Tag Archives: St. John Paul ll

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Muddy Mercy

Things just got a whole lot messier for the Church. Archbishop Carlo Mario Vigano—the papal ambassador to the US from 2011-2016–alleges that he made Pope Francis aware of Cardinal McCarrick’s homosexual abuses in 2013; further, Vigano claims that the Pope failed to discipline McCarrick until five years later (he was forced to resign in June) in part due to their strong political alliance: McCarrick advocated for Francis’ election to the papacy and the pope relied upon him significantly to oversee the American Church. If these allegations are true, Pope Francis should step down immediately. This could be the defining moment for a Church that repents in action.

There’s much I love about Pope Francis, especially his action toward the poor and displaced. But his unclear pastoral directives toward persons facing same-sex attraction have always unsettled me. I perceive him as a man who has been evangelized by winsome practicing homosexuals and won over. His legacy to ‘not judge’ persons with same-sex attraction paired with his counsel ‘to accompany’ them on their journey appears to be to a road going nowhere. Mercy without truth ceases to be mercy at all; it merely confirms people in their fractured, fruitless lives. And it leads to tolerating absolutely vile and inexcusable behavior in leaders. Francis judged McCarrick way too late.

Vigano’s report broke the morning I preached to a beautiful congregation in the San Fernando Valley. Given how the Church of Los Angeles lives in the face of the LBGT+ dragon, I emphasized the Cross: Jesus’ self-giving which commands repentance of any sexual expression that raises itself above His Lordship. Mercy flowed as many came forward to weep before the Crucified, including Kim, a 13-year-old girl wrestling with same-sex attraction who wondered whether or not she was a ‘lesbian.’ We prayed for her as with all others, confident of Jesus’ capacity to reconcile her to His best for her.

That church is a clear and cohesive witness of how mercy and truth meet. In contrast, my Roman Catholic Church is a house divided, if Vigano’s letter has any merit. He points out how homosexuality figures large into the current scandal, as most cases of clerical abuse involve male teens, not tots. Vigano also describes how Pope Francis with McCarrick’s help appointed American bishops with a ‘gay-leaning’ sensibility.

All this in a Church that has at its center a robust, life-giving vision of human sexuality: St. John Paul ll’s ‘Theology of the Body’ and the extraordinary role that Pope played in the Catechism in which he defines chastity as integration—reconciliation to our bodies, our genders, and our freedom when surrendered to Christ to offer ourselves purely and well to one another.

Where chastity is mocked by divided churchmen who lead the sheep in darkness, we must reclaim this dynamic vision of human sexuality and seek to live it with all His strength. We can assume responsibility and act upon what our gracious God has taught us, in spite of dodgy shepherds.

As for the shepherds, may Jesus Himself raise His sword over all priests, bishops, cardinals and popes who desecrate God’s children through abuse, its cover-up, and the promotion of pagan LGBT+ liberties that enslave little ones. I am praying for many to submit to Christ and to resign in the wake of this recent shakedown, including Cardinal Wuerl who allegedly knew of McCarrick’s wickedness for years and did nothing.

Unfaithful shepherds have brought us low. They must go. For too long shepherds have waved the rainbow flag over the sheep rather than teaching them to raise the Cross—Christ Crucified and lifted high–as the only means through which we can be reconciled to God’s good will for our sexuality.

Kim deserves better. I shudder to think of her in the hands of a McCarrick or even the confusing counsel of Pope Francis. She needs pure mercy, free from the muddy waters flowing from the Vatican. So do all the Catholic faithful whose trust has been undermined by secrets and LGBT+ lies.

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Weekend in Warsaw

I usually hate to travel during this desert season but I could not resist the temptation to invite myself to the first assembly of 100 Living Waters members and leaders from four robust groups around Poland.

Under the strong leadership of Father Joseph and a national team of clergyman and lay persons, the Poles have taken up this work with an unprecedented focus and strategy. Joseph and tribe translated Living Waters, secured the theological blessing of the Polish bishops for the guidebook, mobilized male and female lay leaders to coordinate the groups, and enlisted Catholic priests—all admitted wounded healers— to work with them from the start. That means these healing groups will have the advocacy of the Church and Her sacramental worship.

Polish St. Faustina and St. John Paul ll must have smiled as I engaged with sinners of many kinds whom Jesus is transforming to take their places as part of His healing army. These sinner/saints embrace strugglers who often have given up on the Church until Jesus encounters them and urges them homeward.

My friend Jacek left the Church to pursue homosexuality and at the nadir of his sensational misery met Jesus in a ‘gay’ bar where Christ audibly asked him: ‘Do you want to belong to Me or not?’ He did, and began his re-engagement with Christ through the Living Waters community. After a history of sexual abuse, many male lovers, and a psychotic break, Karin could not overcome her depression until a friend invited her to the Living Waters pilot group in her city. She found the Man of her dreams who is freeing her from the darkness.

Part of my goal was to instruct all 100 to effectively share how Jesus through His community is satisfying their desires with good things. God confirmed our efforts at our Sunday Mass which featured St. John’s account of the Samaritan woman (JN 4). Jesus encountered one far from God and brought her near to Him through the water that cleanses and the blood that gives new life (‘living water’).

He did so by kindly revealing her false lovers. Jesus loved her thoroughly: exposing her poisoned well in order to satisfy her fully with Himself. Her response was to declare to all who would listen that this Man highlighted her shame in order to surpass it with His glorious love. So we departed Warsaw that weekend, refreshed in the mercy that empowers us to well up like a fountain for all who thirst.

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Prodigal Pope

Prodigal Pope Embraces the Family (and this family man)

Francis’ long awaited report on marriage and family is good news, a hearty hug of a document that encompasses the best of what marital love can be.

I consumed the 256 page exhortation—Love in the Family—as a hungry man. Pressures on my own marriage and family life had been mounting in the days leading up its release; I needed release from my clouded capacity to be a ‘good-enough’ gift for wife and kids. Like a father embracing his confused son who knew only to turn in the general direction of home, Pope Francis met me; his intention to reclaim and renew the value of marriage nourished me like an empanada thick with meat and vegetables. ‘He set me at His banqueting table, and His banner over me is love’ (S of S 2:4) conveys well the impact of Pope Francis’ fatherly, at times folksy exhortation to this prodigal.

With characteristic tenderness, Francis champions marriage and family as the basic cell endowed with power to transform the world; at the same time, he realizes the anxieties and tensions faced by the modern family. He cites the impact of today’s extreme individualism, consumerism, social networking, and just plain narcissism that renders people immature and unable to see the ‘other’ beyond one’s own effort to find a ‘self’.

Drawing significantly on the ‘imago dei’ (humanity made in God’s image as male and female, Gen. 1: 26, 27) as parsed by his predecessors St. John Paul ll and Pope Emeritus Benedict, Francis summons our capacity as gendered, passionate people to be good gifts to another over the course of a lifespan, a commitment he claims can grow more beautiful over the course of a hard knock life. He melds expertly the ideological with the practical. An extended meditation on the ‘love’ chapter (1Cor. 13) goes hand-in-hand with tough words on why marriage must be ‘open to life’ then tempers the call to fruitfulness with wisdom about family planning, marital communication, and humane parenting. Uncle Francis indeed.

Most interesting to me are his limited references to homosexuality in the document. As you know, I had the privilege addressing some ‘Family Synod’ delegates in Rome last September as to convey an orthodox, merciful approach to persons with SSA. Those synod members wrote reports for Francis from which he created ‘Love in the Family.’

Francis deflates any hope that he has joined the rainbow bandwagon. Twice he states emphatically that ‘there is no ground for considering homosexual unions even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’ And he extols every child’s need for both a mother and father in order to mature into wholeness. He decries modern gender theory on the grounds that ‘it promotes a personal identity and emotional intimacy that is radically separate from the biological difference between male and female.’

Pope Francis upholds the most vulnerable—children–who before God deserve the most strenuous efforts of both a mother and a father to succeed at marriage.

At the same time, Francis cites the very real difference between biological gender and how we develop a gender identity. He is nuanced and graceful with this distinction, which leaves room for women to lead and for men to dance. Yes we need to make peace with the gender of our birth in submission to our Creator, says Francis, and yes, we must respect diverse expressions of male and female identity. Alleluia. What a pope.

In regards to persons with SSA, Pope Francis directs us back to the wellspring of life, the nuclear family. He instructs family members to love us well so that ‘we might understand and carry out God’s will for our lives.’

I would have appreciated a little more input on pastoral care of persons with SSA (grounds for next blog, perhaps.) Perhaps that is beside the point, or at least a secondary one. Love in the Family reminds me that I am more than a person seeking freedom from disordered desire. I am a husband and a father who possesses the freedom to love well and so leave a legacy of truth and mercy for persons I love most. Thank you, Pope Francis.

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mercy in any language

Mercy in Any Language

‘Divine mercy is the power of God’s love to bring not only good out of evil but the greater good out of evil.’ Fr. Michael E. Gaitley

Several nations gathered in Lithuania last week to enter the ‘Living Waters’ together. Mercy alone transformed bitter cold and wounded hearts into a homecoming for us all. Evenly divided into three cultures, Poles, Latvians and Lithuanians became whole through Jesus’ one broken body. Mercy alone.

Complex tribes and tongues–no match for this foolish American. So God reduced me to mercy. He simply reminded me of my deepest wounds and most stubborn sins and how only ‘living water’ (blood, water, Spirit; essence of Christ Crucified and Raised) set me free. And is setting me free. Settings like this provoke old hurts and sins so I welcomed fresh mercy and gave it away freely. Simple: clever concepts gave way to the river of Almighty mercy.

My friend Abbey Foard sings like a stream of ‘living water’ so she taught us repeatedly the chorus from ‘Good, Good Father’: “You’re a good, good Father: ‘it’s who You are’ (3x), and I’m loved by You, ‘it’s who I am’ (3X).” Simple: He wants His mercy alone to define us. We need to sing the song until it’s our truth.

Then I shared my struggles. I confess the shock of hearing my sins reverberate in three different languages. So be it. I boast of affliction so that His greater grace may rest on me. And them. My wounds are slight in contrast to the historic betrayals of these three nations which endured Soviet rule, especially the Poles who were smashed on every side by German and Russian forces during WWll.

These influences do not end when a treaty is signed and the wall comes down.  Cruelties reverberate today throughout fatherless families in myriad abuses and distortions of intimacy. Only mercy. Only the ‘Good, Good Father.’

God kept the flame of mercy and human dignity alive in these nations through His Church and in particular, two saints from Poland: St. Faustina who reminds us constantly of ‘Divine Mercy’ and St. John Paul ll who reminds us of what it means now to be a gendered gift, no matter how broken that gift may be. Mercy alone.

‘The knowledge of my own misery frees me to know the immensity of Your mercy.’ St. Faustina

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Love’s True Freedom

‘Jesus’ crucified flesh reveals the bond between truth and freedom, just as His resurrection exalts the fruitfulness of a freedom lived out in truth.’ St. John Paul ll

We live in a noisy, confusing world of sexual ‘freedom.’ From Hillary Clinton lamenting Indiana’s religious freedom bill on the grounds that it fetters ‘gay love’ to the Supreme Court insisting that feds cover a prisoner’s gender reassignment costs, we are now subject to a new vision of human freedom that excludes any hint of God. Might the Creator and Redeemer of our humanity know something about true freedom?

No stranger to sexual indignities, Mary Magdalene discovered freedom at the Source. Jesus gave Himself to a woman traditionally believed to be driven by disordered desires and demonized by a culture intent on exploiting such women. Unafraid of her impurity, Jesus offered Mary almighty mercy. He became her refuge and gave her a place alongside of Him. Jesus’ powerful Presence in her life delivered Mary from seven demons (LK 8: 2). ‘He did not hand her over to the enemy but set her feet in a spacious place’ (PS 31:8).

Divine love broke the low ceiling over Mary’s life and gave her inspired options. Love alone restored Mary’s human freedom. In love Jesus created her; in love He reclaimed her dignity. She was tempted otherwise, perhaps not unlike a woman today so wearied by broken men that she opens to the affections of another woman or eschews her womanhood altogether.

Jesus rescued her from any number of futile solutions. That’s what real love does: it shames the strong who currently champion any number of civil liberties as the best option for the sexually broken. Will Christians do better than legally securing others in a futile, disordered destiny? We need to impart a quality of love to disordered ones that corresponds to the real ache, the true aspirations of our ailing humanity.

Mary chose the dignity of love that Jesus alone offers. Love became her freedom. And she gave herself freely to His purposes. Do you marvel that Jesus chose her–a formerly demonized, scorned woman–from among all the disciples to deliver the message of resurrection? The freedom of her new life became the glorious vehicle through which all of humanity can say: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (JN 20:18)

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