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Paula wrote:

Dear Mike —

I want someone to know how sad so many Catholics are feeling today. Yesterday was one of the most saddest days in my life. I cannot believe the Cardinals did not really listen to the Holy Spirit. Everything was about power.

I grew up in a non-Catholic family and would be willing to give my life for my faith and my Church.  Nevertheless, I cannot keep on going to church with the election of this Pope.
I just cannot stay in a Church that chooses:

  • the moral issues above charitable ones
  • to be strict and not open
  • not to speak against:
    • poverty and
    • corruption
  • not to respect women, and
  • not to read the signs of our time.

This is a Church for a restricted group of people that have no feelings for the individual human aspect of its members. I am thinking about leaving the Church today, as I think many Christians are doing, although I will keep all my faith in Christ. This is not his Church.

I really hope the Pope will look to the Catholics around the world that are crying and in so much pain with this choice.

God bless you all,

Paula

  { Are my views on how sad many Catholics feel about the election of Pope Benedict XVI reasonable? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Paula —

First, let me thank-you for sharing your feelings about the recent events in the Church. I believe sharing your feelings within the Church is important to the growth of everyone involved.

After reading your e-mail I think there are a few misconceptions you have been taught about the Church.

You stated in your question:
I cannot believe the Cardinals did not really listen to the Holy Spirit.

They did! The cardinals, didn't literally choose the next Pope; the Holy Spirit working through the cardinals chose Pope Benedict XVI.

You stated in your question:
I just cannot stay in a Church that chooses:

  • the moral issues above charitable ones

All charity we give to the world, as Catholic Christians, has its basis in the truth or moral teachings of the Church.

You stated in your question:
I just cannot stay in a Church that chooses:

  • to be strict and not open
  • not to speak against:
    • poverty and
    • corruption
  • not to respect women, and
  • not to read the signs of our time.

Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul were very close friends and worked together to publish some of the most important documents that Pope John Paul II gave final approval to.

Prior to the election of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger had an important role in the Church. He was responsible for ensuring that the Catholic Faith was being taught throughout the world as Our Blessed Lord Jesus would want it to be taught. If we didn't have a person like this in the Church, people could teach anything they wanted to teach, like:

  • Satan is a good and holy angel.
  • Evil doesn't exist; it's just the absence of good; like a vacuum.
  • Hell does not really exist.
  • Everyone goes to Heaven no matter what they do in life.
  • Actions and decisions do not have any consequences.

Our new Pope was responsible for ensuring that the Catholic faith was taught correctly around the world.

You stated in your question:
This is a Church for a restricted group of people that have no feelings for the individual human aspect of its members.

I couldn't disagree with you more Paula. He has been Pope for less then 48 hours and the Mass Media want to label him as Vatican's rottweiler.

  • Although I have never met you personally, do you think it would be fair for me to say things about you, without first getting to know you?

I've read some of Cardinal Ratzinger's theological works. This man has a lot of knowledge and wisdom. We all have different personalities, so if you were expecting a "clone" of John Paul II,
you set yourself up for a little disappointment. To that extent, it is an adjustment for all Catholics; let's face it, we haven't had a new pope in 26 years!! We are use to John Paul's personality, character, and mannerisms.

You stated in your question:
I am thinking about leaving the Church today, as I think many Christians are doing, although I will keep all my faith in Christ. This is not His Church.

You are correct!

The Catholic Church is not:

  • Benedict XVI's Church
  • John Paul II's Church
  • nor any other previous Pope's Church.

It's Jesus' Church! and it was Jesus' decision to have the Holy Spirit choose each successive Pope of the Church down through the ages through the college of cardinals.

It was also Jesus' decision to have each successive Pope of the Church:

  • protect and safeguard the teachings and doctrines He left His Church before his Ascension
  • clarify teachings and doctrines of the Church during periods of confusion in the future, and
  • to speak out on issues of faith and morals unheard of in Jesus' time:
    • e.g. cloning, (IVF) In Vitro Fertilization

Finally, let me share with you a hypothetical situation you will be able to emphasize with.

After Pope Benedict XVI passes from this earthly life, we will have a new Pope. Based on what I am able to find out about the new Pope, I may be disappointed with some of his previous or future personal acts or decisions. He may be known for some immoral behavior, or for making bad administration choices, etc. Nevertheless, as Catholics, it is critical that we separate impeccability from infallibility.

Papal infallibility means that the Pope, when pronouncing definitively and dogmatically on matters of faith and morals, is protected from teaching errors.

Infallibility should not be confused with impeccability.

Impeccability is best defined as being sinless, or never making a moral mistake.

A favorite argument of non-Catholic Christians concerns the first Pope, Saint Peter, and his not eating with the Gentile converts. This is mentioned in Galatians 2:11-14; Saint Paul says that he corrected and rebuked Peter. Surely, the argument goes, if Saint Peter were not infallible, then how could he be the first Pope (if the Pope is infallible) or, if Saint Peter were the first Pope and was not infallible, how could all the other Popes be infallible?

This argument is easy to refute by a close reading of the text. It is made very clear in the Scripture that Saint Peter did not in fact teach or solemnly define something which was wrong.
In fact, quite the opposite — Saint Peter had argued that Jewish and Gentile Christians should eat together — but he just wasn't living up to his own teaching! Saint Paul rebuked him, not for an error in teaching, but rather for hypocrisy. St. Peter was not impeccable; or in other words,
he was not sinless.

During these times of transition, we have to keep in mind that even though a future Pope may be displaying scandalous public behavior, (that he is not impeccable); on issues of faith and morals, we can always rest assured, that he is infallible because of Jesus' promise in Matthew's Gospel.  (Matthew 16:13-20)

You stated in your question:
I will keep all my faith in Christ. This is not His Church.

It IS Jesus' Church. There is only one Church that can trace its roots all the way back to 33AD to Our Lord's Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven: the Catholic Church.

One of the things I love about being Catholic is that it is incarnational. This means God has decided that he wants us to partake in His work of redemption, especially in a state of grace through the Eucharist.

Instead of thinking about leaving the Church, I would encourage you to do three things:

  1. Pray the Rosary on a daily basis.
  2. Go to sacramental Confession, and
  3. In addition to making your Sunday obligation, if possible, go to daily Mass.

You stated in your question:
I really hope the Pope will look to the Catholics around the world that are crying and
in so much pain with this choice.

The only Catholics that are crying and in pain around the world are people who are in the Church, who claim to be Catholic, but don't believe in the Church's teachings.

They are referred to as:

  • CINO.'s (Catholics In Name Only), or
  • cafeteria catholics, who pick and choose what they wish to believe.
    They, also known as moral relativists, are playing a deadly game of "personal pope" with their life.

In reality, they are Protestants, trying to change something they can't change.

  • Customs, disciplines, theological opinion and local practices can change.
  • Dogma, doctrine and teachings on faith and morals cannot change.

Hope this helps,

Mike

John replied:

Dear Paula,

The Church is open to all people. That does not mean the Church bases Her doctrines on public opinion polls. Divine Revelation limits the Church to teach that which the Holy Spirit wants Her to teach.

Sometimes we get the idea that Jesus was a wimp. We think that He was lenient or indulgent but the message of the Gospel is mercy and salvation, not leniency and libertarianism. Mercy forgives sin, but still calls sin, what it is: sin. Christ Himself, said the following:

34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 "For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; 36 "and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' 37 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. 40 "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.

Matthew 10:34-40

This text is very important. It tells us two things.

  1. He makes it clear that the Gospel is not going to be accepted by everyone and it is not to be watered down in order to appease public sentiment. To the contrary, the Church has
    a counter cultural mission. As you point out, the Church must defend the poor, the hungry and the marginalized. The Church does that and will continue to do that under the administration of Benedict XVI. Nevertheless, part of being counter cultural, means speaking out against sinful behavior and heresies that devour souls. The Church's primary mission is to save souls from damnation. Hence, She must preach the entire truth,
    in charity.

  2. Christ is speaking to his Apostles. He makes it clear, in verse 40, that the Apostles,
    now the bishops in union with the Pope, speak for Christ. Therefore, the Pope cannot
    allow priests and so-called "catholics" to continue in heresy in the name of Christ and
    His Church.

I'll leave you with the words of the first Pope: Peter, the Fisherman:

7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone," 8 and
"A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense." They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

1 Peter 2:7-9

God Bless you,

John DiMascio

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Paula,

I think it was Ratzinger himself who said, before the conclave, that the Holy Spirit does not select the Pope, cardinals do, and then the Holy Spirit guides him.

He said that we have too many popes, so much so, that we can't blame on the Holy Spirit! Whatever you think about Benedict XVI — and I think you will be surprised — Christ will take care of His Church. Also don't forget that the truth makes us free. Truth is important. It is not an imposition of one side's subjective view. It is reality. In the Church's case, it is revealed reality.

Yes, there is corruption in the Church. There was awful corruption in the Judaism of Christ's time, yet He worshipped at the Temple and respected the chair of Moses. In addition, there have been other epochs of awful corruption in the Church. I think we are just coming out of one of them, which is now being exposed and dealt with, however reluctantly. I think the new threat, if any,
will be the corruption that will hide inside orthodoxy and good liturgy, the best place to hide.
That said, it won't mean that orthodoxy and good liturgy are bad, only that people can be bad.
In saying this, I am not referring to the Pope. I think he is very aware of the issues in this area.

As for your specific concerns, as a woman, I believe that the Church's stand against contraception, abortion, divorce, and other such things are the most pro-woman of any religious organization. Women have bought a bill of goods of false liberation, and they are nothing but hurt by:

  • abortion
  • divorce,
  • contraception, and
  • the so-called gay agenda for families.

As for married priests, it is already here, except within the Latin Rite. A married priest has told me he didn't think the married priesthood is a good idea.

As for women priests — which is often the crux of the issue — we have no more power to change that than to change the law of gravity. It was instituted by Christ.

  • Why?

Maybe one reason is because priests are to be servants, and men need to learn to be servants. :-) But mostly because they are alter Christi's, (other Christ's) and Christ, Himself, must image the Father. Because women, in their femininity and maternity, witness to their own inner power, and cannot be transparent functionally in persona Christi, (in the person of Christ), they cannot represent Christ in His imaging of the Father. In any case, priesthood is not about power,
it is about service. Think of priests as waiters, and the Pope as the head waiter. We, the faithful, are the clientele, the point of the whole enterprise. If male clerics lord it over others in domination, we can prophetically challenge them and know that judgment awaits them. We don't need to become like them, to be Catholic.

Even though this is a cross for you, remain faithful. Christ will be faithful to you.

Mary Ann

Paula replied:

Dear Mike,

Thanks for the words. I am Portuguese! Maybe you are right; maybe I should have a stronger faith and rest more on God's decisions. I am very much touched by your faith and for your caring.

I have traveled around the world the last few years and have seen how much the world is suffering. People in the world need hope and the Church around world is focused to much on preserving teachings than on hope. I saw women in East Timor starving and being beaten by their partners and I heard the Church tell them to have more kids without a word about violence.

I saw my friends leaving the Church because they said they could not follow the strict moral rules of the Church. I saw how they suffered with this.

I may be wrong; it may be a lack of faith, but I cannot agree with a Church that values sexual morals more than doctrine. It does not distinguish between the strict moral proposals and a more open and compassionate pastoral approach. I am not saying that Church should defend divorce, abortion, or liberal sexual behaviors ... not at all.

I also read some opinions from Ratzinger about Church organization, in particular, removing all the power from national bishops. I could not believe someone was defending that. I was sad when Ratzingzer became Pope Benedict XVI because I am worried that Church will become a sect,
with a few fanatic people. I know God will care for his Church but I'm worried that we are not listening to Him. Despite all my sadness and my terrible doubts, I don't express my strong opinions outside Catholic communities and I hope the Pope can surprise me and a lot of people by  what he does in the future.

I will do a serious, personal reflection about my doubts, my relation with the Church, and with God.

Thanks for everything.

May God bless you!

Paula

Mike replied:

Hi Paula,

Thank-you for your kind words.

You stated in your reply:
I cannot agree with a Church that values sexual morals more than doctrine.

The Church values both sexual morals and doctrine.

If there is an appearance that the Church is stressing sexual morals more, it's probably because of the sexual struggle that goes on within both men and women; we call this concupiscence. It should also be noted that in a private revelation the Church has approved at Fatima, Our Blessed Mother told the three children that more souls go to Hell, because of sins of the flesh, then for any other reason.

All of us are human and we have a "natural" desire for sexual pleasure, but God through his Church has told us that sexual pleasure has a specific purpose within the life of a Christian.

  • When?

Within the marital covenant of marriage.

  • For what purpose?
  1. Babies and (procreative)
  2. bonding (unitive)

2366 Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which is "on the side of life," teaches that
"it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life." "This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act."

You can read the significant portions of the Catechism on this topic here:

Through NFP couples can use the infertile periods of a wife's cycle to bond as husband and wife. The reason why this is permitted by the Church is because there is still an openness to new life by the married couple. [Find out more.] [Benefits.]

In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible"
is intrinsically evil. (CCC 2370)

Like I've said in some of my previous AskACatholic.com replies:

Every car has an owner's manual. If you put chocolate syrup in your gas tank,
the car won't run.

Everyone on earth has an owner's manual for their body, it's called the Catechism
of the Catholic Church. If you practice things outside the scope of the "body manual", over time, your body won't radiate the holiness and goodness it was intended to by God.

I recommend you buy a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read it, a little bit every day, until you're done.

Hope this helps,

Your Catholic brother in Christ,

Mike

John replied:

Hi Paula,

You keep on saying the Church cares more about moral teaching than other things.

The moral Teachings of the Church are the moral Teachings of Christ.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. While Christ forgives a repentant adulterer, He does not condone the adultery. Therefore, those Catholics who choose to divorce and remarry, without first seeing if there are grounds for annulment, are making an active choice to live in adultery.

The Church has no authority to change Christ's teaching against adultery. Christ also said, pick up your cross and follow me. He never promised us the Christian Life would be a self-indulgent rose garden.

I am a single man of 44, the Christ teaches me to be celibate and chaste.

The fruit of the spirit is self control. We all struggle to keep the precepts of our faith but the key word is struggle. It's one thing to fall due to weakness, it's another thing to decide to live outside the bounds of Christian morality. Believe it or not, people can live without sex. Those of us who are single are called to do so. People don't need to be ruled by their emotions. Emotions, although a gift from God, can deceive the soul into thinking certain relationships are right.

Nevertheless, we have the Word of God which tells us otherwise. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us and Holy Mother Church as a sure anchor to keep us from floating adrift. If we choose to reject these, then it is our choice, not cruelty on the part of Christ, or His Church.

As to the needs of the poor, the Catholic Church does more for the poor than some governments.
In my state of Massachusetts, Catholic Charities is the second largest provider of social services to the needy. It's a close second to the state and, from time to time, has actually spent more on poverty-related programs than the state.

Christ calls Catholics to give charitably.

  • The Church may collect and distribute this charity, but if Catholics don't give, what is there to distribute?

The Bible teaches us to give 10% of our income to charity so before we start clamoring about what the Church does for the poor, we need to ask:

  • Have I given 10% of my income?

If we don't ask this question, then we are hypocrites.

The Church does have its share of idiots. The Catechism does not teach women to stay in abusive relationships. If a priest told a woman to do so, he was speaking for himself, not the Church.

In fact, the woman has a duty to herself and her children to get them out of that situation.
I believe the Church would confirm this.

I hope this helps.

God Bless,

John DiMascio

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Paula,

The Church hates social injustice as much as sexual sin, probably more. The Church hates wife abuse and does not say that women should be having as many children as possible.

Some Protestant sects say that, but never the Catholic Church. You seem to be someone with a fantastic heart who is moved by the immense suffering in the world. Sometimes, I think we don't realize how sexual sin contributes to this suffering —

  • the way divorce hurts children
  • the way abortion tears women's and men's lives apart
  • the way molestation and other forms of sex abuse try to annihilate the human person
  • the way that fornication breaks hearts, minds and bodies, and
  • the way sexual license leads to sex slavery and abuse of women.

Regardless, sexual sin is not the worst sin, pride is. The Church has always taught that. There are many worse sins. I think you would enjoy going to the Vatican web site searching for the topics you are interested in. They have it in Portuguese. The site can be found here:

The Vatican web site in Portuguese

To read pages on the Vatican web site in other languages, go here.

Good luck — You seem like someone I would love to meet and know.

Mary Ann

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