God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Church battle intensifies

Well, I have to admit: Whoever got Kim Davis, the bigot Kentucky county clerk who went to prison for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple to meet Pope Francis scored a point and steered the pot. Everybody is screaming and shouting – one side because of the joy to exploit such a meeting and to abuse the figure of the pope; the other side because they feel this is a sign of rejection towards their cause. Let’s keep the world grey and not black and white: As said, those wanting to turn the clock back in church scored a little victory but looking at it without falling into emotions it is quite simple: The pope met hundreds of people, he met gay people at the White House – and also there we saw the same scenario, one-quarter jubilant while the other fighting the presence of a gay bishop and friends. I believe he is a pope with a message for all and if I only take serious that the first and foremost duty is to welcome everybody – so also the lady Kim Davis.
Asked about the Davis case during his flight back, he said and I have no reason to doubt this, that he does not know the particulars of this case. Davis and her husband were in Washington for a different reason: they were to receive the “Cost of Discipleship” award on Friday 25 September from The Family Research Council at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.  And I am sure in that context you find those who have been pulling the strings to make this meeting go ahead. And the words of encouragement – have you ever listened to the Queen of England: Every small talk conversation has the same theme – and so it is with all people having to meet different people all day long. Words of encouragement are standard with this pope and his message.
Generally I believe that we all should relax a little bit more and see and appreciate that the church indeed is moving under the leadership of Pope Francis. The Catholic Church is an old lady and we are starting to see the revitalization of the II Vatican Council after going backwards before his election. This revitalization and acknowledgement of the church in today’s society and a message relevant for today’s people, the working of the spirit is what scares those who have fallen in the trap of ideology within our church. Church teaching always developed and the church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit always got a deeper understanding of God’s good message. Blocking this development like some high-ranking church officials try to do in the moment via statements or writing books or even accusing directly or indirectly those of acknowledging the signs of the time brings the danger of gliding from faith into ideology. On a positive note it shows how human the church is when cardinals try in vain to push their point of view as the only correct one forward.
And another positive note: Who would have thought that the Catholic Church is able on this level to have a debate? Who would have thought that a Synod is more than giving the nod whatever the Vatican and the Curia has already decided beforehand? Remember the days of John-Paul II or Benedict XVI – would such a debate be possible?

So let the church battle intensify without losing our heads and minds in the “Kim Davis story” or extreme statements like voiced by Cardinal Sarah or Cardinal Burke. Let us acknowledge the humanity of the debate and hope and pray for the divine mercy filtering through during the days of the Synod and at the end it will be Pope Francis who will make sense of it all – that is indeed his role as the Peter of today.

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, General, Politics and Society, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blessings for so called “irregular” or same-sex relationships?

After writing about my expectations on the synod related to the questions of family I was asked about my stand on blessings for e.g. same sex couples or divorced-remarried ones. Should the church bless such relationships? This is indeed a question most of us priests try to avoid to answer in public because it can bring us into trouble with the authority and also with those claiming to know every aspect of the will of God since eternity.
But I believe we can not run away and not dealing with such questions and as I believe that there is always a good hint coming your way if you in trouble (this time with a question) there it was before starting to write this blog:

Reading the “Paulinus”, the weekly newspaper of my home diocese, I came across a short note about the meeting between Pope Francis and Bishop Galliot from France. Quoting the newspaper “Le Figaro” it says that “mit Blick auf die Segnung von wiederverheirateten Geschiedenen oder homosexuellen Paaren habe der Papst gelächelt und gesagt: „Der Segen Gottes ist für alle da.“
Translated it says: “looking at the question of blessings for divorced remarried or same-sex couples the pope smiled and said: “God’s blessing is for everybody”.”
And I personally think this is indeed the answer: There is no way that you can deny somebody made in the image of God his blessing. Even the German “Benedictionale”, the book of  blessings has at the end a blessing “for anything” – and if you can bless anything, you can also bless a person.

A blessings means that we speak out and confirm that God and his unconditional love is with a person – and especially when there is love and commitment, who would dare to say that God is absent?
If only those refusing to bless would understand that the measurements of God are so different in mercy, love, forgiveness than what our small little mind can comprehend.

Well, I hear already those who say: Well, yeah, he is with a person, but blessings a relationship? After a failed marriage or in a same-sex relationship?
Well, my answer would be similar to what Cardinal Schoenborn from Austria said in an interview recently: Let’s not come from a formal side telling people directly all what is wrong. “We should look at the many situations of cohabitation not just from the point of view of what is missing, but also from the point of view of what is promised, what is already there.After all, the Council points out, that although there is always real holiness in the Church, the Church is nevertheless made up of sinners and is advancing along a path of conversion.”, he says.
And once again: If there is love, if there is commitment, if there is responsibility, isn’t there God present? Are we not promised that God is with us unconditionally? I believe this is indeed the “scandolon” also for the church, that God’s unconditional love even shows that church teaching has to be developed, brought to a deeper level again and again.

So coming back to the question of a blessing: A blessing is no sacrament, a blessing does not undermine any dogmatic teaching of the church – it re-affirms simply that the unconditional love of God is present and that the yearning for people to be whole, to be taken seriously in their quest to have a fulfilled life and to find joy and happiness is a valid one, seen and mercifully acknowledge by God.

Let me finally say:

For me a blessing is indeed a non-sacramental, but still an intimate and personal act of devotion between God and those being blessed, it is a divine communication making grace and mercy tangible and opens up for the spirit to work. And God’s good spirit at work in the lives of people – isn’t that wonderful?

Filed under: Catholic Church, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Synod on the family

As somebody being involved in the portfolio HIV and AIDS since a longer time obviously I am observing the synod on the family starting today with utmost interest. The last days have shown clear lines between those wanting to move on with the people of God and those wanting to remain with the ” old restrictive ways” which have alienated so many Catholics and those otherwise sympathetic to the core values of our faith.
For me interesting is the latter ones always stress that there can be no change in the substance of faith. It shows clearly that either they don’t understand that nobody wants to change the teaching of the church or they try to sabotage a pastoral way which puts into account the realities of our century plus the neglected unconditional love of God. Listening to Cardinal Mueller or Burke I feel the ice of an academically preached unconditional love of God – a frozen faith towards a God who seemingly is not walking with his people. Too long, we had this climate of ‘you shall not…” – a very negative theology which killed the faith of so many of those touched by the gospel of Jesus.

The kingdom of God starts here, but is never in full present here and now and so the church has to listen to the signs of the times, the church has to listen to the academic research about sexuality as sciences is another way of knowing God. The church should listen to the voices of those, who are like the old prophets have been persecuted because the elite of a religion was not able to repent and see the new dawn God is providing. And not to forget the old and ancient and proven traditions of Africa which for example put sexuality time-wise before marriage but in an orderly way after lobola is paid.

Maybe it is too much asked to overcome the part of Humanae Vitae which was the downfall of Catholic moral theology; never accepted by the sensus fidelium. But it might be not too much asked that those synod participants, guided by the Holy Spirit may acknowledge that next to the form of the traditional family, there are other forms of love, of commitment and that failure of human love never means failure of God’s love towards them. And that sacraments never can be used to punish people but that they are especially needed in the times of the trauma of a love being destroyed for so many reasons. Let’s look at our sister church: Her ancient tradition of oikonomia is surely the key for changing our pastoral approach.
And let’s also recognize: where there is love between two people there is definitely God present. LGBTI people deserve the same love and respect – there is nothing intrinsic evil at all. To recognize this does not mean to change the theology of the sacraments. Let’s avoid these broad brushes which do not justice to different situations. Looking at each and everybody with the loving eye of God will help and being open to God’s good spirit and his guidance will do the rest so that justice prevail.

I hope and pray that the Synod on the family this year and next year will have appropriate answers to the questions of our times and that there will be no winner or loser but all feel guided by the God’s good spirit embracing and including all those who struggle and fail. We remain a church of saints and sinners – and God’s unconditional love shines over all of them in the same way.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Changing the teaching?

I guess meanwhile even those far away from the Roman Catholic Church could not avoid to notice that a debate is going on about family and sexuality and how church should see, consider and tackle those problem areas of Christian fabric. There are those in favor of changes and the surveys in Europe show clearly that some of  the teaching is not only not understood but simply ignored even by those going to church every Sunday. Others resent changes and one of the loudest prominent voices is now Cardinal Mueller, heading the department watching over the right faith of the church. He is surely a controversial figure and I have the impression he likes like the late Manto Tshabala Msimang to be in that place of controversy and harsh judgements. But he is also an academic and I fail to understand why he argues in the matter divorced-remarried so non-academic and in my opinion simply wrong. Where ever I read about his comments mainly in the German press, he insists that the church teaching cannot be changed. He insists that dogmas can’t change and therefore divorced – remarried cannot receive communion until – so to speak – Jesus comes back and corrects it.
Maybe I am mistaken but I cannot see that this argument meets the request of changes at all. I see from all the surveys that people yearn for lifelong intimacy, faithfulness and most Christians would agree that this is the aim, even if times have changed since Jesus. But they also acknowledge that failure is an option and that in the light of the unconditional love of God there is the mercy factor the church holds dear in tradition and teaching.

Mueller has only to look to the Orthodox Church – the sister church,the other lung of the church as John-Paul II has put it. They have the same teaching and still, there is a way via “oikonomia” to remedy situations of failure. In excluding such an option Mueller indirectly accuses the Orthodox Church of being unfaithful to the teaching of Jesus, which I find quite amazing. Or he maybe is ignorant and has not understood yet, that the letter of the law kills, but he spirit of the law gives life. The Orthodox Church has given room to the spirit and there is a clear feeling in the Western part of the church, that the spirit should govern the whole church and so overcome the split of the 11th century. I can’t remember which Cardinal from South America it was, but he pointed out in an interview, that  Cardinal Mueller has to learn that the German way of seeing things either “black or white” does not apply to real life, also therefore not to the life of the church. We all live in shadows of grey. And this gives the light of mercy the special attractive sparkle when seen from outside.

So, I don’t think we need to change the teaching, but we should stop declaring an ideal the measurement for our daily life. And we should not use another sacrament to punish people. The grace of God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is in my eyes often a comfort for those going to the trauma of shattered dreams. If the “spiritual communion” has the same effect of God’s closeness as the “real communion” , so John – Paul II, then there is indeed no need to differentiate between them. Let’s keep praying that the Synod of Bishops in October experiencing the spirit which liberates and gives life.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Religion and Ethics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Conclave talk on SABC 3

copyright: expresso show – you tube channel

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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