YES, it is coming, but for many Christians it is already here: the Passion of the Church. As the priest raised the Holy Eucharist this morning during Mass here in Nova Scotia where I just arrived to give a men’s retreat, his words took on new meaning: This is My Body which will be given up for you.
We are His Body. United to Him mystically, we too were “given up” that Holy Thursday to share in the sufferings of Our Lord, and thus, to share also in His Resurrection. “Only through suffering can one enter Heaven,” said the priest in his sermon. Indeed, this was Christ’s teaching and thus remains the constant teaching of the Church.
‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:20)
Another retired priest is living out this Passion just up the coast line from here in the next province…
THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE… OR NOT?
85 year old Fr. Donat Gionet was asked to fill in for a priest last month at Saint-Léolin in the Bathhurst diocese of New Brunswick, Canada. According to an article in the Telegraph-Journal, Fr. Gionet’s sermon has resulted in a severe reprimand: his bishop has revoked his rights to serve Mass in the diocese.
In a letter written in French that he provided to the Telegraph-Journal, Gionet stated the sermon in question was about the destruction of the Church and the need to seek forgiveness for past sins:
“I said: ‘Today, it is we Catholics who are destroying our Catholic Church. We need only look at the number of abortions among Catholics, look at the homosexuals, and ourselves.’ (That’s when I pointed at my chest—through that action I wanted to say, we the priests) and I continued saying: We are destroying our Church ourselves. And that’s when I said that those were the words expressed by Pope John Paul II. At that point, in the St-Léolin church only, I added: ‘We can add to that the practice of watching gay parades, we are encouraging this evil’ … What would you think of someone who seeing what was happening on (Sept.) 11, 2001, the crumbling of the towers, had begun clapping? We must not encourage evil, whatever form it takes.” —Telegraph-Journal, Sept 22nd, 2011
However, Fr. Wesley Wade, the vicar general of the Diocese of Bathurst, said Gionet’s teachings don’t meet the diocese’s goal of following Christ’s example of loving unconditionally.
We have to respect people on their own journey. The first message of Christ was to reveal to us a loving Father and a merciful Father and that we are all called to be his children and that we are all loved unconditionally by Him. —Ibid.
I do not know Fr. Gionet, his history with the diocese, or his bishop. I did not hear the full sermon, it’s tone, or otherwise. But in the public record given, their are some astonishing incongruities.
DEFENDING WHAT AGAIN?
First of all, what is this “evil” that Fr. Gionet is referring to? In the Vatican’s Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, signed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, it says:
Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. —n. 3, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Rome, October 1, 1986
It is one thing to have a tendency toward an intrinsic moral evil (ie. homosexual acts); it is another to carry through with that tendency and parade it in the streets as a moral good. And let us not be naive. These are among the most hedonistic parades in modern times that include half-naked men and women, cross-dressing, lewd acts, and even full nudity in plain view of police officers and children. What would be considered a criminal act on any other day of the week is often celebrated not just by participants, but by politicians themselves. Furthermore, gay parades often mock the Catholic Church with anti-Christian symbols, signs scorning the pope, and cross-dressers wearing heavy make-up in nuns habits. It is hard to imagine any Catholic diocese in the world defending gay parades—but this is precisely the kind of tolerance that seems demanded by the Bathurst diocese.
THE CRUX… THE CROSS
At the crux of Bathurst’s defence in removing Fr. Gionet’s faculties is that he has apparently failed to meet the “goal” of the diocese. Once again:
We have to respect people on their own journey. The first message of Christ was to reveal to us a loving Father and a merciful Father and that we are all called to be his children and that we are all loved unconditionally by Him.
Actually, this was not the first message of Christ. This was:
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Everywhere I preach now, whether it is in Canada or the United States or abroad, I always repeat this question to my listeners: “Why did Jesus come?” It wasn’t to start a country club called the Catholic Church where you put your two bucks in the basket every week, pay your dues, and you’re good for Heaven. No! There is no such ticket to paradise. Rather, Jesus came to save us. But from what?
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matt 1:21)
Christ’s first message to every single human being was “repent.” Later, He followed this commandment with “love one another.” That is, leave sin and follow a new law, the law of love, for…
…everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. (John 8:34)
This, then, is the entire reason for Christ’s coming: to preach the truth that would set us free from the slavery of sin, and eventually, pay the penalty for our sin so that we could be forgiven and healed of our transgressions through His own blood.
For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)
Note, that when the angel tells us that the Messiah is to be named Jesus because “he will save his people from their sins,” Matthew adds a few verses later the words of the prophet Isaiah:
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him “Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Matt 1:23; cf. Isaiah 7:14)
This is to say that Jesus did not come to condemn us in our sin, but to call us out of it. Rather, to lead us out of it. As a good shepherd, He remains with us, walks with us, feeds us, and leads us to the pastures of freedom. God is with us.
This is in stark contrast to the apparent “goal” of the Bathurst diocese. The words sound good, they are even true, but not in their context. For what they seem to be saying is that we are to love people where they are at—and leave them there. But Jesus never left the adulteress in the dust; he never left Matthew to steal taxes; he never left Peter to continue his worldly pursuits; he never left Zacchaeus in the tree; he never left the paralyzed man in his cot; he never left the demoniacs in chains… Jesus forgave them their sins, and then commanded them to “sin no more.” cf. John 8:11 Such was His love that He could not bear to see the beautiful image in which they were created left to perish in the disfigurement that sin is.
…indeed his purpose was not merely to confirm the world in its worldliness and to be its companion, leaving it completely unchanged. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, September 25th, 2011; www.chiesa.com
Fr. Gionet was mourning not only the embrace of sin in the world, but the sin within the Church. For what we are seeing today is the establishment of a parallel church that is neither Catholic nor Christian, but in practice, a new religion of individualism.
STRAIGHT TALK ON HOMOSEXUALITY
The Catholic Church maintains what she has taught throughout the centuries and what has been adhered to through the millennia: that the inclination toward the same-sex is disordered. As one cannot call a dog a cat, an apple a peach, or a tree a flower, so too, the differences in the sexes are a biological fact, with consequences for their intended reproductive functions. Roses do not pollinate lilies. Thus, actions that contradict one’s own nature cannot be considered good, but an evil toward oneself or others.
…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.” They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity. The homosexual inclination is however “objectively disordered” and homosexual practices are “sins gravely contrary to chastity.” —Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons; n. 4; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 3, 2003
At the very heart of the Church’s teaching is charity. Freedom! Truth! When the government legislates that one cannot drink and drive, are they demonstrating hatred towards folks who simply like to have a couple beers after work? No, they are saying that such actions can harm oneself and others. It is not intolerance, but prudence. This is part of the Church’s mandate to teach and disciple, to help point souls toward the wholeness that Christ came to restore. It is prudence and charity.
The Church… intends to continue to raise her voice in defense of mankind, even when policies of States and the majority of public opinion moves in the opposite direction. Truth, indeed, draws strength from itself and not from the amount of consent it arouses. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Vatican, March 20, 2006
That is because freedom has limitations. I am not free, for example, to run over a pedestrian who happens to be in the way.
Freedom is not the ability to do anything we want, whenever we want. Rather, freedom is the ability to live responsibly the truth of our relationship with God and with one another. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, St. Louis, 1999
Thus, humans must consider all the aspects of our existence and what is good and what is not, from our sociological interactions to our sexual functions. Every action can and must be held up to the light of truth. The Church’s role in this regard is to illuminate human development through the Revelation that Christ brought through His life and ministry, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, given to lead us into the fullness of truth.
Since this writing apostolate began several years ago, several homosexual men have written me, thanking me for speaking the truth and helping them to live according to the Gospel. They still struggle at times; they have temptations and doubts; but in their own words, they are seeing clearly through the fog that led them down a path contrary to who they were and are. Yes, this is the struggle of the whole Church: to follow Jesus down that narrow path to become who we truly are. And it is the role of the shepherds to direct the sheep according to Christ’s teaching.
FALSE SHEPHERDS AMONG US
It is ironic that at the same time Fr. Gionet has been sacked, every priest throughout Christendom has been reading in his breviary St. Augustine’s sermon On Pastors over these past couple weeks. In it, the playboy-turned-saint reflects on Ezekiel’s warning to those shepherds who fail to feed the sheep.
The friends of the bridegroom do not speak with their own voice, but they take great joy in listening to the bridegroom’s voice. Christ himself is the shepherd when they act as shepherds. “I feed them,” he says, because his voice in their voice, his love in their love. —St. Augustine, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol IV, p. 307
But if they speak with their own voice and not the Church’s, neglecting to call the sinner to repentance, such shepherds, he says, are “dead.”
Which shepherds are dead? T hose who seek what is theirs and not what is Christs. —Ibid., p. 295
And what is Christ’s, once again, but to call us out of sin into freedom? What is Christ’s is the entire body of truth—Sacred Tradition—entrusted to the Church as part of the message of salvation.
You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost… So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. (Ezekiel 34:4-5)
Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith? —POPE BENEDICT XVI, September 23rd, 2011, meeting with the German Evangelical Church Council in Erfurt, Germany
THE STRAYING SHEEP
Yet, many don’t want to be found. They do not want to hear this message. Rather, they have believed the lie that we should have a big group hug, and blot out the voice of truth, the voice of our conscience that calls us to live truth in love. What I assume compels Fr. Gionet, what compels me, what has compelled the Church for 2000 years is that it’s not about us. It’s about saying yes to Jesus in co-operating with His Redemption by being His voice in the darkness to call every soul into the light, as He has called each of us personally.
“Why do you want us? Why do you seek us?” they ask, as if their straying and being lost were not the very reason for our wanting them and seeking them out…. So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better that I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome. Unwelcome to whom? By all means welcome to those who desire it; unwelcome to those who do not. However unwelcome, I dare to say: “You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this.” —St. Augustine, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol IV, p. 290
I do not hate homosexuals. I sincerely doubt Fr. Gionet hates homosexuals. Neither does the Church hate adulterers, thieves, abortionists, and drunkards, or those inclined to any of the above. But she calls every person to receive and live in the life that Jesus came to give. John 10:10 Whether it is homosexual or heterosexual sin, the message remains the same:
Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
There is nothing more loving. But today, that very message increasingly is resulting in the crucifixion of souls. And that is a reality priests and layman alike must prepare for in the days to come.
Those who challenge this new paganism are faced with a difficult option. Either they conform to this philosophy or they are faced with the prospect of martyrdom. —Fr. John Hardon (1914-2000), How to Be a Loyal Catholic Today? By Being Loyal to the Bishop of Rome; http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/intro/loyalty.htm
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