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Finding Hope Amidst Division in the Catholic Church

Updated: Feb 28

Pope Francis and division in the Catholic Church

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat and Catholics are arguing. Welcome to the battlefield!

In 2018 I was at a Catholic event and ran into Austen Ivereigh. I explained to him that I had just been granted an annulment after 4 long years of waiting. He was prompted to apologise to me for the length of time it had taken and the hardship I must have endured. I was surprised by this. I had been happy to wait and had endured no real hardship, but I understood that he was being nice.

Many people around me were surprised that I was not protesting at the level of

interrogation into my private life, at waiting to find out whether I was considered free to

marry. “Who does the Church think it is?” some people asked during my time of waiting.

“It’s not a very nice way to behave”.

On a merely human level where nice trumps truth, they might have been right. I would have wondered how anyone, let alone a number of celibate clergy, could possibly make such a significant judgement about my life with the potential for such far reaching consequences.

But if the Church really was who I believed Her to be, then I had to push my ego aside, trust in Her and know that whatever the outcome it would be right by God. Of this, I could be sure and in this I found rest.

As we argue about the contents of Fiducia Supplicans, with some Catholics threatening to walk away, some Anglicans crowing that converts have gone from the frying pan into the fire, and some couples in a homosexual relationship looking to plan a spontaneous, non-affirming, casually dressed blessing with Fr James Martin, it seems we have allowed despair to cloud hope as clarity gives way to ambiguity.

None of this is to say that the document is a good one or that those behind the document aren’t guilty of causing confusion, even division (whatever the unknown intentions), but to be a Catholic is to believe that the Church is more than human, that She is graced with Christs real presence and promise of guidance into all truth, irrespective of what we think we can see now.

If that is true then no Catholic should be running anywhere, Anglicans have no need to crow and people who experience same sex attraction need to understand Fiducia Supplicans in light of the constant teaching of the Church. If they fail to do so, or are not directed to, then there is little point turning to the Church only to be given what the world already offers.

If, on deeper analysis, the document appears to contradict the constant teaching, or give the impression that the Church can turn an acorn into a Lamborghini then we can be confident that any such error will be corrected, even if we like driving the Lamborghini.

It would not be the first time. In the 7 th Century Pope Honorius’ statements to Sergius,

patriarch of Constantinople gave ammunition to the Monothelites who denied the

hypostatic union. It would be tempting to defend the then Bishop of Rome by saying that he was speaking as a private theologian, but he was not. He was responding to someone seeking the authoritative advice of the Bishop of Rome and he responded in that capacity.

As Catholic author and apologist Joe Heschemeyer says “A defence of papacy that doesn’t account for the fact there have been bad popes is a poor defence and it sets a person up for disappointment”.

“We shouldn’t have an idealised view of the papacy” says Catholic convert and theologian Scott Hahn “some Popes are good, some are bad, some are fair, others are great, and some are saints, but most are not. This is the living reality of the papacy.”

Whatever confusion exists in the Church right now, we must have faith that clarity will

follow, just as it did in the 7th Century.

How it will happen and where it will come from, we cannot know. But when a body is

threatened with disease it produces antibodies to fight the disease like soldiers, giving

themselves up for the survival of the body. “The body of Christ is a real body, and therefore it too produces antibodies called Saints” says Catholic Theologian Peter Kreeft “antibodies are tailored to the disease. If threatened with the disease of indifference to human life, it produces missionaries of charity like Mother Teresa”.

We do not know who the Great physician, in his strange divine wisdom, will choose to use to save the world. It could be you! Saints are the secret weapon that will win the war, not complainers or conformers.

The darkest hour always comes before the dawn, and we must have hope in that which is beyond man.

This is a truth recognised by CS Lewis’ Magicians Nephew who says to the uncle that sent his friend to an unknown world from which she could not return;

“You are a beast. I suppose you planned the whole thing so that she’d go without knowing it and then I’d have to go after her”.

“Of course,” said Uncle Andrew, with his hateful smile.

“Very well I’ll go – but there’s one thing I jolly well mean to say first. I didn’t believe in

magic until today. I see now it’s real. If it is, I suppose all the old fairy tales are more or less

true and you’re simply a wicked cruel magician like the ones in the stories, well I’ve never

read a story in which people of that sort weren’t paid out in the end and I bet you will be”.

We cannot take on more than man is capable of. Jesus teaches us to call God Abba. Once we know the one to whom we are speaking, once we trust God as a good father, we see

everything differently and learn to trust in a whole new way.

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1 Comment

Nanda Mee
Nanda Mee
Jan 30

'Saints are the secret weapon that will win the war, not complainers or conformers.' Indeed! We ought to trust in the faithfulness of the Bridegroom and the fruitfulness of the Bride and to play our part, as small as it might be, to be the saints we have been created to be. For some, it will be waiting for a declaration of nullity to come, without stomping feet or crying "it's not fair"; for others, it will be remaining chaste and single, when the pressure is to conform to fashionable acronyms is everywhere. For others still, it will mean making sacrifices for children or elderly parents. Jesus never said life in him was going to be fabulously unburdened, but h…

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