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Bad News from Deutschland Print E-mail
By Fr. Gerald E. Murray   
Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will meet in Rome October  5-18 to consider the The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. The Vatican’s Synod Office put together a Preparatory Document that contains a series of questions about the current state of Church’s efforts to promote doctrines and practices – along with the various challenges she faces.

On February 3, the German Bishops’ Conference published a summary of the responses to these questions from all twenty-seven dioceses in Germany and “twenty well-known Catholic associations and institutions.” (Too bad we don’t have the list, which would be useful for forensic purposes.) The result is hardly pleasing, and in fact is outright distressing.

Here is a sample of what was presented in the Summary (with my notes in italics in parentheses):

  • “The Church’s statements (nota bene: statements, not teachings) on premarital sexual relations, on homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried, and on birth control, by contrast, are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases.”
  • “Most of the baptized are also not familiar with the term ‘natural law.’”
  • “Natural law is also hardly elaborated on or detailed within the Church, and it is frequently decidedly rejected as being historically out of date and not compatible with modern ethical discourses. In particular, there is sharp criticism of a narrow, biological determinism – based on a view of “natural law” (dismissive scare-quotes) because it is said not to do justice to the Christian understanding of man.”
  • “Almost all couples who wish to marry in Church have already been living together, frequently for several years (estimates are between 90 percent  and 100percent). . . .In view of the ultimate binding nature of marriage (later responses allege that this doctrine is widely rejected in Germany), and in an awareness that a failed marriage means a profound life crisis, many in fact consider it irresponsible to marry without living together beforehand (living in sin seen as an antidote to marital break-up).”
  • “Most Catholics whose marriages have failed do not concern themselves with the question of validity because they do not regard their marriages, which may have lasted for years in many cases, as “null and void,” but as having failed. They therefore frequently consider an annulment procedure to be dishonest. They expect the Church to enable them to start again in a new relationship (why would they expect that?), for instance in analogy to the practice of the Orthodox Churches.”
  • “The canonical exclusion from the sacraments as a result of civil remarriage is perceived by those concerned as constituting unjustified discrimination and being merciless.”

  • “There is a marked tendency among German Catholics to regard the legal recognition of same-sex civil partnerships and their equal treatment vis-à-vis marriage as a commandment of justice. The opening of marriage as such for same-sex couples, by contrast, is largely rejected. Large numbers however also consider it to be expedient and positive to offer a rite of blessing to same-sex couples.”
  • “The encyclical Humanae vitae (1968) on responsible parenthood is only known among the older generation. Its reception was limited from the outset to the prohibition of so-called “artificial” birth control methods (why describe them as “so-called”?). As clearly emerges from the appropriate responses, the encyclical is unknown among the younger generation.”
  • “The distinction between “natural” and “artificial” birth control methods and the prohibition of the latter is rejected by the great majority of Catholics as incomprehensible (not surprising if they were never taught about Humanae vitae), and is not adhered to in practice.”
  • “The responses from the dioceses are unanimous that Catholics (all of them, including the clergy?) do not regard the use of “artificial” birth control methods as sinful, and consequently also not as something to be confessed.”

The widespread rejection of Church teaching revealed by this report is a self-indictment of the Church in Germany. Obviously, very little has been done in the last fifty years to explain and promote Church teaching on marriage, family and sexual morality. Yet that does not seem to trouble the editors who assembled this report.

There is a total absence of regret or remorse. The question “How did we get to this point?” is never asked. No self-criticism by the German dioceses or Catholic associations and institutions surveyed; a sense of nonchalance that people are so easily falling into sinful patterns of behavior, and that they find Church teaching either laughable or offensive.

It is hard to imagine such a passive attitude regarding the rejection of fundamental teachings of the Church on marriage and human sexuality, if the editors were interested in promoting and defending them, which is the responsibility of all Catholics, especially the clergy.

Ask yourself this question: If the Vatican produced a survey on attitudes towards ecology that found that the majority of the baptized in Germany liked burning down forests and wantonly killing animals, would that information have been reported to Rome without a hint of condemnation, or even embarrassment, by the German Bishops’ Conference?

What we have here is a push to change Church teaching on sexual morality. Sociology trumps revelation and reason. The people have spoken, they told us what they want, and it is unjust to ignore or contradict them! The faithful in Germany are either blamelessly unfamiliar with Church doctrine, or they find it unconvincing, hence the teachings must be jettisoned.

The Synod risks becoming a contentious battleground. Yet perhaps it must be so for the good of the Church. The worldly spirit that treats Church teachings as mere opinions is destructive of faith. This spirit needs to be confronted and refuted. Church teaching is from God, and its truth does not depend upon what poorly formed Catholics think about it.

The Church’s defenders must be ready to stand firm and not give in to pressure such as that demonstrated in this document from Germany.

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY, and a canon lawyer.
 
 
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Comments (39)Add Comment
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written by George Sim Johnston, February 15, 2014
If the German bishops are going to substitute sociology for natural law and revelation--then they at least should do their homework. Couples who live together prior to marriage have a much higher divorce rate. There are several reasons for this. A cohabiting couple rehearses a low-intensity commitment; sex can get in the way of the prudential judgments one ought to make about one's future spouse; put another way: it's much easier to break off a bad relationship if there's no sex going on; men and women have very different assumptions and expectations about what is going on in these situations, which leads to tensions and resentment; and so forth.

Pope Francis has asked Catholics to pray for those who have been harmed by "mediocrity" in the institutional Church; apparently in Germany, the mediocrity is chronic, although the situation is hardly better in many U. S. dioceses.
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, February 15, 2014
Am I alone in finding an eerie similarity between the “Truce of 1968,” as George Weigal calls it, when the Congregation for the Clergy decreed that Cardinal O’Boyle of Washington should lift canonical penalties against those priests whom he had disciplined for their public dissent from Humanae Vitæ and the “Peace of Clement IX” during the Jansenist controversy?

In both cases, after the Church had been riven by a decade-long dispute, a papal document was issued that was intended to be definitive.

In both cases, the original quarrel was immediately forgotten and argument raged over the scope of papal authority to decide the question. In the Jansenist case, peace, of a sort, was achieved, when Pope Clement IX brokered an agreement that neither side would argue the question, at least, from the pulpit.

The “Peace of Clement IX” lasted for about 35 years and ended in 1705 when Clement XI declared the clergy could no longer hide behind “respectful silence.” Eventually, in 1713, he issued Unigenitus and demanded the subscription of the clergy to it. There was enormous resistance, with bishops and priests appealing to a future Council (and being excommunicated for their pains, in 1718). As late as 1756, dissenters were still being denied the Last Rites.

Will the “Truce of 1968” end in a similar fashion?
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, February 15, 2014
All this means is that Germany is now mission territory. The Holy Father ought to appeal to the intervention of St Boniface for the re-evangelization of the Germanic people. We will, however, not be able to look to the bishops to lead this effort. It will be up to lay men and women across the globe to see that Christ and the Church He established will be proclaimed there and elsewhere once again.

It is pitiful that the Church has to resort to surveys to inform us what the status of belief is in places like Germany. It's like the proverbial 'elephant in the room.'

When people fall into apostasy, there are only two options: Teach the faith in its fullness or accommodate to the dominant secular worldview. We have tried the latter; it has failed. Now it's time to try the other option.
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 15, 2014
Thank you for shining a light on this topic Fr. Murray.

When I read this, and observe the same dispositions in the Church in the U.S. (myself included) in my almost 6 decades (being former military, I have lived in 7 states, east, mid-west and west coast, and 9 different dioceses), I see a Church of people with a disposition that rejects teaching and governance.

This is the mystery of evil. If the Church refuses to teach (Bishops) and to be governed (laity), then I think this explains in large part why the Church establishment (Bishops, clergy and "professional" laity) suppressed (de-facto) the Roman Canon (the so-called Eucharistic Prayer #1) when it "reformed" The Mass.

In The Roman Canon - the oldest Eucharistic prayer in Christianity - established in Rome by Peter and Paul, the Church for centuries began the Eucharistic prayer "firstly for your holy Catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world...."

We as a people no longer pray that our Merciful Father will govern us. Could it be that since we are not asking Him to govern us, that perhaps, since He is permissive, He is not governing us? This may explain a lot about us, as a people.
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written by Christophe, February 15, 2014
"The Church's defenders" ... against Her own bishops? Where is the pope? Where are the other bishops?
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written by Manfred, February 15, 2014
Thank you for this report, Father. It will be interesting to see what the report from the U.S. hierarchy states. After all, it is reported that 95% of U.S. Catholics contracept.
In 1917, the Mother of God told the three children to say the Rosary "always" and to insert this prayer at the end of each decade: "O my Jesus, pardon our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven...." This was after she had shown them the vision of the horrors of Hell.
I hope no serious Carholic is surprised at this report. The apostasy is world wide. Pope John XXIII chose a Council over issuing the Third Secret which would have warned the faithful. Fifty-four years later, this is the "product" this disobedience produced. This "Who am I to judge?" church will shortly
canonize(?) him.
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 15, 2014
So while "the people of God" reject teaching from the Church, we are being taught by other "authorities," aren't we?

Reminds me of the tale from Fr. Barron - how his niece attending "the top Catholic high school in Chicago" was taught high and complex things in every subject - except for - the Catholic Faith. He described her text (senior in high school) as a "coloring book."

With a Church like this - who needs enemies?
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written by Walt, February 15, 2014
Why should I (we) be surprised or shocked by this? If an honest evaluation of the state of the Church here in North America were to be taken, it would likely show the same viewpoint by the laity and a similar dispassionate perspective from much of the clergy.
I do not see much chance for turning around the trend. Most of the regulars at Mass seem to just be going through the motions. Just doing the minimum of what is expected of them.
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written by florin, February 15, 2014
Feb. 15th, I wonder what the response to this survey would be in the United States. In Germany it seems as if the people have not been 'formed' in the faith; a year or so ago I taught a large group of teens preparing for Confirmation. A teacher came up to me and told me that she had just realized that the majority of those preparing for Confirmation had not been to Mass or Confession since their First Holy Communion - she had to bring in a DVD of the Mass to show to the students; the majority of students declared that they had no intention of going to Mass on Sundays after Confirmation, that, for them, Confirmation was just a 'form' thing like graduating from High School. How do we bring people to a loving 'encounter' with Jesus Christ as Pope Francis is trying to do? Teaching the faith without the encounter, without a deepening relationship with Christ, will not work...another problem is that most of the teens were from families that did not practice their faith so it's a hard situation. By the way, the majority of those teenagers were in Catholic school.
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written by Mack Hall, February 15, 2014
The other bishops love to be seen yukking it up with the rich and famous - the infamous Al Smith Dinner comes to mind. The ancient Mysteries are now but a celebrity comedy roast.
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written by Adeodatus, February 15, 2014
I'm also curious to see if any kind of response comes from this. This watering down of doctrine and blatant rejection of Catholic teaching seems to just carry on in the name of "staying relevant." I agree with Deacon Ed that Germany, and probably most of Europe, has now become mission territory since it has now adopted the same morality as Rome at the time of her decline. As history can attest, a culture based on this kind of decadence cannot sustain itself; it will inevitably lead to broken homes and broken hearts in desperate need of grace and the Church's teachings. Representatives of the Church can expect a willing audience if they can hold to speaking the truth and ignore the bitter mockery of those who contradict them.

Naturally, some might argue that a varying view of marriage and family should not alter a person's standing in the Church; it seems like the German clergymen who took this survey take this view. However, the family constitutes the very foundation of the Church. The church started with the holy family, and is maintained by the families of all Catholics. If people reduce their marriages to frivolous contracts, and make their commitments conditional, then their faith is downright questionable. What do they do with their children, assuming they refrained from aborting them? What do they do for the Church, assuming that they go? What guides their decisions about how to live and best glorify God if they do not even acknowledge the idea of home and love (which has now been substituted by chronic lust, modern-day concubinage)? This moral laxity leads directly to the mediocrity that the pope speaks of. It produces even more fallen-away Catholics who do little for themselves or others.

American Catholics should take note since, as George put it, "the situation is hardly better in the U.S." Holding fast to the Church's teachings on marriage and family will, contrary to conventional baby boomer thinking, keep the Church relevant, and, more importantly, keep it holy. All the measures of pastoral success (vocations, attendance, donations, etc.) start with the family and the devoted life.
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written by ron a., February 15, 2014
Underlying all this is a basic truth of Christianity: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter are many." This is a hard declaration of the Faith that few are courageous and bold enough to preach, especially among the clergy. When 'survival' becomes the driving force behind action, the secular world wins. When the pattern of behavior is Christ Jesus, 'survival' is of little consideration. The 'way' is through the Cross and only the clever find ways to avoid it.
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written by Howard Kainz, February 15, 2014
Two things jump out at me from this report: 1) the distinction between "artificial" and "natural." The contraceptive pill is considered "natural" birth control. 2) the opposition to natural law. Not only ethicists broadly, but in this country, Catholic magazines like First Things and the New Oxford Review have published articles questioning traditional natural law theory.
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written by Dane Donaldson, February 15, 2014
Corinth, ja?
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written by Matt, February 15, 2014
Alessandro Gnocchi and Mario Palmaro have been recently fired for calling attention to the relapse of Church’s bizzare compulsion to become pleasing to the world. Professor Roberto de Mattei has been just removed from Italy's Radio Marie for ringing the alarm bell that the Church will soon face a graver crisis than the 1960’s. The orthadox Franciscans of the Immaculate are being persecuted by the Vatican (with the Pope's blessing) while the unorthodox LCWR is told to "please continue" in its worldview. The Church’s practice is being divorced from its doctrine and the October Synod is likey to manifest the trend more clearly.

The New Evangelization has failed before it really started; for the Church decided to preach to the world - not the true Christ -but rather Modernism coated in social justice.

The world is truly worse off than the time of the pagans for the pagan mind still searched for the Truth enabling them to recognize and accept Christ's teachings. The people of today are of a wholly different type - they know of Christ's teaching and now reject it. Worse yet for the world is that the self-labeled new evangelizers are not Catholic. (Queue the various Bishop Conference Reports). Is the rise in demonic possession throughout the West not a supernatural indicator?

What kind of dystopian world do we live in when we bring to a sick and decaying mankind a set of soft teachings and discipline ( who am I to judge?) that is akin to a morphine overdose? The New Evangelization program, under Pope Francis’ direction, is better described as the New Euthanasia movement; a “mercy” killing of mankind.

Misters Palmaro, Gnocchi and de Mattei are like men shoved off the arm of a doctor as they tried to restrain him from injecting the “medicine of mercy” into the waiting patient. Both the patient and the doctor are complicit.
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 15, 2014
My favorite Al Smith "personage" is Chris Matthews, who once protested - these are his words - on the air - that "conservative" Catholics put their faith before their country.
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 15, 2014
To affirm any voices here, especially Adeodatus, the true nature of the Church is to be transcendant. The demand of the progressive heresy is that the Church be "relevant," which is a "counterfeit-katholicism."

The Church should respond to "progressives" as loving parents do for wandering children - tell them no - you have to grow up.
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written by ron a., February 15, 2014
Post Vatican 2 was a watershed moment for the Church, not for Christianity; but, for the Catholic Church. There are many who will have to answer for the consequences. I am reminded of Luke 17:2, "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin." The blatant dishonesty of THAT pastoral approach (the spin and the highjacking) is not only appalling, but mind-boggling. It can only be explained by a loss of faith, engendered, charitably understood, by a sense of helplessness?

If Paul, the GREAT Paul, could worry about working out his salvation with "fear and trembling", what, I repeat, what? could possibly have been going through the minds of those "reformers" and appeasers? Did they not understand the profound and radical challenge of the Faith? Not of the people, but of the Faith!

Because the appeasement, and its consequences, have become so ingrained, now, we are left in an even more difficult situation, as we choose between: finding what will be a long and painful way back to the real Truth (and the Germans show us how far that is!), or, continuing along the path of moral decay and spiritual oblivion, a.k.a. to the secularists: progress.
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written by Ryan Haber, February 15, 2014
In short, as the German people follow the propaganda of the sexual revolution, rather than warn them, the German bishops will follow them.

This is what comes of a Church dependent upon the staet for its living.
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 15, 2014
Perhaps the attenuation of the Church was a signal of something foretold us by Jesus: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?"

Perhaps the numbers in the Church will dwindle as "the number of the elect" approaches its destined goal, like a faucet shut, and issuing its final drops?
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written by ANNE, February 15, 2014
What most Cardinals and Bishops must realize is that THEY personally ARE RESPONSIBLE for the sad state of the Church today, and for all the lost Catholic Souls.
These surveys are an indictment for the lousy job they do.
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Catechesis for the general Laity has been almost non-existant.
They do not handle Sacrilege (receiving Holy Communion while in the public State of Mortal Sin), and Scandal, and Heresy, and Schism within their own Diocese.
.
By their lack of teaching and lack of handling scandals they teach relativism and worse.
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They do not publically and prominently encourage literate Catholic Laity to read the "Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition" at home.
They do not publically and prominently encourage literate Catholic Laity to read a Catholic Bible at home.
They do not require Diocese employees to read the Bible or the CCC either.
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written by Stan J, February 15, 2014
This is an accurate summary of the Progressivists successful quest to dismantle the Church!
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written by Rich in MN, February 15, 2014
Lex vivendi, lex credendi, lex orandi.
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written by Jack,CT, February 15, 2014
Fr you truly raise important issues of "Modern Day" Life
At least true in Modern Countries.
The only problem I have is the benign attacks directed at
Cardinal Dolan! For God sakes he did not or could not be
responsible for all these cultural issues so please friends
leave it alone!
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 15, 2014
Jack - Dolan attacks?
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written by Brad Miner, February 15, 2014
Jack: I join with Chris in wondering why you've brought Cdl. Dolan into this.
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written by Jack,CT, February 16, 2014
Brad,Chris,
Please refer to "comments" left, "I" did not
Insert him the readers did,God Bless
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written by brad Miner, February 16, 2014
But, Jack, that's the point. Nobody in the comments mentioned Dolan until yoiu did.
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written by Miriam, February 16, 2014
How long are we catholics who are NOT GERMANS have to accept, for half a decade already, further open aggressions and attacks on the catholic Church?
Didn´t we already have Martin Luther, this stubborn and hostile German, who in the end started the 30 year war and caused the Church to divide. Until today!
German catholics clearly regard themselves as "special", so much so that they thinh they deserve special attention, nad that they even have the right to change the Church into a Protestant Lutheran Church.
Really,I am sometimes tempted to just get rid of them, that they would finbally leave the CC altogether and leave the rest of us alone.
Still, I know that this is not wha¡t Christ wants. He asks for UNITE.
But surely, the aggressive tone and remarkable haughtiness of these opposing German "catholics" is very, very hard to accept.
IN NO WAY DO THESE GERMAS SPEAK FOR ME AND FOR MILLIONS OF CATHOLICS WORLDWIDE, faithful to the pope and the teachings of the Church.
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 16, 2014
"Sensus Infidelum" in Florida:

But to get right to the point - why isn't Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, FL kicked out of his chair by the Pope?

He is reported as making these remarks against Humanae Vitae in summarizing the Vatican opinion poll: "It is the sensus fidelum about contraception that that train left the station a long time ago."

He should be kicked out - he is openly rejecting the Catholic Church on this topic. He does, in fact, undermine and reject Church teaching in many areas.

He should be removed immediately - and replaced with a Bishop who cares about the Truth.
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 16, 2014
Jack - no - there are no reader comments on Cdl Dolan I'm afraid - I think you mixed some things up here.
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 16, 2014
I just read Bishop Lynch's blog in St. Petersburg - WHAT AN ABOMINATION THAT THIS MAN IS PERMITTED ANY AUTHORITY IN JESUS' CHURCH.

WHAT A CRIME AGAINST SALVATION THAT THE CHURCH ALLOWS SUCH MEN TO MISLEAD SO MANY FOR SO LONG.

WHAT ABOUT THE JUSTICE OWED TO SOULS IN PERIL?
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written by Jack,CT, February 16, 2014
The mention of the Al Smith diner is all any informed
catholic needs to hear (Chris,Brad) and "Who" was there
as our rep and the only conclusion to me at least is Cardinal
Dolan,the words do not always need to be said the inference
speaks for itself,no?
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 16, 2014
Oh come on Jack.
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 16, 2014
It turns out I didn't get Bishop Lynch's quote correct - so let me correct myself: "...that train left the station long ago. Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium suggests the rejection of Church teaching on this subject."

Wow - that's a new "sensus" about who's "fidelium" - isn't it?
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written by Jack,CT, February 16, 2014
"Oh come on" Chris, you found yourself "Mocking" a
Left wing extremist at the dinner,It is Above!
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written by Chris in Maryland, February 16, 2014
Jack:

Yes, I criticized Chris Matthews of the Al Smith Dinner. That this translates as a criticism of Cdl. Dolan is something I wasn't suggesting - but I do understand why it easily translates that way. If the Al Smith Dinner is represented by the "Catholic-ism" of Chris Matthews, then that is a message sent by the Al Smith Dinner itself about what the Al Smith Dinner has come to mean in these days.

I did not attack Cardinal Dolan. But taking up your protest, I certainly agree that he is not solely "responsible for all these cultural issues." But I know we also agree that as a Cardinal, he is "highly responsible" for dealing with all these cultural issues, as are all Cardinals in the Church.

Do I pray that there were more "fighting" Cardinals, like Cardinal O'Connor? Yes, such men would help the Church right now. I pray that God will give the Church Bishops and Cardinals who will stand and fight. It helps the troops to see their own Generals leading the fight.
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written by Jack,CT, February 17, 2014
Chris,
As we are both daily "Readers' of this Piffy
Article I was simply making the point that many
have not been very charitable to the Cardinal and
Refer to this stupid dinner to make the case!

I agree with almost all you say all the time but I
simply agree to disagree this time,God Bless
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written by Robert Hill (San Leandro), February 19, 2014
I am very sorry to learn of the implied state of mind of our shepherds in Germany. Perhaps they watch TV (that conduit for evil memes) for more hours than they spend in prayer. God help them and their flocks.

As St. Thomas Aquinas et al. have said, "lust blinds the reason." Any reasonable person knows that the "pill" POINSONS PEOPLE (can cause cancer in those who take it and prevent implantation, killing newly conceived babies), PROMOTES PROMICUITY, and POLLUTES THE PLANET (contaminates waterways with hormones that can harm wildlife). It is a diabolical instrument.

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