdom shall come.


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