Roman procurator Porcius Festus recounted the facts with perfect simplicity. “A certain Jesus had died. Paul claims he is alive.”
In all honesty: What could possibly galvanize us more than this deadpan account of the situation in Acts 25?
Who are we? Are we not the people who claim that this certain Jesus, who had died, is alive?
Fifty years ago, pope convened the Second Vatican Council to help us get back to this utter simplicity. Lots of smart Germans came to Rome. And the newspapers and magazines buzzed with Vatican-II gossip.
Some of us might get the feeling that we’re right back in the early 1960’s again, when it comes to Catholic-Church gossip. Because of all the smart Germans and the Synod on the Family.
There is a somewhat-famous letter to the Synod Fathers, signed by a few hundred American priests. I signed it. We signatories urge the Synod to re-iterate the fundamental teachings that—at least to me—seem obviously to go hand-in-hand with saying that Jesus is alive. Namely, that God gave us marriage the way He gave it to us, that everyone should go to Confession, resolve to sin no more, and strive to live chastely according to one’s state in life.
…I give the German Bishops Conference credit for publishing thoughtful responses to the Holy See’s Synod-preparation questions. I, for one, thank the Germans for publishing an English translation.
The Catholic press has highlighted some of what the German Bishops have written. To my mind, though, these two following passages most require meditation and a response:
1. The significance and orientating power of the Church’s teaching may not be drawn into the relative and arbitrary here, nor may the significance of the individual conscience be weakened or indeed circumvented as the final subjective decision-making instance of the individual. In this tension, it is necessary to make the doctrine of the Church, in the sense of a responsible formation of conscience, repeatedly newly known but also comprehensible. The Magisterium is faced here by the challenge of repeatedly verifying, honestly and self-critically, whether the teaching really can be imparted to people in all aspects and differentiations. As was already the case with the questionnaire in the run-up to the Extraordinary Synod of 2014, the feedback from the dioceses once more points clearly here to the fact that, in particular, a number of sexual ethical aspects of the Church’s teaching are neither understood nor any longer accepted…
Somewhere in the middle of this argle bargle we find what I believe constitutes the all-important turning-point of morals: Am I humble enough to admit that I need moral teaching? If I am not, then what is the point of the Church trying to speak in a way that I will accept?
The inescapable fact for Mother Church, when it comes to teaching on sexual morals, is: Christ chaste. How can anyone or anything other than the chaste Christ serve as the foundation of our moral teaching?
Nothing else can. If I am willing to learn from Christ how to live, then what the Church says–what She has always said–about chastity will feel like cool water in a desert when it enters my mind. If I am not willing to learn from the chaste Christ how to live, then why would the Church bother trying to make sense to me? She never will anyway.
2. …Most couples live together for several years prior to a civil and church marriage, and regard marriage as a further, and certainly significant, stage in their lives together…Pastoral care that regards such unions as sinful pure and simple and accordingly calls for conversion is not helpful as it contradicts the positive experience that couples have in such living arrangements. Values such as love, faithfulness, responsibility for one another and for the children, reliability and willingness to reconcile are also practiced when people live together and in civil marriages, and these deserve recognition in a Christian context. Pastoral care should be provided to young people in particular, and this must appreciatively support and accompany their various attempts to enter into and practice relationships.
Again, a lot of argle bargle. The clearer version of this approach appeared in the next-to-last scene of “Open Secrets,” Blue Bloods, season 4.
Nicky: Just ask me, Mom.
Nicky: Ask me if I’m having sex with Ben.
Mom: Are you?
No. But we have talked about it.
Come on, Mom, you can’t really be surprised. Most of my friends have already done it.
That is not a good enough reason to have sex for the first time. Do you love him?
I don’t know. I mean, he’s a really great guy, and I really care about him. And I feel like I’m ready. Go ahead, let me have it. (sighs)
Okay. Well, I am sorry to disappoint you, but I am not going to yell and scream. Do I wish that you would wait until you were sure if you were in love? Yes. But we both know that’s not up to me. You are a beautiful, smart young woman with good judgment. When the time is right, you will… make the right decision. And if you need to talk about anything, I am here.
…Dear reader, can I say it? Will you mind? This is BS.
Parents, grandparents, young people, all you dear people of God. I ask you, I beg you: If you ever hear me suggest that anything other than chastity before marriage can make you happy, punch me in the face.
Young people, do not have sex before marriage!
I would give my left kidney, my left lung, eye, and hand, if it would help all the young people I know and love to believe in themselves enough to follow Christ chaste to a truly happy life.
…Two other fundamental flaws with the German bishops’ responses:
1. They claim that the church in Germany is pro-life. But how obtuse in the area of embryology does a person have to be–to claim to be both pro-life and indifferent to the use of artificial contraception at the same time? It is impossible. Artificial contraception involves early abortion as a matter of course.
2. Jesus Christ does not openly appear anywhere in the document.
…Now, some Catholics seem to imagine that 2015 is 1963 all over again, when it comes to ‘ferment’ and ‘change’ in the Catholic Church. But this imagination ignores one very significant thing. A book that weighs approximately 1 ½ pounds. Compiled by the smartest German of them all.
If we want to be the people who claim that Jesus is alive, the Catechism is our lifeblood. What the German bishops say? 85% bilge-water.