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.

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The Power Of Francis’ Glasnost

Oct 8 2014 @ 1:00pm

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:

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The Vanishing Idols

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:

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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:

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“Forgive Me”—Father

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.”

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“I Am A Sinner”

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

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.

The Acid Test For Francis, Ctd

Mar 5 2014 @ 4:44pm

And he fails:

Speaking about the horrific abuse of children by priests, Francis said “the cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very deep wounds”. Benedict XVI “was very courageous and opened a road, and the Church has done a lot on this route, perhaps more than all others”, he stated. He noted that the statistics reveal the tremendous violence against children, but also that the vast majority of abuse takes place in the milieu of the family and those close to them. The Church is the only public institution to have moved “with transparency and responsibility”, he said; no one else has done as much as it, “but the Church is the only one to be attacked”.

This is more of the institutional defensiveness that has proven so devastating to the church’s moral authority and a bad omen for more thoroughgoing accountability and reform. Here’s hoping that he will leave this attitude behind and lead further down the road of “transparency and responsibility” he believes Benedict opened.

Previous Dish on the subject here.

Francis On Civil Unions

Mar 5 2014 @ 1:21pm

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The knots begin to be untied:

On the question of marriage and civil unions, the Pope reaffirmed that “marriage is between a man and a woman”. States seek to justify civil unions “to regularize different situations of living together”, pushed by the need to regularize the economic aspects between people, such as, for example, to ensure health care, he said. “We have to look at the different cases and evaluate them in their variety”.

On this, as on contraception, the Pope is not calling for a change in doctrine about the sacrament of marriage. What he is clearly saying, I think, is that you don’t have to change doctrine to respect the civil society’s and secular state’s decision to accommodate gay couples and families within its existing arrangements for heterosexual households. This was his position in the internal church struggle in Argentina, reflecting his understandable concern that a Benedict-style counter-revolution against gay couples would not only be counter to the spirit of the Gospels, but deeply divisive for the church as a whole and damaging to its broader goal of evangelization. A 21st Century bishop of Rome might well accede to civil unions for gay couples and “not judge” the sincere consciences of gay couples seeking civil protections and rights under the law. That would end a misguided cultural war against an entire younger generation in the West, while not abandoning core doctrinal teachings on the family.

It’s a pragmatic and humane position – whereas Benedict’s was both a loser among most Western Catholics and clearly inhumane, and even callous, at times. I expect to see it nudged forward at the Synods this year and next.

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CORRECTION-VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

Another day, another breath of fresh air from Pope Francis:

In a nearly 3,000-word text to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, Francis tells the office they should not look for bishops based on any “preferences, likes, or trends” and likewise should not seek prelates who are mainly concerned with doctrinal matters.

The church, writes Francis, does not need “guardians of doctrine” but those who “appeal to the world to charm it with the beauty of love [and] to seduce it with the freedom bestowed by the Gospel … The church does not need apologists of its causes nor crusaders of its battles, but sowers humble and confident of the truth, who … trust of its power,” the pontiff continues.

Who did Francis succeed? A theologian who policed orthodoxy as meticulously as he chose his slippers.

(Photo: The hand of Pope Francis is pictured as he waves during his general audience in St Peter’s square at the Vatican on February 26, 2014 . By Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images.)