Apparently one of the Francis Effects is “apertura”, “an opening up … openness”.
I have suggested elsewhere on this blog, and not too long ago, that Pope Francis could be the one to show TLC to the traditional side. Benedict XVI was the obvious one to do so, but, after Summorum Pontificum - which was HUGE – he didn’t do too much more.
Could Francis be the one to say or be at a Pontifical Mass? I somewhat facetiously suggested that in my interview with Amerika. Somewhat facetiously, but not entirely. Could Francis be the unexpected one to reconcile the SSPX? That’s a long shot. It’s a loooooong shot, as a matter of fact, given what we have seen over the last few months. Still, I won’t denounce yet what I have written.
Now I read this.
Marco Tosatti, who has been doing yeoman’s work of late, has this at La Stampa:
Lefebvrians: “Rome doesn’t plan on imposing a capitulation”
In an interview with authoritative French weekly magazine Famille Chrétienne, the Secretary of Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Guido Pozzo, discussed the state of relations between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X following Mgr. Fellay’s recent meeting with the Prefect of the Doctrine for the Faith. From the interview, it would seem that the Holy See does not intend to put any pressure on Mgr. Lefebvre’s followers but would like an agreement to be reached, although the timeframe for this is uncertain. [Some time between the opening of the 3rd and 4th Seals, perhaps.] What we are given to understand here, is that Rome intends to show greater flexibility on any aspect that does not regard doctrine. [But... isn't that pretty much what the SSPX are concerned about? The excommunications were lifted, so that's not a problem. They are all suspended a divinis because they have received ordination illicitly and do not submit to ecclesiastical authority.]
In 2009 Benedict XVI decided to revoke the excommunication of Lefebvrian bishops who had been illicitly ordained by Mgr. Lefebvre in 1988. This was a first and essential step toward the resumption of a constructive dialogue. Just a first step, however, because there were still some big doctrinal questions which needed to be addressed. The Ecclesia Dei Commission which has close links with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is the main instrument in this dialogue process. [And the dialogue is about doctrine.]
Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview is that which addressed the sticking points in said dialogue. Mgr. Pozzo underlined that “any reservations or positions the Society of St. Pius X may have regarding aspects which are not related to faith but to pastoral questions [Would that include illicit witnessing of marriages, without faculties? Receiving confessions without faculties?] or the prudential teaching of the Magisterium do not necessarily need to withdrawn or relinquished.” [Could this be going the way that I have always suggested? I have always said that matters of religious liberty were really hard questions, that the Vatican Council's documents raised quite a few questions, and that there weren't easy answers. SSPXers should have the right to raise legitimate questions.] Here Rome seems to be showing an attempt to alter positions expressed in the past: According to Mgr. Pozzo, the fraternity’s reservations are linked to “aspects of pastoral care or the prudential teaching of the Magisterium.” The monsignor’s statement suggests that since these criticisms and reservations are no longer labelled as “doctrinal” the Lefebvrians could legitimately continue to express them. [!]
This approach is expressed more clearly in the following part of the interview: “The Holy See does not wish to impose a capitulation on the SSPX. [!] On the contrary, it invites the fraternity to stand beside it within the same framework of doctrinal principles that is necessary in guaranteeing the same adhesion to the faith and Catholic doctrine on the Magisterium and the Tradition. ["framework of doctrinal principles"... The Creed?] At the same time, there is room for further reflection on the reservations the fraternity has expressed regarding certain aspects and the wording of the Second Vatican Council documents as well as some reforms that followed but which do not refer to subjects which are dogmatically or doctrinally indisputable.” [This is a pretty big deal.]
Finally, one other very important clarification was made: “There is no doubt that the teachings of the Second Vatican Council vary a great deal in terms of how authoritative and binding they are depending on the text. So, for example, the Lumen Gentium Constitution on the Church and the Dei Verbum on the Divine Revelation are doctrinal declarations even though no dogmatic definition was given to them”, [and yet those declarations are in Dogmatic Constitutions...] whereas the declarations on religious freedom, non-Christian religions and the decree on ecumenism “are authoritative and binding to a different and lesser degree.” [Bless my buttons. This is what I have been talking about for decades now.]
It is unclear how long this process is going to take: “I don’t think it is possible to say yet when this process will conclude,” Mgr. Pozzo said. Both sides are committed to taking things step by step. “There will be no unexpected shortcuts; the clearly stated aim is to promote unity through the generosity of the universal Church led by the successor of Peter.”
I suspect the members of the SSPX these days, especially after the latest Synod, are having aneurisms and spittle-flecked nutties. The SPPX has been going on for ever about “eternal Rome” v. “modernist Rome”. The big move is going to have to come from the Holy See.
The post Large gesture of openness toward SSPX! appeared first on Fr. Z's Blog.
For the past few months, I have been following the work of a previously unknown photographer, Vivian Maier. The story of the discovery and subsequent promotion of her work by dogged chronicler and historian John Maloof is portrayed brilliantly in a recent documentary, Finding Vivian Maier. It is the story of a woman, ostensibly “only” a nanny, who used her time off duty to create over 100,000 photographic images, primarily from the 1950s to 1970s, which remained unseen during her lifetime.
Since their random discovery by Maloof at an auction in Chicago in 2007, her images have been featured in gallery exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, London, Germany, and Denmark. Some of the openings are cited by the gallery owners as the best ever attended in the gallery’s history.
Cover from the documentary “Finding Vivian Maier”
Why does this work fascinate us so much? Partially, it’s the sheer artistic quality of the Maier’s images. Maier always had her trusty, high-quality Rolleiflex twin-lens camera hung around her neck, as interviewees in the film attest, and snapped away continually.
The images capture cameo moments in the blur of passing time, exhibiting an impressive depth of field as well as Maier’s dexterity in capturing light. These cameos might not be appreciated at the moment they are happening, but when examined later in a print, they reveal a gritty beauty.
It’s a testament to Maier’s own belief in her work that the negatives even survive. Maier must have known she had captured something wonderful in her work, taking care to move her scores of suitcases and boxes of negatives and undeveloped film with her from one nannying job to the next. They are like photographic poetry of their time, a nonjudgmental eye viewing the human drama.
Viewing Maier’s work compels us to look again at the passing moments of our own lives. Vision refreshed, we can see in those moments an aching beauty and truth, sometimes for the first time.
Pope John Paul II hasn’t even been dead for ten years, and he’s a saint; amazing! How did this happen so quickly?
Today we celebrate his first feast day as a saint. When he died on April 2, 2005, the crowds that gathered throughout the Vatican shouted “Santo, subito!” — “Sainthood, now!” It seems certain their cries reached the right ears, for the canonization process moved swiftly for John Paul II, as it somewhat did for Pope John XXIII, although he had been dead for almost 50 years when he was canonized in April. Now Pope Paul VI has been beatified, also on the fast track to sainthood.
There is no doubt in my mind that Pope John Paul II was a saintly and gifted pope. The fact alone that he was instrumental in facilitating the fall of the USSR and in particular, restoring Poland to a state more resembling a democracy was a phenomenal achievement. By his many trips to countries around the world and time spent in actual contact with believers he showed that the pope could be a man of and for the people, and not an inaccessible figurehead. Many criticized his conservative ways regarding Church teaching and tradition, but to others he blended a modern response to the world with a unique sense of what the Catholic Church represented in that world.
Kerry Walters has written a brief biography of John Paul II — and one of John XXIII, as well — that will give you an excellent overview of Karol Wojtyla before he became pope, and of his many works during his time as Pope John Paul II. Here you’ll start to discover why this pope was on the fast track to sainthood, and what makes him an enduring figure for our times. Here’s a quote from the Introduction to that book:
“What makes a saint … is not ecclesial and worldly titles or unquestionable moral and spiritual purity, but a yearningly tenacious cleaving to the Creator, a heartfelt resolution to embrace in word and deed our own God-likeness despite the realization that we’ll often fall short, and a willingness to spend ourselves in loving service to God and one another.”
That certainly describes Saint John Paul II, a saint for our times indeed.
I have been, frankly, both exhausted and a bit disgusted after the last Synod and I have been trying to have a little RnR. That doesn’t make for a lot of posting of edgy stuff.
So, here’s a little meat to chew on.
That closing address Pope Francis made to the Synod… interesting, no? Forget about the part wherein he does a little, what can you call it, name-calling? About “intellectuals” and “do-gooders”? No. What caught my eye is that middle section.
For the last year and a half, His Holiness has been downplaying his image as “Pope”. He signs his name “Francis” without the other rigamarole which indicated the year of his pontificate. He is simply been “Francis… Bishop of Rome” rather than than “Supreme Pontiff”.
But in the middle part of the closing address for the Extraordinary Synod, it was all Pope all the time.
And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.
We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.
So, Francis is more Pope now than before.
I think that, in the wake of the Synod, we may see some exercises of papal power.
How shall they manifest? I’d like to see Pope Francis summarily reconciled the SSPX. How about a Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form? How about … use of the fanon and ferula? He would wear the items that the Roman Pontiff normally wears in the exercise of his duties. And these things would now enhance, rather than detract from, his pastoral duties.
Finally, I think that His Holiness is starting to feel – in an intense new way – what it really means to be the Vicar of Christ, the Successor of Peter. His role is, in a special, way to affirm the brethren and the uphold the regula fidei … No. Matter. What.
The post Pope Francis, Pope appeared first on Fr. Z's Blog.
I was on a conference call with an author yesterday, when I was struck by a statement he made: we’re all struggling. I found myself getting lost in that thought because it’s one I’ve had pretty often myself. We’re all doing the best we can to get along, but often times we fail to see that others are in the same situation. So, we make quick judgments where we could offer encouragement; we’re too busy to lend a helping hand; we turn our head because we just don’t want to get involved.
What if instead we offered the encouraging word? What if we made time to help a friend—or a stranger—in need? What if we got involved and made a difference?
Every time I hear the Toby Mac song, Speak Life, it reminds me of the incredible opportunity I have to make a difference in someone’s life—every single day. Words can hurt or words can heal. We’re all just trying to get along in life, so why make it harder on our fellow humans?
We all have the choice to speak life—or not. What will your choice be?
The recently concluded Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, preparing for next October’s Ordinary Synod on the same topic, reminds me of something that noted Jesuit historian Father John W. O’Malley has written about Vatican II. One of its greatest accomplishments was using a new type of language in Church teaching.
I had the great privilege of being one of O’Malley’s students at the University of Detroit in the fall of 1970.
He has written that the bishops at Vatican II decided to use exhortation more than condemnation. Exhortation will not stops wars, but it may have a better chance of being effective than stiff condemnation—no matter how much the person using condemning language is pleased at its clarity.
When Cardinal Peter Erdo gave the mid-session summary of the synod discussion during its first week, some participants inside (and outside) the synod complained bitterly that the synthesis did not sufficiently reaffirm the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriages, divorce, abortion, and all the other issues facing families today.
On the other hand, Vatican Information Service bulletins reported that several synod participants had observed that the Church needs to rethink the way it speaks to and about people in these situations.
I hope we can agree that zeal for God does not justify every type of language that people may employ to support their position. The final results of the 2015 synod are unlikely to win unanimous approval from its participants and from the larger Church, the People of God.
Cardinal Schoenborn, archbishop of Vienna and lead author of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, noted during the controversy over Cardinal Erdo’s synthesis that real families can have very sharp disagreements!
The last word has not been written about the 2014 synod—even less about the 2015 synod. In the meantime, we would do well to remember that the word synod means “walking together.”
May all the Church’s members walk together with the openness that caused two disciples on the road to Emmaus to exclaim on Easter Sunday evening (Lk 24:32b), “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Our hearts cannot burn like that unless we listen carefully.
CNS photo/Paul Haring
On 18 October, His Lordship,
the Right Reverend Bishop Basil Meeking,
Emeritus of Christchurch,
administered the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation
to five young people of our
Latin Mass Chaplaincy in the Diocese.
After the Confirmations, His Lordship celebrated Holy Mass.
…and distributed certificates to those to whom he had imparted the Sacrament!
Pope Francis addressed the Synod participants at the end of the Synod. I’ll out the blah blah:
(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Pope Francis addressed the assembled Fathers, thanking them for their efforts and encouraging them to continue to journey.
Below, please find Vatican Radio’s provisional translation of Pope Francis’ address to the Synod Fathers:
I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality [Q: How are they different?] – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”
And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned: [Not that we want to dwell on them...]
- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals. ["traditionalist" "intellectualisti". Really?]
- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo] [This also means a "going along to get along", not to make waves.], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.” [Because liberals are "do-gooders" and the traditionalists ... aren't?]
- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.
- The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; [I am not sure I get that part. How can you both "neglect" the depositum fidei and then think you are its "owner".] or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things… [? I didn't get that part, either. Who neglects reality?]
Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.
Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).
And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.
The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.
Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.
And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all. [I don't think the mere presence of the Pope that guarantees anything. The Pope also has to act and speak. No?]
We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them. [Interesting!]
His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. [Because he loves them, he corrects them.] But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse [Sermon] 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”
So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).
Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.
One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].
May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!
[The hymn Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given.]
Thank you, and rest well, eh?
The post Pope Francis’ final address to the Synod as it closes appeared first on Fr. Z's Blog.
You never know who you’re going to run into!
When St. Anthony Messenger‘s newest editor, Dan Imwalle, showed up on his first day of work, he told me: “I think that the nun at the main desk was my fourth-grade teacher!” I told Dan: “Go down and tell her that—she’ll get a kick out of it.” It was all a bit too much for the new guy to tackle on his first day.
One day, some weeks later, I was talking to Sister Sue Ann Vallo, OSF, and mentioned what Dan had told me. “I thought he looked familiar” she said with a twinkle in her eye. I was blown away—we’re talking a fourth-grade kid here! I told her what school he had been at, and, sure enough, she had taught there for a few years. “His face hasn’t changed a bit!” she said.
I told Dan to get down to the front desk and talk to Sister Sue Ann! With a laugh, he headed down to the reception area. The two had a grand reunion.
A month or so later, Sister Sue Ann, well beyond typical retirement age, decided it was time to move on, to take her spot working, praying, and playing among the retired Franciscan sisters at Oldenberg, Indiana. “They tell me it’s really fun,” she told me, a bit wistfully. She obviously had mixed feelings about moving on. Sue Ann chose, as her last day, our employee recognition day a few weeks ago, on the eve of the Feast of St. Francis. After sharing a few kind words with those of us gathered, she pulled out a class photo that she had among many back at her apartment and, sure enough, there was little Dan!
Happy retirement, Sue Ann. We will miss you! Welcome, Dan. Get to work!
Perhaps you noticed St. Anthony Messenger‘s special section on family in this issue? Hard to miss, I know! The Church will surely be buzzing during and after this month’s world Synod of Bishops on families. When the synod topic was first announced, back in 2013, we knew that it would be of high interest to our readers, for obvious reasons. We all need to find new ways to nurture families today.
That has been a big topic in the Church for more than a century, when the changes of the Industrial Revolution started squeezing the traditional family. This magazine, in fact, was born as a way to strengthen families in 1893, two years after Pope Leo XIII, in his influential encyclical on human labor, wrote about the way the newly emerging economy of factories was tearing families apart.
Some 50 years later, the possibility of artificial birth control, and its impact on our understanding of family, became a huge concern of the Church. We all know that Pope Paul VI’s 1968 ban of artificial contraception continues to reverberate today. During those tumultuous 1960s, we even changed the entire format of this magazine to reach families in a new way. In more recent years, the list of stressors has grown: abortion, the ease of marital divorce, growing numbers of couples choosing never to marry at all. Some of us aren’t comfortable talking about it, but gay lifestyles are “out of the closet” with the growing acceptance of same-sex couples, and many of these couples are raising children.
And the global Internet raises family issues, good and bad, of its own. Pope Francis sees these challenges and is devoting not one, but two worldwide synods of bishops to listen, pray, reflect, and offer the Church’s wisdom.
Important? Yes—these synods will be deeply important to a Church made of families. Difficult or not, our whole Church needs to engage in the discussion. St. Anthony Messenger will be a part of it.
To subscribe to St. Anthony Messenger, click here.
Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring
The headline of this week’s column is a phrase I heard one of our Franciscan friars use to describe heaven. It struck me as something that is a great contrast to what most consider the “beatific vision” conjured in our minds by inadequate capacity to understand eternity. Spending eternity staring at God sounds, well, boring. Spending eternity in endless love, exploring infinite possibilities, unending depth of encounter with God, limitless growth—This is a heaven in which I can believe!
I think St. Francis, during his life on this earth, experienced some of that vision of heaven we’re speaking of. Two friars have published books recently—also recorded as audiobooks—that delve into the light St. Francis gives to our experience of this life and the next.
First, Father Hilarion Kistner gives an engaging read of his work entitled The Gospels According to St. Francis. Second, Father Richard Rohr looks at the unique take on orthodoxy the man from Assisi brought to the Church and yes, even impacting our view of heaven in his latest work, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. I encourage you to check them out, along with our other Franciscan titles. Good stuff for the soul!
The Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas often said: Concede parum, nega frequenter, distingue semper (never affirm, seldom deny and always distinguish). This is prudential advice we can and must apply today as we digest what the Synod of Bishops is doing, what is claimed to being done and what will be done afterwards.
First of all, using the via negativa, a Synod is not an Ecumenical Council. Only an Ecumenical Council and/or an ex cathedra papal decree on faith and morals are considered Extraordinary Magisterium.
Synods are considered Ordinary Magisterium just as are papal encyclicals. Their teachings are infallible ONLY when they affirm a teaching on faith and morals that has been consistently and perennially taught by Holy Mother Church over the centuries. Humanae Vitae and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis are ordinary magisterial documents which contain infallible teachings since they reiterate what the Church has always believed and held quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est (everywhere, always and by all).
That being said, the current Synod of Bishops, being an exercise of the ordinary magisterium, would only issue infallible teachings if those teachings were already what the Catholic Church has always taught. They cannot undo or create doctrines.
Non-infallible statements would fall into the category of non-definitive, theological speculations and pastoral prudential judgments. When Pope Benedict XVI was still Cardinal Ratzinger and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) he clarified that synods are by their nature (de facto) advisory and consultative. They are not synonymous with Ecumenical Councils presided over by the Bishop of Rome. Synods are not parliaments, either. They are opportunities for open discussions and sharing of opinions but truth is not defined nor determined by majority rules even if it among successors of the apostles. (Questions about the Structure and Task of the Synod of Bishops’, in Joseph Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, Politics: New Essays in Ecclesiology. New York: Crossroad, 1988)
Hence, Synodal decrees do not possess the same magisterial authority as do statements from an Ecumenical Council or from formal Papal decrees, either. No need to worry that any doctrines or dogmas are in jeopardy no matter what any particular cardinal or bishop says.
When you read the actual relatio of the Synod as opposed to what the secular press claims the episcopal body said, you see a more than subtle difference. While discussions and dialogues have spanned the gamut of theological opinions (from archconservative traditional to ultra-liberal progressive) most of what has been decided (to be suggested to the Roman Pontiff) has been PASTORAL RESPONSES instead of doctrinal and moral teachings.
The Synod is NOT asking the Holy Father to permit cohabitation, divorce and remarriage without annulment nor for same-sex unions. What it is suggesting is that a pastoral approach be used to encourage people in these relationships to repair their irregular and sinful situations while at the same time providing spiritual encouragement for them to persevere in that journey. In other words, just as we often have divorced and invalidly married couples attend Mass and register in parishes, likewise, we have cohabitating couples do the same. If a homosexual couple were to register and attend a local parish, they would be under the same moral and doctrinal norms as everyone else. The sacraments, especially Holy Eucharist and Matrimony are reserved to those who are canonically free to receive them. It is not a denial of Holy Communion, rather a postponement until such time as the individual person and couple are in full communion with all the Catholic Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings and disciplines. Persons in such circumstances, though, deserve mercy and attention whenever and wherever possible. We should be approachable for counsel and advice without any fear of altering Catholic faith and morals.
Pastoral responses are precisely that. They are not a denial nor dilution of dogma. They are medicinal, remedial and therapeutic ways to assist people who have made imprudent or even immoral judgments have a conversion of heart. Just as Our Divine Lord never condoned sin, He likewise loved the sinner. His love was Divine Mercy. That also entailed a call to conversion: “go and sin no more.”
The Synod statements found online at the Vatican are significantly different from what most of secular press claim has been said and worse yet, what is being officially taught. They are not magisterial decrees per se. Homosexual marriage and homosexual activity, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, divorce and remarriage without annulment are NOT being tolerated nor approved. The pastoral approach, however, to evangelizing and ministering to these folks, is what is being contemplated. Not carte blanche but something practical and achievable.
Streamlining the annulment process by eliminating or circumventing the automatic appeal to the court of higher instance is a prudential suggestion but one that is not necessarily prudent. No one wants to return to the situation where lower tribunals granted decrees of nullity only to have a higher court overrule them. Instead of emphasizing the end of the process we need to examine the beginning instead.
A better strategy is to BETTER PREPARE couples for Holy Matrimony. Twelve months Pre-Cana is only a starting point. Mentoring with couples in the parish who have a valid and healthy marital relationship is also beneficial. Emphasizing the marriage above and beyond the ceremony is also needed. Too many weddings are elaborately planned but the lifelong covenant of marriage is placed on the back burner. Recent studies have shown a phenomenon where most married couples who split up do so before the fourth or fifth year of marriage. Providing accessible, affordable and practical counseling is a goal every diocese should embrace.
There will always be marginalized, lukewarm and part-time Catholics who attend Mass occasionally or infrequently, who may be in an invalid marriage or living together. Persons with same-sex attraction may have succumbed to the invalid civil union and civil marriage recourse. Pastorally seeing and treating all of them as children of God and as brothers and sisters in Christ in need of moral and spiritual guidance is what the Church is about. Not denying or watering down the faith, but with mercy, encouraging them to amend their lives and rectify their relationships.
The Synod is nothing to fear nor is it something to worry about. Suggestions will be made after discussions have ended. Implementation will be at the discretion of the Pope and how he responds is his prerogative. Prudential judgments are not doctrine or morality but the fullness of authority resides with the Bishop of Rome. We Catholics believe the Holy Spirit will prevent any false teaching to ever be imposed upon the faithful. Only Sacred Scripture has the guarantee of divine inspiration. Human beings, even those who shepherd the church, are not perfect and some can even be influenced by politics and other factors. Synods do not demand an assent of faith nor do they require complete obedience. They do deserve respect and consideration, however, and this can only be done when we the faithful read the actual documents and keep them in their proper context along side all that has already been formally taught and held.
Since the AP first reported the story of a group of Catholics “plotting” to fill the pews of a sparsely attended church in Buffalo, New York, Mass mobs have spread across the northern U.S. The phenomenon has been reported in Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Philly, and elsewhere, particularly in churches with declining numbers of parishioners and a surfeit of neo-gothic bells and whistles (or smells, if you prefer).
Not only is the show of solidarity a boon to the regular Mass attendees, but the visitors have been dropping a few coppers in the collection basket as well, helping to maintain these largely older structures. An organizer of Detroit Mass Mob, Thom Mann, said participants had given nearly $100,000 to the six churches visited thus far. The inspiration works both ways: The newcomers get to experience some of the best American Catholic architecture and liturgy and those witnessing the packed-to-the-rafters churches are inspired to inject a little more life into their own home parishes.
“There’s a generational disconnect between when these cities emptied out and got blighted, and the young people who want to rediscover these roots,” according to Christopher Byrd, who started the movement.
The hope is that some of younger disconnected Catholics may find some faith amid the fenestration and some older disconnected Catholics might remember the good old days with more than mere nostalgia.
If you miss being forced to sit in the front because of overcrowding, look for events near you at Meetup.org and Facebook (search on “Mass mob”).
Photo courtesy of digidreamgrafix, freedigitalphotos.net.
You might have a look at something that Sandro Magister posted today, which could give us an insight into what Pope Francis is thinking. HERE
Here is a sample:
he sociology of religion would have much to say in this regard. Until the middle of the 20th century, in Catholic parishes, the ban on communion for those who were in a position of irregular marriage did not raise any problems, because it remained practically invisible. Even where Mass attendance was high, in fact, very few received communion every Sunday. Frequent communion was only for those who also went to confession frequently. There was evidence of this in the twofold precept that the Church issued for the faithful as a whole: to confess “once a year” and to receive communion “at least during the Easter season.”
Abstention from communion was therefore not a visible stigma of punishment or marginalization. The main motivation that kept most of the faithful from frequent communion was their great respect for the Eucharist, which could be approached only after adequate preparation, and always with fear and trembling.
All of this changed during the years of Vatican Council II and the post-council. In brief, confessions plummeted while communion became a mass phenomenon. Now everyone or almost everyone receives it, always. Because in the meantime the general understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist has changed. The real presence of the body and blood of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine has declined to a symbolic presence. Communion has become like the sign of peace, a gesture of friendship, of sharing, of fraternity, “the same old story: everyone else is going, so I’ll go too,” as Pope Benedict XVI said, who tried to restore the authentic sense of the Eucharist by among other things having the faithful kneel and giving the host on the tongue.
In such a context, it was inevitable that the ban on communion would be perceived among the divorced and remarried as the public denial of a “right” of everyone to the sacrament. The protests were and are on the part of a few, because most of the divorced and remarried are far from religious practice, while among the practicing there is no lack of those who understand and respect the discipline of the Church. But within this very narrow spectrum of cases there has emerged, starting in the 1990’s and mainly in a few German-speaking dioceses, a campaign for changing the discipline of the Catholic Church in the area of marriage, which has reached its peak with the pontificate of Pope Francis, with his clear agreement.
The synod’s concentration on the question of the divorced and remarried also risks losing sight of much more macroscopic situations of crisis in Catholic marriage.
Shortly before the synod, for example, there appeared in Italian bookstores a report on the pastoral activity set up by then-cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on the outskirts of Buenos Aires:
P. De Robertis, “Le pecore di Bergoglio. Le periferie di Buenos Aires svelano chi è Francesco”, Editrice Missionaria Italiana, Bologna, 2014.
From this one learns that most couples, on the order of 80-85 percent, are not married but simply cohabit, while among spouses “the majority of marriages are invalid, because the people marry when they are immature”, but then don’t even try to get a declaration of nullity from the diocesan tribunals.
It is the “curas villeros,” the priests Bergoglio sent to the outskirts, who provide this information and proudly state that they give everyone communion no matter what, “without raising barricades.”
The outskirts of Buenos Aires are not an isolated case in Latin America. And they give evidence not of a success but if anything of an absence or failure of pastoral care for marriage. On other continents Christian marriage is in the grips of challenges no less grave, from polygamy to forced marriages, from “gender” theory to homosexual “marriages.”
In the face of such a challenge this synod and the next will decide if the appropriate response will be that of opening a loophole for divorce or of restoring to indissoluble Catholic marriage all of its alternative and revolutionary power and beauty.
He continues with some observations by Card. Ruini, who generally has his head screwed on in the right direction.
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Between Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee sits Mount Tabor, the most likely site where Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John. The story, which includes appearances by Moses and Elijah, is told in Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36.
In the third century, Origen identified this mountain as the site of Jesus’ transfiguration. Three basilicas were constructed during the Byzantine era and another one during Crusader times. In 570, a pilgrim from Piacenza, Italy, wrote about visiting the shrine at Mt. Tabor.
Benedictine monks once had an abbey there, and there was briefly a diocese headquartered there. In 1220, St. Francis visited the city of Acre to the west; he might have visited Mt. Tabor. A Christian church was destroyed in 1263 and replaced by a Saracen fortress. The Friars Minor arrived in 1631 and built the present church in 1924 over the previous structures. It is a popular place for retreat groups.
May we continue to listen to Jesus!
This blog was taken from Pat McCloskey’s “Dear Reader” column in St. Anthony Messenger. To subscribe to this award-winning publication, click here.
Illustration: Emile Rouargue, engraver (circa 1795 – 1865) Public domain via Wikimedia Commons