The Catholic Herald reports:
"In being a minister of God’s mercy and a guide on the path to holiness, the Catholic Church must develop better ways to 'accompany' people in their family life and not simply condemn those who fail, said a diverse group of theologians, including the former theologian of the papal household.
Cardinal Georges Cottier, who served as the papal theologian from 1989 to 2005, said, 'In rigorism, there is an innate brutality that is contrary to the delicacy with which God guides each person.'
La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal reviewed at the Vatican prior to publication, published an interview last Thursday with Cardinal Cottier about mercy and the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family.
The cardinal said he was certain that the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis would influence the synod’s work, which has the task of proclaiming God’s plan for the human family and assisting all Catholics – including those in what the church would define as 'irregular' situations – to grow in holiness.
'Some people have been scandalised by the Church because of a negative judgment issued in an impersonal and soulless way,' Cardinal Cottier said. 'They have felt driven away, rejected in a serious manner.'
While the Church’s ministers must uphold Church teaching, he said, 'this must be presented and explained in a language that clearly transmits the maternal concern of the church.'
'Through the voice of its pastors,' Cardinal Cottier said, 'the Church always must demonstrate that it is guided by the requirements of divine mercy.'"
And what of the requirements of divine justice? On that subject the Cardinal is silent. Anyone who, like Cardinal Cottier, believes that the Church suffers from "rigorism," is not in touch with reality. Quite the contrary is true. The Church suffers today not from rigorism but from laxity. And this is driving people out of the Church today as it has driven them from those churches which have embraced liberalism and modernism. The fruit of this laxity is Catholics who decide to sleep in on Sunday morning with the mindset, "What do I need Mass for, God will save me in His mercy. I am basically a good person."
Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador, once said: "A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospels call...A preaching that awakens, a preaching that enlightens - as when a light turned on awakens and of course annoys a sleeper - that is the preaching of Christ, calling: Wake up! Be converted! That is the Church's authentic preaching."
While there are so many good and faithful priests who do preach on the reality of sin and the need for reconciliation, there are those who have no love for the souls under their care. As a consequence, these priests neglect the souls entrusted to them and make no attempt to stress the reality of sin and the need for ongoing conversion.
When Jesus began His public ministry, He did so with the word "repent" (Matthew 4:17). And He advised the woman caught in adultery to "sin no more" (John 8:11). Likewise, in the case of the man cured at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus advised him to "sin no more lest something worse befall thee" (John 5:14). Was Jesus guilty of "rigorism"? When queried on the subject of how many would be saved, Jesus replied "few" because the "gate" to Heaven is "narrow" (Matthew 7:13-14). And while no one can pinpoint the precise meaning of the word "few," still, it is sobering that Jesus chose the image of a narrow gate.
Jesus is likened in the gospel to a stern master who has lazy servants flogged and murderous ones put to death (Matthew 21:41; Luke 12:47). And while it is true that Jesus is Mercy, He is also Justice. And for every parable illustrative of His mercy, there are three or four threatening divine retribution.
The Judgment Day is always described as a day of wrath and never as a day of rejoicing (Proverbs 11:4; Zephaniah 1:15; Sirach 5:10; Romans 2:5; Revelation 6:17). Why is this? If everyone (or even a large segment of mankind) is headed for Heaven, why does Sacred Scripture refer to the Judgment Day as a day of wrath?
The smug, self-satisfied "we-are-all-saved-already" attitude found in so many Catholic parishes is the result of the sin of presumption. Because there are priests who are betraying Jesus by refusing to preach on the reality of sin and the reality of Hell, a spiritual dry-rot has infected much of the Church. This is why nearly everyone receives Holy Communion at Mass but nearly no one goes to Confession.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about presumption: "There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God's almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit)." (CCC, 2092).
The words of Sacred Scripture remind us that such an attitude is very, very wrong: "Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin. Say not:' Great is his mercy; my many sins he will forgive.' For mercy and anger alike are with him; upon the wicked alights his wrath." (Sirach 5:5-7).
Cardinal Cottier has forgotten this truth.