Here we see the wonderful Bishop Egan of Portsmouth Diocese UK strongly trying to defend the Catholic Church from falling into chaos.
The issue – if you didn’t already know – is that some Bishops are calling for the divorced and re-married to be able to receive Holy Communion. This of course can never happen because a Catholic marriage is valid unto death do us part – unless an annulment is granted.
“Easy” you might say – “The Pope would never allow that to happen!”
Well, officially the Pope has not actually come out in favor of it, but he has also refused to come out and denounce it – despite several high ranking Cardinals and Bishops pleading with him to do so. This leaves the church in a very vulnerable position.
The strength of the Catholic Church comes from it’s unbroken line of authority. Jesus made Peter the first Pope, and the authority has remained in place for over 200 years. We have the Magesterium – the hierarchy of the Church that keeps belief and teaching centralized and universal. This means that every Catholic, anywhere on earth, will be under the same authority and believe the same thing.
The word ‘Catholic’ means ‘Universal’, and it is this structure of our religion that gives us great strength. We are not at liberty to interpret the scriptures as we please – no, the interpretation has been handed down to us through an unbroken line of Faith, Reason, Scripture and Tradition. You only have to take a look at Protestantism and Islam to see how important this central authority is.
The Protestant church does not have Tradition as the Catholic church does, but instead allows for personal interpretation of scripture. This allows the individual to take a piece of scripture, and make it fit their wants and needs. It is this personal interpretation that has given rise, amoungst other things, to women priests and the support of active homosexual relationships, which have torn congregations in two in many protestant parishes.
This freedom of interpretation is also seen within Islam. Like Protestantism, Islam has no central hierarchy, no central interpretation of the holy texts. Within Islam, any man can declare himself an Imam, set up his own Mosque, and effectively declare himself his own Pope. This is why you could have a Mosque at one end of your road full of perfectly nice and peaceful Muslims who ignore the parts of the Qu’ran that say ‘Kill the infidels!’, and a Mosque at the other end of the road in which they stick to the text quite literally and want you dead!
Within both Protestantism and Islam, this ‘freedom’ to interpret the holy texts as one wishes has only led to division, and is the cause of great weakness within the religions.
Recently in Malta, the Bishops have taken advantage of the Pope’s silence on the matter of Communion for the divorced and re-married and has made the decision to ALLOW those in a state of adultery to receive Communion based on their own interpretation of whether they feel at peace or not with God.
“a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are [sic] at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist”. – Bishops of Malta.
This puts the average priest in an impossible situation:
Does he obey his Bishop and administer Communion to those in adulterous relationships?
Or does he obey Rome where the teaching still stands that to do so would be mortal sin?
Should the priest have to go against his conscience – and crucially, the central teaching of the Catholic Church, to remain in line with His Bishop? Would he be at fault if he didn’t? Do the Bishops of Malta not see that this is going to divide the Church and make it weak?
The Magisterium of the Church clearly states that:
85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. 86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”
Of course the obviously simple solution to this is for Pope Francis to stand up and clearly re-state the central teaching on Communion for the divorced and re-married.
Why, oh why is he just sitting on the fence, enabling this confusion to continue and causing enormous anxiety to his good and faithful priests?