Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ground blessing service for Ground Zero church

Protests outside Bayonne Coptic church lead to arrests

( - The Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America is "saddened and dismayed" by the actions of those who protested at a Coptic church in Bayonne this past Sunday, according to a statement released to The Jersey Journal on Thursday.

"As congregants of the church, we attend the holy liturgy to worship God with one heart and one spirit, seeking the Lord's grace and forgiveness," Bishop Karas wrote in the two-page statement. "The actions of those who shouted and protested inside the church, disrupting the service, showed no regard for the holy eucharist on the altar. The actions of the protesters in insulting and cursing in the church and at the clergy is both inappropriate and against ecclesiastic law."

The first protest in what is expected to be a series of weekly demonstrations occurred this past Sunday, when a throng of churchgoers demanded their leaders bring back Father George Greiss to the St. Abanoub & St. Antonious Coptic Orthodox Church at 1325 Kennedy Blvd.

On Oct. 1, the Coptic church's pope, Pope Tawadros II, issued a Papal Decree reassigning Greiss to a church in South Carolina, according to Joseph Ghabour, a spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mark's in Jersey City.

Greiss' reassignment came after he spent 17 years at St. Abanoub & St. Antonious, which Ghabour said has been "the subject of unrest for more than 14 years," posing "numerous challenges" to Coptic church leaders.

In a letter sent to The Jersey Journal on Tuesday, Ghabour stated that the Bayonne church faces "administrative, financial, engineering, spiritual and behavioral challenges that require special managerial expertise and spiritual leadership." When contacted, he did not provide details on the issues cited, nor did he say if any complaints had been filed against Greiss.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Russian Church speaks very plainly to Catholic Synod

As always, Met. Hilarion was exceedingly direct in his address to the Catholic hierarchs assembled to discuss the Church and the family. It will be no surprise, then, that he brings up Uniatism as a stumbling block to further rapprochement.


Your Holiness,

Your Beatitudes,

Your Eminences and Your Excellencies:

Allow me first of all to greet you on behalf of the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The topic of the family is one of the most acute and vital today. It is an indicator of the moral state of the society in which we live.

We have anxiously watched as abuse of the notions of freedom and tolerance has been used in recent years to dismantle the basic values rooted in religious traditions. There is an increasingly aggressive propagation of the idea of moral relativism applied also to the institution of the family held sacred by all of humanity.

In quite a number of countries in Europe and America, despite numerous protests, same-sex unions are approved and recognized on the level of the state. In some places, the right of same-sex partners to adopt children has already been fixed legally and implemented, including through the use of “surrogate motherhood” technology.

At the same time, traditional families built on the notion of marriage as union of man and woman become weaker and weaker. Instead of concern for their consolidation, there is the propaganda of so-called “free relations”. The notions of fidelity, mutual respect and responsibility of spouses are replaced by the imposition of hedonism and calls to live for one’s own self.

Children are no longer seen as the desirable fruit of spouses’ mutual love. The right of abortion, restricted by almost nothing, has become widespread, and has led to the legalization of the destruction of millions of lives. Among the serious problems is the existence of orphans whose parents are still alive, and abandoned and lonely disabled children.

The ideas of moral relativism have also affected many Christians who in words confess the Church’s teaching on the family but in deed refuse to follow it.

Asserting the sanctity of marriage based on the words of the Saviour Himself (see Mt. 19:6, Mk. 10:9), the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church traditionally place personal responsibility above egotistical interests. To cultivate in a Christian this responsibility before the family, society and the surrounding world is the most important tasks for Churches today. The protection of human dignity and affirmation of the lofty value of love realized in the family is an integral component of the Gospel message that we are called to bring to people.

In November 2013, the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Pontifical Council for the Family led by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia held in Rome a conference on ‘Orthodox and Catholics Protecting the Family Together’. In the final statement, we underlined “our conviction that we bear a common responsibility for making marriage and family life the way to sanctity for Christian families”.

The time has come for Christians to join efforts and come out as a united front for the noble goal of protecting the family when confronted by the challenges of the secular world for the sake of preserving the future of civilization. It is the field in which our alliance may become really needed.

We should together defend our positions both in dialogue with the legislative and executive authorities in particular countries and on the platforms of international organizations, such as the UN and the Council of Europe. We already have a certain experience of such cooperation; it is enough to recall the well-known case of Lautsi versus Italy.

It is essential not to confine ourselves to noble appeals, but to press in every possible way for the legal protection of the family. It is necessary to restore in our society the awareness that freedom is unthinkable without responsibility for one’s actions.

The Orthodox Church consistently proclaims the ideal of the one and only marital union concluded once and for all. At the same time, conceding the weakness of human nature, in exceptional cases the Orthodox Church allows for a new church marriage in the instance of the breakup of the first marriage. In this our Church follows the principle of oikonomia, guided as she is by the love of the sinner who is not to be deprived of the means of salvation. In today’s world, in which the strict observance of the church ordinances becomes increasingly rare, the practice of oikonomia, which has existed in Orthodoxy throughout the centuries, may become a valuable experience in settling the pastoral problems of the family.

The Orthodox Church has accumulated a rich experience of pastoral care for the family. She has always preserved the institution of married clergy. As a rule, the families of priests are large and their children are brought up in the spirit of Christian devotion and faithfulness to church teaching. A priest with his own experience of family relations and parenting can better understand family problems and give his spiritual children the necessary pastoral aid. I believe it would be useful to notice this experience, which is also present in the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite.

Speaking about the Churches of the Eastern Rite, I would like to digress from the forum’s topics and to touch upon an issue that has become today a stumbling block in the relations between the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches. It is the problem of Uniatism which has become once again more acute as a result of the recent events in Ukraine. Regrettably, the conflict in that country, which has already taken the lives of thousands, from the very beginning has acquired a religious dimension.

A significant role in its conception and development has been played by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. From the very first days of the conflict, the Greek Catholics identified with one of the sides of the confrontation. Contrary to the respect for canonical norms prevailing in relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, the Greek Catholics have entered into active cooperation with the Orthodox schismatic groups.

The Joint Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue, as far back as 1993 in Balamand, recognized that Uniatism is not the way to unity. We are grateful to our Catholic brothers for their open recognition of the mistakenness of Uniatism. And we have to state regrettably again that Uniatism does not bring the Orthodox and the Catholics any closer to each other; on the contrary, it divides us.

On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church, I would like to address the representatives of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church present in this hall with an appeal to renounce any statements on political topics and any visible forms of support of the schism as well as calls to create “one Local Church of Ukraine”. For standing behind this call is a simple truth, the wish to tear away the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine from their Mother Church, the Moscow Patriarchate, with which Ukraine has been bound by age-old blood ties.

The principal mission of the Church is to serve the cause of people’s salvation. The mandate given to us by God does not presuppose interference in political and civil conflicts. In a world in which there are so many divisions, in which the very foundations of the survival of human civilization, including the institution of the family, are under threat, Christians are called to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Mt. 5:13-14), bringing all to the love of each other and to unity in Christ.

We can do much together, also for the protection of the Christians who have become today victims of persecution. In Iraq and Syria and in a number of other countries in the Middle East and Africa, Christians are subjected to genocide. We should do all that depends on us to stop the killing of Christians, to stop their mass exodus from the places where they have lived for centuries, to draw the attention of the whole world community to their calamitous state.

I wish you all, dear brothers, God’s blessing and success in your efforts!

Ultra Spirituality

"Russophobia" and the world stage

Moscow, October 16 (Interfax) - Director of the Human Rights Center at the World Russian People's Council Roman Silantyev urges OSCE to consider the problem of Russophobia.

Meeting with the OSCE officials on tolerance and non-discrimination on Wednesday in Moscow, Silantyev suggested to set up a post of OSCE head representative on the problem of Russphobia, "which is actively instigated in Europe."

He was surprised with the fact that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia were divided in separate sectors and entrusted to different curators while "the only person is charged with a great massive of other problems in this sphere."

Mufti of Moscow, the Central Region and Chuvashia Albir Krganov noted that hatred was instigated not only to Russians, but also to other peoples of Russia, for instance, to Chechens and Tatars. He suggested calling such a personal representative "an expert on defamating peoples of Russia."

Earlier, OSCE chairman appointed three personal representatives on tolerance and non-discrimination: Rabbi Andrew Baker (the USA) - on combating anti-Semitism, Professor Talip Kucukcan (Turkey) - on combating intolerance to Muslims, professor Alexey Avtonomov (Russia) - for combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination and also intolerance to Christians and representatives of other religions.

Personal representatives annually visit OSCE countries-members to analyze the existing problems, defining positive examples and working out recommendations to governments in the field of tolerance and non-discrimination.

Houston subpoena travesty continues drawing attention

For a little background and then the letter from the Texas Attorney General to the City of Houston. When government officials start demanding homilies we should all begin to worry.

(Houston Chronicle) - Houston's embattled equal rights ordinance took another legal turn this week when it surfaced that city attorneys, in an unusual step, subpoenaed sermons given by local pastors who oppose the law and are tied to the conservative Christian activists that have sued the city.

Opponents of the equal rights ordinance are hoping to force a repeal referendum when they get their day in court in January, claiming City Attorney David Feldman wrongly determined they had not gathered enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. City attorneys issued subpoenas last month during the case's discovery phase, seeking, among other communications, "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession."

The subpoenas were issued to several high-profile pastors and religious leaders who have been vocal in opposing the ordinance. The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a motion on behalf of the pastors seeking to quash the subpoenas.

Plaintiff Jared Woodfill said the subpoena impinges on protected religious freedoms.

"This is the city trampling on the First Amendment rights of pastors in their churches," Woodfill said.

The city attorney's office has not responded to requests for comment.
And also...
Austin (Texas Attorney General) - Attorney General Abbott today asked that the Houston City Attorney to immediately withdraw the subpoenas sent last month to several Houston-area pastors seeking sermons, notes and other information.

In his letter to the city attorney, Attorney General Abbott said, “Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment. The people of Houston and their religious leaders must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious affairs are beyond the reach of the government.”

Dear Mr. Feldman:

Your office has demanded that four Houston pastors hand over to the city government many of their private papers, including their sermons. Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment. The people of Houston and their religious leaders must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious affairs are beyond the reach of the government. Nothing short of an immediate reversal by your office will provide that security. I call on you to withdraw the subpoenas without further delay.

I recognize that the subpoenas arise from litigation related to a petition to repeal an ordinance adopted by the city council. But the litigation discovery process is not a license for government officials to inquire into religious affairs. Nor is your office’s desire to vigorously support the ordinance any excuse for these subpoenas. No matter what public policy is at stake, government officials must exercise the utmost care when our work touches on religious matters. If we err, it must be on the side of preserving the autonomy of religious institutions and the liberty of religious believers. Your aggressive and invasive subpoenas show no regard for the very serious First Amendment considerations at stake.

A statement released by the Mayor’s Office claims that the subpoenas were prepared by outside lawyers and that neither you nor Mayor Parker was aware of them before they were issued. Nevertheless, these lawyers acted in the City’s name, and you are responsible for their actions. You should immediately instruct your lawyers to withdraw the City’s subpoenas. Religious institutions and their congregants should never have to worry that a government they disagree with will attempt to interfere in their religious affairs. Instead of safeguarding that trust, you appear to have given some of the most powerful law firms in Houston free rein to harass and intimidate pastors who oppose City policy. In good faith, I hope you merely failed to anticipate how inappropriately aggressive your lawyers would be. Many, however, believe your actions reflect the city government’s hostility to religious beliefs that do not align with city policies.

I urge you to demonstrate the City’s commitment to religious liberty and to true diversity of belief by unilaterally withdrawing these subpoenas immediately. Your stated intention to wait for further court proceedings falls woefully short of the urgent action needed to reassure the people of Houston that their government respects their freedom of religion and does not punish those who oppose city policies on religious grounds.


Greg Abbott

Attorney General of Texas

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The new direction: Antiochian monasticism in America

( - This summer at the Summer Meetings at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph announced the new Antiochian Women Project for 2014-2015 which will incorporate his vision for the Antiochian Archdiocese well into the future. Over the next year, the Antiochian Women will work towards "Nurturing the Seeds of Orthodoxy Across North America".

The Project is two-fold:
  • "Regional Camping and Learning Centers" – His Eminence's vision is to offer Orthodox programs throughout all of North America and the ultimate establishment of facilities to house these events.
  • "Monastic Communities" – The vision is to make Antiochian Orthodox monastic communities prevalent across our continent.
Throughout our work on this Project, let us recall the parable of the mustard seed where Jesus said, "To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? ... It is like a mustard seed which, ... when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade." (Mark 4:30-32.)

We as Antiochian Women must help to nurture these mustard seeds, and Orthodoxy, across North America.

We would urge you to read the full description of the Project (PDF), and then download the promotional poster (PDF) to be shared with the contact person at your church or mission. Please ask the women to display the poster in a prominent place and to start planning events that will highlight our Project: "Nurturing the Seeds of Orthodoxy Across North America".

Also remember that March is "Antiochian Women's Month". More information will be forthcoming, but we recommend that you start the planning and fundraising for this Project now. Most importantly, everyone in the parish – men, women and children – should know about the Project.

Russian Church representatives going to Rome

( - In the evening of October 14, 2014, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Church Relations, arrived in Rome for an official visit, which will last till October 18.

With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the DECR chairman, acting as a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, will attend the plenary session of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Catholic Bishops on Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization and address the meeting. During his visit, Metropolitan Hilarion will meet with Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity Cardinal Kurt Koch, and will deliver a lecture at the opening of academic year at the Southern Italy Faculty of Theology in Naples.

Metropolitan Hilarion will be accompanied by Hieromonk Stephan (Igumnov), DECR secretary for inter-Christian relations, Rev. Alexiy Dikaev, staff member of the secretariat for inter-Christian relations, and Hierodeacon Nikolay (Ono), postgraduate of the Ss Cyril and Methodius Institute of Post-Graduate Studies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ground Zero shrine update

(St. Nicholas WTC) - His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America extends an invitation to all of the faithful of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to join him along with the Holy Eparchial Synod in New York on October 18 to bless the hallowed and sacred ground upon which St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center will be built.

Blessings aplenty

Extremely important talk being given at St. Vlad's
(OCA) - On Friday, October 24, 2014, Saint Vladimir’s Seminary here will host a one-day seminar titled “Pastoral Counseling Following Abortion and Other Crises,” specifically designed for pastors, trained counselors and parish lay ministers engaged with those suffering from post-abortion distress and other trauma.

Dr. Theresa Karminski Burke, founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, the world’s largest ministry dealing with post-abortion healing, will lead four sessions: “The Need for Post-Abortion Counseling,” “Pregnancy Loss and Suicide,” “Crash Course in Trauma (PTSD),” and “Brain Science: How Emotional Trauma Impacts the Brain.”

Dr. Burke, who holds an MA and PhD in Counseling Psychology from Immaculata University, has lectured and trained professionals nationally on the subject of post-abortion healing, and her programs offer a unique sensory-based treatment that integrates emotional, psychological, and spiritual dimensions. She is a Nationally Certified Psychologist, Certified Diplomat of the American Psychotherapy Association, Licensed Professional Counselor, Board Certified Clinical Psychotherapist, and Diplomat of the American Board of Forensic Counselors.

The Saint Ambrose Society, a student-run pro-life group at Saint Vladimir’s, is sponsoring the seminar. The Society’s President, Seminarian Ignatius Green, said the group is especially pleased to present the opportunity because “nearly every priest will meet women who are suffering with the consequences of abortion, and this workshop will show how clergy and others engaged in healing ministries can more effectively minister to women who are seeking emotional and spiritual healing.”

Pastors, counselors, lay ministers, and seminarians of all faith communities are welcome to the seminar, which will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium of the John G. Rangos Family Foundation Building, top floor.

To register, send an e-mail to by October 20. The $30.00 registration fee includes lunch. Please mail check payable to “Saint Vladimir’s Seminary” (memo: SAS) to Saint Ambrose Society, 575 Scarsdale Road, Yonkers, NY 10707.

Flyers for downloading are available here (PDF).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chrysostom on the blasphemer: "Smite him on the face!"

For context on this amazing quotation, see one of my favorite blogs Roger Pearse.

But since our discourse has now turned to the subject of blasphemy, I desire to ask one favor of you all, in return for this my address, and speaking with you; which is, that you will correct on my behalf the blasphemers of this city.

And should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so.

Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify thy hand with the blow, and if any should accuse thee, and drag thee to the place of justice, follow them thither; and when the judge on the bench calls thee to account, say boldly that the man blasphemed the King of angels!

For if it be necessary to punish those who blaspheme an earthly king, much more so those who insult God. It is a common crime, a public injury; and it is lawful for every one who is willing, to bring forward an accusation.

Let the Jews and Greeks learn, that the Christians are the saviours of the city; that they are its guardians, its patrons, and its teachers.

Let the dissolute and the perverse also learn this; that they must fear the servants of God too; that if at any time they are inclined to utter such a thing, they may look round every way at each other, and tremble even at their own shadows, anxious lest perchance a Christian, having heard what they said, should spring upon them and sharply chastise them.

- St. John Chrysostom

Catholics seek advice on divorce from Oriental Orthodox

Long Branch, NJ (SCOOCH) – Members of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches convened with their Roman Catholic counterparts last week on Thursday October 2 and Friday October 3 at the Stella Maris Retreat Center in Long Branch, New Jersey to discuss issues pertaining to the Holy Mystery of Marriage.

The purpose of the ongoing North American dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches is to learn from one another’s experiences in matters related to pastoral care. Theological debate and discussion do from time to time ensue, but it is not the primary purpose of the meeting. This year’s topic was the subject of marriage, specifically how each church prepares their faithful to enter into the Holy Mystery of Marriage and how each church deals with the subject of divorce.

Both communions agreed on the sacred, eternal and indissoluble nature of marriage, but both also acknowledged the need to minister to those faithful whose human frailties have led them – for whatever reason – to separate from their spouse and who still wish to remain within the communion of the Church. The delegates also reviewed the findings of the recent Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic International Dialogue convened in Kerala, India and discussed significant recent events in the lives of their churches.

The delegates of the Armenian Apostolic Church announced at the meeting that their church will soon be canonizing martyrs from the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The Armenian Church hasn’t canonized any new saints in 600 years, and its theologians are presently investigating the procedure by which to recognize sainthood. The two Armenian Catholicoi, H.H. Karekin II of Holy Etchmiadzin and H.H. Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, and both of their Holy Synods are working together on this monumental event and will declare the canonization jointly on April 23, 2014. The two Catholicoi will also celebrate a Divine Liturgy together.

Other topics discussed included the ongoing genocide being carried out against the Christians of the Middle East, the recent and widely applauded In Defense of Christians summit held in Washington, DC, and the prodigious and heroic efforts of H.H. Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Karim, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, who has been working tirelessly not only to create awareness in the West of the plight of the Middle East’s indigenous Christians but also to heal the schism within the Syriac Orthodox Church of India.

Orthodox seminary in Smolensk gets Catholic assistance

(ACN) - Currently, there are about 100 young men preparing for ordination at the Orthodox seminary in Smolensk. This city which, according to the earliest documentary evidence, dates back to the year 863, is situated in the west of Russia, close to the frontier with Belarus. Ever since the early 1990s ACN has been supporting the seminary, which was reopened in 1988. Before the communist October 1917 revolution, Orthodox priests had been trained here for over 200 years. However, when the building was finally returned after the collapse of communism, it was in an utterly derelict and desolate condition. In re-establishing the seminary, they had to start again almost from scratch. ACN helped for the furnishing and equipping of the seminary, and we continue to help to this day for the training of its future priests. One of the fruits of this aid is that the seminary maintains close contacts with the Catholic parish in the city.

The young men preparing for ordination in the seminary of Smolensk today were all born during the difficult era immediately after the collapse of communism. Not a few of them had to find their own way to God, since their own parents and grandparents had already grown up in an atheist system. What they all share in common is the fact that, one day during their lives, they reached a point when they realised that God was calling them.

One of these men is 27-year-old Filaret. He comes from a family in which nobody was a believer. Despite this, he was baptised at the age of four. Speaking of his childhood, he says: "I was healthy, very strong, played sport, and it seemed as though there were no obstacles in my life that I could not overcome." But when he reached the age of 14 he became ill. For a long time the doctors could not reach any kind of diagnosis, but it turned out that he was suffering from a form of polyarthritis which affected first of all the spinal column and then the joints. "I couldn’t come to terms with this; I tried to fight my illness and intensified my training. But then, for the first time, I really understood what it means to be helpless", he recalls. The experience changed him. "When I think of myself and of my friends, I realise that we all had our dreams and our own ideas of happiness, but we were seeking happiness where it cannot actually be found. No wonder that it was precisely then that I began to think about God, the meaning of life and the origin of the world. This search led me to discover the Gospel, and my whole value system changed completely. What had happened to me was something quite inexplicable. I sat at home and read the Bible endlessly. It became the purpose and the guide of my life." The sickness grew worse. By the age of 19 the young man could scarcely walk. "The Gospel was my only consolation. It was precisely during this time that I prayed as never before, but I didn’t go to church. At the time I wanted to become a doctor, so that I could help people. Then one day I heard about the Orthodox monks and I realised that they were living in the way that I too would like to live. I got to know Father Ermogen, a priest and monk who was the leader of a monastic community. First of all I went to Confession and received Communion, then in 2010 I was received into the monastery. Soon after this I came to understand that I really can serve God and help people by becoming a priest." So it was that in 2011 he entered the seminary in Smolensk. For Filaret the whole thing is a "huge act of divine Providence". He adds, "The way of life, the teaching and the academic staff are an immeasurable source of profit to me, and they are forming me as a person and also as a future priest."

In order to equip these future priests with a truly broad horizon, the seminarians are all encouraged, during their training, to acquaint themselves with the works of Western theology too. For this reason the Rector wishes to supplement the seminary library, for example with the works of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI and other noted Catholic theologians. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need will be supporting this project with a grant of $7,000.

Catholics look to Orthodox for guidance on divorce

(Crux) As summer turns to autumn, the most compelling storyline in Rome is a highly anticipated summit of Catholic bishops from around the world, which shapes up as a key test of how much the status quo in the Church has been upended by a charismatic pope from a foreign land who’s taken the world by storm.

Called a “Synod of Bishops”, the meeting seems destined to grapple with the contentious issue of the Church’s ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion. Although the Vatican’s German doctrinal czar warns no change is possible, his admonition does little to stifle the debate.

A cardinal considered a lion of liberal European Catholicism uses a platform in Rome to argue for a more compassionate approach, based on the Orthodox model of penance after a first marriage breaks down. More conservative prelates insist that any liberalization would run afoul of a teaching that comes from Jesus himself: “What God has joined, let no one separate.”

As anyone who’s been paying attention knows, those lines fit like a glove in the run-up to this year’s Synod of Bishops on the family in Rome Oct. 5-19, convened by Pope Francis.

In fact, however, they date to October 1999 and that year’s Synod of Bishops on Europe, called by Pope John Paul II. At the time, luminaries of the left such as Cardinals Godfried Danneels of Brussels and Carlo Maria Martini of Milan were pushing to re-open a question that John Paul’s Vatican had declared closed five years before.

In 1993, three German bishops had put out a pastoral letter addressed to Catholics who divorce and remarry without obtaining an annulment, a declaration from a church court that a marriage never existed because it didn’t meet one of the tests for validity, such as informed consent. The bishops said if such Catholics decide in conscience their first marriage was invalid, with the counsel of a priest, they can receive communion...
Complete article here.