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APTOPIX Italy Pope Epiphany

The most recent dust-up regarding Pope Francis occurred when I posted some scalding commentary regarding a LifeSite News article that reported on Pope Francis concelebrating mass with a 93 year-old dissident, gay rights activist priest, and the Pope’s kissing that priest’s hands. Lifesite accurately depicted the problematic issues surrounding the ancient cleric:

Fr. (Don) Michele de Paolis concelebrated Mass with Pope Francis at the Domus Santa Martha and then presented the pontiff with gifts of a wooden chalice and paten and a copy of his most recent book, “Dear Don Michele – questions to an inconvenient priest”.

In a previous book, Don Michele wrote, “homosexual love is a gift from (God) no less than heterosexual.” He also disparaged the idea of homosexual couples not having sex.

Francis closed the meeting by kissing the priest’s hand, a gesture that the far-left newspaper L’immediato called one “revealing the humility of a great man to another of the same stature.” De Paolis described the unusual papal gesture himself in a post to his Facebook page, saying that he asked Francis for an audience with the priest’s other organization, the Community of Emmaus: “Is that possible?”

He said that the pope replied, “Anything is possible. Talk to Cardinal Maradiaga and he shall prepare everything.”

“And then (unbelievably) he kissed my hand! I hugged him and wept,” de Paolis concluded.

The gesture has made something of a sensation in Italian media and ‘blogs since de Paolis is a well-known figure in Italy as a leading clerical apologist for the homosexualist ideology. He ostensibly met with Francis in his capacity as the founder of Emmaus Community in the southern Italian city of Foggia that assists the poor and those suffering from AIDS.

The article then included the following:

LifeSiteNews asked Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi for clarification as to the nature of the encounter but received no reply by press time.

On FB, I linked the Lifesite article with the following criticism from me:

Some other award winning and sensational headlines from years gone by:

Jesus Dines with Prostitutes

Galilean Rabbi Allows Woman with 12-year Hemorrhage to Touch Him.

Jesus at it Again, This Time Dines with Tax Collector.

Nazorean has Feet Washed by Whore’s Tears, Dried by Her Hair

Whore-Loving Rabbi Demands Jews Eat His Flesh, Drink His Blood as Admission Price for Heaven.

Dregs of Society will Inherit Heaven, When Will He End the Madness?

Rabbi Claims to be Doctor for the Sick, Ends Stoning of Adulteress. Is He Encouraging Sin?

Rabbi has it Backward. Conversion FIRST, Then Acceptance.

Sorry, but I’m beginning to see a heartlessness and self-righteousness in conservative and orthodox circles that is unnerving. As Father Groeschel once told me, “The sins against sex are the most humiliating, but the sins against charity are the most damning.”

This sparked something of an uproar, so much so that Lifesite printed a clarification of their position, and one of the editors called and had an extensive conversation with me. (I’ve been a contributing blogger for a few years). The conversation was frank, civilized, and gentlemanly. While it did much to clear the air, there is a larger, lingering issue that needs to be addressed by pro-life and orthodox Catholics; A question, really.

Who do we say Francis is?

Since his election, Francis has brought a style that has provided ample grist for the pro-life mill. Many have feared, openly and scandalously, that he is about to break with established church teaching on moral norms. And at every turn they have been proven wrong. He famously stated that one need not discuss the issues of abortion and homosexuality all the time, which sent most pro-life leaders into the stratosphere.

And for good cause.

Increasingly, we see the marriage between the gay rights movement and the culture of death through their support of in vitro fertilization and related technologies, the support for abortion, gay marriage, and the general support of left-leaning politicians. Western civilization’s implosion is accelerating and being catalyzed by these very issues.

Or is it?

Perhaps Francis sees these issues not as cause, but as effect. Perhaps Francis sees the breakdown as beginning in other areas and these latter issues are the final manifestation of a spiritual rot that has been progressing below the surface for quite some time. How can one know, or be sure? Is Francis a closet heretic and apostate, as some fear, or maverick pastor who is resorting to the audacious in order to snap people out of their torpor? How can one know?

In pursuit of this answer, and also in attending to several family matters (mostly good stuff), I have taken a self-imposed break from blogging, from the need to report, to comment, to publish with great regularity. The sabbatical has been both productive and refreshing. It has also confirmed for me some concerns regarding Francis. So, here it is.

I said this a year ago, and it is as true now, as it was then:

He. Is. Peter.

That’s who I say Francis is. He is the Vicar of Christ on Earth, and that dread reality ought to make people pause before they publish news articles that call his character, morality, and motives into question. The thought that a deadline for publication should trump waiting for a reply from the Vatican spokesman where the reputation of the pope hangs in the balance suggests that perhaps we have crossed a line over here in the right wing. It suggests that we have established ourselves as a shadow College of Cardinals, advising our pope in print and tearing into him when he dares to march to his own drum.

If our Jesuit, hand-kissing, iconoclastic pope has aroused our ire, perhaps it is because he is shattering our icons of ourselves. Perhaps this pope sees that abortion and homosexuality are rooted in other serious ills that need also to be addressed, and that attacking root causes clears up a great deal of downstream issues like homosexuality and abortion.

Perhaps Jorge Bergolio brings with him to the Chair of Peter a perspective that we in the Northern Hemisphere simply do not grasp. The very people whom he grew up with, cherished and valued, ministered to in their poverty are largely our illegal aliens in the United States- a people resented here, even despised. So, when Bergolio/Francis speaks of the need to make these people a priority, and not speak all the time of abortion and homosexuality, he speaks from a perspective that runs up hard against the conservative, Republican/ Tea Party politics that animate so many of us in the pro-life movement and the orthodox wing of the church. It is difficult to separate the integration of our politics and faith, especially when the two dovetail so nicely on the life issues.

Still, Francis is calling us to espouse some of that espoused by our political opponents here in North America, and that means breaking the mold and entering the dangerous waters of consensus politics, of becoming odd bedfellows with the political lepers of the left.

Francis sees where the disintegration, the alienation takes place. It’s in the heart. That is most evident in those who castigated him for concelebrating with a brother priest who was never disciplined by Popes John Paul II or Benedict, and neither by Cardinals Ratzinger or Burke when they headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I suspect that all of these very “imprudent” actions on Francis’ part are reaching many homosexuals and lesbians at the core of their woundedness, and suggesting to them that they are not the lepers in the church that secular media have suggested that they are. What comes of this revolutionary pastoral approach remains to be seen.

Until then, Francis IS Peter. His choice was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and he is in need of our prayers. Moreso, we need to pray for ourselves, for the gifts of wisdom and courage, vision and strength, and above all, humility.

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In his recent interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press, Cardinal Timothy Dolan reiterated that the only problem he and the bishops had with Obamacare was the HHS mandate for contraceptive and abortion coverage in all insurance plans. He lamented that Obama was alienating a body of bishops that wanted to support this legislation, wanted to support Obama in his efforts at it. Most respectfully, the interview with Gregory was a missed opportunity on so very many fronts. Our bishops and several in the pro-life movement have had such a myopic focus on contraception and abortion issues in Obamacare that moral issues just as big and even bigger have entirely gone unaddressed by them. First, to the interview. David Gregory asked:

“What about Obamacare? You have voiced your displeasure with certain aspects of it in terms of mandates for hospitals and so forth. What about the overall goal? Do you think it will ultimately prevail? Would you like it, do you think it’s important for our country that universal health care insurance be available?”

Cardinal Dolan responded:

“Yep, and I’m glad you allow me to make that distinction,” Dolan replied. “We bishops are really in kind of a tough place because we’re for universal, comprehensive. life-affirming healthcare. We, the bishops of the United States–can you believe it, in 1919 came out for more affordable, more comprehensive, more universal health care. That’s how far back we go in this matter, okay. So we’re not Johnny-come-latelys.

“We’ve been asking for reform in healthcare for a long time. So we were kind of an early supporter in this. Where we started bristling and saying, ‘Uh-oh, first of all this isn’t comprehensive, because it’s excluding the undocumented immigrant and it’s excluding the unborn baby,’ so we began to bristle at that.

“And then secondly we said, ‘And wait a minute, we who are pretty good Catholics who are kind of among the pros when it comes to providing healthcare, do it because of our religious conviction,and because of the dictates of our conscience, and now we’re being asked to violate some of those.’

“So that’s when we began to worry and draw back and say, ‘Mr. President, please, you’re really kind of pushing aside some of your greatest supporters here. We want to be with you, we want to be strong. And if you keep doing this, we’re not going to be able to be one of your cheerleaders. And that, sadly, is what happened.”.

Sadly?

Really???

In a 2,000+ page document filled with countless yet-to-be-determined, open-ended policy that states, “The Secretary [of HHS] shall determine…”, how is it considered moral to cheerlead for something completely undefined, especially in this nation with what Pope John Paul II called an ascendant “Culture of Death,” and with the party of death as its authors and administrators?

How could the bishops cheerlead for a law that will be administered with hefty doses of what is euphemistically called “rationing,” when President Obama brought aboard Dr. Donald Berwick whose expertise is in rationing? From Wiki:

“Berwick has studied the management of health care systems, with emphasis on using scientific methods and evidence-based medicine and comparative effectiveness research to improve the tradeoff among quality, safety and costs.[2][3][4] Among IHI’s projects are online courses for health care professionals for reducing Clostridium difficile infections, lowering the number of heart failure readmissions or managing advanced disease and palliative care.”

How could the bishops cheerlead for a law when the “tradeoff” regarding cost is, “quality of life,” as determined by a bureaucratic algorithm that takes into account average life expectancy given a treatment, age of the patient, etc.? If the numbers fall the wrong way, the state will offer either physician assisted suicide or hospice care as they deny further treatment. This has been standard in Oregon for years. Also read here.

How could the bishops cheerlead for a law whose costs have soared before a workable website could even be put in place, with a government that is close to $20 Trillion in debt, and the certain knowledge that physician-assisted suicide is being pushed in almost every state in the Union?

How could the bishops cheerlead for a law they now know was founded on the lie that, “If you like your plan you can keep it,” knowing that over 7 million people have been dropped in the last two months?

How could the bishops cheerlead for a plan that the Congressional Budget Office projects will STILL leave more than 30 million people uninsured, especially when the principal reason offered for going down this road was to insure the 30-40 million uninsured?

How could the bishops cheerlead for a plan that increases funding for abortion and contraception through the HHS Mandate, just so long as the Church gets her exemption and doesn’t have to get her hands dirty?

This immoral and unjust legislation is not at all what the bishops of 100 years ago militated for. They would have raged against it all, because they were very different men. Those men were shepherds. Their flock was a large immigrant population in a strange land, with a strange tongue for many, with strange customs. The Church was the one great constant in their lives, and their bishops fought for them.

And politicians feared and respected them.

A far cry from a Cardinal lamenting forced participation in 10 percent of a one-hundred percent abomination of legislation and healthcare.

A far cry from a Cardinal who admitted on CBS This Morning, the week before he received the red hat, “We bishops aren’t fighters, we’re pastors.” (See video below)

Notably absent from Cardinal Dolan’s lament was that the small business owners in his flock, and outside of his flock, would be forced to violate their consciences.

Notably absent was any mention of rationing, euthanasia, the tissue of lies, the millions who have been dropped, the outrageous projected increases in premiums by as much as 179% in some states, the yet-to-be-defined policies a priori codified in the law.

These would have been real issues for the bishops of 1919. They most certainly would not have been tolerated 70 years before that with New York’s fourth Archbishop, “Dagger” John Hughes. From an excellent article about Hughes:

Hot on the heels of the school controversy came Hughes’ third battle, which showed him at his feisty best or worst, depending on one’s point of view. In May 1844 anti-Catholic Nativist rioters in Philadelphia burned down two Catholic churches in several days of violence that cost a dozen lives. The Nativist leaders then announced their intention of coming to New York City to stage a large public demonstration that almost certainly would have precipitated anti-Catholic riots. Bishop Hughes placed armed guards around his churches and warned the mayor that “if a single Catholic church were burned in New York, the city would become a second Moscow.” John Hughes’ tough talk paid off. Under pressure from him and other civic leaders, the Nativists canceled their rally.

This stands in stark contrast to Cardinal Dolan’s Feb. 2012 interview on CBS This Morning, when speaking of the HHS Mandate he said:

I would say… The religious exemption is very choking and very tight. There’s a restriction there that we can’t live with. Simply in the best American principles of freedom of religion, simply give a much more dramatically wide latitude to that religious exemption and protection of conscience and religious freedom, and you’re not gonna hear from us any more.

So, give the Church that exemption and she will go mute on all of the other horrors this law is visiting on Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

“You’re not gonna hear from us anymore.” (see the video below)

No, Cardinal Dolan. Most respectfully, we need you and the other bishops to fight for us, to show the moxie of Archbishop Hughes. Want to fill the pews? Defend your flock! The nation has awakened to the trap laid by Obama, the imprisonment, the economic destitution coming under this law, the massive carnival of death on the other end of the life spectrum, and not just abortion. The nation is aroused, and my bishops are losing the forest for the tree.

There is not a shred of moral decency in this law. It is a eugenicist’s dream. It preys on the very weakest on both ends of the life spectrum and impoverishes everyone in-between.

In your interview two years ago, you indicated that the president made all sorts of promises to you and the bishops and then broke them all. Where is your outrage and disgust? You cannot deal with such men. You can only defeat them.

This president and his signature piece of legislation are tearing this nation apart. This is the golden moment for our bishops to stand and fight, with a nation desperate for leadership in that fight. This is our defining moment in the Catholic Church.

This is bigger than contraception and abortion.

This is the forest, not just one tree.

[Photo Credit: http://alchemystudio.com%5D

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Fox News reports that Cardinal Dolan, in an interview with David Gregory of Meet the Press, claims that the Church was “outmarketed” on the issue of gay marriage. From the report:

Asked why the church is losing the argument on gay marriage, Dolan responded, “Well, I think maybe we’ve been outmarketed sometimes. We’ve been caricatured as being anti-gay.”

He said the church supports “traditional marriage and is not “anti-anybody,” adding, “When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it’s a tough battle.”

Without knowing it, Cardinal Dolan has identified the core of the problem. Our leadership, with few exceptions, have adopted the superficiality of branding and marketing as a cheap substitute for the grittiness and tenacity of evangelization. Worse still, while we have abandoned evangelization and hewing to the hard line of the Gospel, it is the other side who have been engaged in the grit and tenacity of evangelization.

That’s right. The other side has been engaged in three decades of evangelization, while the majority of our priests and bishops have endeavored to be “non confrontational” and “nonjudgemental”.

The results speak for themselves.

While the Church has been entirely kicked out of the public schools, with students being disciplined for wearing shirts bearing the word, “Christmas”, the other side has succeeded in getting complete acceptance in schools with gay/straight alliances, comprehensive sex education, and now state laws permitting transexual and transgender students permission to use whatever bathrooms they please.

That’s not marketing. That’s evangelization.

Our leaders have stood by, largely mute, while we have been kicked out of the public square by a vocal minority who have moved in to occupy the ground formerly held by the Church. That all begs the question as to how such a coup could have happened.

In truth, more than 85% of married Catholics ignore the Magisterium when it comes to the right use of sex in marriage and the use of contraception.

58% 67% of Catholics approve of gay marriage.

To say that those numbers are the result of marketing is to suggest that the Gospel has roots shallower than grass. And on that matter, Pope Francis has spoken loud and clear.

Many priests reacted with scorn to the challenge by Francis that they and their bishops get out of the rectory and go out among the people in a bold new way. Francis sees clearly that the Church is dwindling in influence because the people don’t know who they are. They have lost sight of their great dignity while so very many of our clergy refuse to engage the culture for fear of alienating people or seeming judgmental. That timidity is often defended as the cardinal virtue of Prudence.

It isn’t.

It’s cowardice, pure and simple.

A great definition of Prudence from New Advent:

One of the four cardinal virtues… A fuller description and one more serviceable is this: an intellectual habit enabling us to see in any given juncture of human affairs what is virtuous and what is not, and how to come at the one and avoid the other. It is to be observed that prudence, whilst possessing in some sort an empire over all the moral virtues, itself aims to perfect not the will but the intellect in its practical decisions. Its function is to point out which course of action is to be taken in any round of concrete circumstances. It indicates which, here and now, is the golden mean wherein the essence of all virtue lies. It has nothing to do with directly willing the good it discerns. That is done by the particular moral virtue within whose province it falls. Prudence, therefore, has a directive capacity with regard to the other virtues. It lights the way and measures the arena for their exercise. The insight it confers makes one distinguish successfully between their mere semblance and their reality. It must preside over the eliciting of all acts proper to any one of them at least if they be taken in their formal sense. Thus, without prudence bravery becomes foolhardiness; mercy sinks into weakness, and temperance into fanaticism.

No mention in there of marketing. In fact, when gay marriage passed in New York State, Cardinal Dolan was quoted in the NY Daily News as saying:

Cardinal Dolan revealed for the first time that the Catholic Church was caught flat-footed on last year’s gay marriage vote in New York — insisting it was “burned” by Senate Republicans who claimed it didn’t have a prayer.

“We got burned last year when we were told the redefinition of marriage didn’t have much of a chance — and of course it did,” Dolan told the Daily News as he prepared for Monday’s annual Albany lobbying trip.

“Our Senate leaders, we highly appreciated them being with us all along,” he explained. “When they kind of assured us it didn’t have much of a chance — not that we let up, but we probably would have been much more vigorous and even more physically present if we knew there was a chance.”

Perhaps. But activism built on an unevangelized church is like building a house on a foundation of sand. The truth is that a solidly evangelized Church would be much more resistant to the evangelists from the culture of death. As Chesterton observed, the man who stands for nothing will fall for anything. And that’s what has happened. A people who have been abandoned by their shepherds are being torn apart by the wolves. Now a chief shepherd chalks that up to “marketing”.

It was earlier this year that Cardinal Dolan, as the head of the USCCB, failed to lead any opposition to the Boy Scouts of America opening the doors to gay members. The silence from the Church leadership was deafening. The closest we came to any clerical position was a priest who claimed to be a member of the national Catholic Committee on scouting who debated me on FaceBook.

The priest claimed that the Church could not oppose such a move, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church specifies that no youth be barred from youth ministry because of their sexual orientation. While that is true, BSA is not a church ministry, but a national institution. The Church also failed to take the long view of the situation.

In accepting openly gay youth who will become Eagle Scouts, how can the organization then reject the same Eagle Scout as an adult leader when he turns 18? Yet the Church, while rightly not barring gay youth from ministry, will reject that openly homosexual young man when he applies to the seminary, or for a teaching position in a Catholic school. So, the Boy Scouts were hung out to dry.

That wasn’t a “marketing” issue either.

The truth is that there are a fair number of gay clergy. There are an even greater number who do not stand with the Church on abortion, contraception, or the right use of sex in marriage. So, these issues never get preached or taught, or when they do, it is the Magisterium that gets pilloried.

It wasn’t a marketing issue that has led to the disintegration of Western Civilization.

In the wake of Vatican II our seminaries descended into chaos at every level, with some earning the moniker of “pink palace,” so notorious were they for their homosexual subcultures. Many of those seminarians were ordained. When Pope Benedict XVI was elected to the Papacy he undertook an Apostolic Visitation of our seminaries to address this problem, among others.

Today we see the fruits of that chaos from the 60′s and 70′s, even the 80′s. We see the fruits of nonevangelization on our part and the fruits of the other side’s evangelization.

They have a positive view of themselves, of their lifestyle, and of their contribution to society. They preach that vision in season and out of season with a singularity of focus that resembles the singularity and tenacity of St. Paul the Apostle. They push and push and push. Then they push some more. They go into the schools, and businesses, and the public square. They preach in churches and synagogues, and in civic associations. They boldly challenge any who stand in their way, and took singular aim at Cardinal O’Connor, even going so far as desecrating the Eucharist in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Perhaps we could learn a lesson in evangelization from the other side, clergy and laity alike.

We weren’t outmarketed.

We were outevangelized.

That’s our great failure and our great shame.

On this First Sunday of Advent we ought to take stock of these failures, do penance, and begin the long, gritty work of a new evangelization.

Commentary on the HHS part of the interview here.

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Kudos to the NY Times for a fairly balanced article. I didn’t think they had it in them. From the article:

SMYRNA, Ga. — When Pope Francis was elected in March, Bridget Kurt received a small prayer card with his picture at her church and put it up on her refrigerator at home, next to pictures of her friends and her favorite saints.

She is a regular attender of Mass, a longtime stalwart in her church’s anti-abortion movement and a believer that all the church’s doctrines are true and beautiful and should be obeyed. She loved the last two popes, and keeps a scrapbook with memorabilia from her road trip to Denver in 1993 to see Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day.

But Ms. Kurt recently took the Pope Francis prayer card down and threw it away. “It seems he’s focusing on bringing back the left that’s fallen away, but what about the conservatives?” said Ms. Kurt, a hospice community educator. “Even when it was discouraging working in pro-life, you always felt like Mother Teresa was on your side and the popes were encouraging you. Now I feel kind of thrown under the bus.”

So the very worst thing that could have happened to the Church seems to be underway. It’s not that we have a Jesuit pope reaching out to the lost liberal sheep. It’s that the faithful disciples of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI are bitterly resentful that Francis is going to stink the place up with the party animals who have been living large while we have been keeping the farm going.

It’s the Parable of the Prodigal Son all over again. Ms. Kurt is the faithful son who has stayed loyal to the father while the little brother was off squandering his half of the inheritance (demanded before the old man died!) on wine, women, and song. The father was out on the road awaiting junior’s return, and when it happened the faithful brother was enraged at the joyful welcome. That’s dangerous stuff.

It is impossible to presume upon exactly what Ms. Kurt actually believes, but that statement about “bringing back the left that’s fallen away,” speaks for itself.

Have we who have been faithful to John Paul and Benedict done so for the right or wrong reasons? Did we think all along that this was la cosa nostra (our thing)? Have we defined ourselves less by the Gospel, which calls all men and women to repentance and salvation, and more by self-righteous hubris? Why the indignation at calling the liberals home?

Why?

In her article, Goodstein mentions the websites with the private revelations (which sound like the quatrains of Nostradamus). This is a deadly, deadly business. Even if validated, Catholics are under no obligation to accept or abide private revelations. What we have here is a group of Catholics who first consult the Nostradamaesque prophecies and then twist and distort this pope’s words to fit the prophecy. It’s a Procrustean bed approach to the Vicar of Christ on earth. To say the least, it lacks charity.

Imagine, taking private revelations as an object of faith, revelations whose wording is as clear as milk, and then using them to demonize a pope; then resenting that pope for being the monster that we created in our own minds.

It’s as sick as it is sinful.

To Ms. Kurt’s anguished question about the fate of the conservatives, I have only this to offer:

We agreed to do a day’s work in the Lord’s vineyard for a day’s wages. If we have done so faithfully, what business is it of ours if others who have not worked through the heat of the day come in at the last minute and get paid the same wage? Jesus had a parable about that too. If we have contemplated what hell truly is, and what eternity in hell is all about, we should be rejoicing at the outreach to the lost. This pope has watered nothing down.

The question is just how stout our faith has been all along?

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Given the novelty of having a retired pope living in the Vatican, then Pope Benedict XVI (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) decided on a title for himself after he stepped down from the Chair of Peter. The usage of the title has become rather clunky, as people refer to the actions of Benedict as pope and apply the title “emeritus.”

For example, “When Pope Emeritus Benedict spoke at World Youth Day in Madrid…”

This is an inappropriate usage, and I think we Catholics need to clean it up a bit. Emeritus is the Latin past participle meaning, “having merited one’s discharge by service; having served one’s time.

Having served his time until frailty overcame him, Benedict chose for himself the title, “Pope Emeritus,” as a way of being referred to during the pontificate of his successor; a wise move to clear away any confusion as to who is in charge and where the lines of authority lay. When he spoke at World Youth Day, or acted during his pontificate, he was not a “Pope Emeritus,” and it is wrong to refer to him as such. He was the pope, just as John Paul II was the pope. Therefore, it seems that we should refer to Benedict as “Pope Benedict” when we speak of his actions during his papacy, and as “Pope Emeritus,” when we refer to him or his actions during Francis’ papacy.

Therefore, the title “Emeritus” is a transient one, meant only for the time period between his stepping down and his return to the Lord. “Pope” is not only proper to attach to him for events during his papacy, but altogether respectful, truthful, and historically accurate.

Thoughts?

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Much talk has been swirling of late regarding whether or not Pope Francis will add women to the College of Cardinals in an effort to give women a greater voice in the Church. It’s an old idea that has been mentioned during other papacies, but never acted upon. It is a course of action that if followed will amplify the din that already grips a Church that has never suffered from women who are either inaudible or not influential. To be certain, there are great women I would nominate, who would bring much to the College of Cardinals. There are many who would tear the Church asunder, setting back the role of women for decades to come.

Because the Church has reserved priestly ordination to men alone, many believe that women have lacked voice and influence in ways that directly affect the lives of women. In the wake of the feminist revolution, we do well to consider exactly what it is the feminist mothers have fought for, and what women have gained and lost over the past half-century. On the positive side, women have gained the ability to be as educated as men. From Dr. Michael Kirst at Stanford University:

According to data from the Department of Education on college degrees by gender, the US college degree gap favoring women started back in 1978, when for the first time ever, more women than men earned Associate’s degrees. Five years later in 1982, women earned more bachelor’s degrees than men for the first time, and women have increased their share of bachelor’s degrees in every year since then. In another five years by 1987, women earned the majority of master’s degrees for the first time. Finally, within another decade, more women than men earned doctor’s degrees by 2006, and female domination of college degrees at every level was complete. For the current graduating class of 2013, the Department of Education estimates that women will earn 61.6% of all associate’s degrees this year, 56.7% of all bachelor’s degrees, 59.9% of all master’s degrees, and 51.6% of all doctor’s degrees. Overall, 140 women will graduate with a college degree at some level this year for every 100 men. The article is from AEI Ideas and is summarized by Carnegie Foundation.. – See more at: http://collegepuzzle.stanford.edu/?p=3131#sthash.3DK2jRoT.dpuf

That women are doing so well is great cause for celebration. However, the feminist mothers have sold college women on a sexual revolution that has left more than 50% of young women riddled with sexually transmitted diseases, and the lie that tens of millions of abortions were the price to pay for those coveted diplomas when the contraception failed. Would that the lies and destruction ended on graduation day. However, with the american academy having become a boot camp for training in radical egalitarianism, an egalitarianism that sees the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as vilely and cruelly anachronistic, our young women bring into their young adult lives a perspective that is warped beyond belief.

So who would these women cardinals be? What would be the litmus test for their selection? Would the Pope choose women who already are on board with the magisterium? If so, there are countless thousands of women who would fill the role splendidly. If he is looking for women who are academics, a few names pop to mind readily. But such a selection begs the question; If the pope is going to select women who abide and reflect the role of women as articulated so beautifully by Pope John Paul II in Mulieris Dignitatem , then is he only seeking women who will reaffirm what has already been taught? How will that sit with the “progressive” women in the Church? What will that do to draw them in?

Or, perhaps the pope would appoint women from across the spectrum of ideology and degrees of fidelity to church teaching? But then, is that the role of the College of Cardinals? Would the pope be elevating the feminist war to a level it has no place occupying in the life of the Church? Would he do better to appoint a pontifical commission of women who represent a cross-section of thought and lifestyle if he wants to further develop the theology of women so well articulated by John Paul?

The women’s issues are as caustic and partisan as any, and radical feminism has utterly destroyed the family and western civilization. If the Pope selects these women as advisors it will do unimaginable harm. If he doesn’t select them, he will cement for them the perception that they, the ones who clamor most for a voice in the church, have none.

Before pushing ahead with a need to develop a theology of women, we should recall that Francis has inherited a wealth of such teaching from his predecessors. Most who believe that the Church has ignored the issue are in fact ignorant of how much the Church, especially in the twentieth century, has addressed the issue. When they do hear it, the message is not to the liking of many, hence the need for a new, or relevant teaching.

Then there is the untidy matter of reserving priestly ordination to men alone, a teaching that John Paul nailed shut in his Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:

4. Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal Tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the Magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force.

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

So, claiming that people doubted the ordinary magisterium (which is enough to end debate), John Paul invoked the extraordinary magisterium, and elevated the issue as a matter of defined teaching.

Case closed.

Until feminist cardinals declare otherwise.

Much of the work of the College of Cardinals involves matters of governing priests and bishops. Setting women in authority over the bishops could very well open a back door to matters of episcopal authority and governance, blurring lines of authority and the distinct roles of men and women in the church.

It’s a bad idea.

In my writing and pro-life work, I have met hundreds of women who would make excellent papal advisors, women who do not make the mistake of conflating equal roles with equal dignity. They wouldn’t want to be cardinals, and would rebuke such an idea. If Francis wants to alienate the women on the left, he will do so by choosing only women from the orthodox right.

If Francis wants to lose the orthodox right, all he needs to do is elevate radical feminism by elevating women on the left.

If he wants all-out-war, elevate both.

If priestly ordination is reserved to men alone, and if this is part of God’s design, then the process of selecting the new Bishop of Rome should be left to the apostolic successors in the College of Cardinals. Similarly, the governance of priests and bishops needs to be reserved to the apostolic successors alone.

We don’t need to fight the sexual revolution any more than we already have. We need to begin cleaning up the horrific mess in the scores of millions of broken lives from its battles. We need healing, not the opening of another front in the war.

UPDATE: Elizabeth Scalia made the following comment on the FB thread for this blog…

My biggest concern about this — well, I have a couple — although in theory there is nothing to prevent this, my concerns are twofold: 1) it would be awful beyond words if the next papal conclave became all about the women, and the women’s questions, and is it enough for women to be cardinals and what about the women, and the women, and the women, and the women, and it would take emphasis off of Christ, Peter, the Holy Spirit and so forth and place it all upon the idol of feminism. And of course, in terms of media, that is precisely what will happen. 2) I fear that all of the myriad ways that women are powerful witnesses and servants — and have been FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE CHURCH — will become minimized and deemphasized because the female cardinalate will be the be-all-end-all for too many. “Oh, Mother Antonia? Who is she? Not a Cardinal? Doesn’t have a PhD? Pheh. What could she possibly say to us? That would be a crime.

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It is axiomatic in physics that opposite charges attract one another and like charges repel. If a human analog were in operation, then one would expect the extreme left wing and the extreme right wing in the Church to be hopelessly in love. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the disdain approaches rabid levels between the two. As is so often the case, the laws of nature are very much in force, though the appearance may suggest otherwise.

It isn’t that the extreme left and extreme right of the Catholic Church are different. It is the case that they are exactly alike. They are characterized by deep suspicion, hostility, anger, resentment, paranoia, disrespect for authority unless it reflects the image they behold in the mirror, arrogant usurpation of papal authority and prerogative, and a closed-mindedness that would make a jihadi proud.

It seems that the underlying spiritual and psychological pathology is exactly the same and that the outward manifestation is simply a preferred script: hyper-liberal or hyper-conservative— both of which are anarchy in drag.

Pride on parade.

Enter Pope Francis, who succeeds a Pope Benedict reviled on the left and even in the center for his reaching out to the SSPX, allowing priests to say mass in latin without seeking permission, and creating personal prelatures for Anglicans swimming the Tiber. For many on the extreme right, not even that was enough. Now comes the Jesuit pope from impoverished South America, giving voice to the social justice issues also espoused by Pope John Paul II, who moved the South-American clergy away from the Marxist liberation theology to a more centrist approach, condemning the excesses of capitalism and socialism in the process. Where John Paul was ignored on this, Francis has indicated that he will not be.

Many in the middle to right-of-center were so enthused by John Paul’s head-on clash with the culture of death that they tolerated his admonitions regarding social justice issues championed by the left. When Francis said that issues of homosexuality, abortion, fornication, etc… need not be mentioned all the time, pro-lifers became apoplectic. Those further to the right became near suicidal, and sales of Prozac jumped 30%.

When the pope then declared in his interview with the atheist, Scalfari, that youth unemployment and the loneliness of the elderly were the biggest issues facing the Church today, Americans who are right-of-center were stunned, then outraged, then disgusted. He obviously doesn’t get the issues here in the Northern Hemisphere, they say. There may be some truth in that.

However, the virulence of the reaction to Francis indicates what I have long maintained; The plight of the Church below the equator remains largely beyond the care or concern of most in the decadent north. So, how does one discern this pope’s perspective? Could it be that there is an ascending order of priorities, and that Francis has tapped into something causal that we cannot see here in America? Is there an underlying pathology that gives rise to the culture of death, a pathology we may not have considered before? That so many here on the right would respond so vehemently to the pope’s prism of social justice ought to be chilling upon reflection.

Perhaps the scriptures speak to these questions. Isaiah 58 comes to mind:

1 Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins.

2 They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God.

3 “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers.

4 Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high!

5 Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;

7 Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.

8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;

10 If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday;

11 Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.

12 The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; “Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you, “Restorer of ruined homesteads.”

13 If you hold back your foot on the sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the sabbath a delight, and the LORD’S holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice–

14 Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

This pope is a dangerous man, moreso than John Paul II. Whereas John Paul emerged from behind the Iron Curtain and cheered us with his efforts to bring down communism and his work at the restoration of traditional morality, Francis emerges from a different sort of tyranny. He brings with him a different set of challenges. For those of us who are married, pro-life, anti-culture of death, he is going to rattle our cage. What we are doing is not enough if it doesn’t involve the corporal works of mercy.

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Enter the Rabbi.

Jesus spoke often of the corporal works of mercy, and tells us in Matthew 25 that we will be judged according to how well we saw Him in the least of our brothers. He tells us through John the Apostle that we cannot love the God whom we cannot see if we do not love the brother whom we can see.

He also assured His Apostles that He would send the Holy Spirit, who would lead THEM to all truth. It is vital to check who Jesus’ audience was when He spoke. It was at the Ascension that He gave the Apostles the power to forgive and to bind sin. It was at that same moment when He assured them of the Holy Spirit leading them to all truth. Now the question is whether we believe that the Holy Spirit guided the election of Francis.

That is a very big question indeed. I believe that the Holy Spirit blew through that conclave in a mighty way.

In denouncing Francis, we risk committing idolatry by placing such a premium on the portion of the Gospel we excel at following that we are willing to disparage the one whom Jesus has chosen as His Vicar on earth. Pride has created more spiritual idolators, worshipers of their own predilections, than the IRS and golf combined have created liars.

In dangerous and uncertain times we do especially well to avoid the pride so manifest on the extreme wings of the Church and allow ourselves to be led to all truth through the mechanism established by God Himself. The Summae are not the Summit.

I have no doubt that Francis will take us even higher, if we have the courage and humility to follow.

John Michael Talbot wrote a beautiful and powerful adaptation of Is. 58/Matt 25

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This post needs to be read within the context of two preceding posts:

Pope Francis: Rupture vs. Change

Pope Francis: Ongoing Fallout (Part I)

Building on what has been said in the first two posts, we continue with the fallout from the pope’s interview with atheist publisher Eugenio Scalfari.

If the pope’s refusal to take the bait on preaching specific moral norms didn’t make many tear their hair out in anger, then this little nugget has caused a near-revolt in certain quarters:

Pope Francis told me: “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

No mention of war, hunger, divorce, abortion, cohabitation, fornication, the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, gay marriage, etc… Now, if this isn’t the definition of the shallow, liberal, social worker, anti-magisterial Jesuit priest, what is? Right?!

Wrong!

Once again, Francis nails it, and consider for a moment that this blog for the past four years has not dealt with youth unemployment or the loneliness of the elderly. I have consecrated my doctorate to advancing the Culture of Life as articulated by Pope John Paul II. How then to reconcile this blog, my ministry, and my agreement with Pope Francis? The answer lies in the Broken Windows Theory utilized by New York’s former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani.

Simply stated, if a community tolerates broken windows and graffiti it will soon become afflicted with all manner of serious crimes. What we communicate by permitting defacing the facade of that which should be beautiful and noble is that we will tolerate assaults on all that is beautiful and noble within. Prosecuting and not tolerating the seemingly lesser crimes serves to prevent far more corrosive actions from ever occurring. Giuliani proved it worked, and converted one of the most dangerous and blighted cities in the world into one of the safest and cleanest cities in the world.

It is much the same with Francis’ broken windows. When through neglect we assault the beauty of our elderly, tearing at the great dignity that is their due, when we ignore the needs of our young, we break the windows of the House of God, allowing the winds of despair to blow through freely, and despair is what drives all of the issues this blog tackles which Francis didn’t mention. Despair blows in the rot that disintegrates the Church from within.

He is driving at root causes, and again, I invoke the seven years (’83-’90) in the 1980′s that I spent working at Covenant House in Times Square. I saw more prostitution among children, more drug addiction, more violence, more abortion, more despair than I really care to remember. When children feel that they have no hope for their future, no means of employment, no loving and mentoring adults in their lives, they become easy prey. And before Covenant House, I worked a weekend job (’80-’83) at a nursing home on Staten Island as an orderly, bathing, feeding, dressing, and changing the diapers of old men. Most of our nursing homes are great dumping grounds, warehouses for the elderly cast aside in their age and infirmity with no visitors, save an infrequent hour here and there from their many children and grandchildren.

One could argue rightly that this or that particular child rebelled against good parents, or this or that old person in the nursing home alienated their children through cruel and thoughtless parenting, and I’ve seen plenty of that to know that it’s true. However, Francis is pointing to phenomena that have become universal. They are phenomena perpetuated and tolerated by those of us who occupy that middle ground between youth and old age. His clarion call echoes that of Jesus in Matthew 25 in the Last Judgement:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous 16 will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Note that Jesus doesn’t mention adultery, fornication, abortion, etc. Perhaps neglect of the corporal works of mercy leads to all the rest.

Perhaps Jesus and Francis are both getting at a spiritual version of broken windows. We can more easily tolerate war and its deprivations when the plight of the elderly, the homeless, the unemployed, the hopeless have become part of the normal background of our lives. If this sounds like some liberal ’70′s screed, it isn’t. The anger at this pope reveals the truly revolutionary effect Francis is having on the Church here in North America.

We have labored for over forty years under a false dichotomy of social justice and the corporal works of mercy. The anarchists (they really aren’t liberal) within the Church got caught up in Marxist and socialist theory and brought that into their view of ecclesiology. They took up several great social justice causes, such as workers’ rights (which Pope Leo XIII did as well), and women’s rights, and succeeded in contaminating them with the radioactive fallout of their hostility toward the Magisterium. Traditionalists took up the banner of the life issues (which are also social justice issues). Thus, social justice was artificially divided and the issues used as pawns in a proxy war between the traditionalists and the anarchists, with more moderate people of good will caught in the crossfire.

However, as Jesus points out in the criteria by which He will judge us, those issues had better be our issues while we have life and breath. If they aren’t our issues in life, they most certainly will be for eternity. Therefore, we on the orthodox side of the aisle need to reclaim those issues we have let slip away from us in the wake of Vatican II. That will necessitate a reintegration and recalibration of our own worldview and ecclesiastical worldview. This is the direction Francis has been leading in. At first, it will seem strange, as though seeing the world from within the opposition’s encampment, and that would be an accurate assessment. We are being led into the opposition’s encampment precisely because we need to heal and unify the Church, and because the opposition has nurtured that which we let slip away.

Imagine, common ground.

If we resist Francis every step of the way, then we usurp that role, that authority, that charism that belongs to Peter. If Francis says we don’t need to discuss matters of abortion, etc. all the time, he is right. I and others spend a great deal of time on these issues professionally because someone has to. That doesn’t leave too much time for the other great issues of the day, and I leave those issues to people who have been called to that work. (Also, the absolute number of unemployed young and cast-aside elderly eclipses the number of abortions, etc in dramatic fashion). However, in my own time I do make sure that I engage in all of those other issues championed on the left. They were very much the center of my life as a young man, and remain near to my heart. We can only do so much in a day, and each of us is called to specific tasks. This is true.

However, we need to stop throwing rocks at the pope who points out the Church’s broken windows.

For the sake of our own souls, we need to stop it now.

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Casting a Net Irrawaddy

The blows continue raining down on Francis over his interview with an atheist, and with an intense scorn that is simply breathtaking. This may take a few posts to cover in its entirety, but here goes…

In my last post I defended Francis:

He. Is. Peter.

This pope has barely begun to cast his net and he’s being derided over his every move. Take for example how he addressed questions pertaining to the need for adherence to universal moral norms:

I repeat it here. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.

and…

There is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor,Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good.

and…

I repeat it here. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them.

While this is hardly the stuff of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, whose mighty intellects rampaged across the Catholic landscape for more than three decades, this is a wily pastor who is skillful at the art of evangelization. His interviewer was laying traps, looking for the canned theological answer to destroy the pope on his own ground. Instead, the Holy Father laid a scriptural trap of his own. As Paul tells us in Romans 2:

All who sin outside the law will also perish without reference to it, and all who sin under the law will be judged in accordance with it.

For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified.

For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law.

They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend themon the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus.

But why not just launch into an eloquent papal missive? One word:

Evangelization.

Evangelizing is not the same as catechizing, not one bit. Evangelizing requires building a relationship characterized by mutual respect and trust. Telling the sinner that he is a filthy mess might be clinically accurate, but the approach leaves much to be desired. Evangelization is most effective when we lead people to see the hand of God already at work within them, the law of God already writ large on their hearts, hearts that often are very responsive at an intuitive level to the demands of charity. They are, however, often wounded deeply.

One day in spiritual direction Fr. Benedict Groeschel and I were discussing atheists and he offered me the following. “I’ve never met an atheist that didn’t suffer a major wound with his father.” That rang true from my experience as well. So here is this man, this atheist in Rome, sitting with the Holy Father. What most impressed him? From the Washington Post:

In what is quickly becoming classic Pope Francis, the back story of the interview was dramatically simple. The leader of the largest church in the world apparently picked up the phone and called Scalfari, founder of La Repubblica, who had requested an interview.

“Why so surprised?” the pope asked Scalfari (after being patched through by a shaky secretary at the newspaper). “You wrote me a letter asking to meet me in person. I had the same wish, so I’m calling to fix an appointment. Let me look at my diary: I can’t do Wednesday, nor Monday; would Tuesday suit you?”

After they set the time, Scalfari said he wasn’t sure how to end the call and asked for an embrace by phone. “Of course, a hug from me too,” the pope told him. “Then we will do it in person, goodbye.”

That’s the stuff of evangelization. The simple, humble, loving gesture that leaves the wounded open to receiving love from the evangelist, and along with that love, the message of their true worth, their real dignity. Yes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pius XII and Paul VI all spoke powerfully about human dignity, but Francis whispers that message softly, maintaining continuity with all who have gone before on the throne of Peter.

We won’t hear him clearly if we don’t stop this incessant carping about his style. He isn’t John Paul or Benedict, and he never will be. They explicated the issues, but we must translate them into a language that those in darkness can readily understand. We must understand that the atheist cannot digest red theological meat, and must be developed over time. And here is the real genius of the interview.

Francis is showing us how to evangelize the atheists and agnostics in this interview with this one man, without using him as a foil. In that moment, sitting with that man, the Holy Father answered the interviewer’s questions which arise from his life experiences. He was in that moment, with that man as though that man were the only one in the world. In so doing, Francis was the Vicar of Christ on Earth, Christ truly present to an old man scarred by war and its aftermath. An old man who melted when the Pope hugged him over the phone. A hug from not just any father, but the Holy Father.

This is the face of the New Evangelization.

In Part II, are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old really the greatest evils today? Click here.

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Pope Francis:Rupture vs. Change

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“That’s not what he really meant to say…”

These are increasingly common words spoken on behalf of Pope Francis.

Increasingly, Catholic bloggers are having to compile montages of quotes to show the strain of orthodox continuity in the Pope’s interviews. For many traditionalists, it is the frightful spectre of a Jesuit pope ascending the throne of Peter just in time to undo all of the damage control and growth wrought by John Paul and Benedict in the wake of Vatican II. Now, many fear, we stand to lose all that has been set aright. In this, many speak openly and disparigingly of the new pope, contempt dripping in a manner not unlike the leftists in their assessment of John Paul and Benedict.

Right or left, orthodox or progressive, it is all a manifestation of the same underlying spiritual illness…

Pride.

Are we only to submit to papal authority when the mood, or mode suits us? Do we place stylistic predilection over our duty to respect and obedience to legitimate episcopal and papal authority? Is our faith on the orthodox side of the aisle so fragile that we get a case of the vapors at the least departure from our preferred norm? To be certain, this pope is dangerous. His style is that of…

Jesus.

He reaches out to sinners and dines with them.

He gives interviews to atheists.

He eschews the pomp and splendor that is his due for something very, very different.

He accords women unusual influence for his day.

He has reached beyond the broad parameters carved out by John Paul II, and has been warning us that great change is on the way.

In all of this, we must never, ever, EVER lose sight of this most central reality:

He. Is. Peter.

Unless the day comes where he breaks with defined teaching, he will have my respect and obedience, and I will keep any transient dyspeptic moments to myself.

Yes, there is great potential for misunderstanding when he speaks off the cuff, but ultimately, little room for harm. Those whose faith is well-informed and rock-solid cannot be rattled.

Those who ridiculed John Paul and Benedict may hear him when the truth is spoken in a different way. At worst, they will simply look for any justification to persist in their unbelief.

Those who are weak will need us to be Francis’ defenders, to explicate his teaching and show its continuity with all that has gone before. It is the Parable of the Sower.

Change is coming with this pope, much needed change. He comes from those people below the equator who have been largely invisible to us in the faithless north. He speaks for them, and from their experience of the Church. He was elected to effect the changes that Benedict saw as necessary, but was too infirm to effect.

The coin of the realm in all of this will be faith and obedience, especially from those of us who revere John Paul and Benedict, who count ourselves the orthodox backbone of the Church. This is no time for that backbone to become arthritic.

Francis is going to need every one of us.

I’m with Peter.

UPDATE: Ongoing Fallout from the interview analyzed here in Part I.

Read Part II here.

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The Problem with Pope Francis

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The people’s pope has been making waves ever since he rode back to his hotel on the bus and tried to pay his bill. False modesty? A swipe at those who came before him in office? Refreshing humility? Inverted pride? There have certainly been no shortage of critics, nor fawning, uber-liberal commenters who have weighed in on the new pontiff.

Are we seeing a shift in teaching, or perhaps a different set of priorities from below the equator? Watching Francis, it has become clear that the Jesuit sitting on the Chair of Peter has jolted the exposed fault lines in the post-Vatican II church. Specifically, by claiming that we don’t need to discuss the issues of sex, abortion, and homosexuality all the time, the pope has carved out awareness of other equally pressing issues, such as the grinding poverty that characterizes life below the equator that affects the world from whence he comes.

In the process, he has accentuated the differences between orthodox Catholics and the liberal/anarchic wing of the church above the equator. The liberal/anarchic wing adopted the issues surrounding global poverty, hunger, homelessness, etc. Not surprisingly, these are the issues championed by the socialist left, which also promotes radical feminism, abortion on demand, gay marriage, and sexual licentiousness: issues near and dear to left-leaning Catholics.

The orthodox tend toward traditional families, pro-life ethics, and a conservative political agenda. If there is a problem with the orthodox, it is that we have allowed concern for the poor to become “their” issue, and not “ours”. The criteria that will be used in our judgement were outlined by Jesus in Matthew 25. The corporal works of mercy are not options.

The truth is that our Catholicism is somewhat bifurcated in the Northern Hemisphere. Essential elements and obligations of the faith have been politicized.

While this bifurcation is very real, the issues of sex, family, marriage, and abortion have a far greater catalytic power at tearing down Weatern Civilization than the issue of grinding poverty, which was omnipresent throughout Western Civilization’s rise. It’s difficult to adress the issues of poverty in a culture where raging hedonism is the new civic virtue.

If there was one nuanced perspective missing in the Pope’s highly nuanced and controversial interview, it is that.

So, when Francis demonstrates a humility whereby he eschews the trappings of office, when he says that we need to expand our focus, he offers us the opportunity to reflect beyond the very real issues that we champion within orthodoxy here in the north. He also offers us the opportunity to reclaim something that has been lost along the way.

However, when we are addicted to tearing our brothers and sisters apart in the womb, using our brothers and sisters as objects for pleasure, and spitting on the natural order created by God, it’s a tough sell to get people behind an authentic vision of being our brother’s keeper.

Perhaps by speaking from within the issues coopted as issues by the left, maybe… just maybe… this pope may be able to break through. Let’s hope so, and let’s lift Francis up in prayer as he tries.

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Having spent yesterday reading the secular news accounts of Pope Francis’ recent comments about abortion and homosexuality, and having also read reports from the uber-right, it is distressing to see that people either can’t read or can’t think. This Pope is being undermined left and right.

Literally.

For the rest of us, we can read the Holy Father’s interview here.

According to the illiterati, the Holy Father doesn’t think abortion and homosexuality are worthy of much time and attention, and besides, as he has already said, who is he to judge? For the left, this distortion serves the purpose of eliminating the only significant barrier to the homosexualist and abortion agendas: the Roman Catholic Church. For those to the right of Mussolini, it serves to discredit “the Jesuit”.

In context, here are the Pope’s remarks, begining with the interviewr’s question which frames the response:

I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?

“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

“This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

 “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

Nothing in that quote contradicts the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s own document, Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, promulgated under Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

The Pope is also quite correct in saying that we must first address the wounds of people before hammering away at many of the moral issues, and here is where things get thorny.

Doctrinally, dogmatically, the Pope is on solid ground, a groundwork laid by the giants who came before him, from Pius XI to Benedict XVI. He does not need to reformulate what has been articulated so clearly and beautifully. Francis has been sent to show us how to minister to a broken humanity in a way that may well be alien to those whose only approach is moralizing. It begins with the language he employs regarding accompanying the sinner along the road of his life.

That means accepting the person where they are at and then walking the road with them. It means eating and drinking with those whose behaviors are profoundly disturbing to us. Working with street kids for seven years at Covenant House in the 1980′s was a formative experience for me, especially when so many had worked in prostitution. What moved the kids the most was the fact that we were the first people, for many of them, who were nonjudgmental and simply loved them where they were at.

I get where Francis is going with the Church. If John Paul II and Benedict charted the course, Francis is our guide.

Encyclicals are neat, crisp, and clean. Employing their contents with love and not bludgeoning people into submission with them will be the hallmark of this papacy. It is work fraught with the perils of which the Pope speaks when he talks of confessors being too lax or too rigid.

The same goes for the laity.

To those on the right who fear that the situational ethics that tore the Church apart Post-Vtican II has now made its way to the chair of Peter, they need to breathe deeply and accept authentic pastoral direction from the chief shepherd. After all, the Pope is right, we can’t only and always talk of homosexuality, abortion, and contraception. We must address the woundedness that gives rise to these ills.

We in the pro-life movement have prayed for a cure at the root of it all.

Will we now stop our ears and shout down the answer to those prayers?

Will we?

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SO001396

When tsunamis make landfall they can be rebuffed by mighty cliffs of granite, or accommodated by soft sandy beaches which allow the mighty waves to strip them, leaving them disfigured and littered with the tsunami’s wasteful debris and shattered bodies when the floodwaters retreat back into the abyss from whence they came. So it seems that the Church in America, once a towering giant, has become increasingly accommodating to the Culture of Death as it washes over her with impunity.

The examples over the past year alone abound. Revelations in last week’s New York Times that the Archdiocese of New York has been paying for union employees’ contraception and abortion benefits, “under protest,” are just the latest in a string of surrenders.

In this latest disaster, the Archdiocese claims that there is a difference between fighting the HHS Mandate and the union contracts inherited when they got into the latest arrangement. Read the Archdiocese’s refutation here.

Indeed, there is a difference between an illegally imposed government mandate to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion, and willingly staying in the healthcare field where the powerful union drives such services being mandated in the insurance plans.

To what degree is the Archdiocese compelled in all of this? From their statement it is clear that they feel the greater need to remain in the healthcare field because there is a proportionally greater good to be done. The larger moral question is how much good done by the archdiocese washes the blood of a single aborted baby from the diocesen hands that paid for the abortion? How is this argument different from the woman who feels the pressure from family to abort? Or the woman who pervceives the great good that will not be accomplished in her life if the baby prevents her from getting a college education? Is the emotional plight of the abortion-minded woman under duress not more compelling? Yet she incurs automatic excommunication if she knows the penalty. What of those in diocesan offices who maintain the involvement with the unions and write the checks?

Undoubtedly great arguments can be made for all of the good that would not be done if we abandoned the field, but it’s still a proportionalist argument being deployed against moral absolutes. Unfortunately, our opponents have been handed a PR win on this one.

In other matters, the silence of the bishops in the run-up to the scheduled vote in February regarding admitting gay scouts in BSA was deafening. When BSA rescheduled the vote, we had a second chance to speak out against this disastrous move, but neither the bishops, nor the Catholic Commmittee on Scouting condemned it.

A year ago when New York State voted to adopt gay marriage Cardinal Dolan rued that he was caught flat-footed. What can be the excuse of the USCCB on the Boy Scouts? My observations on what is so wrong with that move here.

Through it all, we have witnessed Cardinal Dolan welcoming Vice President Biden to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, going out of his way to assure that he does not declare Governor Cuomo, who is seeking the liberalization of New York’s abortion laws, a Catholic in bad standing. Which means that he is regarded publicly as a Catholic in good standing; abortion and gay marriage notwithstanding.

Are we surrendering on all of these issues? We welcome the “Catholic” politicians with open arms who are at the same time accelerating the implementation of a diabolical agenda.

In this Year of Faith, as our churches continue to empty, an unsolicited thought for our leaders. If fundamental moral truths and goods are not worth fighting for, then don’t be surprised when many find that there isn’t much worth staying for.

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torch[1]

A review of the Popes in the twentieth century find them fighting a fierce battle against the forces of secularism, atheism, and malevolance that have consumed Western Civilization. Collectively these forces, referred to as “Modernity,” are merely contemporary expressions of the evils that have collapsed empires and civilizations for thousands of years. The election of our new Holy Father, Francis, must be evaluated in light of the twentieth century popes, beginning with Pius XI.

Just a few months after the Lambeth Conference of 1930, where the Anglicans opened the door to contraception, Pope Pius XI issued Casti Connubii, the great defense of marriage that resonates especially today in the United States:

Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, Health and Apostolic Benediction.

How great is the dignity of chaste wedlock, Venerable Brethren, may be judged best from this that Christ Our Lord, Son of the Eternal Father, having assumed the nature of fallen man, not only, with His loving desire of compassing the redemption of our race, ordained it in an especial manner as the principle and foundation of domestic society and therefore of all human intercourse, but also raised it to the rank of a truly and great sacrament of the New Law, restored it to the original purity of its divine institution, and accordingly entrusted all its discipline and care to His spouse the Church.

5. And to begin with that same Encyclical, which is wholly concerned in vindicating the divine institution of matrimony, its sacramental dignity, and its perpetual stability, let it be repeated as an immutable and inviolable fundamental doctrine that matrimony was not instituted or restored by man but by God; not by man were the laws made to strengthen and confirm and elevate it but by God, the Author of nature, and by Christ Our Lord by Whom nature was redeemed, and hence these laws cannot be subject to any human decrees or to any contrary pact even of the spouses themselves. This is the doctrine of Holy Scripture;[2] this is the constant tradition of the Universal Church; this the solemn definition of the sacred Council of Trent, which declares and establishes from the words of Holy Writ itself that God is the Author of the perpetual stability of the marriage bond, its unity and its firmness.[3]

Pius XI’s successor, Pius XII would famously condemn Nazism and help orchestrate the rescue of Jews, going on to win the universal praise of Europe’s Jews both during and immediately after World War II. The greatness of the man and his actions would only be rivaled by the magnitude of the calumny against him a generation later by a socialist playwright.

Pius XII responded more in action than by Encyclical, and 80% of the priests and religious of eastern Europe paid with their lives for the response of the Church through the sheltering of Jews.

Pope John XXIII set the Church on the course toward engaging the world in a new and fresh manner by calling for the Second Vatican Council. Himself a veteran of the First World War, as stretcher bearer and chaplain, John served Pius XII as Cardinal during the Second World War, orchestrating the rescue of Jews. During his papacy, as reported by Wiki:

In 1965, the Catholic Herald quoted Pope John as saying:

We are conscious today that many, many centuries of blindness have cloaked our eyes so that we can no longer see the beauty of Thy chosen people nor recognise in their faces the features of our privileged brethren. We realize that the mark of Cain stands upon our foreheads. Across the centuries our brother Abel has lain in blood which we drew, or shed tears we caused by forgetting Thy love. Forgive us for the curse we falsely attached to their name as Jews. Forgive us for crucifying Thee a second time in their flesh. For we know what we did.”[6]

In the time between the Lambeth Conference of 1930, and 1968, the year it seemed the world was teetering on the brink of anarchy, the world had seen WWII, the Holocaust, Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Wars to end colonialism around the world, a rash of assasinations, the advent of the sexual revolution, Margaret Sanger’s Negro Project, the eugenic sterilizations of scores of thousands of humans, the development of the birth control pill, and the complete abandonment of the unified condemnation of contraception by all of Christendom except for the Catholic Church.

In that year of 1968, Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed 2,000 years of Catholic Christian teaching on the right use of sex in marriage, and which underscored Casti Connubii. Five years later the United States would adopt legalized abortion, going on to slaughter 56 million babies, adding to the 1.8 Billion abortions worldwide since 1960.

In that time, a little-known bishop from behind the Iron Curtain would write an even less well-known book, Love and Responsibility. He would follow Paul VI as John Paul II, who would take on radical feminism, communism, capitalism, and the sexual revolution in the most intellectually and theologically proliferative pontificates of all time.

Along the way, the formality of the Papacy began to change. John XXIII dropped the regal “we” when visting youth in institutions, using the more personal, “I”. The Second Vatican Council changed a great deal, and Paul VI ended the practice of papal coronations. John Paul II eschewed a great deal of formality and reveled in the presence of youth.

Pope Benedict XVI eliminated the papal tiarra from the papal coat of arms, a practice maintained by Pope Francis, who has also eschewed the use of the papal apartment, wearing of the Apostolic Stole during his first appearance, and has adopted a host of other less formal and common touches.

While the papacy has undergone something of an informal transformation in recent decades, the responses of the popes have only grown firmer and more frequent in the face of Europe’s and America’s civilizational collapse. Benedict made an outreach to Europe the thrust of his papacy, an attempt to convert the cradle of Christianity from the embrace of ‘modernity’ and return her to her former dignity and glory.

He was roundly rebuffed, and so the torch has been passed to the brown peoples of the Southern Hemisphere where the Church is alive and growing, where nations battle against United States and European demands for legalization of abortion, gay marriage and contraception as prerequisites for financial aid.

From this hemisphere comes a pope who rode the bus to work, eschewed a palace in favor of a small apartment, and who cooked his own meals. He was the bishop of an impoverished people and sees the world somewhat differently than those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. He will not bend to us, but bend us to his vision of the world as seen through the eyes of a shepherd whose people’s plight has been largely unseen by America and Europe.

Pope Francis has dealt with the evil of poverty and the evil of a United States and Europe who have tried to leverage his people’s poverty by coupling the abandonment of the faith as a prerequisite for foreign aid. There will be many who find his approach difficult to bear. Wounded pride will be the leaven of that difficulty.

Those in the media and on the left who are praising his simplicity will be disappointed, bitterly so, when that does not translate into an embrace of a “liberal” agenda. This Pope, like his predecessors, begins from where his predecessors have left off. It is too early to say where he will place his emphasis, but I suspect that the artificial dichotomy between the life issues championed by the orthodox wing of the Church, and the social justice issues championed by the anarchist wing, may well be reunited by a Pope uniquely positioned to do so.

We in the north have largely abandoned the faith. It will be interesting to see how the south leads now that the light of faith and universal leadership has been handed to them.

Time will tell.

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