Archives For Pope Francis

Readers react to the big news of the week:

Perhaps to see where Francis is going, you should also consider the homily he gave Monday morning prior to the release of the Relatio:

This picture taken 21 March 2007 shows a“The scholars of the law also forgot that the people of God are a people on a journey, and when you journey, you always find new things, things you never knew before,” he said. But the journey, like the law, is not an end in itself; they are a path, “a pedagogy,” toward “the ultimate manifestation of the Lord. Life is a journey toward the fullness of Jesus Christ, when he will come again.” The law teaches the way to Christ, and “if the law does not lead to Jesus Christ,” he said, “and if it doesn’t get us closer to Jesus Christ, it is dead.”

Read the whole thing, it’s beautiful and very telling of where Papa Bergoglio is trying to take the church. It also is perhaps one of the best critiques of the modern understanding of natural law. Natural law does not evolve (so yes, the conservatives are right in one respect), but we’re on a journey and God reveals more of himself and his law to us on this journey.

I’m with you, Andrew; I cried tears of joy when I saw the Relatio, and burst to tears again upon reflecting upon the homily preached only hours before. But it’s going to be an uphill battle, and already the knives are drawn from certain prelates, especially the outspoken probably soon-to-be-former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura – Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.

A small dissent:

I think you’re too harsh when it comes to JP2 and Benedict.  JP2 came at a time when there was utter confusion.  He had to clarify teaching.  Benedict is an intellectual, a theologian.  Francis is at heart a pastor.  Can’t we appreciate different leadership attributes and characteristics?

Another dissent of sorts:

I wish I could be as excited about Pope Francis as you are, but as a woman who has been serving as organist in a very large Catholic parish for 1 1/2 years, I am actually losing enthusiasm and feeling left out.

I know that the LGBT community deserves this attention.  The issue is hot; it is smart to talk about it now.  I also believe it is heartfelt on Pope Francis’s part – after all, he has spent most of his life amongst men, many of whom are gay, so his direct experience has given him much to ponder and work out in his own mind.  (Ditto the bishops)

I understand that all revolutions can’t happen at once, e.g. it seems to be common thought that priests will be allowed to marry before the revolution of women being allowed to serve in diaconate or priesthood.  OK great, and I totally think priests should be allowed to marry; but here again, it is men before women.

Having had no prior experience with the Catholic church and being very excited to have started my tenure at the time of the new pope, I am sorry to say that I’ve come to see that women are indeed second-class citizens in the Catholic church.  They are there to serve the men.  OK, we are all here to serve humanity, but since the Church is a male hierarchy, that means the women serve the men.  I see it all over the place and am sick of the dynamic.

Having said my sour-grapes piece, I do honor that this is an exciting time for you as a gay Catholic, and I am truly happy for you in that.

Another draws attention to what Benedict’s right-hand man is up to:

The Synod is entering its second week, and as a cradle Catholic, I’ve been watching it as closely as possible.  I was born and brought up after Vatican II, and I understand only too well the reasons why Pope Francis called this Synod and what he hopes to achieve from it.

To be frank, I was touched by the Pirolas’ testimony about the gay son of their friends.  My late sister had a childhood friend who is gay and who is so well-loved he is like a brother to me.  You can imagine how upset I was by Cardinal Burke’s statements, and I don’t wonder why he was roundly criticized. I wonder, though, have you heard about Arch. Ganswein’s interview with Chi? He’s saying that same things Cardinal Burke says about homosexuals being “intrinsically disordered”, and he even said that nothing much would change after the Synod. How different from Pope Francis’ very merciful declaration “Who am I to judge?”

I try to follow Church-related news as best I can, and it really distresses me that for a long time now, Archbishop Ganswein says so many things that contradict Pope Francis’s direction for the Church. Now, there’s this interview with Chi, and right smack in the middle of the Synod.

Another reflects:

My brother died last month. He lived in Sullivan County, New York, and attended a parish run by Franciscans. At his funeral, the pastor made some remarks that turned around my whole concept of the Church, which I’ve stayed away from except for family weddings and funerals for decades.

Father acknowledged and was very harsh about the message of the Church in recent times. He talked about how we were all looked on as sinners first, last, and only. He was very plain that he found this approach wrong, damaging, and in need of reversal. He then went on to speak about my brother (who was a devoted parishioner) in a way that highlighted John’s humanity, devotion, and grace. I was filled with happiness that John had had this man as his priest, as my brother had a touch life and relied heavily on his faith.

I’m sad to report that a day after the funeral the priest suffered a stroke. He was already frail; deacons performed most of the Mass while Father sat to the side. I haven’t had a report on his condition lately, but I hope that he is recovering.

I regret that in my rejection of Catholicism as I learned it (and as a gay man, as I experienced its rejection of me), I didn’t understand the fullness of a spiritual life possible in some corners of the Church, a fullness that my brother lived.

My lesson from this is to not think I know what is in a person’s heart or mind, or what comprises their faith, until I’ve taken the time to speak with them and hear them. I never spoke to my brother about these things; I just assumed what his mindset was from the fact of his strong faith. My loss, now, but hopefully not in the future.

(Photo by Getty)

Synod On the Themes of Family Is Held At Vatican

Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI understood the power of open dialogue, which is why they did all they could to shut it down within the Catholic church. The sensus fidelium, the insight that ordinary Catholics may have into the Christian life, was all but banished in favor of top-down control and increasingly fastidious theological certitudes. And perhaps the most striking thing so far about the Synod now going on in Rome is simply that: a venting of reality in that airless context, that, while not in opposition to church teaching, is nonetheless frank about its challenges in the modern world.

And language matters. Ed Morrissey notes:

The most intriguing part of that discussion, at least as noted in the briefing, was a call to change the language associated with those teachings [on marriage and sexuality] and find more inclusive and welcoming language instead. The specific terms that some bishops wish to stop using are “living in sin,” “intrinsically disordered,” and “contraceptive mentality.”

Each of these terms is designed to define human beings in ways that can only wound and alienate. A couple co-habiting before marriage cannot be reduced to “sin” without obliterating everything else that may be wonderful about their relationship – and that may well lead to a successful marriage that is perfectly orthodox. Suggesting that all couples who use contraception can be reduced to endorsing a “culture of death” is equally likely to push flawed human beings away from Jesus rather than toward him. And, as for “intrinsically disordered”, Ratzinger’s prissy prose was impossible for a gay Catholic to read without feeling punched in the gut. The key to a renewal of Christianity in our age will be a shift in language, a reintroduction of the core truths of the faith with words that are not designed to wound, hurt or alienate, and that can convey truth in a positive manner for a new generation.

Then there is the remarkable testimony of an Australian married couple – about the central role that sex plays in supporting their marriage vows:

The couple explained that “gradually we came to see that the only feature that distinguishes our sacramental relationship from that of any other good Christ-centred relationship is sexual intimacy and that marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse.” “We believe,” they added, “that until married couples come to reverence sexual union as an essential part of their spirituality it is extremely hard to appreciate the beauty of teachings such as those of Humanae Vitae. We need new ways and relatable language to touch peoples’ hearts.”

Well: good for them. And wouldn’t Catholic marriages be better if more were able to tell their sexual story in ways currently repressed? There is, after all, an obvious and almost painful limitation on the clerisy’s ability to understand sexual intimacy, because they have all taken vows of celibacy. (Another gigantic obstacle, of course, is that of the nearly 200 voting participants in the Synod, only one is a woman. Of the 253 total participants, only 25 are women.) But the Australians had another point to make on the question of homosexuality:

“The domestic church” represented by the family, “has much to offer the wider Church in its evangelizing role,” the couple continued. “For example, the Church constantly faces the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy. Families face this tension all the time.” The couple went on to illustrate this with an example relating to homosexuality. “Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home too. They fully believed in the Church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three words, ‘He is our son’.”

This, Ron and Marvis explained, “is a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond  to similar situations in their neighbourhood!” “The Church’s teaching role and its main mission is to let the world know of God’s love.”

This is what so many Catholics are already doing – because Christianity is about, among many things, a defense of human dignity and a love of the family. The hierarchy – which again has no such direct experience of actually navigating the challenges of parenting, and which seems incapable of seeing gay people as “first-class citizens” – has lost sight of this. They are still bound by fear – fear of actual gay people, of our happiness and self-worth, of our living example of the complexity of human love and sexuality. They cling to arid doctrine with little appreciation of how anyone can actually live it and not, in the heterosexual world, be cruel or dismissive or discriminatory or callous, or in the homosexual world, be uniquely alone, isolated, and without the sexual intimacy that the Australian couple celebrated as integral to their relationship.

What were seeing, I think, is how the mere fact of open discussion can shift the very direction of such discussion. We saw this in Vatican II, when new currents in the world and church transformed the meeting in ways no one quite expected. And Francis’ leadership in this contrasts so powerfully with his predecessor’s. He is not telling the church what it should do or how it should change. He has simply made it impossible for the lived reality of most Catholics to be ignored or dismissed any longer.

Some things cannot be unsaid. Some testimony from actual, broken but struggling Christians can never be forgotten. Dialogue shifts minds and hearts from the bottom up, not the top down.

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

(Photo: Pope Francis leaves the Synod Hall at the end of a session of the Synod on the themes of family on October 7, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. By Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

The Vanishing Idols

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 6 2014 @ 2:37pm

VATICAN-POPE-SYNOD FAMILIES

The Synod convened by this remarkable Pope is now in session – and there are some reactionary voices being heard – as there should be. The head of the Polish church just described cohabitation as “the self-mutilation of [a couple’s] love”. He also noted with dismay that “some parents like to teach boys that they should clean up after themselves, and not wait until girls do it for them.” Ed Morrissey just reported that the opening statement by Cardinal Peter Erdo was also uncompromising: “Erdo emphasized that recognition of divorce and remarriage without a church finding of nullity in the first marriage ‘is impossible, while the first spouse is still alive.'”

And this is how it should be. Along with arguments about the need for pastoral change and adjustment – the Pope himself, after all, just married a previously divorced couple in the Vatican! – the arguments for no change at all need to be heard. What’s truly new about this papacy is its endorsement of this very debate – the very thing that John Paul II and Benedict XVI made anathema. Can you imagine this tweet appearing at any time since 1979 until now?

James Alison has taken up that offer. Last Friday he addressed a meeting in Rome for “The Ways of Love,” an international conference on Catholic pastoral care for gay and trans people. It’s not part of the Synod of Bishops on the Family. It’s an off-off-Broadway production, as it were. But it should not be dismissed for those reasons. Some of the most important discussions during the Second Vatican Council occurred informally off-site, and aired issues that emerged eventually as central to the Church’s opening to the modern world. The question of same-sex love and homosexual dignity is not likely to be part of the formal Synod. But it hovers around it – even as the Church in America has intensified its cruelty and unjust discrimination against homosexuals seeking to follow Jesus.

So you may be surprised to find in James’ latest talk in Rome an element of joy and magnanimity. He sees the emergence of gay and trans people’s own self-understanding of our equal worth in the eyes of God as quite simply irreversible, unstoppable – not a breakdown of the church’s teachings but an eruption within it of Catholicity itself:

This has been exactly our experience as LGBT Catholics over the last thirty or so years. It has become clearer and clearer, until it is now overwhelmingly clear, that what used to seem like a self-evident description of us was in fact mistaken. We were characterized as somehow defective, pathological, or vitiated straight people; intrinsically heterosexual people who were suffering from a bizarre and extreme form of heterosexual concupiscence called “same-sex attraction.” That description, which turned us, in practice, into second-class citizens in God’s house, is quite simply false. It turns out that we are blessed to be bearers of a not particularly remarkable non-pathological minority variant in the human condition. And that our daughterhood and sonship of God comes upon us starting as we are, with this variant being a minor but significant stable characteristic of who we are. One, furthermore, which gives gracious shape to who we are to be.

His talk is worth reading in full because it brilliantly analogizes the strictures against gay people to the very early church’s strictures against inclusion of Gentiles. Saint Peter shocked his early followers by insisting that all such categories melted away in the new age of Jesus: “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” Or in Saint Paul’s words that ring through the ages:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Alison conjures up the radicalness of all this for the Jewish sect then struggling to find its way in the world after the Resurrection:

Well, each one of us was as shocked as the person next to them: the first-class citizens finding themselves on the same level as us, with all their purity and sense of separateness deflated, and having to overcome a certain repugnance about dealing with people like us; and the second class citizens having to get used to taking ourselves seriously and behave as sons and daughters, rather than dirty servant children who had a sort of built in excuse for impurity.

Regardless of where the collective hierarchy is, it is quite clear that Pope Francis does not see gay people as second-class citizens. If they are earnestly seeking the Lord, “who am I to judge?” It is also clear that the moral movement I described earlier today cannot but affect the people of God, as they wrestle with a a new understanding of gay people – which the church itself recognized as long ago as 1975 – and try to do God’s will. But James has moved on already. He sees gay Catholics not as a problem to be solved but as an opportunity to be seized:

We, as well as anyone, know how the Spirit of God humanizes us, not destroying culture, but defanging it from all that is violent and destructive of who humans are called to be. We know that thanks to Jesus there is no such thing as religiously pure or impure food, there are no such things as religiously mandated forms of mutilation, genital or otherwise. We know that only culture, and never God, has demanded the veiling and covering of the glory of the head and hair of women. We know that the same Spirit that taught us these things, making available to us what is genuinely true, has enabled us to discover the graced banality of our minority variant condition, allowing it to be the shape of our love that turns us into witnesses of God’s goodness as we are stretched out towards those who are genuinely suffering from terrible injustice and deprivation.

It may seem bleak for many LGBT people right now, grappling with Christianity and the institutional church’s cruelty and dehumanization. But James sees through this, the way Jesus saw through the exhausted taboos of his time. There is a serenity to him that comes with a faith lived, and not imposed.

(Photo: Pope Francis delivers his speech during  the Synod of the Families, to cardinals and bishops gathering in the Synod Aula, at the Vatican, on October 6, 2014.By Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images.)

Pope Francis Celebrates Weddings During Sunday Mass

This fall, we’ll begin to see the impact of the new bishop of Rome on the church with the opening of the October Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, focusing on the family and evangelizing in the modern world. There isn’t much chance of a change in doctrine on many of these issues – the ban on divorced Catholics re-marrying in church and receiving communion, the disapproval of cohabitation before marriage, the ban on contraception, and certainly the aversion to same-sex commitment and love. But Francis has already shown that he is prepared to take a non-linear approach to these questions – and he keeps surprising.

What Francis seems to be saying is that in all these questions, while the doctrine will not change, the call to mercy should be paramount. In other words, in individual cases, the decision to marry a couple who have been living together or have experienced one or more divorces should be left to a merciful pastor, not a rigid and distant dogma. How to get this point across? As so often, Francis uses his own actions, rather than words:

The Holy Father presided over the wedding of 20 couples Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica. From a distance, the group seemed fairly typical: the couples ranged from ages 25 to 56 and were all from the Diocese of Rome. But the underlying storyline is far more telling: one bride was already a mother, some of the couples had already been living together, and others had previously been married.

This is what our beloved Joe Biden would call a BFD. Priests who might have married similar couples in the past could be subject to discipline from Rome. Now, the bishop of Rome himself is presiding over them. Elizabeth Dias explains why this matters:

Since local churches currently tend to make their own decisions about serving communion to divorced and remarried, or cohabitating Catholics, any overarching guidance from the Holy Father this October could mean significant change. Cohabiting couples cannot be denied marriage by policy in the Catholic Church, but a priest is not obliged to marry a couple, and so Pope Francis’ example of presiding over a wedding for couples who had lived together will likely encourage other priests to follow suit.

Is the Holy Father subverting formerly rigid teachings? I don’t really think so. His restatement of the core Catholic understanding of the sacrament of marriage – that its core is the uniting of a man and a woman – is pretty substantive and full-throated:

“This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. Here we see the reciprocity of differences.”

Well, that should finally alienate America’s blank slate progressives. What I think is going on here is simple sensitivity to the individual person and a particular situation – think of Jesus and the woman about to be stoned for adultery  – and Francis regards mercy and forgiveness as the core Christian virtue. To show no mercy in today’s world is to consign countless people to a life outside the church altogether, when they may sincerely be attempting to live out the Gospels in an imperfect world with flawed human nature. If that is the case, then you can almost hear Francis’ response: “Who am I to judge?”

Know hope.

(Photo: Brides attend the Sunday Mass held by Pope Francis at the St. Peter’s Basilica on September 14, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. During the Mass Pontiff celebrated the marriage of twenty couples. By Giulio Origlia/Getty Images)

“Forgive Me”—Father

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 8 2014 @ 1:40pm

Sara Miller Llana contextualizes Pope Francis’s meetings with victims of clerical sex abuse yesterday, during which he begged their forgiveness for the church’s failure to protect them or respond to reports of abuse:

It’s taken almost a year and a half for him to meet with victims themselves, compared to his predecessor Pope Benedict, who was much less popular but met with victims on many trips around the world. This meeting – with victims from Ireland, Britain, and Pope Francis Attends Celebration Of The Lord's Passion in the Vatican BasilicaGermany – has also come under fire from victims’ groups in his native Argentina, who were excluded from this first encounter. And he raised a storm of criticism this year when he defended the church’s actions in general in the scandal. “The Catholic Church is maybe the only institution to have moved with transparency and responsibility,” Francis said. “No one else has done more. Yet the church is the only one to be attacked.” This is the first time a pope has received victims inside the Vatican.

Despite the criticism, Marco Politi, a veteran Vatican observer in Rome and author of the new book “Francis Among the Wolves,” says he believes the pope is continuing the work of his predecessor and forging a new, structural response. He created a commission on sexual abuse, which includes women as well as a former victim, and has taken action to back up his stated goal of zero tolerance. Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a Polish bishop recalled from the Dominican Republic last September on claims of sexual abuse, was recently defrocked.

The apology isn’t cutting it for some survivor-activists, who claim the pope isn’t doing enough to protect kids:

 Even though [Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP)], now 25 years old, is the most widely recognized global support group for clerical victims with more than 18,000 members, no one from their leadership was invited to meet with Francis. Ahead of the meeting [SNAP outreach director Barbara] Blaine, who was raped by her parish priest as a teenager, posed a number of topics she would like to discuss with Francis, if only she were given a chance.  First, she says she would like to tell the pope, “Stop talking about the crisis as though it’s past tense, and stop delaying while your abuse panels discusses details. You know the right thing to do. You don’t need a report.”

She said she would also tell the pope to focus first on prevention, instead of forgiveness.  “Wounded adults can heal themselves but vulnerable kids can’t protect themselves,” she says, noting that abuse and sex abuse and the consistent cover up by the Vatican is still ongoing.  She also suggests that the Holy See take “tangible steps to safeguard those at risk” by doing a number of what would seem like fairly simple steps, that are acceptable responses in the secular community when it comes to battling pedophilia, sex abuse, and child rape.

Dreher is on the same page:

Pope Benedict XVI was better. He defrocked 400 abuser priests, and worked harder than John Paul II to clean up the mess. But he never removed a bishop who facilitated abuse in his role as administrator — not even Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, the first American bishop ever convicted in the scandal (Finn, who in 2010 covered up for and shuffled around a priest who had child porn in his computer, was found guilty of not reporting the child porn to authorities.) And now Francis. Nice words, but until bishops are held accountable, they will only be words. By now, 12 years after Boston, papal statements absent actual papal governance count for nothing. We’ll know Francis is serious when bishops like Finn start losing their mitres.

I’m with Rod on this. It should never have taken this long to meet with survivors of abuse, or to hold bishops accountable for protecting child-abusers. On this subject, Francis could have provided a powerful symbolic moment of accountability and renewal – as he did in so many areas in his first year as Pope. But for some reason, he didn’t. It pains me.

“I Am A Sinner”

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 31 2014 @ 11:41am

And what better way to prove it than by a public confession?

You can see the moment he suddenly decided to confess himself; it seems completely spontaneous. Again, all you can say is that this is a brilliant example of “preaching the Gospel” while saying nothing. How can you better show that the Bishop of Rome is just like you and me, a sinner in need of reconciliation with others and with God than seeking the sacrament yourself? How can you better encourage use of this sacrament than revealing yourself in need of it?

The knots that kept us from the essentials of faith are being untied. And yes, that music in the background is Allegri’s Miserere.

An Acid Test For Francis, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 24 2014 @ 2:21pm

Barbie Latza Nadeau is optimistic about Pope Francis’ appointees to a new commission designed to deal with sex abuse in the Catholic Church:

The more surprising members of the group are the female members. Marie Collins is a married Irish woman who was raped at the age of 13 by a priest. She is an activist for child safety within the Catholic Church and has been vocal about how she was snubbed by her local parish and told to “protect the priest’s good name” when she accused him.

The eight-person commission includes four women and five lay people, a development Collins described as “encouraging.” Still, the committee’s mandate remains unclear: its first responsibilities are “determining the commission’s structure, outlining its duties, and putting forward names of other candidates who might join its work.” John Allen has a cautious analysis:

[N]aming people to a commission is not, in itself, reform. It remains to be seen if this group can successfully ride herd on forces in the church still in denial, or help the pope hold bishops and other Catholic leaders accountable if they drop the ball.

If the commission turns out to be a dud, Saturday’s announcement won’t be enough to save the pope from the disillusionment that will ensure. For now, however, the lineup card revealed by the pope not only amounts to a clear statement of seriousness about the abuse issue, but it also shows a deft political touch.