You cling to human traditions

November 10, 2014

Dear brothers and sisters,

The good news today comes from Mark 7:6-8.

He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

One of the things I pray for regularly is to be freed of my tendency to be judgmental. I catch myself all the time making instant judgments about people I don’t know and will never know, people I pass on the street or stand in line with. The problem is like the scribes and Pharisees I am judging by my standards, not by God’s. God does not reject someone because they’re overweight or smoke or even bigoted. At least I don’t think so; I don’t think He rejects anyone. He never turns His back on any one of us; it us we who turn our backs to Him.

“Who am I to judge?” That’s the most memorable thing to me that Pope Francis told reporters in one of his first interviews. How refreshing coming from our spiritual leader. Lots of scribes and Pharisees in the Church took notice and have objected ever since. It was a sign that Francis means what he said when it was announced last Friday that he had removed American Cardinal Raymond Burke from his position as head of the Vatican’s Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the final court of appeal for all canon law disputes in the Church. Burke has publicly on numerous occasions exhorted priests to refuse the Eucharist to anyone who does not endorse the moral positions of the Church such as same-sex marriage. Surveys of American Catholics now show that a majority support such unions. In an interview last month he stated that gay relationships are “profoundly disordered and harmful.” He also suggested that parents should not allow children to have contact with gay persons including participation in family celebrations like Christmas. Burke also applied an interdict — an order barring someone from receiving the sacraments — to a Sister of Charity nun for supporting the ordination of women to the priesthood. Last year he co-authored a book opposing any change in Church policy regarding the remarriage of divorced Catholics and their reception of the Eucharist.

The Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic of pastoral challenges of the family met last month after being called by Pope Francis a year ago. It was the first time in the Church’s history that input via questionnaire was solicited from every parish in the world. A draft report or interim discussion document considered the content of 265 speeches and position papers from the participants. The report had a decidedly accepting and welcoming tone for those who feel outcast and unwelcome especially divorced and gay Catholics. Cardinal Burke vehemently objected terming the draft as “manipulated” by the principal author Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte known “for pushing the pastoral envelope on dealing with people in ‘irregular’ unions while staying true to Catholic doctrine.” The final document was considerably watered down in response to criticism. It is a preparatory report for a larger synod on the family to meet next year. Of the 62 paragraphs only three did not received a 2/3 vote of acceptance. However, Pope Francis ordered that they be included anyway. Two of those concerned allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist and the other taking a welcoming position toward gay Catholics. In his closing speech Pope Francis said he wanted the Church to avoid “hostile inflexibility” to the letter of the law.

It seems to me that Francis hears the word of God spoken by Jesus. I think his heart is close to Jesus and that he honors him with his lips — “Who am I to judge?” I think that Burke on the other hand is like the hypocrites that Jesus rebukes for clinging to human precepts instead of God’s commandment to love one another — “in vain do they worship me.”  There I go again being judgmental!



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