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Posts Tagged ‘Pope Francis’

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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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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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“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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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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