They Can’t Change the Gospel

So my pastor told me this morning.  I told him how disturbed I am by the events of the last week at the Synod.

Don’t worry, he told me.  They can’t change the Gospel.  No, they can’t.  But what if they continue to change the Church?

There is a big leap from love and mercy to acceptance of sin.  They can’t redefine sin.  One of the Gospel stories that gives me so much hope is the “Woman caught in adultery.”  In this, Jesus shows mercy to the woman.  He asks the others, who are prepared to stone her to death, to step forward and cast the first stone if he is without sin.  No one stepped forward.  No one condemned the woman.  Jesus told her “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”

We are to show mercy.  We are not to judge.  I get it.

But Jesus didn’t tell the woman to go and continue with what she was doing.  He demanded that she change her behavior!  That she sin no more.

I rely on God’s mercy on a daily basis.  I trust in his forgiveness.  I am a sinner, for sure.  But I do not deliberately live a lifestyle that is inherently sinful.  This is not my idea of fun.  I would love to have a man in my life and I would love to enjoy the carnal pleasures again.  But when I compare the pleasure to the idea of sinning, it looses its gloss.

So I live this life of “chastity.”  It sounds so strange to say that of a 62 year old woman, but I was corrected by a priest at confession when I called it “celibacy.”  I am “chaste,” not “celibate.”  What ever you call it, it is not easy.   It is lonely.  And sometimes very very sad.

So now I see this huge party in Rome.  Embracing all manner of people.  Fine, but don’t pretend that sin has changed, because it hasn’t.  The truth is eternal.  It is not about “time.”  Every time called itself new and modern.  But the truth is the truth, and it does not change.

As a Christian, I am called to love all people.  It is not up to me to judge them.  It is not my job.

But my life is my business, and it is my job.  As I have grown in my spiritual life, I have had to realize that this is not Burger King, and I cannot “have it my way.”  This has been very painful for me.  I have had to make sacrifices that have felt like they cut to the bone.

How can my church abandon me?  That is how I feel.  My pastor told me not to despair, but I feel slightly devastated.

I would ask for your charity.  If you are not a fan of the Catholic Church, please don’t use this as an opportunity to pile on.  I am struggling.

Thank you.

We are to show mercy.  We are not to judge.  a

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13 Responses to They Can’t Change the Gospel

  1. Annette says:

    Oh Mary, I think you are so brave to speak out about “sin.” Sin is not a popular word these days. But you are right….and I am so devastated to see churches and our program take God out of the equation. I don’t go to church, as you probably know….because I can’t bear to see so much of the yuk that goes on there. I have so much yuk in my own life to manage and deal with, but I have been re-thinking this obstinate stand I have taken. Can I go in and show mercy and be humble and accept the gifts that church life may hold for me? I don’t know….the thought of it makes me feel tired. Last week in my home group meeting, our gr brought up that at the big huge whatever its called meeting, where all of the gr’s and dr’s come together to vote on our issues…..that it was suggested to make God a neutral gender. To eliminate the word “God” and “he” from our literature and our program. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this disturbed me on several levels. We can water things down so much to not offend any particular group that eventually there is nothing left! Oh Mary……we will keep praying, you and I. And a host of others too I am sure. I am sorry you are going through this discouragement. When our faith, the very thing that sustains us, feels to be under attack, it is a heavy burden. In this too, God is in charge. And I did look up Adoration services in my area…..I couldn’t find any. Doesn’t every Catholic church offer that? I will look in the big city….maybe there I will find one. Someone started a meditation Alanon meeting. We spent 20 minutes just in silence with the lights low and we could focus on our HP….for me that is God. I LOVED that time. I can do it at home….but there was something about driving somewhere and not having any of the needs of home pulling on me that made it easier to focus. Anyway….long comment. Sorry. I am so glad you wrote.

  2. Here is the final wording: The Church teaches: “No grounds whatsoever exist for assimilating or drawing analogies, however remote, between homosexual unions and God’s design for matrimony and the family.” Nevertheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies should be accepted with respect and sensitivity. “Any sign of unjust discrimination in their regard is to be avoided.”

    I don’t, frankly, see what is so devastating about it … I think one can only be devastated if one believes homosexuality is a choice, like adultery. Or if one believes – knowing individuals do not choose their sexual orientation – that homosexuals should be forced to conceal theirs. We pay a big price when we are forced to hide our “essence” from the world, when we are accepted only for who we pretend to be, not for who we are.

    I think it’s important to distinguish “official teaching” from pastoral response … we are not seeing a change in teaching here, rather, a call for a pastoral response that is more in line with how we know Jesus would have treated any homosexuals, that is, with respect and sensitivity. I don’t know a single priest who refuses communtion to anyone seeking it – though official teaching does exclude the divorced, Protestants, etc.

    It is indeed disheartening when churches (not the Catholic church, as far as I know) water down biblical teachings in name of “inclusivity.” The gospel doesn’t get more inclusive – Christ died so that ALL might be saved. So no, we don’t need to go about affirming sinful lifestyles in order to attract converts, retain members, etc. But sometimes, the message of condemnation appears to include the sinner along with the sin and this drives people away the Church. And to the extent the Church is excluding anyone, or making anyone feel unwelcome, she needs to be called to account.

    • I guess I was obscure in my post. I was speaking about the change in attitude towards divorced and remarried people. Which is called by Jesus himself “Adultery.”

      All are welcome at church, but if we believe receiving Holy Communion is a right, then we might think we are not welcome at Mass when we are not welcome to receive Communion.

  3. Syd says:

    I obviously don’t have any idea about the Catholic church. I only know that excluding people and forcing people to feel shame for being who they are is not a healthy thing for any institution or for its people.

    • Syd, No one makes me feel ashamed for being a heterosexual woman, but if I indulge in adultery I do feel appropriate guilt. The Church should love its sinners (because we all are), but hate the sin.

  4. mrq522 says:

    From the newspaper article I read on the Synod, it appears that the discussions are aimed at influencing pastoral guidance and not necessarily altering the Church’s teachings. I think some reports are making it seem as though the Church is altering teachings. From the article I read, it appears that they are not altering the teachings, but instead softening some of the harsh language that was used against divorced people and homosexuals. I am pleased with what I have read so far about the Synod. I am not discounting your concerns at all! We are still called to be chaste and to live chastely and to do our best to live according to the Church’s teachings. I personally, as a Catholic, am pleased with the discussions that are taking place. We are a very diverse group of people (Catholics) and you will find both liberals and conservatives in the same sanctuary. It is vital that we work together and not allow differences to disrupt our common purpose: To love Christ and live the Gospel.

  5. Patricia says:

    Hi Mary, I have never done very well trying to figure out sin. The church’s view sometimes clashes with mine. I do have a strong belief that we should always honor life – we were sent here to love and learn and life is a gift. But I only say that for me. I believe when we die we are asked to look at what we did in light of our journey and expectations. I believe others may have been sent with a different journey/plan. This really answers nothing other than helping me find peace in a crazy world 🙂

    On another note, what a great discussion you created this Monday morning. See why we want you to keep blogging. Patricia

  6. Nancy says:

    Hi Mary, I’m sorry you are hurting. I don’t know anything about the church, beyond what I’ve gleaned as a cohabitant of this planet, so I won’t comment on that. I enjoy reading what you write. You make me think, and I appreciate your honesty.

  7. atomicmomma says:

    This was one of your most profound posts Mary. We are ALL sinners and that is the amazing, beautiful gift that is God’s grace that he bestows upon us. I am so thankful for your words here today.

    I think the point many people are missing is that when we sin we separate ourselves from God but many people believe that they are being told they can’t “….be who they are” or “what they WANT to be…” The gift isn’t in doing what we want it is in living in God’s perfect image which means not sinning.

    It’s so wonderful to have you back writing again. I’ve really missed you.

  8. Mary LA says:

    Good to read you, Mary.

    The difficulty with posting on issues like this is that people who are not Catholic struggle to understand the sacramental teaching behind marriage. If you live in a secular human rights society, human rights are the final criteria for ethical conduct. If you accept the teachings of Roman Catholicism, there are more important issues at stake than human rights. It is hard and many Catholics struggle with this but the teaching on this goes back to the Gospels and cannot be changed. Media reports on the Synod currently taking place are largely irresponsible and untrustworthy. Changes may take place in certain pastoral approaches but the sacramental teachings cannot change.

    Let me just say something about this for those who might want to know more. (If you don’t, please scroll.)

    Baptism is a sacrament, an outward sign of an invisible grace conferred by God. You can be baptised only once, then you stay baptised. No matter what you do for the rest of your life, you cannot be un-baptised. You can reject the significance of this baptism or negate everything baptism stands for in life. You cannot undo that baptism by any human means. Baptism is not just about the covenantal understanding of Protestant as admission to a community of believers. It is a lifelong gift from God.

    Marriage as a sacrament is lifelong, until the death of one partner. As a sacrament it is bound up with the gift of procreation and as a sacrament is realised in the human and Divine reality of a man and a woman joining together in an indissoluble bond. It is a physically realised sacrament. The conditions for annulment are rare because a marriage made between believing Catholics in informed free consent and sexually fulfilled is indissoluble. Saying wedding vows does not make this a reality, sexual consummation and procreation make this a realised sacrament, the union of one flesh. And this sacrament, like baptism, cannot be undone by human means and only ends at death. We all understand what a hard teaching this is and how much suffering may ensue. Yet, like baptism, the sacrament of marriage is a Divine reality. Neither separation nor civil divorce signifies the end of a sacramental marriage, which is why remarrriage cannot be recognised by the Catholic Church.

    For those who do not accept Catholic sacramental teachings, another understanding of marriage as a civil or religious contract, a negotiable contract terminated if a marriage does not work or in the event of abusive behaviour or in order to marry someone else is available and it means something altogether different.

    • Thank you Thank you Thank you Mary! You said it so well!

      • Mary LA says:

        Well, there are five other sacraments I haven’t mentioned but I hope this clarified matters! My heart goes out to you, Mary Christine, because the media reports are so confusing at times, but many of my Catholic friends counsel taking the long view. The Catholic Church has made a historical travesty of annulment at times, there have been corrupt bishops and even popes, again and again there have been scandals and alliances with tyrannies. And mistakes will keep happening in a flawed and broken institution, amongst flawed and broken human beings. The Church may guard and respect Mystery but it often lacks elementary common sense.

        What Flannery O’Connor said:

        “…the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it. ”

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