|LGBTQ Rainbow Flags outside the Vatican|
So I got over my little crisis of faith nearly 3 years ago. Yes, it was 3 years ago (in Autumn of 2014) the Vatican put on that horrible circus called the "Extraordinary Synod on the Family," which preceded the "Ordinary Synod on the Family" in Autumn of 2015. I call it a circus, because well, it was. That's the nicest way I can put it. Anything else wouldn't be fit to print. It was a circus because of what was produced by the Synod -- a working document seriously entertaining not only communion for the divorced and remarried, but also the acceptance (even "valuing") of homosexuality within the Catholic Church. Yes, the whole thing was a joke, but not the funny kind. The media firestorm that erupted around this singed the faith of many. It resulted in faithful Catholics seriously floating the idea of Pope Francis being an antipope right here in some local Catholic churches in the Ozarks. Yes, I heard the conversations with my own ears. People were actually talking about it in the parish halls. It spurred me to write two articles on the subject -- here and here. For the record, I defended Pope Francis against the charge of antipope, both in private conversations and online. However, at the same time, my public apologetics for his leadership style ceased. I cannot defend what I do not understand.
There were many fantastic reports from various Catholic media outlets, but none covered the issue more thoroughly than Church Militant...
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Since then (a year later) we had the Ordinary Synod on the Family in 2015, which was much more toned-down and reasonable. The African bishops saved the day, so to speak, by resisting all of this craziness, and what we got from the Ordinary Synod was a final document much closer to authentic Catholic teaching on marriage and homosexuality.
Controversy has since erupted since the Pope's followup exhortation Amoris Laetitia (Spring of 2016), which on the surface would appear to imply that holy communion for the divorced and remarried (without an annulment) is acceptable. Some of the world's bishops have interpreted Amoris just like that, opening their dioceses to a communion "free for all" for Catholics in a state of perpetual adultery. Other dioceses have interpreted Amoris more conservatively in accordance with historic Catholic teaching. What currently exists in the Catholic Church, right now, is a quagmire of functional schism, wherein second and third "marriages" are recognised as legitimate in some dioceses but not in others. Therefore, these persons are permitted to receive Holy Communion in some dioceses, but not in others. This is functional schism as far as a certain group of Catholics are concerned. Divorced and remarried Catholics, who have not obtained an annulment, will have to carefully plan where they live and where they go to mass from now on. For in one diocese their "marriage" may be recognised and they can receive communion, but in the diocese right next door, their "marriage" may not be recognised and they cannot receive communion. Furthermore, all of this is now subject to the whim of the bishop. So theoretically, one bishop may give permission for communion to people living in perpetual adultery, while his future replacement may not, or vice versa.
All of this is a tragedy to be sure. In my opinion, the Catholic Church has just taken one gigantic step backward into confusion. We have entered a new "dark age" where sacraments are recognised as valid in some dioceses but not in others.
It's no skin off my back though. I'm not divorced and remarried, so none of this really applies to me. Furthermore, I don't have to deal with it here in the Ozarks. Both my Ordinariate bishop, and the local Diocesan bishop, have clearly stated that canon law remains unchanged in these jurisdictions. Divorced and remarried persons will have to receive an annulment before they can receive communion here on the Missouri side of the Ozarks, just as they always have. However, Catholics moving into this area, from other dioceses, may receive a rude awakening about their reception of Holy Communion, if they are divorced and remarried without an annulment. I'm sure our priests will hear the cry: "But they said it was okay in the Diocese of _________" (fill in the blank), and our priests will have to explain to them that that was the Diocese of _________, and this is the Diocese of Springfield - Cape Girardeau, or the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, and we do things differently here. It's a tough position for any priest to be in, and I don't envy them, yet this is the quagmire the Pope seems to want right now, so here we are. I don't understand it, but I'll let history be the judge.
In the backdrop of all of this is this nagging question about homosexuality. While the African bishops seemed to have successfully blocked any serious discussion about changing Church practice on the matter at the Ordinary Synod (2015), there are still many priests, bishops, and high-ranking Vatican officials that are clearly lobbying for it in one way or another. This has been punctuated by various scandals related to homosexual activities by some clergy throughout the Church, and even within the Vatican. We have seen what happened on the issue of divorce with the last two Synods and following Apostolic Exhortation. It only seems likely to me that what the homosexualist lobby is working for is a similar type of arrangement for homosexuality, wherein it will be accepted (even valued) in some dioceses but not in others, widening the functional schism within the Catholic Church. I don't know if they will ever accomplish this, but that seems to be their intended strategy.
So now that I've recapped the last 3 years of history on this topic, I want to follow it here with a personal statement, and I hope others will follow me on this.
My family comes from 500 years of Protestantism. The Schaetzels were some of the first Lutherans baptised in Guntersblum, Germany, just a short drive north of Worms on the Rhine River. Throughout these 5 centuries, they were proud to be Protestants, and some of them remain so today. In the late 20th century, two of my relatives (my grandmother and aunt) converted to the Catholic Church. Then in the year 2000, my wife and I converted to the Catholic Church. I was the last person in my family to cross the Tiber, and my wife was the only one in hers. None of our relatives have followed us, and it now looks like none of them ever will.
My own journey of faith goes like this. I was born Lutheran, raised a Baptist, became an Evangelical as a young adult, before becoming Anglican. Then in 2000, my wife and I (both Anglicans at that time) converted to the Catholic Church.
I know there are some people in the Catholic Church who wish that never happened. I know there are some people in the Catholic Church who would have preferred that we remained Anglicans (Protestants). Why? Because my wife and I hold to the historical teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage and family. We have no previous marriages. We are man and woman. Our marriage is fruitful and has brought two wonderful children into the world. (Our third child didn't make it.) We are not the least bit sorry or ashamed of this, and we will never be. We believe divorce and remarriage, without an annulment, is a sin, and we believe that homosexuality (in all of its manifestations) is a sin as well. We know plenty of homosexual people, and we have good relations with them, but we view their lifestyle as "sinful" just as we do the lifestyle of divorced and remarried people (without an annulment), and cohabiting people, as well as the lifestyle of people who engage in other forms of sexual perversion. I understand that there are a growing number of people in the Catholic Church, even some clergy, who believe that there can be "exceptions" for various sins of a sexual nature. I firmly disagree with them and I will never change my mind on this.
The gospel teaches that we are all sinners, and we are in need of God's forgiveness to be saved not only from temporal self-destruction, but also eternal damnation. Likewise, forgiveness requires repentance. God suffered and died to forgive our sins not condone them. That is the gospel. If we want to have a relationship with God, we need to do so on his terms not ours. He requires sincere repentance, and in turn, he offers unlimited forgiveness. That's the gospel in a nutshell, and that is what I will go to my grave defending.
Where is there left to go besides the Catholic Church? Orthodoxy, though I highly respect it, would be a step backward for me. Protestantism is out of the question. I can never return there, nor would I want to. The Catholic Church is the Church established by Jesus Christ on St. Peter. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI just recently said: "the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing." This was his commentary on the state of the Church today. There are those who want to blame Pope Francis for this. I resist that analysis. The condition the Church is in today is the result of nearly 50 years of a lack of discipline, poor catechises and bad liturgy. (The three always seem to go hand-in-hand.) One man cannot be blamed for all of this. It was a group effort. Multiple people have been trying to change the teaching and character of the Church for decades, and now it's all coming to a head.
The battle began 500 years ago, not just with an Augustinian monk and priest in Germany, but also with a king in England. The latter valiantly defended the Church against the heresies of Luther, but in the end, he joined them by breaking England away from the Catholic Church over an annulment from his saintly wife that Rome refused to grant. In the end, the whole Protestant Reformation was really about two things. Corruption in the Catholic Church related to the sale of indulgences (money), and corruption in the civil authority related to the nature of marriage (King Henry VIII). It doesn't sound too much different than the problems of today, though admittedly today the problems are much worse. The Protestants of northern Europe made a terrible mistake in the 16th century. They retreated from the spiritual battle, by breaking away and making their own churches insulated from it. However, in doing so they made matters even worse for themselves. Retreating from spiritual battle is never a good option. The only real Church ever founded by Christ is the Catholic Church, and she must be defended at all cost. Going off to some other communion, or trying to make one's own, is no longer a viable option. It never really was, but that is much more apparent now.
So what I want to say now is this. I am a Catholic, and I will remain so indefinitely. Much to the chagrin of those who would prefer to change the teachings of the Church on sexual sin, I will continue to defend the traditional gospel until the end of my life, and I WILL NOT EVER LEAVE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. They will have to formerly excommunicate me first (on paper, citing the reasons in black and white, so I can frame it and hang it on my wall as a badge of honour to show my children and grandchildren), and even then, if something like that ever happened, I would just identify myself as a martyr for the Catholic faith until my dying day.
My family has been running away from the spiritual battle in Rome and civil governments for 500 years. That's what Protestantism is and always was, a retreat from the spiritual battle of corruption and heresy within the Catholic Church, into schism and bigger heresy. Well on behalf of the Schaetzel family, I just want to say: "We're back!"
I'm hear to fight for Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and Holy Mother Church, and I'm not going away. They can try to do whatever they want to me, but I will never run away from the fight. Leftist heretics within the Church, who want to change the teaching and character of the Church, are going to have to deal with the likes of me, and others like me, who will not back down or go away. Here I stand under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostolic teachings of her Divine Son in the historic Catholic faith! I'm digging in. I will not budge!
I hope others will join me in this resolution.
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com.' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.
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