JBap Blog

21. Aug, 2017

Dubia? A Take on Francis’ Perspective

There are always two sides to an argument. Below is an article from America Magazine (https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/01/05/pope-francis-still-hasnt-responded-dubia-he-has-good-reason-not) that presents an argument as to why Pope Francis has not answered the  dubia.

I have increased the font size and made bold the bold statement that “Amoris Laetitia” has not abandoned key teachings of Catholic tradition, particularly those expressed most recently by St. John Paul II in his encyclical letter “Veritatis Splendor” (1993). I do not agree with this paragraph!

Unfortunately, statements such as “it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace” (Amoris Laetitia, 305) contradict Catholic teaching as has been argued on this blog numerous times (e.g., http://www.johnthebaptistmoora.com/346443107/4481652/posting/opinion-false-ethical-position-adopted-by-amoris-laetitia). Another statement that has outraged some Catholic faithful is that no one is condemned forever, (Amoris Laetitia, 297).

Although I believe the dubia need clarification, I have a responsibility to present the other side of the argument …...

Pope Francis still hasn't responded to the dubia. He has good reason not to.

Louis J. CameliJanuary 05, 2017

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, left, talks with Cardinal Gerhard Muller on New Year's Eve in St. Peter's Basilica. (CNS photo)

In December, in a letter directed to Pope Francis and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, four cardinals cited dubia (literally, “doubts”) or questions about the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia. “The cardinals then made their letter available to the general public. Their concerns about the exhortation centered on what they felt it had provoked: “uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation among many of the faithful.”

Although they wanted to resolve uncertainty, it seems that their letter may have exacerbated it. In these reflections, I hope to offer some clarifications that will address the dubia as well as allow for a wider and more genuine appropriation of the pope’s message.

In summary, the five dubia suggest that “Amoris Laetitia” may have altered traditional Catholic teaching on the following matters:

  • the indissolubility of the sacramental marriage bond;
  • the existence of absolute moral norms prohibiting intrinsically evil acts;
  • that one can find oneself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin by living in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law;
  • that circumstances or intentions can never transform an intrinsically evil act into a subjectively good one or into a defensible choice;
  • that there can be no “creative” role for conscience to authorize legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms.

The dubia are not really expressions of doubt or questions but rather assertions that “Amoris Laetitia” appears to have abandoned or altered key teachings of Catholic tradition, especially as they have been expressed most recently by St. John Paul II in his encyclical letter “Veritatis Splendor” (1993).

Pope Francis has chosen not to respond to the cardinals and their dubia. Why? I would suggest that it is because the questions raised by the cardinals cannot be answered. What does this mean? The dubia suggest that “Amoris Laetitia” has brought change or novelty to traditional Catholic teaching. Repeatedly, whether in the context of “Amoris Laetitia” itself or other discourses, the pope has affirmed that there is no new teaching and no change in the teaching. If this is so, what would be the origin of the dubia?

I propose that the dubia stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of “Amoris Laetitia” and, indeed, of the renewal that began with the Second Vatican Council and was fostered by John Paul II—including his encyclical “Veritatis Splendor.”

Pastoral Synods

It is important to note that there were two synods devoted to family life in 2014 and 2015. Through a very wide consultation, the first synod identified the experience and challenges of marriage and family life today. The second synod explored the appropriate pastoral responses that the church might offer to families. In some quarters, the mention of a “pastoral response” provokes a negative reaction. For some, “pastoral” means an easier way or a more accommodating path without regard for the hard truth. In fact, a pastoral approach is not necessarily easier or more accommodating, but it does try to incorporate the truth of the Gospel into the lived experience of people. Ultimately, this response has its roots in the public ministry of Jesus. More recently, the Second Vatican Council underscored the pastoral task and responsibility of the church.

In his apostolic constitution, “Humanae Salutis,” convoking the council, St. John XXIII set the pastoral direction for the gathering: “Today, the Church is witnessing a crisis under way within society. While humanity is on the edge of a new era, tasks of immense gravity and amplitude await the Church, as in the most tragic periods of its history. It is a question in fact of bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel” [emphasis added].

And in his opening speech to the council, in words that could likewise be applied to “Amoris Laetitia,” he said:

The salient point of this Council is not…a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all. For this a Council was not necessary…the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faith and perfect conformity to authentic doctrine…. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral incharacter[emphases added].

Clearly, the pastoral program of renewal envisioned by John XXIII was designed to be a formational journey that would bring people to the truth that is, ultimately, Jesus Christ. This is the same pastoral program envisioned by “Amoris Laetitia.” The irony of the cardinal’s dubia is that they suggest the apostolic exhortation is unfaithful to the tradition, when, in fact, it means to bring people to greater fidelity and greater conformity with the truth in Jesus Christ.

The Gospel Journey

The real driving question of this process is this: How do you bring people forward to greater and greater conformity with the truth of the Gospel? Do you do this by arguing for objective truth? Yes, of course, objective truth is fundamental. The reality of the kingdom of God has an objectivity about it. It is not the stuff of our own construction or imagination. God gives us his kingdom and it has its own objectivity: “an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface from the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe).

But is “objective truth” the end of the story? By no means. In a telling statement, John Paul II reinforces the need for and distinctiveness of the pastoral and formational dimension of the church’s mission in bringing the truth of the Gospel to people. He writes:

The discernment which the Church carries out with regard to these [incorrect] ethical theories is not simply limited to denouncing and refuting them. In a positive way, the Church seeks, with great love, to help all the faithful to form a moral conscience which will make judgments and lead to decisions in accordance with the truth…. This effort by the Church finds its support—the ‘secret’ of its educative power—not so much in doctrinal statements and pastoral appeals to vigilance, as in constantly looking to the Lord Jesus (“Veritatis Splendor,” No. 85) [emphasis original].

Even more impressive than his words about moral formation is John Paul II’s phenomenology of formation that begins the encyclical (Nos. 6-21): the story of Jesus’ dialogue with the rich young man in Matthew (19:16-22). Jesus does not simply announce the truth and leave the young man to accept it or reject it. Rather, Jesus engages in a process to bring the young man forward. John Paul II says, “Jesus, as a patient and sensitive teacher, answers the young man by taking him, as it were, by the hand, and leading him step by step to the full truth” (No. 8). This example is consistent with the larger pattern of Jesus forming his disciples within the context of their limitations and even their failures. Jesus “brings his disciples along,” and, although this is true in all the Gospels, it is especially evident in the Gospel of Mark, the gospel of discipleship.

At this point in our reflections, it may be good to pause and identify what has emerged from our reflections. In the Christian life—and this is already evident in the Gospels—there are two connected and related yet distinct movements: the proclamation of the truth and the formation of people to embrace and live out that truth. The dubia presented by the four cardinals suggest that “Amoris Laetitia” does not proclaim the truth in an integral way. In fact, the teaching on marriage and family is clear and assumed (see Nos. 67-70).

The path of “Amoris Laetitia” follows a formational process. This is clear from the text:

This exhortation is especially timely in this jubilee Year of Mercy. First, because it represents an invitation to Christian families to value the gifts of marriage and the family, and to persevere in a love strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience. Second, because it seeks to encourage everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy (No. 4).

This is the language of formation and pastoral accompaniment that is present throughout the document.

For some, this distinction between the proclamation of the truth and the pastoral accompaniment of people may seem forced or, perhaps, not even valid. To those who have problems with this distinction, I suggest that they turn to the Gospels and listen to Jesus in two instances in which he deals with irregular marital situations.

In the first instance (Mt 19:3-9; Mk 10:2-12), some Pharisees want to test Jesus, and they question him about divorce. He unequivocally affirms the exclusivity and indissolubility of the marriage bond. Even more, he affirms this as the original plan of God from the time of creation. He goes beyond the Mosaic accommodations that did allow for divorce in certain circumstances. His teaching is clear and definitive.

In the second instance (Jn 4:5-42), Jesus interacts with the Samaritan woman. This is not a conversation about general principles or truths. Jesus encounters a woman with a complex life story that involves five husbands and a current live-in boyfriend. He does not simply announce the truth of marriage and then challenge her to live it out. From the beginning, with his request for water, he engages her and draws her to himself. Then, at a certain point, he says to her: “‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’” Perhaps embarrassed by this revelation, she seeks to divert the conversation, but Jesus stays with her and accompanies her. Eventually, she embraces faith in Jesus, and this is evident in her words to her fellow townsfolk: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

These two very different instances and the different ways that Jesus acts suggest a template for the church mission and ministry, especially with regard to marriage. There is a place and a necessity to offer clear and sound teaching. There is also a need to accompany people whose lives are broken and burdened, so that they can embrace the life-giving truth of the Gospel. In a word, “Amoris Laetitia” assumes the teaching and takes up the challenge, task and responsibility of pastoral and spiritual formation that accompanies people along the path of discernment.

To suggest a lack of fidelity in “Amoris Laetitia” to the truth of Christian marriage is to miss the point and—even more—to neglect mission and ministry in the pattern of Jesus himself. 

20. Aug, 2017

A Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Australia to all Australians on the ‘Same-sex Marriage’ Debate

Respect for all

At this time in history there is much discussion about the meaning of marriage. Some suggest that it is unjustly discriminatory not to allow people with same-sex attraction to marry someone of the same sex. Others believe that marriage is an institution uniting a man and a woman. We wish by this pastoral letter to engage with this debate, present the Church’s teaching to the faithful, and explain the position of the Catholic faithful to the wider community. The Catholic tradition teaches that every human being is a unique and irreplaceable person, created in the image of God and loved by Him. Because of this, every man, woman and child has great dignity and worth which can never be taken away. This includes those who experience same-sex attraction. They must be treated with respect, sensitivity, and love. The Catholic Church opposes all forms of unjust discrimination. We deplore injustices perpetrated upon people because of religion, sex, race, age etc. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls for understanding for those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies for whom this may well be a real trial. “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” {2358} Christians believe that all people including those with same-sex attraction are called by God to live chastely and that, by God’s grace and the support of friends, they can and should grow in fulfilling God’s plan. Even those who take a different view to us about the place and meaning of sexual activity can appreciate the particular significance and importance of this institution. We now face a struggle for the very soul of marriage.

Marriage equality & discrimination

Advocates for ‘same-sex marriage’1 rarely focus on the real meaning and purpose of marriage. Instead they assume that equal dignity and the principle of nondiscrimination demand the legal recognition of same-sex relationships as marriages.

This appeal to equality and nondiscrimination gets things the wrong way around. Justice requires us to treat people fairly and therefore not to make arbitrary, groundless distinctions.

We must treat like cases alike and different cases differently.

Only women are admitted to women’s hospitals and only children to primary schools. We have programmes targeted at Aborigines, refugees, athletes, those with disabilities or reading difficulties, and so on.

Thus privileging or assisting particular people in relevant ways is not arbitrary but an entirely fair response. And if the union of a man and a woman is different from other unions – not the same as other unions – then justice demands that we treat that union accordingly. If marriage is an institution designed to support people of the opposite sex to be faithful to each other and to the children of their union it is not discrimination to reserve it to them.

Indeed, in this pastoral letter we argue that what is unjust – gravely unjust – is:

•to legitimise the false assertion that there is nothing distinctive about a man and a woman, a father or a mother;

•to ignore the particular values that real marriage serves;  

•to ignore the importance for children of having, as far as possible, a mum and a dad, committed to them and to each other for the long haul;

•to destabilize marriage further at a time when it is already under considerable pressure; and

•to change retrospectively the basis upon which all existing married couples got married.

If we are right in this assertion and if the civil law ceases to define marriage as traditionally understood, it will be a serious injustice and undermine that common good for which the civil law exists. Whether we are right depends upon what marriage really is…

Emotional tie -v- Comprehensive one-flesh union

One view of marriage is that it is nothing more than a commitment to love. On this view, marriage is essentially an emotional tie, enhanced by public promises and consensual sexual activity. The marriage is valuable as long as the good emotions last. Proponents of this view of marriage argue that, given that men and women, men and men, and women and women, can have these sorts of emotional ties, all such unions should be recognised as marriages in law. (On this logic marriage could be further redefined to include various types of relationships.)2

The traditional view of marriage, which the Church has always supported, is different. It sees marriage as about connecting the values and people in our lives which otherwise have a tendency to get fragmented: sex and love, male and female, sex and babies, parents and children. This view has long influenced our law, literature, art, philosophy, religion and social practices.

On this view, marriage includes an emotional union, but it goes further than that. It involves a substantial bodily and spiritual union of a man and a woman. As the Old Testament taught and Jesus and St Paul repeated, marriage is where man and woman truly become “one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:5; Eph 5:31). It is a comprehensive union between a man and a woman grounded on heterosexual union.

This union is centred around and ordered not only to the wellbeing of the spouses but also towards the generation and wellbeing of children.

This is true even where one or both spouses are infertile: they still engage in exactly the same sort of marital acts as fertile couples, i.e. that naturally result in a child. Marriage for them as for other truly married couples is grounded on a total commitment: bodily and spiritual, sexual and reproductive, permanent and exclusive. It is in these senses that marriage is comprehensive.

On this traditional view what allows for this special kind of union between a man and a woman in marriage is precisely their difference and complementarity. Their physical, spiritual, psychological and sexual differences show they are meant for each other, their union makes them whole, and through their union ‘in one flesh’ they together beget children who are ‘flesh of their flesh’. They share the sameness of humanity but enjoy the difference of their masculinity and femininity, being husband and wife, paternity and maternity.

Same-sex friendships are of a very different kind: to treat them as the same does a grave injustice to both kinds of friendship and ignores the particular values that real marriages serve.

The importance of marriage and family

The Catholic Church cares deeply about marriage because it is a fundamental good in itself, a foundation of human existence and flourishing, and a blessing from God. The decision to commit permanently and exclusively to sharing the whole of one’s life with someone of the opposite sex and to raise any children that are the fruit, embodiment and extension of that union, is good in itself, even if no children are conceived. But because children are the natural result of marital life and are best reared within the commitment of marriage, this makes marriage also an essential part of the propagation and nurturing of the human family.

Marriage also joins distinct families to each other, fostering greater communion between people. Each marriage, from its beginning, is the foundationin-waiting of a new family and each marriage-based family is a basic cell of society.

Families also provide the social stability necessary for the future by modelling love and communion, welcoming and raising new life, taking care of the weak, sick and aged. The principal ‘public’ significance of the marriage-based family is precisely in being the nursery for raising healthy, well-rounded, virtuous citizens.

Governments normally stay out of relationships: it is none of their business to say who may be friends with whom and on what basis.

But because of the crucial role marriage plays as the nursery for the future of the community, and its responsibility always to act in the best interests of children governments everywhere recognise and regulate marriage.

Marriage also has a religious significance. The Catholic Church believes that God is the author of marriage and has “endowed marriage with various benefits and purposes” including “the good of the spouses and the procreation and upbringing of children”. 3 Christ raised the matrimonial covenant between baptised persons to the status of a sacrament “in which God helps the spouses live out the dignity and duties of their state” and so work out their salvation with Him. 4

For these reasons the Church can say that marriage is not only a natural institution but also holy. 5

Thus the Church, as well as the state, has an interest in the right understanding and support of authentic marriage.

The importance of mothers and fathers

Every child has a biological mother and father. But the importance of mothers and fathers goes far beyond reproduction.

Men and women bring unique gifts to the shared task of raising their children. Mothering and fathering are distinctly different. Only a woman can be a mother; only a man can be a father.

A mother and a father each contributes in a distinct way to the upbringing of a child. Respecting a child’s dignity means affirming his or her need and natural right to a mother and a father. And there are countless reliable studies that suggest that mothers and fathers enhance – and their absences impede – child development in different ways. 6

The Church acknowledges the difficulties faced by single parents and seeks to support them in their often heroic response to the needs of their children.

There is a big difference, however, between dealing with the unintended reality of single parenthood and planning from the beginning artificially to create an alternative family that deliberately deprives a child of a father or a mother.

Sometimes people claim that children do just fine with two mums or two dads and that there is “no difference” between households with same-sex parents and heterosexual parents. But sociological research, as well as the long experience of Church and society, attests to the importance for children of having, as far as possible, both a mother and father. 7

‘Messing with marriage’, therefore, is also ‘messing with kids’. It is gravely unjust to them. We know that marriages and families are already under very considerable pressure today and that there is already much confusion about what they mean and how best to live marital and family life. The Church devotes much of her pastoral energy to supporting people to live married and family life well and to assisting the victims of marital and family breakdown. This convinces us that a further tearing away at the traditional understanding of marriage and family will only hurt more people – and especially more young people who, because of their vulnerability, demand particular care.

Consequences of redefining marriage

Beyond the effects on spouses and on children, redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will have far reaching consequences for all of us.

The world around us influences the communities in which we live. Cultural and legal norms shape our idea of what the world is like, what’s valuable, and what are appropriate standards of conduct. And this in turn shapes individual choices. That’s one of the main purposes of marriage law: to enable and encourage individuals to form and keep commitments of a certain kind.

But if the civil definition of marriage were changed to include same-sex marriage then our law and culture would teach that marriage is merely about emotional union of any two (or more?) people.

All marriages would come to be defined by intensity of emotion rather than a union founded on sexual complementarity and potential fertility.

Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, will be seen to be wholly interchangeable social constructs as gender would no longer matter.

And people who adhere to the perennial and natural definition of marriage will be characterised as old-fashioned, even bigots, who must answer to social disapproval and the law. Even if certain exemptions were allowed at first for ministers of religion and places of worship, freedom of conscience, belief and worship will be curtailed in important ways.

Consequences of redefining marriage Here are a few real life examples that have occurred recently:

•The City of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, ordered Christian ministers to perform samesex weddings under pain of 180 days’ imprisonment for each day the ceremony is not performed and fines of $1000 per day; some British MPs have threatened to remove the marriage licences from clergy who fail to conduct ‘same-sex marriages’

•Clergy in Holland, France, Spain, the US and Australia have been threatened with prosecution for ‘hate speech’ for upholding their faith tradition’s position on marriage; the City of Houston, Texas, has even subpoenaed pastors, compelling them to submit sermons to legal scrutiny when discussing sexuality

•In Colorado and Oregon, courts have fined bakers who refused on religious or conscientious grounds to bake wedding cakes for ‘same-sex weddings’; in New Mexico a wedding photographer was fined for refusing to do photography for such a ceremony; and in Illinois accommodation providers have been sued for not providing honeymoon packages after ‘same-sex weddings’

•Yeshiva University in New York City was prosecuted for not providing accommodation to ‘same-sex married couples’ and other Catholic university colleges have been threatened with similar actions

•Catholic adoption agencies in Britain and some American states have been forced to close for not placing children with samesex couples: for example, Evangelical Child Family Services in Illinois (US) was shut down for its refusal to do so

•Catholic organisations in some American states have been forced to extend spousal employment benefits to same-sex partners

•In New Jersey an online dating service was sued for failing to provide services to same-sex couples and a doctor in San Diego County was prosecuted after refusing personally to participate in the reproduction of a fatherless child through artificial insemination

•Parents in Canada and several European countries have been required to leave their children in sex-education classes that teach the goodness of homosexual activity and its equality with heterosexual marital activity; for example, David and Tanya Parker objected to their kindergarten son being taught about same-sex marriage after it was legalised by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, leading to David being handcuffed and arrested for trying to pull his son out of class for that lesson. They were told they had no right to do so

•The Law Society in England revoked permission for a group called ‘Christian Concern’ to use its premises because the group supported traditional marriage which the Law Society said was contrary to its ‘diversity policy’

•In the US, Canada and Denmark pastors or religious organisations have been forced to allow same-sex marriages in their churches or halls: Ocean Grove Methodist Camp in New Jersey (US) had part of its tax-exempt status rescinded because they do not allow same-sex civil union ceremonies on their grounds

•British MPs have threatened to stop churches holding weddings if they do not agree to conduct same-sex ones

•The Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam and a Bishop in Spain have been threatened with prosecution for ‘hate speech’ merely for restating the position of their religious traditions

•The Deputy Chief Psychiatrist of the state of Victoria was pressured to resign his position on the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission after joining 150 doctors who told a Senate inquiry that children do better with a mum and dad; in several US states and in England psychologists have also lost positions for stating that they favour traditional marriage or families based thereon

•Having allowed ‘same-sex marriages’, polygamous marriages have been permitted in Brazil and pressure for their legalisation is strong in Canada and elsewhere

•Businessmen, athletes, commentators, teachers, doctors and nurses, religious leaders and others in several countries who have spoken in support of traditional marriage have been vilified in the media, denied employment or business contracts, and threatened with prosecution.

Thus a view of marriage – as between a man and a woman – which was previously common to believers and nonbelievers alike, across a whole variety of cultures and times, is increasingly becoming a truth which cannot be spoken. Redefining marriage has consequences for everyone.

Time to act

The word ‘marriage’ isn’t simply a label that can be attached and transferred to different types of relationships as the fashion of the day dictates. It has an intrinsic or natural meaning prior to anything we may invent or the state may legislate. It reflects God’s plan for humanity, our personal growth and that of our children and society. To say that other friendships are not marriages is not to demean those other friendships or the individuals concerned, but merely to recognise that...

...marriage is the covenant of a man and a woman to live as husband and wife, exclusively and for life, and open to the procreation of children

We all know and love people with same-sex attraction. They are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and neighbours. They need love and support like anyone else. But pretending that their relationships are ‘marriages’ is not fair or just to them. As Christians, we must be willing to present the truth about marriage, family and sexuality and to do so charitably and lovingly.

We call upon all those of good will, to redouble their support for the institution of marriage in our community and for the laws and culture that sustain it. We particularly urge you to make your views known to your parliamentary representatives. At this moment in our nation’s history married people must give the testimony of their own lives in this matter. We especially pray for genuine friendship and love in every person’s life, married or unmarried; for a right understanding of the meaning of marriage and the requirements of justice; and for an increasing openness to the powerful witness of married couples in our world


18. Aug, 2017

Jesus, You’ve Got Some Explaining to Do

Guy McClung • August 17, AD2017 • http://www.catholicstand.com/jesus-got-splaining/



To His Holiness Jesus Christ, God the Son
ATTN: God the Father; God the Holy Spirit

Most Holy Jesus,

Recently I have had some serious doubts (“dubia”) about Your teaching and Your words. Both Your own words and words of the Bible by men whom You inspired, appear to me to conflict with recent papal pronouncements. Some of these conflicts may be outright contradictions of what has been recently proclaimed and promulgated in the papal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (henceforth “Papal Exhortation,” cited as “AL”).

Moreover, the media have emphasized the possible ambiguity in Your words, provoking uncertainty, confusion and disorientation for myself and many of the faithful.

My Dubia follow.

1. Hell Not Forever?

Papal Exhortation:

No one is condemned forever, (AL, 297). The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone forever; (AL, 296).

But You, Jesus, have said:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; (Mt 25:41).

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16).

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:15).

And You inspired St. Paul to say:

I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 6:21).

And You inspired the author of the epistle of St. Jude to say:

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire (Jude 1:7).

My Dubia: I can see no way for Your words – regarding Hell and that it is everlasting – to be interpreted in accord with AL. Can You dispel my doubts about this and explain to me the truth of a non-eternal Hell?

2. Adultery-Sin; Adultery-Virtue?

Papal Exhortation:

The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment (AL, 298).

This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists (AL, Footnote 336).

Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace (AL, 301).

The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality (AL, 305).

But Your words, Jesus, are:

It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:31).

And You inspired St. Paul to write:

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:10).

My Dubia: Can those living in on-going adultery inherit Your kingdom? How? Can they decide that what they are doing, and are resolved to continue to do, is for them personally not a sin, but loving virtue,  and so they are not in reality sinful adulterers? It seems, based on the Papal Exhortation, that sacramental absolution can now be granted in the sacrament of penance to those living this reality, and that they can be admitted to Holy Communion, while bound by a valid marital bond and living together in a state of adultery with a different person.

This is all very confusing to me.

3. Go And Sin On More ?

Papal Exhortation:

A subject may know full well the rule . . . be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin (AL, 301).

“ . . .it is possible that in an objective situation of sin . . . a person may be living in God’s grace (AL, 305).

But, Jesus, You said to an adulterer; “Go and sin no more (John 8:11).”

My Dubia: How can a person, apparently in accord with the Papal Exhortation, continue in a state of on-going adultery and still be, all the time, in Your grace? It appears that Your “Go and sin no more” words do not take into account that an adulterer’s intentions can transform his or her sin into a good act. Does a sinner still need, after repenting, to try to “sin no more” ?

4. Divine Mercy Nullifies Human Free Will ?

Papal Exhortation:

The mercy of God which is not denied anyone (AL, 300).

Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life (AL, 310).

Mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth (AL, 311).

It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” mercy (AL, 297).

On the basis of this realization, it will become possible for ‘the balm of mercy to reach everyone, believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst.’ [quoting Bull Misericordiae Vultus] (AL, 309).

But, Jesus, You said:

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned (John 5:28-29).

And you inspired St. Paul to write this:

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God will repay each person according to what they have done (Rom 2:2-3).

My Dubia: What is the point of You judging people according to Your infinite justice if Your infinite mercy is going to negate the judgment? If Your mercy is unconditional, why judge anyone according to what they have done?

And how does this work – how can Your mercy be effective with someone who has freely turned away from You ? How can Your mercy operate without negating a person’s free will? If their subjective consciences tell them a sin is a good act, how does Your mercy change that? Or can a sinner, unchanged, unrepentant, enjoy heaven with You ?


Compelled in conscience by my responsibility (that of my baptism, that noted in documents of Vatican II, and that of Canon Law), and desiring to implement that synodality to which the recent Papal Exhortation urges us, with profound respect, I permit myself to ask you, Jesus, as God Almighty and as Supreme Teacher of the faith, You the Risen One who confirms Your children in the faith, to resolve my uncertainties, to bring clarity, benevolently giving a response to my dubia, and, as my Good Shepherd, to lead me, one of your sheep, to unambiguous Truth, to You.

May Your Almighty Holiness, Jesus, wish to bless me, as I promise constantly to beseech You in prayer.

Guy L. McClung, III

17. Aug, 2017

The Catholic Church, through its official teaching, cannot support proposals for the changing of the legal definition of marriage to include same sex couples

Photo: Ron Tan

By Jamie O’Brien

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has this week said the Catholic Church, through its official teaching, cannot support proposals for the changing of the legal definition of marriage to include same sex couples.

In a Pastoral Letter to be distributed to all parishes this coming weekend, Archbishop Costelloe has clarified the reasons for the Church’s teaching and encouraged all to reflect deeply on the issue.

Archbishop Costelloe’s Pastoral Letter comes following a decision by the Federal Government to hold a non-compulsory postal plebiscite on the redefinition of marriage, after Labor and the Greens last week 9 August successfully blocked a bill to hold a plebiscite.  At the time of going to press, a High Court challenge to the postal vote was being prepared to be lodged by Labor, the Greens and cross-bench senators.

The Federal Government has not provided a draft of the legislation that will be passed in the event that the majority of voters are in favour of the redefinition of marriage, however a Private Member’s Bill was recently prepared by Western Australian Liberal Senator Dean Smith, which, if successful, will remove existing restrictions to allow “two people” to marry, ‘regardless of their sex or gender’.

The bill will reportedly provide religious freedom protections only to ministers of religion and civil celebrants, while offering no protection to ordinary Australians who have a traditional view of marriage.

Catholics across Australia are also now being encouraged to ensure their electoral roll details are up to date via www.aec.gov.au/enrol

Having previously written about the issue of same-sex marriage in 2015, Archbishop Costelloe said that in affirming this long-standing position, it is important to remember that it is based on our [the Church’s] convictions about the beauty and dignity of marriage understood as the union of a man and a woman for life, and as the best way to provide for the upbringing of children.

“Furthermore, it is a position based on the principle that in making decisions about such an important matter, both the desires and needs of the individuals concerned, and the stability and well-being of our society as a whole, must be given careful consideration,” he said.

The Church’s teaching, said the Archbishop, are grounded in our [the Church’s] religious convictions, and especially in our [the Church’s] belief in a personal God who is the creator and sustainer of all life, and whose creative design is written into the nature of creation itself and especially into the nature of humanity.

“That our convictions are based on these foundational beliefs should not be a surprise to anyone: we are a religious organisation,” he said.

The Archbishop went on to highlight that the religious foundations of the Catholic community’s convictions should not disqualify them from engagement in the public discussion on these important matters.

“Belief in God is no less worthy a way to approach these questions than is the denial of the existence of God, or the belief that the “God-question” is irrelevant,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“There are many ways of understanding life and many ways of forming views about what will ultimately lead to greater human flourishing and what, on the contrary, will hinder this flourishing.

“The Catholic community, no less than any other in our society, has a right to propose its views about what will best serve the interests of our society as a whole,” he said.

Archbishop Costelloe continues by explaining that put simply, the Catholic tradition takes the view that our society is best served by retaining the traditional understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, voluntarily entered into for life, which provides the basis for the creation of a family in which, wherever possible, children can be raised in a loving and stable environment by their own mother and father.

“We acknowledge that not everyone shares this view, but it is a position that until recently has been widely held by most societies, including those which have foundations in the Judeo-Christian heritage,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“This view presumes that marriage is about more than the mutual love between two people: it is also about the creation of a family,” he said.

Click Here to read Archbishop Timothy Costelloe’s Pastoral Letter on Same-Sex Marriage

17. Aug, 2017

Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit

It is my great joy to ask Siobban, Sara, Milly, Hunter, Kingly, Lindsee, Charlie, and Riley to come forward and present their chosen conformation Saint.




  • Siobban: “I have chosen Elizabeth of Hungary as my confirmation Saint because…
  • Sara: “I have chosen Mary MacKillop as my confirmation Saint because…
  • Milly: “I have chosen Mother Teresa of Calcutta as my confirmation Saint because…
  • Hunter: “I have chosen Benjamin as my confirmation Saint because…
  • Kingly: “I have chosen Mother Mary as my confirmation Saint because…
  • Lindsee: “I have chosen Augustine of Hippo as my confirmation Saint because…
  • Charlie: “I have chosen Bernadette as my confirmation Saint because…
  • Riley: “I have chosen George as my confirmation Saint because of his courage and wisdom"

Through confirmation you are going to receive the Holy Spirit just like the Apostles did on the day of Pentecost. You will be given the power to use fully the gift of new life that you received in Baptism, so your life may be of the Spirit, giving witness to the life Jesus. As you have learned how the Saints lives were directed by the Holy Spirit, so you are called to share God’s love with the world.

Through Confirmation the love of God poured into your hearts at baptism will be sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You will be conformed to Christ (become more like Jesus), and will be made full members of his Church.

Those gifts are to make the Church holy and one which now will become your responsibility. By the influence of the Holy Spirit you will come to know the wisdom of God in all its richness to build up the Church. That is why, what the Church builds up on earth, is also bound in heaven. It is not that we are doing the building, rather we are using the gifts that God gives us, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, right judgment, courage, reverence and fear of the Lord are wonderful. But it is the fruits of the Spirit that we want, because fruit is something we all enjoy. The fruits that result from the sharing of our gifts are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Everyone enjoys these things.

Things like hatred, strife, jealousy, anger, fighting, dissensions, factions, envy – do we like these things? These are the rotten fruits of a life without God. I enjoy myself much more when people are good to me; when they are loving, joyful, and patient with me…when they are kind to me. When you contrast these fruits of a good and bad spirit, it is clear how wonderful the life of the Spirit is 😊

My dear brothers and sisters, you are about to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was himself anointed by the Holy Spirit in the baptism he received from John. Then the Spirit sent him forth to complete his work by pouring out the fire of God’s love upon the earth, ending in our salvation.

You who are already baptized will shortly receive the power of his Spirit and be signed with his Cross on your foreheads. But first, I ask you to call to mind the faith which you professed in Baptism or which your parents and godparents professed with the Church.