From readers – August 24, 2017

| August 23, 2017 | 9 Comments

Costs of the Reformation

The article “Unity but truth” (July 27) featured the founder of the Protestant “deformation” that divided Christianity into two hostile camps for 500 years. Throughout biblical history, God chastised his people when worldly pursuits became dominant: The deluge, Babylonian captivity, the destruction of Jerusalem ending animal sacrifices to this day, the Eastern schism and then, the most world-changing events, the revolt of Luther and Henry VIII, throwing Catholic Europe into political and social turmoil, culminating in the Thirty Years’ War, bloodshed, disunity and endless religious fractioning that ended, for many, the eucharistic sacrifice as offered at Mass the previous 1,500 years after the Last Supper, changing bread and wine into his body and blood (Jn 6:51, 61). The latest chastisement can be seen in the July 27 edition’s letters to the editor calling for Catholic teaching to accommodate contemporary worldly whims, [as well as] adulterous marital arrangements, abortion, the collapse of social restraints, massive clergy and lay exodus, scandals, denial of the true presence by most Catholics as commissioned by messiah Jesus, to be offered till he comes again.

Everett Dehmer
Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Paul

Judge not

I hate waiting in lines. Unless there is just a single line for people who want to check in or out, get gas, pay for their groceries or whatever, I always choose the wrong line. I inevitably end up behind someone who is sure they have the exact change — if only they can find it, or someone who can’t find their credit card, or someone who doesn’t quite understand why they can’t use a coupon that expired three weeks ago.

Given my abhorrence to waiting in lines, you can perhaps appreciate how surprised I was to read the letters to the editor in the Aug. 10 edition of The Catholic Spirit. The issue they were writing about concerned an Illinois bishop’s decision to prohibit Catholics in same-sex marriages from receiving Communion or having their funeral in a Catholic Church. One of the writers was clear that God “does not have a place in heaven for those who decide his rules are outdated and don’t fit the current whims of individuals.” Another suggested that “those who claim they are loving others by allowing forbidden practices may just be loving them into hell.” As I read these comments, I couldn’t help but think that these writers had found a way to expedite the judgment line at the end of world.

This is pure genius. I am surprised that no one thought of this before. By narrowing down the issues that Jesus articulated in Matthew 25:31-46 to a single question: “Did you question/wonder about/believe in same sex marriage?” — in effect, by doing some pre-judging in this world — it will save God time at the end of the world. In fact, the line at the judgment at the end of the world should move along quite swiftly. We won’t have to worry about whether or not we fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, comforted the ill or visited the imprisoned.

Of course, though, if we narrow down the criteria for judgment to a single issue or question, it does make it difficult to explain why Jesus told that parable in the first place.

We need to be clear. The idea that we can save God time at the end of the world by doing some pre-judging here is complete nonsense. God searches our hearts, our minds and our souls, and God — and God alone — is the only one who is qualified to do any judging. And while I can’t say for sure, I suspect God is not all that appreciative of those who think it is right and proper to save time at the end of the world by doing some pre-judging here.

As for me, I am grateful that judgment belongs to God alone, and that it is something God doesn’t need any help with — however well intended. I am also hopeful that at the end of the world God will grade on a curve. I say this because the older I get, the more I realize how much in need of God’s mercy I am.

Father John Bauer
Pastor of the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

Share your perspective by emailing Please limit your letter to the editor to 150 words and include your parish and phone number. The Commentary page does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Catholic Spirit. Letters may be edited for length or clarity.

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Category: From Readers

  • DebraBrunsberg

    Why are so many people completely ignorant about what the Bible, and Jesus had to say about judging? I think most just read one line and let it go at that, they don’t bother with the rest of the Bible. It is so convenient to use when you want to shut someone down, kind of like calling a person a racist or bigot because you have no other way to debate an issue.
    I find it pretty shameful that Catholics do not understand that Bishop Paprocki was just reiterating Canon Law. Yes, I know. This is the age of whatever I feel to be true is, and that dang Church and all her rules is the bane of our existence. There are those who are either ignorant of most of the teachings of the Church or they have decided that they can just toss them aside if they don’t really like them.
    There is a big difference between correcting someone and judging someone. There is a big difference between wanting someone else’s salvation and just wanting them to feel good about whatever they do.

    When do we decide that certain teachings in the Bible are not valid? James for instance: “My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (Jms. 5:19-20)
    Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Lk. 17:3)
    [Jesus said,] “If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Mt. 18:15-17)
    “If anyone does not obey our word as expressed in this letter, take note of this person not to associate with him, that he may be put to shame. Do not regard him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother.” (St. Paul, 2 Thes. 3:14-15)

    Or……….how about our Popes: “Those who take notice of what is evil in their neighbors, and yet refrain their tongue in silence, withdraw, as it were, the aid of medicine from observed sores, and became the causers of death, in that they would not cure the venom which they could have cured. The tongue, therefore, should be discreetly curbed, not tied up fast.” (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church)

    I know. We live in different times. We must forget all that has been taught by the Apostles, by Jesus, by the Fathers of the Church so that everyone will be super comfortable in their faith. Maybe the teachings of our times are a reason only 27% of self proclaimed Catholics even bother to go to Mass. Why should they? Sadly, we still have priests who want to teach that there is no sin and if there is no sin, what is the point? I am blessed, I am surrounded by churches, my own included who offer reconciliation six days a week. I know I shouldn’t judge, but you can usually make great assumptions by how often a parish offers reconciliation. It speaks volumes about the pastor.

    • Charles C.

      Nicely done. You’ve covered it well. Thanks.

      There still seems to be some confusion on the part of someone, responding in a letter above, who says:

      “We need to be clear. The idea that we can save God time at the end of the world by doing some pre-judging here is complete nonsense. God searches our hearts, our minds and our souls, and God — and God alone — is the only one who is qualified to do any judging.”

      That is not what is being claimed. Everyone agrees that the final judgment of a soul to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory is God’s call and we all rely on His mercy. Unfortunately the writer confuses that with judging an individual’s actions and relying on Church law and the Commandments.

      It is only shorthand to say that an active adulterer or homosexual is going to Hell. It is easy to point out that the short version doesn’t include the necessary nuances with which normal people don’t bother.

      But wouldn’t any priest say that, without God’s Mercy, an open and unrepentant adulterer (or Homosexual, or Heretic, or any other mortal sin) who dies in a state of rejection of God’s Love and Commandments is in a state of objective mortal sin and is dooming himself to Hell?

      That’s the longer version. The shorter version is “Sin and Go to Hell.”

      Besides, the letter writer fails to consider the results of his position. Ms. Brunsberg is correct in pointing out our Christian duty to reprimand the sinner, but what can the other writer do?

      He can’t condemn, he can’t even say something is bad. If an action carries no risk of damnation, what are the grounds for reproving it. And if he’s not going to condemn any action, what good is praise? If he praises good action and is silent about the evil, isn’t his silence condemnation? Why is it so hard to say “There are actions that imperil your soul and put you in risk of Hell. Don’t do them. I don’t approve of them and the Church doesn’t approve of them. We won’t pretend they aren’t happening. We have rules for you to follow if you want to get into full communion with the Church?”

      In fact, I wish priests would work that into their sermons more than once or twice a year.

      • DebraBrunsberg

        Very well put. My pastor talks about sin a lot and about the need for repentance. We are all sinners, but for some reason, many have decided that no one outside of God dare make a judgement regarding another person’s sin. I know it is always easier to point out someone else’s sin rather than look at our own, but many times, it is by seeing their sins, that we recognize our own. We judge every day of our life. For some, that is okay, as long as we do not judge sinful actions. That isn’t Catholic, it isn’t Christ.

  • Paula Ruddy

    Thanks for writing, Fr. Bauer. Is the fundamental problem that some humans are convinced they know the mind of God? They may need to hold on to that conviction for their own stability. Mercy requires some difficult letting go.

    • I was taught that the Church is the mystical body of Christ. The Church’s teaching on homosexual relations, adultery, and abortion are quite clear. God’s mercy is real also but I would assume some sort of repentance without being defiant of Church teaching is a requirement for God’s mercy. God bless all those who have same sex attractions and resist temptation.

    • DebraBrunsberg

      I am pretty sure Paula that those who follow Christ, His teachings and the teachings of the Church are convinced that they know as much as God has revealed to us. When Jesus Christ said no divorce, He may have meant it. If one believes that the Bible is Divinely inspired, then they may take it that being a party to adultery, fornication and sodomy are not tickets into heaven. Many people think that mercy means acceptance of sinful behavior and that has never been taught by the Church. Loving your neighbor and wanting him/her to also spend eternity with Lord requires that we speak the truth. You are not being merciful by denying the truth. So, I guess everyone has to make their own choices. Do you follow Jesus Christ or do you follow the world? I recommend Galatians 1 for a good reminder as to what we are to adhere to.

  • Paula Ruddy

    I wonder if it would make any difference to commenters like Everett Dehmer to distinguish between same-sex civil marriage and sacramental marriage? People enter into civil marriage with all sorts of purposes and attitudes, and the state has its own goals for regulating and promoting civil marriages. Not all people who enter into civil marriage have the same beliefs about sex and sin that the Catholic Church teaches. Should the state disallow civil marriage for anyone who does not have the Catholic understanding of sacramental marriage? Did Jesus ever say anything about civil marriage? Does the Church recognize civil marriage as sacramental?

    Of course, it is sacramental marriage that is important to Catholics and we are free under U.S. constitutional practice to withhold that sacrament. There is lots of questioning to be done about sacramental marriage too. Should all married Catholics be tested for their understanding of sacramental marriage before they can be employed by the Church, go to Mass, receive communion, belong to a Catholic community? Can same-sex couples have the requisite spirituality for sacramental marriage?
    Do these distinctions make a difference to the Catholic view of same-sex civil marriage?

    • DebraBrunsberg

      A civil marriage is not a Sacrament, but it is a valid marriage and is recognized by the church as valid. Catholics who are married outside the Church must have their marriage convalidated within the Church to make it a Sacrament. They need to have that done in order to receive the Sacraments. As the Bible has made it very clear and as it has been believed in every culture since the beginning of record, marriage is between a man and a woman. I am thinking you are not getting the point here. Please keep in mind that no one is required to be Catholic, it is voluntary. If the secular world or anyone else does not agree with the Church on its Doctrines and its following of Jesus Christ, no one makes them stay in the Church. We are all sinners, we just aren’t all people who expect the church to remove our sin from the books so we can participate freely without barriers. Same sex marriage does not exist. Call it what you will, it is not of God. Pretending sin is not sin, does not change anything.

      • Unfortunately some people want their Catholicism ala carte. I am guilty of that sometimes.