pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 2 – 19 October 2014.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Speeches

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

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st_lukeOctober 18th is the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist.

Who was he and what do we know about him?

Here are 10 things to know and share . . .

 

1) Who was St. Luke?

St. Luke is mentioned by name in three passages of Scripture:

  • In Colossians 4:14, St. Paul writes: “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.”
  • In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul writes: “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me.”
  • And in Philemon 23-24, Paul writes: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.”

Since Luke is mentioned in three letters, we can infer that he was a frequent companion of St. Paul.

He also shared in Paul’s labors, since he is referred to as one of Paul’s “fellow workers.”

The fact that Paul says, in his final letter, that “Luke alone is with me” suggests that he was a particularly intimate and faithful companion.

Finally, the reference to Luke as “the beloved physician” indicates that his “day job” (as opposed to his apostolic efforts) was as a medical practitioner.

 

2) What books of Scripture did St. Luke write?

St. Luke is identified by early (2nd century) tradition as the author of the third Gospel and as the author of the book of Acts.

He also may have had a role in composing some of the letters attributed to St. Paul (see below).

Even if he only wrote Luke and Acts, though, he still wrote more of the New Testament than any other author! Luke and Acts together total almost 38,000 words, or 24% of the whole New Testament.

 

3) What debt do we owe to St. Luke for his Gospel?

St. Luke’s Gospel is one of the three “Synoptic Gospels,” which means that it covers much of the same territory as those of St. Matthew and St. Mark.

As a result, if Luke’s Gospel had not been written, there would still be a great deal of the Jesus story that would have been preserved (not only by Matthew and Mark but also by John). However, there are certain things that only Luke records.

Among them are these passages (plus a number of others):

  • The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold (1:5-25)
  • The Birth of Jesus Foretold (1:26-38)
  • The Visitation (1:39-56)
  • The Birth of John the Baptist (1:57-80)
  • The Circumcision and Presentation of Jesus (2:21-40)
  • The Finding in the Temple (2:41-52)
  • The Widow of Nain’s Son (7:11-17)
  • The Mission of the Seventy (10:01-20)
  • The Good Samaritan (10:29-37)
  • “Mary has chosen the good portion” (10:38-42)
  • The Friend at Midnight (11:5-8)
  • The Parable of the Rich Fool (12:13-21)
  • The Parable of the Lost Coin (15:8-10)
  • The Parable of the Lost Son (15:11-32)
  • The Parable of the Shrewd Steward (16:1-8)
  • Lazarus and the Rich Man (16:19-31)
  • Ten Lepers Cleansed (17:11-19)
  • The Parable of the Persistent Widow (18:1-8)
  • The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14)
  • Dinner with Zacchaeus (19:1-10)
  • Who Is the Greatest? (22:24-32)
  • Jesus Before Herod Antipas (23:6-12)

If these weren’t recorded in Luke’s Gospel, we wouldn’t know about them, because they aren’t recorded elsewhere in the New Testament.

 

4) Where did Luke get the information for his Gospel?

At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke writes:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you [Luke 1:1-3].

Luke’s reference to narratives of the events in the Gospel that preceded his and his reference to having followed “all things,” with those forming of his own account seem to indicate that he used written sources for some of his information.

Given the similarities that Luke has to Matthew and Mark (the other two Synoptic Gospels), it is likely that he used one or both of these.

He also says that he drew information from “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.”

One of the eyewitnesses he likely interviewed was the Virgin Mary herself. Luke records the material in the infancy narrative in a way that implies Mary was the source of much or all of it (Luke 2:19, 51; more here).

One of the ministers of the word he likely used as a source was St. Paul. One way of showing this is that the words of institution for the Eucharist in Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 22:19-20) is very similar to the formula used by St. Paul (see 1 Cor. 11:24-25). It is less similar to the formula used in Matthew and Mark (see Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24). It is likely he used the formula used by St. Paul because he frequently heard Paul saying Mass and this was the most familiar version to him.

An individual who was both an eyewitness and a minister of the word that Luke likely interviewed is St. Peter. We have good reason to think that St. Peter was one of the sources of Acts (see below), and if Luke interviewed him for that, he likely interviewed him for his Gospel as well.

 

5) What debt do we owe to St. Luke for his writing the book of Acts?

Acts covers the earliest history of the Church after the earthly ministry of Jesus.

It covers a period stretching from A.D. 33 to A.D. 60.

Without Acts we would be able to deduce few things about this period from the letters in the New Testament (e.g., that churches existed in the cities that the letters were sent to, a few events in the life of Paul).

However, we would otherwise be completely ignorant of this period. Luke thus did us a huge service by not stopping with the end of his Gospel and by continuing to record the history of the early Church beyond Jesus’ death and resurrection.

He immeasurably enriched our knowledge of this period.

 

6) Where did Luke get his information for Acts?

As with the Gospel, Luke likely got his information for Acts from both written sources and from interviews with eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.

He also, notably, witnessed many of the events in the Gospel himself. This is indicated by what are known as the “we” passages in Acts—places in which the author speaks of what “we” did and where “we” went, indicating that the author was present for these events.

There are four such passages:

  • Acts 16:10–17
  • Acts 20:5–15
  • Acts 21:1–18
  • Acts 27:1–28

A written source that Luke likely used is a travel diary that was kept of Paul’s journeys. Luke himself may have been the author of this diary, though it may have been kept by someone else in the Pauline circle.

There are also three individuals who likely served as major sources for the book:

  • Peter (featured in Acts 1-6 and 9-12)
  • Philip the Evangelist (featured in Acts 8)
  • Paul (featured in Acts 9, 11, and 13-28)

The “we” passages indicate that he had frequent access to Paul, and we know he had access to Peter and Philip the Evangelist as well:

  • He would have had access to Peter during the two years that Paul stayed in house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30), where Peter was also ministering.
  • He would have access to Philip the Evangelist during the two years that Paul stayed in custody at Caesarea Maritima (Acts 23:33, 24:27), where Philip the Evangelist lived (Acts 21:8-9).

 

7) When were Luke’s Gospel and Acts written?

They were written as companion pieces and dedicated to the same individual (Theophilius). They were thus likely written at the same time.

Since Acts cuts off suddenly in A.D. 60, before Paul has had a chance to appear before Caesar, this is likely when Acts was finished.

Both Luke and Acts were likely written at Rome in A.D. 59-60.

 

8) Did Luke have a hand in any of Paul’s letters?

Luke is never named as one of Paul’s co-authors, but Paul frequently used secretaries in the process of writing his letters (see, e.g., Rom. 16:22).

Such secretaries—known as amanuenses—could be tasked with writing a letter on behalf of another, based on talking-points given to him by the one for whom he was writing.

Particularly when he was in prison, Paul may have used Luke in this capacity, and some have noted similarities in the style of Luke-Acts and some of the letters attributed to Paul—particularly the pastoral letters (1-2 Tim., Titus).

The fact that, in 2 Timothy, Paul says that “Luke alone is with me” (2 Tim. 4:11) may indicate that Luke was the scribe that Paul used to write this letter.

Although the book of Hebrews does not attribute itself to Paul, many have noted the similarity of the style of this book to Luke-Acts also, and Luke has been proposed as a possible author for it.

 

9) Was Luke a Jew or a Gentile?

Though some have argued that he was a Jew, it is normally thought that Luke was a Gentile. One of the reasons is that, in Colossians he is mentioned separately from those “of the circumcision”:

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, receive him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. . . . Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you [Col. 4:10-14].

 

10) What do the Church Fathers say about Luke?

We can’t review what the Church Fathers have to say in detail, but here is part of what St. Jerome wrote about Luke in his Lives Illustrious Men:

Luke a physician of Antioch, as his writings indicate, was not unskilled in the Greek language.

An adherent of the apostle Paul, and companion of all his journeying, he wrote a Gospel, concerning which the same Paul says, “We send with him a brother whose praise in the gospel is among all the churches” and to the Colossians, “Luke the beloved physician salutes you,” and to Timothy, “Luke only is with me.”

He also wrote another excellent volume to which he prefixed the title Acts of the Apostles, a history which extends to the second year of Paul’s sojourn at Rome, that is to the fourth year of Nero, from which we learn that the book was composed in that same city. . . .

He was buried at Constantinople to which city, in the twentieth year of Constantius, his bones together with the remains of Andrew the apostle were transferred [Lives of Illustrious Men 7].

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synod2The last couple of days have brought some good news from the current synod of bishops on the family.

Where things are going is still far from certain and there is still reason for concern, but there have been a number of welcoming signs.

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .

 

1) If you had to boil it down, what’s the single most important piece of good news?

That there has been widespread pushback among the synod fathers against the document issued Monday, called the relatio post disceptationem.

 

2) What is a relatio post disceptationem?

The phrase means “the report after discussion” or “the report after debate.”

Basically, it’s meant to be a document summarizing the themes that emerged in the first part of the synod.

Its purpose is to serve as a basis for further discussion in the second half of the synod.

At this point, various groups of the synod fathers—based on their primary languages—are discussing it and are due to propose modifications.

These modifications are meant to be voted on and to go into a second version of the document, which will serve as a basis for discussion during the next year, leading up to the October 2015 synod, which is also on the topic of the family.

 

3) Why is it a sign of hope that this document is receiving pushback?

Because the document has a lot wrong with it.

Before we look at substantive problems with the document, allow me to make a point that pertains to the English-language translation of the document that was released by the Vatican Information Service: It stinks.

The English translation (flagged as “unofficial”) reads as if it was translated by a native Italian-speaker and then not checked by a native English-speaker.

It contains typos and grammatical mistakes, it uses words that either do not exist in English or that are not used in that way in English (what the heck is “the pastoral of the family” or “today’s pastoral” in this context?), and it contains translations that may be misleading.

More on the translation’s problems here.

This, however, is a criticism of only the English version of the document and does not deal with what’s substantively wrong with the document?

 

4) What’s substantively wrong with the document?

Among other things:

  • It’s written in turgid ecclesiastical bafflegab.
  • It is written in a one-sided way that deliberately favors a particular point of view.
  • It contains elements that are difficult to square with Church teaching.

It also has been subject to various other criticisms.

 

5) What’s an example of the bafflegab?

From section 10:

Today’s world appears to promote limitless affectivity, seeking to explore all its aspects, including the most complex. Indeed, the question of emotional fragility is very current: a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity do [sic] not always help greater maturity to be reached.

I won’t go into everything that’s wrong with the way this is phrased, but to illustrate the problem, consider the statement that “a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity [i.e., emotionalism] do [sic] not always help greater maturity to be reached.”

Does a narcissistic, unstable, or changeable emotionalism generally help people reach greater maturity?

 

6) What’s an example of it being written in a one-sided way?

One of the issues under discussion at the synod is the question of whether those who have divorced and then contracted a civil marriage and who are having sex with their present, civil partner should be allowed to receive absolution and Holy Communion.

Here is what section 48 says on that subject. I have highlighted the words devoted to the “no” position in blue and the words devoted to the “yes” position in red:

48. As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances.

Does that look one-sided to you? By my count, the “no” position gets 13 words and the “yes” position gets 100.

This lopsidedness, unfortunately, is not confined to this passage in the document.

 

7) What’s are examples of elements that are difficult to square with Church teaching?

Here are two passages from the document’s treatment of homosexuality:

50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

52. Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.

The reference to “valuing” the homosexual orientation may be an artifact of the poor English translation.

It has been suggested that, based on the Italian original, the intent might have been to ask whether churches can provide those with same-sex attraction a home, accepting and weighing or considering their sexual orientation “without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony.”

More on that here.

But what is the purpose of saying that “there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the [same-sex] partners”?

Can’t examples be found in which there is “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice” between any two types of people, even if their mutual activities are contrary to divine law?

Can’t two adulterers offer mutual aid to the point of sacrifice? Can’t two thieves? Or any two people engaged in acts that, by their nature, are disordered?

Should the Church be celebrating such mutual aid as “a precious support” in their lives and gloss over the fundamentally disordered nature of what they are doing together?

Msgr. Bruno Forte, who wrote this section of the document, might claim that he is not proposing that the Church change its teaching on the intrinsically disordered nature of homosexual acts, but it appears that he is proposing such a radical change in emphasis that the Church’s teaching would be obscured in practice.

Fortunately, there are signs of hope in the response that the relatio received.

 

8) What was the first sign of hope?

The first major one was that the very next morning the General Secretariat of the Synod rushed out an urgent clarification, recognizing that there had been a major misstep and the document was being widely misreported in the world press.

They wrote:

The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, reiterates that it is a working document, which summarises the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.

In other words, the document does nothing to change Church teaching. Don’t report it that way.

 

9) What was the next major sign of hope?

The same day, the Vatican Information Service issued a report on various criticisms that different, unnamed synod fathers had made of the document.

You can read it here.

Without going through the criticisms verbatim, some of them were:

  • The document needs to talk more about those families who remain faithful to the teachings of the Gospel, thanking them and encouraging them for the witness they offer.
  • It needs to stress that indissoluble, happy marriage, faithful forever, is beautiful, possible and present in society, therefore avoiding the document’s near-exclusive focus on imperfect family situations.
  • It is necessary to clarify and explore more deeply the theme of “gradualness,” which may give rise to confusion.
  • With regard to access to the sacraments for divorced and remarried persons, for instance, it was said that it is difficult to make exceptions without those “exceptions” becoming the common rule in practice.
  • The word “sin” is almost absent from the relatio. The document needs to reflect prophetic the tone of Jesus’ words, to avoid the risk of conformity to the mentality of today’s world.
  • Homosexuals and heterosexuals who are cohabiting should be welcomed in a way that does not give the impression that the Church has a positive evaluation of what they are doing.

 

10) What did individual synod fathers have to say?

Quoting from press accounts of those who have spoken publicly under their own names:

  • Cardinal Raymond Burke: “There’s a confusion with the regard to the question of people who are living in de-facto unions, or people who are attracted to the same sex are living together, and an inadequate explanation of the relationship of the church to the person,” he said. “I certainly hope that this document will be set aside completely, and there will be an effort made to present the church’s true teaching and pastoral practice, the two of which always go together in a new document.” (source) (more)
  • Cardinal Gerhard Muller: “Undignified, shameful” and “completely wrong.” This was the terse assessment of Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, about the Synod on the Family’s so-called “relatio.” (source)
  • Cardinal Wilfred Napier: [M]edia reaction to the document — some of which called the report a “stunning” change in the Church’s approach to homosexuals — has caused “such an upset among the synod fathers.” He added: “We’re now working from a position that’s virtually irredeemable.” “The message has gone out that this is what the synod is saying, this is what the Catholic Church is saying, and it’s not what we’re saying at all,” Cardinal Napier said. “No matter how we try correcting that, and this is my experience with the media, once it’s out there in the public, there’s no way of retrieving it.” “Just like you, I was surprised that it was published,” he told reporters. “You people got the document before we got it, so we couldn’t have possibly agreed on it.” (source)
  • Cardinal George Pell: [T]he document was an “incomplete resumé” of what the Synod Fathers had said it needed to be “enhanced and corrected”. He added that after the relatio had been presented three-quarters of the participants in the synod hall who had made interventions had voiced problems with the text. “The question of Communion for divorced and remarried is only the tip of the iceberg,” he told The Tablet. “In seeking to be merciful, some want to open up Catholic teaching on marriage, divorce, civil unions, homosexuality in a radically liberalising direction, whose fruits we see in other Christian traditions,” he said. He added it was “strange that there was so little in the document on scriptural teaching and magisterial teaching on marriage, sexuality, family.” “The task now is to reassure good practising Catholics that doctrinal changes are not possible; to urge people to take a deep breath, pause and to work to prevent deeper divisions and radicalising of factions.” (source)
  • Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki: “(It is written) as if the world’s view prevailed and everything was imperfection which leads to perfection,” commented the president of the Polish bishops’ conference. “(In a discussion on the document) attention was paid not so much to what this document says, but to what it does not say. Speak about the practical exceptions, but we also need to present the truth.” The Polish bishops said the relentless focus on mercy is also problematic. “It created an impression that the teaching of the Church has been merciless so far, as if the teaching of mercy were beginning only now” (source)

 

11) Do these signs of hope mean that everything is okay and we can all just relax?

Heck, no!

(Though take what you read at the link with a grain of salt and be alert for spin.)

 

12) What can we do?

During the synod? Pray.

After the synod? Study the results of the synod, pray, and then contact your bishop and—respectfully—let him know your views so that the Church’s pastors can be informed of the sense of the faithful (cf. canon 212).

 

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Doctor Who as an exorcist, redeemer and detective on the Orient Express? In this podcast episode we review and analyse episode 8 of season 8, entitled ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ and highlight all the themes, inside jokes and easter eggs.

Join Jimmy Akin, Fr. Cory Sticha, Stephanie Zimmer, Dom Bettinelli and Fr. Roderick for discussion, analysis and speculation!

Click this link to listen or use the player on the web site.

Links for this episode:

Check out Jimmy Akin’s blog Let’s Watch Doctor Who, Stephanie’s podcast TV Rewind and Dom Bettinelli & Fr. Roderick’s podcast Secrets of Star Wars! Subscribe to the Feed | Subscribe withiTunes

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synod_3bMost Catholics have never even heard of the “law of gradualness,” but it became big news this week at the Synod on the Family.

What is the law of gradualness, and what role does it play in Catholic thought?

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .

 

1) What is the law of gradualness?

It is a principle used in Catholic moral and pastoral theology, according to which people should be encouraged to grow closer to God and his plan for our lives in a step-by-step manner rather than expecting to jump from an initial conversion to perfection in a single step.

 

2) Is there a basis for this idea?

Yes. Human experience testifies that we are not made perfect upon our initial conversion. We must grow in various ways over time and we must continue to struggle against sin.

 

3) Does Scripture refer to this principle?

Yes, in a variety of passages. For example:

  • I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh [1 Cor. 3:1-3].
  • [We] take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete [2 Cor. 10:6].
  • For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil [Heb. 5:12-14].

 

4) Has the idea of the law of gradualness been abused?

Yes. At the Synod of Bishops on the Family in 1980, some called for an application of the law of gradualness that would allow married couples which were contracepting to receive absolution and holy Communion on the condition that they have an intent to gradually stop using contraception.

 

5) Where was this declared an abuse?

St. John Paul II rejected it in the his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, saying:

[Married people] cannot however look on the law as merely an ideal to be achieved in the future: they must consider it as a command of Christ the Lord to overcome difficulties with constancy.

And so what is known as ‘the law of gradualness’ or step-by-step advance cannot be identified with ‘gradualness of the law,’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations.

In God’s plan, all husbands and wives are called in marriage to holiness, and this lofty vocation is fulfilled to the extent that the human person is able to respond to God’s command with serene confidence in God’s grace and in his or her own will.

On the same lines, it is part of the Church’s pedagogy that husbands and wives should first of all recognize clearly the teaching of Humanae vitae as indicating the norm for the exercise of their sexuality, and that they should endeavor to establish the conditions necessary for observing that norm [Familiaris Consortio 34].

 

6) Has the Church returned to this subject?

Yes. In 1997 the Pontifical Council for the Family issued a vademecum (i.e., handbook) for confessors in which it gave guidance to those hearing confessions about how to handle certain situations.

In particular, it warned confessors against the idea of thinking that repentance does not require a decisive break with sin, saying:

The pastoral “law of gradualness”, not to be confused with the “gradualness of the law” which would tend to diminish the demands it places on us, consists of requiring a decisive break with sin together with a progressive path towards total union with the will of God and with his loving demands [Vademecum for Confessors 3:9].

 

7) How is the concept being used at the present (2014) Synod of Bishops on the Family?

Today some seem to be proposing that those who have divorced and entered a subsequent, civil marriage (while the previous spouse is still alive and without an annulment and convalidation) should in some cases be allowed to receive absolution and holy Communion if they intend gradually to bring their situation in line with God’s law.

 

8) How do we know this?

On Monday, October 13, the Synod released a document called a Relatio post disceptationem (i.e., a report after discussion), which summarized the discussions held in the first week of the synod.

 

9) What did this document say regarding the law of gradualness?

It referred to the concept in several passages:

13. From the moment that the order of creation is determined by orientation towards Christ, it becomes necessary to distinguish without separating the various levels through which God communicates the grace of the covenant to humanity. Through the law of gradualness (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), typical of divine pedagogy, this means interpreting the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty, in the order of creation and in that of redemption.

14. Jesus Himself, referring to the primordial plan for the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between man and woman, while understanding that “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Mt 19,8). In this way, He shows how divine condescension always accompanies the path of humanity, directing it towards its new beginning, not without passing through the cross. . . .

17. In considering the principle of gradualness in the divine salvific plan, one asks what possibilities are given to married couples who experience the failure of their marriage, or rather how it is possible to offer them Christ’s help through the ministry of the Church. In this respect, a significant hermeneutic key comes from the teaching of Vatican Council II, which, while it affirms that “although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure … these elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity” (Lumen Gentium, 8).

47. As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances.

 

10) Is this same understanding of the law of gradualness present in Familiaris Consortio and the Vademecum for Confessors?

It does not appear so. At least from what has been said thus far, it appears more to reflect the “gradualness of law” that was warned against in those documents, according to which a decisive break with sin is not required before receiving absolution and holy Communion, and in which a different standard of what constitutes sin would be applied to some than is applied to others.

 

11) Does the Relatio change Church teaching regarding the law of gradualness?

No. The Relatio is a summary what various bishops proposed in discussions. It is not a document of the Magisterium.

The document accurately reports that one group of bishops proposed this—and that others opposed it—but it does nothing to change Church teaching.

 

12) What does this suggest for the future?

It suggests that this proposal will continue to be discussed. The first phase of that will occur this week, as the bishops discuss the Relatio in small groups.

They will then produce a new document at the end of the present Synod, which will be discussed in the forthcoming year.

The discussion will then be renewed at the forthcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family in 2015, and finally the pope will determine what is to be done with whatever recommendations are made to him.

There also may be involvement by other groups, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the International Theological Commission, the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and others.

There is a great deal more that can be said here, but this should serve as a basic introduction to the concept of the law of gradualness.

We will look at other aspects of the proposal in future posts.

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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 2 – 11 October 2014.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Speeches

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

  • “Come, Holy Spirit. Bestow upon us your gifts during the Synod. #prayforsynod” @pontifex, 6 October 2014
  • “Let us ask the Lord for the grace not to speak badly of others, not to criticize, not to gossip, but rather to love everyone.” @pontifex, 7 October 2014
  • “Dear young people, Christ is counting on you to be his friends and witnesses to his infinite love.” @pontifex, 10 October 2014
  • The spiritual power of the Sacraments is boundless. With grace, we can overcome every obstacle. @pontifex, 11 October 2014

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kill the moonIn this episode we review and analyse episode 7 of season 8, entitled ‘Kill The Moon’.

Join Jimmy Akin, Fr. Cory Sticha, Stephanie Zimmer, Dom Bettinelli and Fr. Roderick for discussion, analysis and speculation!

Click this link to listen to the show or use the player on the web site.

Links for this episode:

Check out Jimmy Akin’s blog Let’s Watch Doctor Who, Stephanie’s podcast TV Rewind and Dom Bettinelli & Fr. Roderick’s podcast Secrets of Star Wars! Subscribe to the Feed | Subscribe withiTunes

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PaulShipwreckedThe book of Acts does not tell us the full story of early Church history. It provides only partial information.

This is obvious from the fact that it just covers the period between A.D. 33 and 60, when it suddenly stops (providing us an important clue to when it was written).

Even within that time frame, though, it is only a partial record . . .

 

The How Many Apostles?

For example, the book of Acts tracks the activities of three individuals:

  • Peter (ch.s 1-6, 9-12)
  • Philip (ch. 8)
  • Paul (ch.s 9, 11, 13-28)

That gives us a big clue about who Luke’s main sources were in composing the book for those parts that he didn’t personally witness (the so-called “we” passages later in the book).

Luke tells us almost nothing of the activities of the other apostles, or of other Christians, and so the book is also incomplete in that way.

It does not give us a complete record of what even its main figures did:

  • Peter vanishes from the narrative after chapter 12, except for a brief reappearance in chapter 15.
  • Philip has only a single chapter devoted to his activities.
  • And, as we will see, Acts does not record many of the activities of Paul.

 

It’s About Time

Some time ago, I did a study of the flow of time in the book of Acts. Periodically Luke will provide time cues, saying that Paul spent three years in Ephesus (20:31) or that he stayed in Thessalonica for three weeks (17:1-2) or that they sailed from Mitylene and the next day arrived at Chios (20:14-15).

As a Bible chronology geek, I couldn’t resist going through the book of Acts and making a list of all the explicit time cues—as well as providing estimates for the implicit ones (such as when Paul goes from one place to another and we can estimate how long it took based on ancient travel times and methods) and the vague ones (so if Luke says Paul spent “many days” somewhere, I might reckon that as a month).

I wanted to add all these up and see if they fit within the chronological framework that the book as a whole covers. For example, could all of the activities ascribed to St. Paul have taken place in the years within the book that he was active?

The good news, from an apologetic perspective, is that they do. Acts appears to cover a period of 27 years (A.D. 33 to 60), but my time estimates for the events it mentions only came to 13 years in total.

That means that there is plenty of room in the 27 years that the book covers for all of the events Luke records—and more!

So Luke passes that test as a historian. He does not give us an impossible chronology.

But he also does not give us a complete chronology.

 

The Perils of Paul

We know that the record is incomplete because of the information recorded in St. Paul’s letters. For example, in 2 Corinthians there is a famous passage where Paul is so frustrated with some of the people at Corinth that he has an epistolary meltdown, and during the course of it he says some very interesting things about what he has done in his life. He writes:

Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea (2 Cor. 11:24-25).

 So here are the totals:

  • Forty lashes minus one from the Jews: 5
  • Beaten with rods: 3
  • Stoned: 1
  • Shipwrecked: 3
  • Adrift at sea for a night and a day: 1

How many of these does Luke record in the book of Acts?

 

Exactly Two

The thing is, 2 Corinthians was written some time between A.D. 55 and 57 (depending on which chronology you accept).

No matter what, though, it was written before St. Paul went to Jerusalem for the final time, because in 2 Corinthians 9:1-5 he tells the Corinthians to be ready to make donations so that he can take them to the Jerusalem church when he makes his final visit to it.

This visit is already underway—and he has passed the city of Corinth—by Acts 20:5-6, when St. Paul is in Troas—a city to the east of Corinth.

2 Corinthians had to be written before this point on his final journey to Jerusalem, and so what is found in 2 Corinthians must have happened before Acts 20:5.

This means that all the perils Paul mentioned above must occur before this point in Acts.

But only two such perils occurs before this point:

One is the stoning at Lystra that occurs in Acts 14:19. This is the single stoning that Paul mentions in his list. (Another stoning, at Iconium, was attempted in 14:5, but it was apparently unsuccessful because Paul only mentions being stoned once.)

The second is in Acts 16:22-37, where Paul is beaten with rods at Philippi.

That’s likely one of the three beatings he refers to in 2 Corinthians.

But these are the only events in 2 Corinthians that can be referred to in Acts.

 

Missing Events

There must, from this fact, be two other beatings with rods that happened during the period that Acts covers but that are not mentioned in Acts.

In addition, all five of the times that Paul received the “forty lashes minus one” from the Jews are not mentioned in Acts.

Nor are the three times he was shipwrecked, because the only shipwreck of St. Paul is mentioned in Acts 27, which is after his final journey to Jerusalem and thus after 2 Corinthians was written.

Furthermore, when that shipwreck occurs, Paul and his companions slam into a bay on the island of Malta (27:44-28:1). They do not spend a night and a day in the sea. That must refer to an earlier event.

 

More Missing Events

There are a number of other events mentioned in Paul’s letters that aren’t found in Acts.

Some of these are in the pastoral epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus), but these letters may have been written after the book of Acts closed.

This is not the case, however, for events found in Galatians, which was clearly written during the time period covered by Acts.

An example is the fifteen-day visit Paul made to Jerusalem where he saw only Peter and James the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:18-19). That’s not in Acts.

Neither is the much more consequential visit that Peter (Cephas) made to Antioch while Paul was staying there. There were fireworks between the two during this meeting (Gal. 2:11-16), but Luke does not mention it in Acts.

 

What Acts Is Missing

We thus see that Acts is not just a limited record of a few key figures (Peter, Phillip, Paul), it is restricted even in what it records about all of these three.

Undoubtedly, each did many more things than are recorded in Acts.

In particular, St. Paul experienced many things that aren’t mentioned in the book even though they fell in the period it covers.

Why didn’t Luke record them?

In some cases, he may not have wanted to because he didn’t want to distract the reader from his overall message. For example, if he included Paul’s rebuke of Peter at Antioch, it could have distracted from the fundamental agreement (present both in Acts and Galatians) between Peter and Paul.

In other cases, Luke may not have know about the event. He wasn’t by Paul’s side during the whole time of his ministry. Indeed, the first “we passage” doesn’t occur until Acts 16:10-17, so there was a lot of Paul’s ministry that he didn’t witness.

Paul may have recounted some of them to Luke, though, just as he did for the readers of 2 Corinthians.

Why wouldn’t Luke include those?

Likely, because they would have been too repetitive for his own readers. Recording five lashings, three beatings with rods, and three shipwrecks before we get to the one in chapter 27 could be seen as overkill.

It also could have taken more space than Luke felt he had available to him if he were going to keep Acts approximately the same length as his Gospel. (Indeed, there might have been an early, private draft of Acts that was longer and that Luke trimmed to size in preparing the final, canonical edition.)

Luke thus may have had good reasons for not recording everything that happened to Paul.

Still . . . it would be fascinating to know more.

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pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 18 September to 5 October 2014.

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Ecce_homo_by_Antonio_Ciseri_(1)I’m currently doing some work on the chronology of the book of Acts, and one of the key chronological benchmarks is in Acts 24:27, when the Roman procurator who presently has Paul in custody (Felix) is replaced by his successor (Festus).

You’d think that it would be easy to simply look up in secular sources when this change of government officials took place, but we can’t do that. We don’t have the records, and dating the beginning of Festus’s tenure is tricky.

In fact, as Ben Witherington points out:

About Felix’s successor, Porcius Festus, very little can be said, for our sources are limited to what we find in Acts 25–26 and in Josephus, Ant. 20.182–97 and War 2.271 [The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 717].

Got that?

The sources we have about Festus are limited to Acts and a couple of passages in Josephus.

Now, Festus was an important man. He ruled the entire province of Judaea (more than just the Southern territory of Judea). He had a huge number of subjects. He’s one of the successors of Pontius Pilate. Further, he was one of the few (some say the only) good procurator that the Romans sent to Judaea.

And yet we know only a tiny amount about him.

From this, several things suggest themselves . . .

 

1) The footprint left in ancient historical sources by even as important a person as the Roman procurator of Judaea can be very slight.

No doubt, in his own day, there were many more literary references to him–in all kinds of works, from official government documents to private letters–but except for the references in Acts and two passages of Josephus, they have all perished.

 

2) This should help us calibrate our expectations regarding other people in the ancient world.

If the Roman procurator has only two ancient authors mentioning him, then we would expect the vast majority of his subjects to go completely unmentioned in historical sources–as, indeed, they do.

We know the names of only a handful of Festus’s subjects, and they are people who have significant stature, like the high priests of his day.

 

3) We should not make excessive demands about mentions of Jesus in ancient sources.

Jesus came from the peasant class (Luke 2:24; cf. Lev. 12:8), and we would expect the events of his early life to leave no traces at all in surviving secular sources.

It was only after his ministry began that he became such a public figure that he might be expected to be mentioned in non-Christian sources, as he and the movement he founded is:

  • Suetonius, writing around A.D. 121
  • Tacitus, writing around A.D. 116
  • Pliny the Younger, writing in A.D. 110 or 111
  • The Emperor Trajan, writing back to Pliny in A.D. 110 or 111
  • And Josephus, writing around A.D. 93 (including the undisputed passage regarding his brother James the Just)

Comparing this to the single non-Christian source mentioning Festus (Josephus), and the number of early, non-Christian sources mentioning Jesus is quite ample!

He left a bigger footprint on the literature of his day than did this Roman procurator!

 

4) We shouldn’t dismiss the historical value of biblical evidence

A historian of the Roman empire would have two early century sources to tell him about Porcius Festus: Luke and Josephus.

It would be foolish to ignore either of these and, indeed, secular historians do not discount things Luke says simply because his works are in the New Testament.

Only hyper-skeptical individuals dismiss the New Testament as a historical source out of hand.

Sober historians treat it like they do other historical sources. One coming from a secular approach will not regard it as divinely inspired, but that does not mean it is without historical value.

The idea that everything the New Testament says should be considered false unless otherwise confirmed by outside sources is nonsense.

Historical evidence found in the New Testament is just that . . . historical evidence.

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