Blessing S/S Unions – a Conservative View

Andrew Goddard writes about Pastoral Accommodation

The indefatigable Andrew Goddard has just published at Fulcrum a long paper explaining why it is not possible to engage in pastoral accommodation over blessing same-sex unions: Blessing Same-Sex Unions – A Legitimate Pastoral Accommodation?

In addition to the main article, he has also published a large number of supplementary papers which are linked to it, either in the text, or in footnotes.

What is the church’s current official teaching and discipline?
What is the current ecclesial reality in relation to this teaching and discipline?
How did we get here and where might we go next?
Can we both uphold current teaching and offer greater “pastoral accommodation”?
Divorce and Remarriage
Prayer after abortion

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 11 October 2016


Andrew Goddard is, indeed, a doughty warrior for what he sees as moral righteousness. What he seems to close his eyes to is the fact that the modern world does not see other-than-heterosexual relationships as wicked and against God’s provision for the exercise (or not) of one’s innate sexual orientation.

Dogmatic mediaeval understanding of human sexuality is no longer acceptable in a world that has a more mature outlook on the nature of sexual differentiation than that of the Bible.

Even Jesus recognised that heterosexual procreation and marriage was not the norm for everybody. In fact, Jesus Himself never married but had at least one ‘special friendship’ – a phenomenon forbidden in mediaeval monastic communities – with John, the ‘Beloved Disciple’.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 19: 3-12, Jesus first speaks about the need for faithfulness in heterosexual marriage. He then, in the same conversation, explained that there was another, distinctive, class of people – eunuchs – (looked down on in that culture, too) whom he recognised as not to be expected, able or willing, to marry in the ‘normal way’ to enable procreation. (Not all human beings expected to ‘go out and multiply’).

Delineating 3 possibilities, Jesus spoke of eunuchs, firstly; as “born that way from their mother’s womb”. Secondly, there were eunuchs “made so by men”. Thirdly; “eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”.

The third category, of their own volition, offer their virginity for Christ.

The second category, through the determination of others (papal castrati or Nubian slaves), who become so by force of circumstance; voluntarily or not.

The first category, however, may just be people incapable of, or disinclined by their given nature, to procreate.

These were categories of procreative and non-procreative humans recognised by Jesus. Why do we have a problem in identifying such today?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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GAFCON – Maunderings from Cairo

Global South Conference, Cairo, Egypt

Oct 5, 2016

Communique from the 6th Global South Conference, Cairo 2016

[A brief summary on the GAFCON UK site says that this Communique “contains a clear reiteration of biblical doctrine on the mission of the Church in the world and sexual ethics, and strong warnings to the Church of England and other Western expressions of Anglicanism. New Steering Committee elected which contains Primates from both ‘Global South’ and ‘GAFCON’ groupings, demonstrating convergence of both movements, speaking with one voice and committed to working together to shape orthodox global Anglicanism now and for the future.” ]

Statement from the Global South Primates and GAFCON Primates Concerning Same Sex Unions


Photos from Canon Andrew Gross, ACNA


The challenge of mission: presentation by Archbishops from Singapore and Nigeria: challenge-of-mission-gs (PDF)

Archbishop Mouneer’s opening address

Lecture: The Legacy of Ancient African Christianity by Michael Glerup, Ph.D.

Carthage Questions, Carthage Answers! by The Rt Revd Bill Musk

Message of Papal Nuncio to Global South Anglican Conference


Global South Anglicans Learn How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind

Greetings from England, led by the Bishop of Durham, and Australia

Greetings from ACNA, Communion Partners, and Toronto to Global South

Mission to the world is broader than ‘world evangelisation’ – Bishop of Singapore

“My prayer that GAFCON and Global South…unite in a global vision” – Lawrence

Archbishops nail corruption in Africa, and false trails to bring church unity, Chris Sugden, Anglican Mainstream

Beware of ideological slavery, warns Egypt Archbishop by Andrew Carey, Global Christian News

The cost and nature of discipleship – Global South Day 3

We carry on dialogue with the Communion to encourage Anglican conservatives – Coptic Orthodox Pope

Lessons from the Church in North Africa for today – Global South Day 2

A history of the Global South by Chris Sugden

CAIRO: Egyptian Anglican Archbishop Says Anglican Communion must stay Faithful despite False Teachings by David Virtue, VOL

GGlobal South, GAFCON and the Pope  by Chris Sugden

Global South Conference opens in Cairo (photos)


CAIRO: A Tale of Two Anglican Conferences by David Virtue, VOL


Loth as I normally am to publicise the plotting of GAFCON in its takeover bid to represent the soul of worldwide Anglicanism, I felt duty-bound to bring into the daylight things which might otherwise be hidden in the dark.

This article appears on the website of the oxymoronically-titled ‘Anglican Mainstream’ which does, indeed, represent a certain movement (maybe of a ‘Slipstream’ rather than mainstream) – not within Traditional Anglicanism but rather, against it. This conservative evangelical quasi-Anglican organisation has so readily allied itself to the Global South Anglican Provinces of the GAFCON (mostly African but with links to the Sydney Australian Diocese) as to make one wonder at its actual claim to represent any other than those Provinces with which it has so closely aligned itself.

What worries me is that, in Aotearoa/New Zealand & Polynesia, we now have another quasi-Anglican entity calling itself FoCANZ (the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans here in New Zealand. This local organisation has set itself up as the local branch of FoCA, which exists in England and the Sydney ‘Anglican’ Diocese. This new entity, headed by stipendiary clergy of the Christchurch diocese and supported in the main from the Nelson diocese; is seeking permission from our ACANZP General Synod to set up a parallel Anglican diocesan jurisdiction, in ACANZP, in order to pursue its own sola-Scriptura, homophobic agenda – in common with the GAFCON Provinces, based on its ‘Jerusalem Statement’ of Faith and their own Primates’ Conference – in direct opposition to the ‘Lambeth Quadrilateral’ and the Lambeth Bishops Conference – supported by non-Gafcon Bishops.

The Conference here described is an amalgam of both Gafcon and non-Gafcon Provinces of the ‘Global South’ geographical area of the Anglican Communion. These Provinces together are generally resistant to – for instance – any accommodation to LGBTI persons being ordained as clergy or bishops in their Churches. They are assisted in their cultural distaste for Same-Sex Blessings by those conservatives in the Western Provinces (FoCA) who have rejected any movement towards the radical inclusion of ‘Gays’ in ministry, on the basis of their belief that the biblical injunctions against Same-Sex relationships (mostly in the O.T. but also in a few versse from Saint Paul’s Epistles) should be maintained – despite evidence and experience in today’s world that cry out for a more compassionate understanding of the total thrust of the New Testament Scriptures.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Unity “In Christ” – Lambeth & Rome

Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis share ‘signs of beautiful fraternity’


Click to enlarge

Symbolic: Pope Francis puts on a pectoral cross of silver nails, a gift from Archbishop Welby during vespers at San Gregorio in Rome on Wednesday evening

THE Archbishop of Canterbury spent two days in Rome this week, accompanied by 17 leaders from other Anglican Provinces worldwide, as well as pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops who discussed ways of forging closer partnerships in mission.

At an audience in the Vatican on Thursday, Pope Francis said that it was “a beautiful sign of fraternity” to see the Primates of so many Anglican Provinces celebrating the fruits of the first meeting 50 years ago between his predecessor Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

“Let us never grow tired of asking the Lord together and insistently for the gift of unity,” the Pope said. All church leaders were being challenged to go out and bring God’s “merciful love to a world thirsting for peace”.

Archbishop Welby thanked the Pope for his leadership, and for the important effect that this has had on the Anglican Communion. He said: “You have recalled us afresh to the needs of ministering with the poor. You have set a Christ-like example by your travel to places of suffering and difficulty. You have stood alongside migrant peoples. You have initiated work on modern slavery and human trafficking, and much more.

“You gave essential force to the meeting of nations in Paris on climate change. Your letters and encyclicals have spoken far beyond Rome and her Church, in a manner which is universal.”

The two leaders also spent close to an hour in private conversation, sharing jokes and discussing everything from prayer to peacemaking, from sexual ethics to the personal revelations that Welby made earlier this year regarding his own father’s identity.

It was a relaxed and friendly encounter between two leaders who clearly share many spiritual and practical objectives. On Wednesday evening, they presided at a celebration of Vespers sung by the Sistine Chapel choir alongside Canterbury Cathedral choir in the ancient Rome church of San Gregorio on the Caelian Hill.

On the spot where Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine out on mission to evangelise the English at the end of the sixth century, Francis and Welby “sent out” on mission together the pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, before signing a common declaration recommitting their Churches to take the gospel “to the ends of the earth”, and, in particular, “to those on the margins and the peripheries of our societies”.

Significantly, the declaration does not sidestep the “serious obstacles” that continue to divide Anglicans and Roman Catholics (and cause tensions within both Churches), most notably the disagreements over women’s ordination and same-sex relationships.

But these differences, it says, must not hold us back from “recognising one another as brothers and sisters in Christ”, and “rejoicing in the deep Christian faith and holiness we find within each other’s traditions”.

Fifty years ago, Pope Paul VI recognized Michael Ramsey as “a brother in Christ” by placing on the Anglican leader’s finger his own episcopal ring, a gesture which witnesses said moved the elderly Archbishop to tears.

In a reciprocal gesture on Wednesday, Archbishop Welby gave Pope Francis a silver Cross of Nails, based on the Coventry symbol of reconciliation, as a sign of their renewed partnership in the urgent work of reconciliation today. The Pope put it around his neck before the two leaders gave a joint blessing, a gesture that would have been unthinkable half a century ago.

It was a similarly moving moment for all the congregation, in particular for Archbishop Welby, who summed up the two-day visit by affirming that Anglicans and Catholics “have found renewed impetus and momentum” in how they “work and walk together”.


This supplementary report of the historic Meeting between Pope Francis and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury comes from the U.K. ‘Church Times’

The exchange of gifts between the two Church Leaders is reminiscent of a similar occasion 50 years ago when Pope Paul VI presented his own episcopal ring that he was wearing to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsay. That amazing incident provoked speculation about Rome’s official view of the status of the ABC’s episcopal authority – a speculation that was again raised up  at the current meeting when the Leaders of both Churches acted together to commission pairs of bishop (Anglican and Roman Catholic) to go back to their local Churches to pursue a mission common to the Body of Christ in the world.

Despite the fact that there has been no rush to nullify the 19th-century papal dogma that declared Anglican priesthood to be ‘invalid’ (Apostolicae Curae), the actions of Pope Paul VI and Pope Francis have allowed for a ‘de facto’ recognition of Anglican Orders by their personal fraternal attitude towards successive Archbishops of Canterbury. 

Pope Francis, by meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople recently, has also given rise to hope for the future restoration of ecclesial ties between their two major Churches of Christendom. From these latest gestures of outreach – to both Anglican and the Orthodox Churches of the East – it would seem that Pope Francis is living up to his famous namesake Saint Francis of Assisi’s  quest for Peace and All Good (Pax et Bonum) within the Church and extending to the world.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


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Rome and Canterbury Meeting


A number of news services have highlighted October 5’s considerable ecumenical events, in celebration of the 50 years of the Anglican Centre in Rome, founded after Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey’s visit to Pope Paul VI in 1966. At that time, Pope Paul gave Archbishop Ramsey his episcopal ring, a gesture of lasting ecumenical significance.

Matt Townsend and I reported at The Living Church on the papers at the symposium, as well as milestones on the way to a new ecumenism (“Ecumenism that Transforms”).

ACNS noted the commissioning of 19 pairs of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, as part of a new phase of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM). ACNS also provided further reporting on the bishops’ pilgrimage and the sort of work they hope to do upon their return to their dioceses.

ACNS, ENS, and The Living Church reported on the common declaration of Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby (see here, here, and here).

But none of them offered an interpretation of the numerous, highly significant ecumenical statements and gestures during the events in Rome, not least as they related to the papacy and the status of the Anglican episcopate.

It began in the morning with Bishop Bernard Longley’s statement during the IARCCUM symposium held at the Pontifical Gregorian University. As Matt Townsend and I highlighted, he described Pope Paul VI’s gift of his episcopal ring to Michael Ramsey in important terms, as “Vatican II’s ‘recognition of the continuity of episcopal ministry’ in the Anglican Communion. Longley’s remark is among the most explicit affirmations of Anglicanism’s apostolic succession by a Catholic bishop” (see “Ecumenism that Transforms”).

The significant gestures, implicit statements, and explicit commitments then continued most obviously during the ecumenical service of Vespers, held at the Church of Santi Andrea e Gregorio al Celio, a resonant site for Anglican-Roman Catholic relations. Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine of Canterbury from this monastery to England around the turn of the seventh century.

Image, icon, relic

For those attending the event, the image on the cover of the order of service already hinted at weighty moments to come: it depicted St. Peter’s repentance after denying his Lord three times, with the Latin version of Luke 22:61: Conversus dominus respexit Petrum (“The Lord turned and looked at Peter”). Such a statement of papal repentance, in light of previous statements about the obstacle and scandal the papacy can present to ecumenical unit (see Ut Unum Sint), set the tone from the beginning.

crozierThroughout the service, the crozier of St. Gregory the Great was placed prominently in front of the congregation. This crozier appeared at the recent Anglican Primates’ Meeting, on loan from San Gregorio, as a symbol of Anglican origins and unity. (See Neil Dhingra’s “Justin Welby, liturgy, and orthodoxy in the Anglican future” for a further interpretation of its appearance there.)

Finally, an icon stood up front throughout, directly next to the crozier, depicting Gregory the Great and Augustine of Canterbury standing next to Jesus Christ in postures of prayerful surrender.



The service’s texts addressed the theme of grace, unity, and pastoral ministry in complex ways.

Psalms 125 and 126 were sung in Gregorian and Anglican chant by the choirs of the Sistine Chapel and Canterbury Cathedral:

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream.”

“Except the Lord build the house, their labor is but lost who build it.”

The canticle from Colossians 1:12-20 drew attention to Christ’s status as the “head of the church,” and as one who holds primacy in every situation: once again, an evocative text for Anglicans and Roman Catholics who have often been divided on questions related to the exercise of authority.

Ephesians 3:20-21 reminded the congregation that God is able to do far more than “we can ask or imagine,” returning to the theme of a prayer Archbishop Welby offered for ecumenical unity after the morning’s seminar, as we reported yesterday.

And Ezekiel 34:11-16 represented a moment not to be missed. The prophet’s text, a favorite of St. Gregory the Great when he preached to bishops and priests, speaks of God’s determination to shepherd his flock well, not allowing them to be dispersed or harmed. The context of the whole chapter involves a polemic against the “shepherds of Israel” who had devoured God’s flock (34:10). In response, God himself will shepherd his people, not least by appointing “one shepherd” who will feed his flock (34:23), namely, the messianic son of David.

Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin addressed similar themes in their homilies, and drew out others, such as the need to see and receive the gifts of our brethren, as well as look outward at a suffering world, whose people are like “sheep without a shepherd.”


But, in the midst of this rich service of prayer and scriptural meditation concerning some of the most significant texts on the Church and pastoral ministry, the most significant moment of the evening came near the end.

The Pope and Archbishop exchanged gifts: Francis gave Justin an episcopal crozier, modeled after the crozier of St. Gregory and a common symbol of the pastoral office of bishops; and Justin gave Francis a pectoral cross, another common symbol of the episcopacy.

Here, we had an occasion in which the symbolic, affective gestures of Anglicans and Roman Catholics ran somewhat ahead of the official dialogues, not unlike previous gestures, as I noted some months ago (“Roman Catholics recognizing the Anglican patrimony”). Here, both communions, in the persons of Pope and Archbishop, received each other’s gifts, in the form of a common episcopate.

No doubt, many Anglicans and Roman Catholics would emphasize the inherent instability or ambiguity of such liturgical action, or question the meaning I have drawn out. After all, is it possible to narrow down precisely what was meant by such a complex gathering of texts, sacred art, and gestures? (I have not even described the music.)

Yet such a dismissal would miss the point. The event indeed points beyond itself and beyond a singular meaning.

Not only did the entirety of the day embody a significant Roman Catholic affirmation of the Anglican episcopate, it visibly demonstrated the affection of both communions for one another; it signaled a living commitment to dialogue and furthering unity in the midst of many difficulties and setbacks; and it charted a course for a renewed spirit of ecumenism — one based not simply on clarity of theological expression, but also on shared action and prayer for the sake of the world.

It highlighted also the rich space provided by joint liturgical celebration, in which we learn to see ourselves differently, rehearse our true character, and experience the transformation that stems from mutual love, prayerfully expressed — love of each other and of the Lord.


The second to last paragraph, in this article by the U.S. Anglican ‘Living Church’, surely highlights the whole point of this exercise of charitable meeting between Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; wherein significant gifts were exchanged by the Heads of these two Churches.

The worship events that were shared by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, were also attended by other bishops of both Churches; signifying, at least, the willingness to share liturgically in joint worship in an environment common to each Church. With sermons by both Heads of the two Churches – each in their own language; no-one present would have missed out on the message that was enunciated clearly by each prelate. This meeting could not have but dispelled talk of further separation between our two Churches – despite the  current climate of differentiation in doctrinal areas. There was a sense of combined mission – exemplified in the pairing of bishops from each Church to go back to their individual countries with a plan for a joint proclamation of the Gospel to Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Our own Anglican Bishop of Auckland, Ross Bay, and New Zealand Roman Catholic Cardinal John Dew, were one of the couples commissioned by Pope and Archbishop to pursue joint mission in and to New Zealanders of both our Churches.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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ABC & Pope Francis – Brothers in Christ

Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby “undeterred” by “serious obstacles” to unity

Posted on: October 5, 2016 5:56 PM

Archbishop Justin Welby and Pope Francis, pictured during Vespers at the Church of Saint Gregory, Rome, have issued a Common Declaration in which they say that “serious obstacles” to full unity will not deter Anglicans and Roman Catholics from working together in joint mission.
Photo Credit: Vatican Television

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The ordination of women and “more recent questions regarding human sexuality” are serious obstacles in the path to unity between Anglicans and Roman Catholics; but they “cannot prevent us from recognising one another as brothers and sisters in Christ”, Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said in a Common Declaration.

Speaking of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey in 1966 – the first such public meeting of a Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury since the Reformation – and their Common Declaration, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby said that their predecessors had “recognised the ‘serious obstacles’ that stood in the way of a restoration of complete faith and sacramental life between us. Nevertheless, they set out undeterred, not knowing what steps could be taken along the way, but in fidelity to the Lord’s prayer that his disciples be one.

“Much progress has been made concerning many areas that have kept us apart. Yet new circumstances have presented new disagreements among us, particularly regarding the ordination of women and more recent questions regarding human sexuality.

“Behind these differences lies a perennial question about how authority is exercised in the Christian community. These are today some of the concerns that constitute serious obstacles to our full unity.

“While, like our predecessors, we ourselves do not yet see solutions to the obstacles before us, we are undeterred. In our trust and joy in the Holy Spirit we are confident that dialogue and engagement with one another will deepen our understanding and help us to discern the mind of Christ for his Church.

“We trust in God’s grace and providence, knowing that the Holy Spirit will open new doors and lead us into all truth.”

Today’s Common Declaration was signed at a service of Vespers at the Church of Saint Gregory on the Caelian Hill in Rome, “from where Pope Gregory sent Augustine to evangelise the Anglo-Saxon people.”

Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and the church – part of a monastery – has a unique place in the history of the Church in England and the Anglican Communion.

During the service, Pope Francis presented Archbishop Welby with a replica of the Crozier of Pope Gregory. The actual crozier of the sixth century Pope is stored in the church, and was sent by Pope Francis to Canterbury in January as the Primates of the Anglican Communion gathered in the Cathedral for their historic meeting.

CTV-Iarccum -sending -out -2016-Pope -Francis -Archbishop -Welby -Crozier -St -GregoryA priest holds the replica of the Crozier of St Gregory the Great – the sixth Century Pope who sent Augustine to evangelise the Anglo-Saxons – as Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby greet pairs of bishops being sent out for joint mission. The actual crozier is on a pedestal in the top right hand corner of the picture.
Photo: Vatican Television

Pope Francis said that St Gregory’s Pastoral Staff “might well symbolise the great ecumenical significance of this meeting” as he spoke of “our common journey in the footsteps of Christ the Good Shepherd.”

He continued: “Pope Gregory, from this wellspring of mission, chose and sent St Augustine of Canterbury and his monks to the Anglo-Saxon nations, inaugurating a great chapter in evangelisation, which is our common history, and binds us inseparably.

“Therefore it is right that this pastoral staff be a symbol of our shared journey of unity and mission.”

Archbishop Welby presented Pope Francis with his Pectoral Cross symbolising the Cross of Nails – the international reconciliation ministry based at England’s Coventry Cathedral. To loud applause from the congregation in the church of San Gregorio al Celio, in a moving part of the service of Vespers service, which the two leaders jointly led, Archbishop Justin removed the pectoral cross from around his neck and presented it to Pope Francis, who then put the cross around his neck.

Before its journey to Rome, Archbishop Justin blessed the Cross of Nails at a service in Lambeth Palace Chapel, during which Lambeth Palace became the 200th partner of the Community of the Cross of Nails, an international network in 35 countries, which arose out of the vision of the former Provost of Coventry Cathedral, Richard Howard, who made a commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation following the destruction of the cathedral in 1940.

CTV-Pope -Francis -Cross -of -Nails -Iarccum -Vespers -161005Pope Francis wears the Cross of Nails as he gives a blessing during a service of Vespers at the Church of San Gregorio al Celio.
Photo: Vatican Television

As he blessed the Cross of Nails, the Archbishop said: “Bless His Holiness Pope Francis who inspired by the Cross of Nails, bears witness to the grace and truth of your crucified and risen Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. . .

“I will give this Cross of Nails to His Holiness Pope Francis as a symbol of our partnership in the work of reconciliation. For the Glory of God and the coming of His kingdom of justice and peace.”

During the service, 19-pairs of bishops were sent out by Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby for joint mission in their local areas.

see also:


After the very recent meeting between Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome, there can be little doubt that their membership of the Body of Christ is known by each of them to be more important that the fact that there are important matters that still divide our two ecclesial communities. Here is the salient declaration:

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The ordination of women and “more recent questions regarding human sexuality” are serious obstacles in the path to unity between Anglicans and Roman Catholics; but they “cannot prevent us from recognising one another as brothers and sisters in Christ”, Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said in a Common Declaration.

That such difference in polity should still separate Anglicans from Roman Catholics, is less important than what we hold in common. The current Heads of our two worldwide Churches are united in their determination to maintain the “Unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace” – a much more eirenic exercise than that of the current efforts of the like of GAFCON and FOCA to ‘divide and conquer’ by intentional schismatic activity .

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand



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Trump disturbs Catholic Voters



Catholics now represent the latest demographic challenge for Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions. As the Washington Post recently reported, a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found that Catholic voters preferred Hillary Clinton to Trump by a crushing 23 percent margin, 55-32. With less than a third of Catholics intending to vote for him, Trump has fallen well below the support GOP candidates typically enjoy from Catholic voters. George W. Bush won the Catholic vote in his 2004 reelection, 52-47. Although John McCain and Mitt Romney both lost among Catholic voters, they still managed to win 45 percent and 48 percent, respectively.

Why have Catholic voters rejected Trump? All year Catholic commentators and media outlets have provided their thoughts, but they have largely been overlooked by a mainstream media more fascinated by the story of evangelicals and Trump. As early as August 2015, the independent Catholic news site Crux noted that Trump’s aggressive anti-immigration stance put him at odds with Catholic bishops who were lobbying Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Writing in National Review earlier this summer, the political scientist Michael J. Newcommented that Trump’s “Catholic problem” likely stemmed from Trump’s harsh rhetoric on Latino immigrants who many American Catholics see positively as the future of their church, but also because of Trump’s attacks on Pope Francis.

After Trump selected Mike Pence as his running mate, Christopher Hale, the executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, called the Trump-Pence ticket the “most anti-Catholic GOP presidential ticket in modern history” because of not only Trump’s many shortcomings but also Pence’s record of blocking the Catholic Church’s efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in Indiana.

Trump’s poor standing with Catholic voters resembles his “Mormon problem,” as I have written about. Taken together, the Catholic and Mormon rejection of Trump also further spotlights the embarrassment of evangelical support for the Donald.

The news that some 80 percent of white evangelicals plan to vote for Trump seemed astounding enough when the latest polls were released. But now compared with Catholics and Mormons rebuffing Trump, evangelicals’ overwhelming support for Trump offers damning evidence that they care more about political power than principles in this election cycle.

In the pages of the Washington Post, Mark Rozell argued we were seeing a “splitting apart” of the coalition of evangelicals and conservative Catholics who have voted together for Republican candidates for nearly four decades. If polling patterns hold up in November, 2016 may yield the greatest difference between Catholic and evangelical voting since the 1960 election where at least 75 percent of evangelicals voted for Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy compared to only 18 percent of Catholics. But in the ensuing years, evangelicals and Catholics increasingly found themselves political partners in opposing abortion, pornography and gay rights, and in electing Republicans to higher office.

Still, as I’ve argued in my recent book We Gather Together, the evangelical-Catholic political alliance remained a fragile one, even when results from the ballot box made it appear more solid. Even as conservative Catholics drew to evangelicals on social issues, like abortion, their church often took political stances on matters like welfare and nuclear armament that put them in opposition to the Republican Party. With strong Catholic Church teachings that seemed to support both Republican and Democratic positions, Catholic voters have tended to evenly divide between the two parties in most recent elections.

Now Trump threatens to disrupt that parity, sending the bulk of Catholic voters to the side of his opponent. What this means for the future of the Republican Party remains uncertain. But for now, Catholic rejection of Trump at least surely offers another withering rebuke of evangelicals’ support of a candidate who is nothing short of unacceptable.


The news from ‘Religion Dispatches’ is not good for Donald Trump’s hope for support for his presidential bid  –  from the traditional Republican Roman Catholic voters at this upcoming American Election. Here is the result of a recent poll to assess the strength of R.C. support for Trump:

” As the Washington Post recently reported, a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found that Catholic voters preferred Hillary Clinton to Trump by a crushing 23 percent margin, 55-32. With less than a third of Catholics intending to vote for him, Trump has fallen well below the support GOP candidates typically enjoy from Catholic voters“.

One of the factors that will be taken seriously by Republican Catholics, is the up-front support Trump is courting from the traditionally conservative Evangelical T.V. – advertising ‘Prosperity Gospel’ Evangelists, whose appearance with Trump on national television will no doubt have riled the more sober religious propriety of Roman Catholic Republicans.

The big question here might be; how many Black American Voters will be convinced by Trump’s Bible-toting on commercial and public television channels that his religious beliefs are convincing enough to persuade them to vote for him? Certainly, from this poll, it seems that the country’s Roman Catholics may not give him the support he will probably need to gain public office.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand




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St. Francis Day – a Reflection

Francis of Assisi: a channel of mercy

Posted on: 30th September 2016  |
Author: Brian Purfield

‘I had mercy upon them’: we read these words in the opening lines of theTestament of St Francis of Assisi, whose feast is celebrated on 4 October. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Brian Purfield offers the saint by whom Pope Francis has been so inspired as a model of mercy. What does St Francis’ account of his own life tell us about his spirituality?

If someone were to ask you to tell your life story, where would you start? Francis of Assisi faced just that decision as he lay dying in September 1226 and looked back over his life. In the opening lines of his Testament he wrote:

The Lord granted me, Brother Francis, to begin to do penance in this way: While I was in sin, it seemed very bitter to me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I had mercy upon them. And when I left them that which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body; andafterward I lingered a little and left the world.

What is so striking about Francis’ words is where he begins his story. Thomas of Celano, his first biographer, talks about Francis undertaking long periods of prayer. Other early biographers describe his disillusionment with the business and military worlds. But in Francis’ own account, his conversion did not occur according to any well-rehearsed plan or in any specific place. Given who he was on his deathbed, he understood that his story began with an encounter with a human being, one who was looked upon with horror and disgust: the leper. Lepers were excluded from society and were abhorred by people. By starting his story at this point, Francis gives us a key to his spiritual outlook: if you are looking to discover God, look for the leper in your life, the person who is most troubling to you.[1]

Francis tells us what he did in that encounter with the leper: he acted with misericordia – mercy or, more accurately translated, with a heart sensitive to misery. James Keenan[ii] defines mercy as the willingness to enter into the chaos of others to answer them in their need. This is exactly what Francis did: he entered into the chaos of the lepers’ lives. Not only are their lives changed, but Francis’ life takes on a new direction. He is converted from fear of them to love of them. A new story begins.

Showing mercy is at the heart of that story: it is not limited to one encounter; it defines a way of being which is essential to Francis’ understanding of the spiritual life. Very quickly, however, the mercy that Francis was so eager to show taught him that he needed to experience his own misery before being able to reach out to someone else in theirs. Compassion for the poor and the marginalised turned into identification with them.

Moreover, he wanted all of those who joined him as brothers to identify with those in need: before anything else, they must serve the lepers.[iii] He wanted those called to exercise authority in the fraternity to be ‘ministers & servants.’[iv] His Letter to a Minister[v] was written to a brother who was called to such responsibility but seems to have found the burden a demanding one – he wished to be relieved of it and become a hermit. Francis reminds the minister of the reason for Jesus’s coming among us: to reveal the mercy of God. The one causing the minister such pain seems to be a brother who has not simply fallen once or twice or who has committed a grave sin, but someone whose habitual state seems to be that of sin. This brother might be touched by the grace of conversion and be looking for mercy; but he might also be so hardened that he is not. Whatever the case, Francis’ advice to the minister is the same: ‘do not allow such a person to leave your presence without your mercy.’[vi]

Not only does Francis encourage the minister to love those brothers who make life difficult, he adds: ‘Do not wish that they be better Christians.’[vii] We are not to judge or see ourselves as better than others, but always keep in mind that, out of love for us, the Son of God entered our history and endured suffering and death. The misery and abuse we may have to endure in the fulfilment of our responsibilities offer opportunities for identifying with the Suffering Servant and are expressions of the humanity we share with all who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood. In this light, who could deny that such indignities are ‘more than a hermitage’?[viii]

This theology came out of Francis’ deep love of Christ. Not the Christ of many of the late medieval paintings – the Pantocrator, the judge at the last judgement – but the Christ of Bethlehem who became one of us because He loved us; the Christ of the Last Supper who gave Himself as food for a spiritually starving humanity, and the Christ of Calvary, who died as a sacrifice so that we would be raised up from our own humanity. Overwhelmed at discovering such a brother, Francis’ response was: ‘Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, that He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally!’[ix] Francis’ conversion was a rejection of his former life in order to give himself totally to God, and he wanted all those in his order to do the same.

Francis entered deeply into the Passion of Christ, who died stripped of everything and abandoned by all but his closest followers. He received the stigmata on La Verna in September 1224. Following this mystical experience, he wrote The Praises of God, ‘giving thanks to God for the kindness bestowed on him’, in the words of his companion, Brother Leo. This loving kindness of God elicits from Francis a response of trust and confidence in the final praise of God whom he calls ‘merciful Saviour’. Jesus, the merciful Saviour, took on our fragility in order to reveal the depths of the Father’s love for us. Francis, in response, cries out, ‘Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing.’[x] This is not a cry of despair or a pessimistic assessment of his life. Francis’ eagerness to begin again is so that he might not miss one opportunity to experience the many expressions of God’s loving mercy in his life.

Just as mercy was a priority of Francis of Assisi, it has been so for the first pope to take his name, in this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in particular and in his pontificate in general, as is evidenced in his prayer on Easter Sunday 2013:

Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.

As this Jubilee Year draws to a close, let us follow the example of Francis of Assisi and begin again to recognise the many ways in which we have experienced God’s mercy, and to be ever attentive to the occasions in which we are called to show mercy.

Brian Purfield is a member of the Mount Street Jesuit Centre team and teaches short courses in theology.


As a former Anglican Franciscan Brother (SSF), I received this message this morning (4 October, Saint Francis Day. In the light of our Anglican Communion’s wrestling with issues of gender and sexuality, one wonders howe Saint Francis would have dealt with people who are ‘same-sex attracted’? – A matter on which the Church is divided at this present time.

I am reminded of the story of Francis, a fastidious young man, returning from a party on his horse. On a steep hillside path near Assisi, he was confronted by a leper – a person he would normally have steered clear of – and something made him descend from his horse and embrace the leper. Afterwards, Francis described his experience; it was if he were embracing the person of Christ – an experience that was to inform him of his most important ministry, first, to the lepers and the community and afterwards to all the marginalised and poor of the world.

By a strange coincidence, the priest who was to have celebrated the daily Mass at Saint Michael’s this morning –  happened to phone me, saying she was not well enough to preside at this morning’s Mass, and would I please take her place? Nothing, of course, would please me more (I was intending to be at Mass anyway). Thanks be to God! Here we go, then, to celebrate Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and to give thanks for the love of God alive in Saint Francis of Assisi – to ALL people! Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


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