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Feb 7 17 5:30 AM
In German Church circles, Jesuit Father Hans Langendörfer, general secretary of the German bishops’ conference, is said to be a highly influential figure in the country’s episcopate, directing many, if not all, of its most important decisions.One of the most controversial of these in recent years has been the reform of the German Church’s labor laws which passed in 2015, allowing Church employees living in a homosexual relationship or divorced and civilly remarried to work in ecclesiastical institutions.In this interview with the Register on the sidelines of a press conference in Rome Feb. 6, Father Langendörfer responded to criticisms of that reform, as well as concerns expressed about guidelines the bishops issued last week on Amoris Laetitia in which the bishops allowed some civilly remarried divorcees to receive Holy Communion on a case by case basis. He also addressed criticisms made against the Church tax, often labeled unjust, and accusations that the German Church’s wealth, mostly deriving from tax revenues, has led to its own internal corruption, secularization, and what Benedict XVI termed Entweltlichung (conforming to the world in its worldliness).Father Langendörfer, there’s concern about different interpretations of Amoris Laetitia around the world, especially regarding the issue of Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. Confraternities representing thousands of priests have said they want clarification. Are you concerned that the German bishops’ interpretation is at odds with the concerns of these priests and bishops?As a matter of fact, the reflection and work of the German bishops was very intensive and we are very much convinced, at the end of our reflection and work, that it is not only in line with the Pope but that the principle of discernment that is used there should be acceptable in the Church for everyone. There are priests and bishops who deny acceptance, that is clear, but we tried to single out a position which we believe they can bear, and this is what we came to in the end.Are you concerned that, by treating each case on an individual basis, there will be exceptions to the rule, and that those exceptions will become the rule? In other words, it’s a slippery slope to allowing all remarried divorcees to receive Holy Communion.No, I mean as long as we talk about serious cases, serious people who really ask themselves: “Should I, or should I rather not, go to Communion?”. As long as you talk about these people, everything will be OK. Certainly, in many, many countries of this world, there will be Catholics who don’t ask any more. They simply go [to Communion] and this is not what we have in mind.So could your guidelines perhaps make matters even stricter than before?In a sense yes, because you have to ask yourself, you have to have scrutiny on yourself in a sense, discernment, which is the view of the Pope. Discernment is a very demanding process and this is what we have written into this.There’s been much criticism over the years that the German Church has too much money, that it’s become too secular, that it’s become susceptible to “Entweltlichung” as Benedict XVI said. Is there anything being done to try and prevent this, to shore up the faith and make it more robust in the German Church?Yes indeed. First of all evangelization as a concept, a strategy, is something we’re talking about intensively now in the bishops’ conference. [Cardinal Reinhard] Marx proposed that we re-evaluate many, many activities in the light of: is there really Christ at stake, the faith at stake, or not? And if you come to our country you would meet these many, many people volunteering in many areas: accompaniment, counseling, there is a new wave of interest in spiritual exercises, there are many people doing wonderful service in liturgy to assist there. I think it’s not fair to say they’re rich and that they don’t believe, they are not spiritual.You’ve implemented changes such as a new labor law to allow divorced and remarried Catholics, homosexuals living in relationships, to be employed by the Church. People say this is just a further secularizing of the Church in Germany, that you seem to be heading in the opposite direction in these actions undertaken by the bishops. What do you say to this?We really have to differentiate there. We have an obligation of loyalty which we demand from the people and we must in a sense, of course, keep the standards of labor law in Germany. We have certain privileges. We can ask more of the people but we have to have certain standards.Aren’t these compromises?Well of course.But compromises on the Truth?Well in which sense would it be? [We’re] talking about some 600,000 employees in the Church, and it’s not necessary, we think, to demand, to expect, the same behavior of a nurse in a Catholic hospital and a lay man or woman who serves in a parish. So the closer you are to proper pastoral work, the more you would be expected to have more of a personal witness, but one can always say the German system is bad…A problem one often hears related to the German Church is the Church tax. Some have compared it to the Islamic jizya, the annual tax put on non-Muslims, in that to be Catholic, you have to pay the tax or leave the Church and risk excommunication. They also say this tax is corrupting the German Church, also because it’s making the Church so rich it’s weakening its ability to evangelize.It’s one third of Catholics who pay the Church tax. The other two-thirds are not involved because they are too young, or too old, they don’t earn enough money.But it’s still a lot of money.It’s 5 billion euros every year, and we regard this, as you very well know, as a membership fee which is linked in our system to tax standards and it’s mandatory.And you’re at risk of excommunication if you don’t pay it?Yes. We regard this [non payment], as it always was, as a public withdrawal of Church attendance. No country at all can determine if someone is really a member of the Catholic Church unless they’re baptized, OK? You never get rid of the grace of your baptism, and this is very important for every human being. But you can refrain from being an active Catholic and you do so if you publicly declare you do not want to be a member of the Church.By not paying the tax?By going to the office which you have to go to, and declaring that you don’t want to be a member of the Catholic Church any longer. We need this, of course, because there is religious liberty, and one must have the freedom not to be a member of the Church. As long as [there] is public documentation of religious membership, you need also to have the opportunity to say you are not a religious man or woman, not a Christian.But supposing you are a practicing Catholic but don’t want to pay the Church tax because you see the damage it is doing. What do you say to someone like that?That is not up to the individual.But isn’t that religious freedom too, to be able to say “I wish to donate to the Church as I see fit?”Yes, [but] it’s a different system. You can [do this] in Switzerland, ask [Swiss] Cardinal [Kurt] Koch, where you are a member of the Catholic Church and don't pay money because the collection is separate from the Church. It’s in the hands not of the Church but of a civil institution, but this is not true in Germany. If you look back to the Nazi time, for example, people who left the Church wanted to separate themselves in a very formal way and the conviction of the German Church, or the bishops’ conference, is that in this country a Catholic has to accept these rules of the German Church, which are not the French ones, not the Spanish ones. If you want to exclude yourself, you exclude yourself from a proper Church membership.There’s sometimes talk that the German Church, because it is so wealthy, has a lot of influence on the Vatican in terms of pushing your interpretation, for example, on the issue of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, and changes to other Church teaching. What do you think of this — that influence is being exerted because of the wealth of the German church?Not at all. Do you really think the German Church is very influential here in Rome because of the money? It isn’t. I could go into more details but I don’t want to.
Feb 8 17 6:46 AM
German bishops’ interpretation of 'Amoris Laetitia' is broadest to dateThey recall the pope’s words in 'Amoris Laetitia' that "no one can be condemned forever because that is not the logic of the Gospel!"The Catholic bishops of Germany have declared that remarried divorcees can partake in the Church’s sacraments – including Holy Communion – if, after a long period of reflection, such Catholics decide they can do so in good conscience.This is believed to be the broadest interpretation to date by a national episcopal conference on how to apply Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL).The German Bishops’ Conference published guidelines for implementing the papal document on February 1st.The Church leaders first interpret at length what Francis has to say on (a) marriage preparation, (b) the accompaniment of marriage and (c) strengthening the family. It is only afterward that they go on discuss (d) the accompaniment of remarried divorcees.The order in which these four points are discussed is important since the guidelines were immediately and sharply criticized in conservative Church circles for only highlighting the subject of the remarried divorcees, which is not the case.The bishops point that, while Amoris Laetitia leaves no doubt that the “indissolubility of marriage belongs to the Church’s essential deposit of faith”, it “likewise leaves no doubt about the necessity of taking a differentiated look at the particular situation people find themselves in”.They recall the pope’s warning to “avoid judgments which do not take into account the complexity of various situations”, citing his words that “no one can be condemned forever because that is not the logic of the Gospel!”(AL 297).In their guidelines, the bishops say it is essential to respect a final individual decision of conscience. But they also make it clear that a serious examination of conscience and a longer process of deliberation accompanied by a priest must be part of the process. However, they also admit that, even then, it may not be possible to allow the individual concerned to receive the sacraments “in every case”.In the months following the publication of AL, it soon became clear that the majority of German bishops agreed that the exhortation showed a possible way of admitting remarried divorcees to the sacraments in individual cases.Archbishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg said last December he was convinced this was one of the papal document’s core messages. And Bishop Karl Heinz Wiesemann of Speyer, already last November published diocesan guidelines that priests should follow in helping remarried divorces discern a return to sacramental life.But not all German bishops share this opinion.Bishop Stephan Oster of Passau, for instance, sent a pastoral letter to his priests last May 20016, making it clear that divorced and remarried Catholics would not be allowed to receive the sacraments in his diocese.And just a few hours after the bishops’ conference published the guidelines on February 1st, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, said it was “not correct” for bishops to interpret the pope’s exhortation.“The pope’s teaching can only be interpreted by the Pope himself or by the CDF,” he told the Italian journal Il Timone.The cardinal had already stressed this point last December in an interview with the Austrian Catholic Press Agency Kathpress. He claimed that if bishops’ conferences were allowed to interpret the pope’s teaching, “the Church would break up into national Churches and would, in the end, atomize itself”.But Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin told the German Church’s Internet portal katholisch.de on February 2nd that he and his fellow bishops were fully in line with the pope and merely following his lead.“It is the way Pope Francis himself describes; namely, accompany, discern and incorporate,” said Koch, who attended both Synod gatherings on the family and is currently responsible for family affairs in the bishops’ conference.The archbishop was asked why the Germans, in comparison with other bishops’ conferences, had decided on the “widest” interpretation of Amoris Laetitia regarding the divorced and remarried.“Because we are firmly convinced that this is the Pope’s intention (in AL),” Koch replied.Ute Eberl, one of the few women to take part in the 2014 Synod gathering as a papal appointee, was delighted with the German bishops’ interpretation of the pope’s exhortation.Eberl, who is responsible for family pastoral work in the Berlin Archdiocese, told katholisch.de the bishops had done exactly what Pope Francis had prescribed. She said they had first spoken out openly and freely, listened carefully to one another and then “thrashed out their differences and got their act together”.Last autumn two German cardinals joined two other cardinals (Burke and Caffarra) and strongly voiced their opposition to allowing remarried divorcees to receive the sacraments in a letter to the pope. But neither Joachim Meisner (83), the former Archbishop of Cologne, and Walter Brandmüller (86), former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, is an active member of the bishops’ conference.
Feb 9 17 6:21 AM
This past week, I realized that the debate over Amoris Laetitia is over.The Holy Father wisely chose not to respond to the five dubia, or questions, posed to him by four cardinals who objected to Amoris Laetitia. Unlike our president, Pope Francis can’t be easily baited. “The dubia are not really expressions of doubt or questions but rather assertions that ‘Amoris Laetitia’appears to have abandoned or altered key teachings of Catholic tradition,” as Fr. Lou Cameli pointed out in his splendid essay at America. Answering them publicly would have only emboldened those few who resist the pope’s pastoral approach. Where do they go now with their complaints?The Catholic press has published a hundreds of articles about the text, some supporting it, some suggesting that the document is confusing or worse, but mostly, we in the press have moved on. The opposition to Francis, on this and other matters, has always been disproportionately an American phenomenon and even the most severe critics of Francis have had to write about other issues, not least the consequential election and the inauguration of a new president.But, what really made me realize the debate was over was a post by Cardinal Donald Wuerl at his archdiocesan blog. For many years, Cardinal Wuerl has long had a nose for the center of the Catholic Church in this country. By “center” I do not mean an ideological middle ground: The Catholic Church is decidedly more progressive than the country on a host of socio-economic issues and equally more conservative than the ambient culture on a variety of familial and sexual issues. By “center” I mean that Wuerl is someone who looks at any particular issue and, in addition to seeking a clear enunciation of Church teaching, also asks “How will this discussion or that decision advance the unity of the Church?” It is an important question, and one that bishops are charged with asking and answering. His focus on it is why the other bishops grow quiet and listen whenever Wuerl stands to speak at a meeting of the bishops’ conference.In his blog post, Wuerl notes that the priests of his archdiocese, by and large, not only appreciate Amoris Laetitia, but see in its approach a confirmation of what they do day in and day out. “At a recent meeting with a number of priests, when the topic of the pastoral implications of Amoris Laetitia and its pastoral application came up, most were explicit that they recognized an affirmation of their own pastoral concern and accompaniment in the apostolic exhortation,” he writes. “It seems that what is at issue is not what the exhortation says but rather where one chooses to place the emphasis. Some seem much more comfortable emphasizing the teaching and the obligations of canon law. While so many more, the majority of bishops, including those who were a part of both synods on marriage, accept the canon law, but also see the Gospel value of accompaniment and the Church’s recognition of the state of an individual’s conscience in the whole process of judgment making.”It has always been the problem that the critics of Amoris Laetitia focus on one or two aspects of the Church’s teaching and exclude others, and even, sadly, sometimes forget the whole. They point to the passages in the Gospels of Mark 10: 2-12 and Matthew 19: 3-9 in which Jesus actually goes further than the Mosaic law in proscribing divorce, but they neglect the passage in the Gospel of John 4: 5-42 in which Jesus engages the woman at the well and strikes a different stance.As Fr. Cameli suggests, these two Gospel stories are two poles that the Church must respect. “There is a place and a necessity to offer clear and sound teaching. There is also a need to accompany people whose lives are broken and burdened, so that they can embrace the life-giving truth of the Gospel. In a word, ‘Amoris Laetitia’ assumes the teaching and takes up the challenge, task and responsibility of pastoral and spiritual formation that accompanies people along the path of discernment.” I will suggest what Cameli does not: It is not hard to see the similarity in tone and approach between the Pharisees in the first Gospel passage and the cardinals with their dubia.Cardinal Wuerl points us to a different Gospel text, the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, surrounded by people eager to stone her, in the Gospel of John. “What does Jesus do? He does not abolish the law. He does not annul the application of the law in this case. He does not deny that there is an expected response invoking the full rigor of the law. Nor does he apply the law in a way that is anticipated. What he does is recognize the sinful human condition of the woman, avoids condemning her, and then tells her to go and sin no more.”Wuerl then applies the specific lesson of Amoris Laetitia to raise some broader questions about the Church and her ministry. “But it strikes me that there is even more of an undercurrent to the present position taken by a very small number of clergy and their media supporters,” he writes. “It seems that a part of the distress evident in what has been described as a ‘tempest in a teapot’ is the fact that Pope Francis is challenging all of us to move into a far more Gospel-identified mode of living and being Church than we may have been comfortable with. We need to ask ourselves if perhaps the Church has not become too identified in the minds and hearts of many people with the politics and power struggles of the moment. Have we failed to persuade others of the significance of the Gospel message, so that they create the culture that reflects those values? Have we become too comfortable with announcing aspects of the Gospel but not necessarily witnessing its full demands?”I say that the debate about Amoris Laetitia is over because the opposition is now living on fumes, most priests are embracing it and its vision, and because, in this last quote, Cardinal Wuerl, like Pope Francis, is pointing us to move on, and to reflect more deeply on how the Church proclaims the central message of the Gospel: God’s mercy has been abundantly given to us. I have said for several years now that Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal regarding the divorced and remarried was only the tip of the iceberg: Mercy as an essential, indeed the essential, attribute of the Godhead as revealed by Jesus Christ has for too long been obscured. Bringing it to the fore will not only alter the way we approach those in difficult and irregular marriage circumstances, it should alter the way we think about how we train priests, about the demands of social justice and the practice of economics, about criminal justice reform and immigration policy, about war and peace, about what we really do on Sunday when we attend Mass, about whom we are addressing when we begin the prayer “Our Father.” It is time to let the light of God’s mercy, the Gospel of mercy, shine on everyone and everything, not just the divorced and remarried.
Feb 13 17 6:19 AM
For some time now it can be seen that some groups inside of the Catholic Church dislike Pope Francis. Nihil novum sub sole as John L. Allen correctly observes, other popes have experienced the same.But, in recent days the attacks on Pope Francis just went a step further.On Feb. 4, posters with the pope’s grumpy face asking “Where’s your mercy?” showed up on Saturday in the streets of Rome. While the posters reference some of Francis’s actions, it can be clearly understood that the background reason for them is doctrinal. Or better to say, ideological.Authors of the posters most likely come from traditionalist or conservative groups, and they consider Francis’s teaching (at least) close to heresy.That was followed a week later by a spoof version of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, expressing much the same sentiment.At the same time, it is interesting to note how many of the pope’s critics seem unaware of an interesting fact. The three great persons in whose name they often attack Francis, accusing him of modernism or heresy, were all in their own time accused of the same - St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.Saints or heretics?St. Thomas Aquinas flirted with teachings of Aristotle acquired through Arabic philosophers, and these teachings were previously banned in the Catholic Universities. Platonism was the philosophy of Christians, and Aristotle was in fact “the philosopher of the enemy,” Islam.In this climate. Aquinas’s propositions were at one point considered for prohibition.St. John Paul II, after publishing his most important philosophical work “Osoba i czyn” (later to be translated as “The Acting Person”), was accused of modernism and of syncretism between Thomism and phenomenology. This work later significantly influenced his encyclicals.Similar things also happened after his book Sources of Renewal. Before the interreligious summit in 1986 in Assisi he initiated, some traditionalist groups denounced the pope and the event as heretical.Benedict XVI, in his latest book interview with Peter Seewald, admits himself that he was on the so-called “progressive” side during Vatican II, and the accusations of modernism and heresy against their side was abundant. He personally was accused of heresy after his article “New pagans and the Church,” and his bishop, Cardinal Joseph Wendel, wanted to block his appointment as a professor in Bonn for the same reason.We can also recall that then-Father Joseph Ratzinger’s draft document for Vatican II was depicted by some as Masonic.Why is this so?What this suggests is not that we shouldn’t be vigilant about the dangers of different modernisms or heresies in the Church. It’s important to preserve the faith we were given.Rather, it suggests that the learned class in the Church oftentimes has trouble discerning between real modernism on one hand, and a deepening of the understanding of truth on the other. Minds who didn’t just repeat formulas, and who’ve tried to deepen the understanding of the faith, historically almost every time have been accused of straying from orthodoxy by fellow thinkers or believers.This is a problem for three reasons. First, we might uproot the wheat while pulling out the weeds. Second, it makes it harder to recognize the true enemy when he comes. Third, it hurts the body of Christ, the Church.I would say that there are several reasons why this is happening.Four ways we go wrongThe first is philosophical and theological: Many educated people don’t understand how to use appropriate methods of inquiry. They’re familiar with quotes, but lack the ability, or the will, to apply and understand those quotes from within their context.This is most obvious in the use of sound-bites from Aquinas to refute the pope, when Aquinas advised us not to study philosophy to know (and blindly quote, one could add) what the authors have said, but to understand the truth about reality.Thus, quoting St. Thomas without investigating the things in themselves just doesn’t suffice. And it wouldn’t make St. Thomas happy.A second reason comes from a flawed understanding of tradition. This is the understanding which John Paul II described, when excommunicating Lefevbre, as an “incomplete and contradictory notion of tradition.”It’s incomplete, the pope said, because it doesn’t take sufficiently into account the living character of tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, “comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on.”Third, I would say, people sometimes just aren’t willing to accept that the “Spirit blows wherever it pleases,” and it sometimes produces cognitive dissonance. We try to protect ourselves by instrumentalizing theology or philosophy. This is human, but eventually we have to overcome it.Christianity is ever new and ever ancient, and in the words of Benedict XVI, “it is always a happening, an encounter, and not primarily a theory or moral system.” Thus, “it’s not that we own the truth, but the truth owns us.”Finally, there’s a misunderstanding of the hermeneutic of continuity which reduces continuity to the repetition of formal expressions of doctrine. Instead, it should mean staying true to the substance of faith we received and deepening our understanding of it.Old forms cannot be superior simply because they’re older. To once more quote Benedict from The Spirit of the Liturgy: “Age, simply by itself and as such, cannot be the criterion, and what’s come to being through historical development cannot be automatically categorized as alien and foreign to the original. There can be ultimately vivifying and strong development, in which the seed of the origin matures and brings fruit.”In the end, the biggest blessing probably is to have Benedict still alive and able to answer us himself. In his latest book-interview, Peter Seewald asks him: “So, you don’t see a rupture with your pontificate [in the pontificate of Francis]?”Benedict responds: “No. I think that some places can be misinterpreted and… When some places are isolated, taken out, the oppositions can be constructed, but not if we look at the whole. There are maybe new accents, but no ruptures.”Benedict rejecting accusations of a break under Francis is probably the best sign of continuity, and recognizing this is important. If we understand that Pope Francis is in line with tradition, then we can also understand that many of the ideologues attacking him are not.
Feb 14 17 5:36 AM
“The Church might admit the faithful who are in irregular union to penance and Eucharist” who “wish to change this situation, but cannot realize their desire.” This is the conclusion to which comes Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, author of - The eighth Chapter of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Recently published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, this nimble little book of about fifty pages is entirely devoted to the question of the possible admission to the sacraments to those who live in “irregular” situations”. I believe we can assume, with a sure and clear conscience, that the doctrine, pertaining the case, is respected,” the cardinal writes. Indissolubility is reaffirmed The cardinal cites passages from the exhortation which contain “with absolute clarity all the elements of the doctrine on marriage in full consistency and fidelity to the traditional teachings of the Church”. The exhortation repeatedly affirms the ’will to remain faithful to the Church’s teaching on marriage and family”. The subjective conditions of the ’irregulars’ The denser and most articulate pages of the book are those relating to ’subjective conditions or conditions of consciousness of different people in different irregular situations and the associated problem of admission to the sacraments of penance and Eucharist “. Coccopalmerio points out how limitations and obstacles do not simply depend on a possible ignorance of the current rule. Since, as already stated by Pope Wojtyla, “a subject, despite knowing well the norm, can have great difficulty in understanding the values inherent in the moral norm or can find oneself in concrete conditions which don’t allow to act differently and make other decisions without committing a new sin. “ Awareness of the irregularity Quoting John Paul II, Amoris Laetitia speaks about couples that despite being “aware of the irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins” and “situations where” for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate”. Coccopalmerio notes that the text, while not affirming it explicitly, implicitly assumes that these people are willing to “change their illegitimate status.” That is, they address “the problem of change,” and therefore have “the intention or at least the desire” to do so. “As a brother and sister,” and fidelity in danger The cardinal recalls what established by John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, and that is the possibility of going to confession and receive communion as long as there is a commitment to live as “brother and sister”, i.e. by refraining from sexual intercourse. He also points out that the exception raised by Amoris laetitia is based on a text of the Concilium Constitution Gaudium et Spes: “In these situations, many, who know and accept the possibility of living together ’like brother and sister’ offered by the church, point out that, if some expressions of intimacy lack, “it is not uncommon that fidelity is endangered and the well-being of the children might be compromised. ’”Therefore, the author of the book suggests, ’where the commitment to live “as brother and sister” is possible without difficulty for the couple’s relationship, the two partners should accept it willingly. “If however, this commitment “determines difficulties, the two partners seem not obliged, because they find themselves in similar conditions as case-subject spoken in n. 301 with this clear expression: “be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. Two essential conditions “The Church, therefore, might admit to penance and Eucharist - Coccopalmerio concluded - the faithful who are in an irregular union, under, however, two essential conditions: that they wish to change this situation, but cannot realize their desire. It is clear that the above essential conditions must be submitted to a careful and authoritative discernment on the part of an ecclesial authority. “No subjectivism, but room to the relationship with the priest. The cardinal says it might be “necessary” or at least “very helpful a service at the Curia,” in which the bishop “offers a special counselling or even a specific authorization in these cases of admission to the sacraments.” Who cannot be admitted To whom the Church “cannot possibly – it would be a blunt contradiction - grant the sacraments?” To the faithful who, “despite being in grave sin and having the opportunity to change, does not have any sincere intention to realize that.” This is what Amoris laetitia says: “ Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community. Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion... “
Feb 14 17 12:36 PM
Catholics who find themselves in what the Church considers “non-legitimate” situations, such as being divorced and civilly remarried, can receive Communion as long as they want to change their situation but cannot act on their desire because doing so would lead to further sin.That’s the final word, at least according to the Vatican’s key interpreter of the law, Italian Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, who was appointed by Benedict XVI in 2007 as President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.According to the Vatican’s constitution, this office’s work “consists mainly in interpreting the laws of the Church.”However, per his own words, he wrote his new book The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia not as a canon law expert but to try to “unpack [Amoris’s] rich doctrinal and pastoral message.”The 51-page long book released last week, printed by the Vatican’s editorial company, is rich in quotes from Francis’ Amoris Laetitia, and Coccopamerio said he wrote it because “this part of the document is not very ample and, perhaps because of the content and the form, this chapter has been judged either with negativity or with a certain reserve.”“The Church could admit to the Penitence and Eucharist the faithful who find themselves in illegitimate unions [who] want to change that situation, but can’t act on their desire,” Coccopalmerio writes.He also writes that “I believe that we can sustain, with sure and tranquil conscience, that the doctrine, in this case, is respected.”The Church’s teaching on marriage is clear: one man, one woman, united in an indissoluble bond, meaning, in sickness and health, poverty and wealth, ‘till death, and open to life.It’s worth noting that the Vatican’s doctrinal chief, German Cardinal Gerharld Muller, said earlier in the month that Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics is against Church doctrine and no one, including the pope, can change that.Quoting from Amoris Laetitia, Coccopalmerio says that the exhortation is very clear on all the elements of the Church’s doctrine on marriage, aligned and faithful to traditional teaching.Then he writes: “In no way, must the Church renounce to proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its greatness […] Any form of relativism, or an excessive respect in the moment of proposing it, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also a lack of love of the Church.”Coccopalmerio offers a concrete situation as an example of a case in which a person, “knowing about the irregularity of [his or hers] situation,” has great difficulty for changing their situation “without feeling in their conscience that they would fall in a new sin.”According to Coccopalmerio, Amoris Laetitia implicitly stipulates that to be admitted to the sacraments the men or women who, for serious motives such as the education of their children, can’t fulfill the obligation to separate, must nonetheless have “the intention or at least the desire” to change their illegal status.John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, which like Francis’, came in the aftermath of a synod of bishops on the family, said these couples were called to live “like brothers and sisters.”According to Coccopalmerio, the couples who can, should, but there’s also the reality that without sexual intimacy in a couple, the temptation to being unfaithful and finding intimacy elsewhere grows.Quoting from Amoris’ passage 301, on the mitigating factors in pastoral discernment, the cardinal writes that if a couple in an irregular situation finds it difficult to live like brothers and sisters, the cohabitating couple is not obliged to comply because they’re the subjects this passage talks about, representing a “concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”The example given by Coccopalmerio for a person who can’t go back without falling in a new sin is that of a woman who’s cohabitating with a man and his three children, after they were abandoned by his first wife.This woman, the cardinal writes, “has saved the man of a state of deep despair, probably from the temptation of suicide,” has helped him raise the children with a considerable sacrifice, and they have been together for ten years, adding a child to their family.“The woman of whom we speak is fully aware of being in an irregular situation. She would honestly like to change her life,” he writes. “But evidently, she can’t. If in fact, if she left the union, the man would turn back to the previous situation, the children would be left without a mother.”Leaving the union would mean, thus, not fulfilling great duties towards innocent people, meaning the children. “It’s then evident that this couldn’t happen without ‘new sin.’”As Francis’ Amoris Laetitia clearly states, the determination of this being a case in which Communion can be given has to be taken after a process of discernment, always done with a priest. Coccopalmerio also wrote that a diocesan office capable of giving advice on difficult marriage cases can be useful if not necessary.According to Coccopalmerio, the one instance in which the Church cannot welcome couples in irregular situations into the sacraments are the faithful who, “knowing they are in grave sin and being able to change, have no sincere intention” of doing so.Many observers, including Vatican-watcher Orazio La Rocca, handpicked by the cardinal to present the book, have recently defined the book as a response to the five yes or no questions submitted to Pope Francis by four cardinals.These prelates believe Amoris Laetitia has created “grave disorientation and great confusion,” particularly when it comes to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and their access to the sacraments of Penance and Communion.The dubia were submitted to Francis by American Cardinal Raymond Burke; Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop emeritus of Bologna; German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; and German Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop emeritus of Cologne.To this point, they haven’t been answered by Francis.Despite La Rocca’s writings, on Tuesday Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican’s editorial company said that no, the book wasn’t a response to the dubia, nor is it the Vatican’s official response to it in any way. It is, he insisted, Coccopalmerio’s personal take on chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia.Alfonso Cauteruccio, who was at the book’s presentation taking journalists requests for an interview with the cardinal, said that the book wasn’t born out of “doubts” but from the cardinal’s pastoral experience.Father Maurizio Gronchi, a consultant in Muller’s office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was also at the book presentation. According to him, the pope’s document has generated no doubts.Explaining the book, Gronchi said that to receive Communion have to be conscious of their sin and have actual intentions of changing their situation, even if it’s not possible. “It doesn’t say that it’s a forgiveness for everyone in any case,” he said.Amoris Laetitia, he continued, “trues to indicate possible paths for conversion, not to resolve broken marriage situations.”In the presentation, La Rocca used a passage of Amoris Laetitia in which the pope says that the Eucharist is not an award for those who are perfect but a remedy for the weak.After reading this passage on Tuesday, La Rocca asked, “Who says that God is not happy with my way of living my life?” In the opinion of the journalist chosen by the cardinal, “it’s petty to deny Communion because the law says so.”“Someone will have to explain to me who decided what is the correct doctrine,” La Rocca said when presenting the book. His view is that Chapter Eight “will open the hearts” of many who move solely by rule of the law.He also said that he plans to give the book to two people he knows, who cannot receive Communion because they’re in irregular situations. La Rocca believes that after reading it, his friends will feel welcomed.Though few bishops have explicitly come out either in favor or against the four cardinals, recent guidelines by various bishops on how to apply the eight chapter Amoris Laetitia show that the papal document, product of an almost three-year long consultation process with the world’s bishops, leaves room for discernment on this topic.Some bishops have discerned that the law is clear, stated in this weekend’s Gospel:
Feb 15 17 5:02 AM
Rome delays decision on MedjugorjePrior to publishing the conclusions of the inquiry report on the presumed apparitions at the Marian sanctuary of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the pope has appointed a special envoy to evaluate the situation on site.In this dossier, La Croix looks at several key questions raised by the Medjugorje phenomenon. Why did Pope Francis appoint a special envoy for Medjugorje?The Vatican has still not rendered its judgment on the authenticity of the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje. However, on Saturday, February 11, which is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and thus a highly symbolic date in the life of the Church, the pope appointed a special envoy to evaluate the pastoral situation there.Nearly a million pilgrims per year visit the Marian sanctuary located in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where, according to the six seers, the Virgin Mary still appears every evening. This is a considerable figure in comparison with other “official” Marian shrines that the Church cannot ignore, whatever its final decision may be.By the end of summer, Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga in Poland will, therefore, work to gather the “deepest” information available on “the pastoral situation of this reality and above all the demands of the faithful who visit the site in order to propose eventual pastoral initiatives for the future".On the other hand, Archbishop Hoser’s mission will not deal with the doctrinal angle which remains under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Why hasn’t the Church made a decision yet?In reality, it has already done so in the declaration of the bishops of ex-Yugoslavia in 1991. “On the basis of research carried out,” the declaration said, “it is not possible to establish that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”The Church has maintained this position since then and, while private visits cannot be prohibited, official pilgrimages are banned.To go further, Benedict XVI established an inquiry commission in 2010. Led by Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, it submitted its report to Pope Francis in January 2014. Several sources say that this commission may have given a favorable opinion regarding the beginnings of the phenomenon only, suspending judgment on everything that happened later.Since then, however, Pope Francis has not made any announcement. Interviewed by RAI television on Saturday on this issue, Cardinal Ruini mentioned two reasons for the pope’s silence. On one hand, “the phenomenon is presented as ongoing, at least as far as what we have been told".And on the other hand, the dossier is “very complex".“Anyone, who has examined it will understand this,” he added enigmatically.Even though many Medjugorje pilgrims since 1981 have testified of conversions, healings or the birth of vocations, several shadow zones remain. These include financial interests created by tourism (1), the disobedience and deviant behavior of certain Franciscans, who accompanied the seers (Tomislav Vlasic, their spiritual director was laicized in 2009…).Medjugorje has also occurred within the larger context of tense relations that have lasted for more than a century between the Franciscan province of Herzegovina and local bishops. What action could the pope take?Archbishop Hoser’s appointment may confirm a hypothesis evoked by the Vatican last July, namely the possible creation of a territorial prelature under an apostolic administrator. Medjugorje would then be managed directly by Rome.Pope Francis has also on several occasions distanced himself from the notion of a Virgin Mary, who acts like “the head of a post office sending a new letter each day".“He does not regard the mode of presentation of the apparitions as appropriate with a specifically determined time and all the other details that make it appear that the Virgin is acting on command,” Cardinal Ruini told RAI television on Saturday.“The pope is preparing people for the decision that will be taken regarding Medjugorje,” added Fr Salvatore Perrella Maria, a member of the inquiry commission, speaking to Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops in June 2015.(1) Three billion euros over 30 years, according to an inquiry by Vencel Culjak, the first economist to have studied the economic operations at the Medjugorje sanctuary.
Feb 22 17 4:23 PM
In the post-synod exhortation on the family, Pope Francis made it possible for Catholics in non-legitimate unions, including civil remarriage after divorce, to receive the Eucharist under certain conditions, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, the Vatican’s top legal expert, affirmed.He defended this interpretation in a short book on Chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia,” released in Italian by the Vatican’s publishing house; an English version of the 51-page text is forthcoming.In an interview with America on Feb. 17, Cardinal Coccopalmerio described the book as his “personal reflection” on what “Amoris” says about the possibility of admitting Catholics in “non-legitimate” marital situations to the sacraments. He denied that it is his or the Holy See’s response to the questions raised by four cardinals on this matter.The cardinal’s commentary carries weight. He not only participated in the two synods on the family but is the president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts and a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the supreme court for church law.Chapter 8 begins with ‘a clear definition of marriage; it presents an ideal of marriage. Therefore no one can think the doctrine of marriage has been changed.’The pope’s exhortation “affirms with great clarity the indissolubility of marriage,” he said. Chapter 8 begins with “a clear definition of marriage; it presents an ideal of marriage. Therefore no one can think the doctrine of marriage has been changed.” But “Amoris” also addresses the reality of Catholics in non-legitimate unions and opens the possibility for them to receive the Eucharist under certain conditions.He cited as an example the case of a woman who is free to marry according to church law and decides to enter into a stable relationship and lives with a married man, whose wife had left him with three young children. In such a case, he explained, “the children would now consider her their mother and for the man, she is his life,” as she means everything to him. If she eventually recognizes the problem with her situation and decides to leave, then her husband and children will find themselves in great difficulty. But the cardinal said, “If this woman concludes ‘I cannot leave. I cannot do such harm to them,’ then this situation, where she wants to change but cannot change, opens the possibility of admissions to the sacraments.”In such a situation, the cardinal said, there is the recognition of sin and the sincere desire to change but also the impossibility of making it happen. In this situation, he would tell her, “remain in this situation, and I absolve you.”While he said that he has never had to refuse absolution to anyone, the cardinal nevertheless insisted that “one cannot give absolution except to persons who are repentant and desire or want to change their situation, even if they cannot put their desire into practice now because that would harm innocent persons.” In this way, he said, “the doctrine is safeguarded but takes account of the impossibility.”Many pastors think admission to the Eucharist is possible only if the couple in an irregular union agree “to live together as brother and sister,” as St. John Paul II stated in “Familiaris Consortio” (No. 84). The cardinal recognized this possibility and said that Francis’ exhortation says “if you are able to do so, very good.”But, he noted, “‘Amoris Laetitia’ recalls that the Second Vatican Council (“Gaudium et Spes,” No. 51) recognized that if a couple abstains from conjugal relations, this could create a crisis for one or both spouses and could lead to a breakdown in fidelity or the breakup of the marriage.”In such situations, he said, “it’s the person’s conscience that must decide.”This approach, he said, is in line with the ‘great intuition’ of Vatican II to recognize the good that is already present in a situation and build upon it.Cardinal Coccopalmiero shares Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s view that “Amoris” develops church teaching: “It is always the same doctrine, but it takes account of the concrete situation. You affirm the doctrine and can say they should live as brother and sister, but the reality at times does not make this possible.”He emphasized, however, that when it comes to the question of whether to allow persons in irregular marital situations to receive the sacraments, “Amoris” states clearly that “this must be evaluated by the competent ecclesiastical authority, which normally—in my view—should be the parish priest, consulting if necessary with the ordinary, so that he can say to the couple, ‘Yes, you can go to the sacraments.’”Moreover, he said, it is necessary “to educate the faithful, the community, in this whole matter, through catechesis and explanation, to help them avoid making negative or false judgments when a couple in non-legitimate union is allowed access to the Eucharist.”He recognized there is resistance in some sectors to “Amoris” but believes this is mainly due to “a pastoral formation, a theoretical formation, that privileges the affirmation of the truth, of doctrine, and at times does not look at the fact that people are in situations where one cannot pretend that they put it into practice.”Moreover, he said, “We have an ontology of the person that is general and abstract: Man is made this way, a Christian has this structure, but the fact is you do not simply have in front of you a man, a Christian. You have a person with limitations, conditionings and situations, and if we do not take account of the concrete ontology, then we do not respect the person.”For example, “if a person comes to you that can only do 50 of the 100 [that is expected], and you recognize that this 50 is the good that is possible now, then I give approval for the 50, but I don’t say you shouldn’t aim for 100.”The cardinal advises those who have difficulty accepting Pope Francis’ approach “to not be afraid, to try to understand, to see the beauty of the 50 percent and give them the sacraments, which does not mean that this is definitively the best, no, but it is the best for those who cannot do more at this stage. There are these two elements, therefore: the desire to do more, to reach the maximum, but the impossibility of arriving at that maximum, and so valuing the lesser quantity.” This approach, he said, is in line with the “great intuition” of Vatican II to recognize the good that is already present in a situation and build upon it.
Mar 7 17 5:57 AM
A Church-State crisis that is post-Christendom and post-confessionalThe globalization of the papacy has interacted with the globalization of the Church in a new way.Pope Francis continues to play an active role on the global stage as the Vatican works for peace in countries ravaged by war.The pope announced on February 26 during a visit to Rome’s Anglican community that he’s considering the possibility of going to South Sudan with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.Francis will meet heads of state and government from countries in the European Union on March 24th at the Vatican. The leaders will be in town to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which officially established the European Economic Community.This comes less than a year after the pope was granted Europe’s most prestigious political award, the “Karlspreis”. On that occasion, also at the Vatican, he – an Argentine Catholic – basically asked European elites to restore the European project with its original cultural and spiritual core.Pope Francis preaches a strong social message and there are high expectations for his contribution concerning the dangerous (and for some countries like South Sudan, tragic) condition in the world today. This is especially true in light of developments in the international situation during this last year, such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, as well as fears regarding 2017, such as crucial elections in France, the Netherlands, and Germany.The constant appeal that American Catholics opposed to Trump make to the pope’s teachings is but an example and symptom of these expectations. But such hopes do not always take into account two major changes that have occurred in the relationship between the papacy and the world – changes that began before Francis became pope, but have become particularly visible during his pontificate.The first change is the globalization of the Catholic Church and the price it has exacted.The globalization of the papacy itself dates back to at least the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). But Francis is the first pope to redistribute power in the Catholic Church from Rome to different areas of the world. He has done this especially by creating new cardinals from an expanding variety of nations and by empowering the Synod of Bishops to deal with the issue of family and marriage.Most importantly, the globalization of the papacy has interacted with the globalization of the Church in a new way. The papacy under Francis has drawn closer than before to all the churches in the world. This is the geo-political and geo-theological part of this pope’s emphasis on the peripheries.The papacy is now more “spread” out across the global map. And this may well mark the beginning of a new phase in the history of the Catholic Church.But there is a tradeoff to this globalization of the papacy and of the Church. The papacy is no longer particularly close to one country or area of the world. For sure it is no longer particularly close to areas that once played a key role in the previous history of the Church.This is especially evident for Italian Catholics who are now going through a singularly messy political transition. Italy can no longer count on a cohort of Catholic politicians who are clearly inspired by their Catholic faith and culture. It can also no longer count on a pope who understands the mysteries of Italian and European politics.Francis will not be able to help Italy save itself in the way his predecessors did during the two world wars and the period of domestic political terrorism in the 1970s known as the “years of lead”.This should serve as a reminder for American Catholics, too. Francis is not a North-Atlantic or transatlantic pope, and his pontificate is concerned about much more than saving the United States from Donald Trump.There is a second epochal change that is important to note if we want to understand the current pontificate. It is the crisis of both Church and state in the sense that nation-states no longer dominate politics while institutional churches and their organizations no longer have control.One of the most important historians of the Church in the early modern period, Paolo Prodi (1932-2016), explained it very well in one of the last conference papers he gave. Prodi observed that, until the 20th century, Western Christianity was a product of the period between the 15th and the 17th period, which emerged around three actors: Church, state, and market.The market has become something completely different from what it was in the early modern period. But from a historical-theological point of view, the most radical transformation is now affecting Church and state.Prodi says that 500 years after the Protestant Reformation the division of labor between churches and nation-states no longer holds. Their cooperation, celebrated with the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 that put the century-long wars of religion in Europe to an end, is no longer keeping them together. Political power roams now out and beyond the control of nation-states, and religious power roams out and beyond the control of Churches and organized religion.In the long history of the West, there was a close association between “the sacred and power” and “church and state”. Now they are dissociated and alienated. This is true for Christianity but also for other religions, in different forms – Islam included. The crisis of multiculturalism and of laïcitè are part of this picture.This helps us understand the importance of Francis’ pontificate, beyond more popular issues such as the reform of the Roman Curia or a new pastoral praxis for marriage and family (which, nonetheless, are both very important).What is striking is that now the papacy is not just post-Christendom, that is, beyond the period when religion was a key pillar of political power and of a given model of society. Under Francis it is also post-confessional.This is not only in the sense that confessional boundaries between different Churches are now different than under his predecessors but also in the sense that the current pope sees religion on a world map where the borders of nation-states no longer mean what than they used to mean even just a few years ago.In a new book by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, the announced fear of post-Christianity clearly misses the bigger picture. In a similar way, it is largely incorrect to compare the populism of both Pope Francis and Donald Trump in view of the relationship between nationalism and globalism.It is true that we are now looking at a post-neoliberal future. In this sense, Mr. Trump’s election is a “sign of the times” and one that the Church must avoid reading in terms of short-term gains or losses.The real shift, in historical-theological terms, is the end of the division of labor between Church and state and at the same time the end of the institutional isomorphism and parallelism of Church and state. A mixture of elements that are both monarchical and aristocratic governs both. For the Catholic Church that means the papacy, the bishops.This crisis of Church and state has caused a “theologization of politics”, where political differences become mutual excommunication, for example between Republicans and Democrats in the United States. It has also caused an “ideologization of the Church”, where, for example, a given doctrinal development or pastoral practice for the divorced and remarried is considered orthodox or heretical in light of its ability to serve the petty ideological struggles of Catholicism versus the secular world.Pope Francis rejects neo-Constantinian ideologies that now try to see the new emperor protecting Christianity in either Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump (or, in some cases, in both Putin and Trump). And this comes from the pope’s comprehension of the bigger historical-theological picture.Francis is a Jesuit and is well aware of the huge theological and political meanings inherent in the suppression of the Society of Jesus between 1773 and 1814. That was the beginning of the “long nineteenth century” that preceded Vatican II. It is no coincidence that this is a period to which many of the pope’s opponents would like to return.
Mar 18 17 6:27 AM
Can Catholics dissent from Pope Francis’ teaching on the family? Wrong question. March 19 marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of “Amoris Laetitia,” the apostolic exhortation promulgated by Pope Francis after the close of the latest session of the Synod of Bishops. For some, this anniversary is celebratory, a reminder of the synod’s prayerful study of the mission and vocation of the family. For others, it calls attention to what they see as the document’s dangerous ambiguities, particularly as they pertain to the pastoral care of Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.For all Catholics, however, the anniversary and, specifically, the disparate reactions “Amoris Laetitia” continues to produce within the church—including among those with responsibility for the church’s governance—pose an important question: How free are Catholics to disagree with a teaching of the church? Some go further and use a more technical, and at that, a more provocative term: Is dissent permitted in the church?The question is an understandable one, particularly in a culture where dissent, or something like it, is as easy as giving one’s Uber driver a single star.Though understandable, the question is minimally fruitful, a point that the theologian Nicholas Lash emphasized in America in 2010. Professor Lash made a distinction between two ways the word “instruct” can be used: instruction as teaching (“She is under an expert’s instruction”) and as commanding (“I instructed him to stop”). The first has understanding as its goal (“Ahh, I see!”); the second, obedience (“O.K., I am stopping”).“Dissent,” Professor Lash writes, “is disobedience.” Consequently, when the language of dissent gets applied to church teaching, the conversation moves squarely into the category of “instruction as commanding.” And to understand the role of the magisterium, that is, the church’s bishops under the headship of the pope, as one of commanding is to misunderstand completely the tasks of the magisterium as described by Vatican II: “Teaching only what has been handed on [in Scripture and Tradition], listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully” (“Dei Verbum,” No. 10).What is more, “instruction as commanding” is clearly contrary to the will of Pope Francis in “Amoris Laetitia,” where he advises against “a rushed reading of the text,” claiming instead, “The greatest benefit…will come if each part is read patiently and carefully” (No. 7). One issuing a command does not discourage rushed listening and encourage patient consideration. One who teaches does.So if the question of the permissibility of dissent is not the right question, then what is? How about this: What invitations does a teaching of the magisterium extend to believers?I see three primary invitations.First, a teaching of the magisterium asks believers to remember that the intellectual dimension of ecclesial life is just one of its dimensions. In other words, one cannot isolate a teaching of the magisterium to such a degree that all the other components of the life of the church—prayer, worship, community, works of mercy, reading the signs of the times, etc.—are forgotten. Indeed, the more persuasively the magisterium situates a church teaching in this broader context, the more authentically will its action be “instruction as teaching.”Second, a teaching of the magisterium asks believers to take all available means to understand the form and the content of the given teaching. The “form” of a church teaching is how the magisterium presents it: A dogmatic constitution at an ecumenical council is a more solemn form of teaching than an apostolic exhortation of a pope, which itself is more solemn than a pastoral letter of a diocesan bishop.The “content” of a church teaching is what the magisterium proposes. To hone what they teach, bishops can enlist the help of theologians, with whom they have “a reciprocal relationship,” according to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, during a teaching’s development and after its promulgation, asking theologians to “striv[e] to clarify the teaching of Revelation with regard to reason and [to] giv[e] it finally an organic and systematic form” (“Donum Veritatis,” No. 21).Third, a teaching of the magisterium, especially when it prompts questions and confusion among people, asks believers, to use the image of the theologian Richard R. Gaillardetz, to wrestle with the tradition and not to give up on it. This invitation extends to all believers, those who are members of the magisterium and those who are not.It is incumbent upon the magisterium to be serious about “instruction as teaching,” which should compel them to do what all good teachers do when what they teach is not understood: try again, use a different approach, respond to questions.And it falls to the rest of us to keep wrestling with what we find difficult, or, put in terms the International Theological Commission uses, to keep trying to recognize in a teaching of the magisterium “the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd.”
Mar 21 17 6:53 AM
In an Israeli warehouse, clues about Jesus' life and death BEIT SHEMESH, Israel (AP) -- In a cavernous warehouse where Israel stores its archaeological treasures, an ancient burial box is inscribed with the name of Jesus.Not THAT Jesus. Archaeologists in Israel say Jesus was a common name in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago, and that they have found about 30 ancient burial boxes inscribed with it.Ahead of Easter, Israel's antiquities authority opened up its vast storeroom to reporters on Sunday for a peek at unearthed artifacts from the time of Jesus. Experts say they have yet to find direct archaeological evidence of Jesus Christ, but in recent years have found a wealth of material that helps fill out historians' understanding of how Jesus may have lived and died."There's good news," said Gideon Avni, head of the archaeological division of the Israel Antiquities Authority. "Today we can reconstruct very accurately many, many aspects of the daily life of the time of Christ."Israel is one of the most excavated places on the planet. Some 300 digs take place each year, including about 50 foreign expeditions from as far away as the United States and Japan, the Antiquities Authority said.About 40,000 artifacts are dug up in Israel each year. A third of all the antiquities found attest to the ancient Christian presence in the Holy Land, Avni said. Historians now know how long it took to travel between cities and villages where Jesus preached, and what those places looked like at the time.Avni said knowledge of the period has advanced over the past 20 years. "We can reconstruct precisely how the country looked," he said.In a brightly-lit, 5,000-square meter (54,000-sq. feet) warehouse crammed with stacks of ancient jugs and pottery shards - what the Antiquities Authority calls its "Ali Baba cave" of ancient treasures - officials set up a simple white table with finds from the time of Jesus.There were well-preserved limestone drinking cups and dishes, widely used by Jews in the Holy Land at the time as part of their strict practice to ensure the ritual purity of their food. There was an intricately decorated limestone burial box belonging to a scion of the high priest Caiaphas, known in the New Testament for his involvement in delivering Jesus to the Roman authorities who crucified him. In ancient times, families would gather the bones of the deceased and place them into boxes known as ossuaries.They also showed off a replica of a major artifact located in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem - a heel bone pierced by an iron nail with wood fragments on each end, discovered in a Jewish burial box in northern Jerusalem dating to the 1st century AD. To date, it's the only evidence found of a victim of Roman crucifixion buried according to Jewish custom.It has helped archaeologists reconstruct how the man was crucified - with his feet nailed to the sides of the cross. Avni said Jesus may have been crucified in the same manner, unlike the way the crucifixion is depicted in traditional Christian art.Across from cardboard boxes marked "bones" from Bethsaida of the New Testament, a massive stone block sat on a wooden crate on the warehouse floor. The stone bears an apparent carved depiction of the Second Jewish Temple, and was discovered in 2009 at the site of an ancient synagogue on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Archaeologists have suggested Jesus may have preached in the synagogue.Avni said there is no reason to believe Jesus did not exist just because archaeologists haven't found physical evidence of him. "You have to remember that Christ was one among more than a million people living during this time in the Holy Land," he said.Yisca Harani, an Israeli scholar of Christianity, said the lack of physical evidence of Jesus is a "trivial mystery.""Why do we expect in antiquity that there would be some evidence of his existence?" Harani said. "It's the reality of human life. It's either rulers or military men who had their memory inscribed in stone and artifacts."She said what remained of Jesus "are his words."
Mar 27 17 2:43 AM
Amoris Laetitia: The Questions That Really Need AnswersIt would appear that despite the support offered to Pope Francis by the Council of Nine Cardinals, allied to positive interventions of other Cardinals, Bishops and theologians, the vociferous opposition to Amoris Laetitia continues to grow unabated.It would appear that despite the support offered to Pope Francis by the Council of Nine Cardinals, allied to positive interventions of other Cardinals, Bishops and theologians, the vociferous opposition to Amoris Laetitia continues to grow unabated. It seems to me that two problems are presented with this hostile attitude: first, an erroneous understanding of Tradition, and second, a defiant attitude towards the Magisterium that in previous times was almost always the property of liberals clambering for changes in doctrine. Not so today. We are presented now with the disconcerting truth that those who oppose the Magisterium are the very ones who have always decried the actions of others in their disobedience to papal authority. The stench of hypocrisy is in the air and we know what the Lord thought of that. Tradition and St Vincent of Lerins In terms of Tradition, there is a fatal flaw in the argument of those who oppose Pope Francis’ decision to alter the sacramental discipline for certain Catholics in irregular marital situations. For them, Tradition seems to be complete. In this particular aspect it stopped in 1981 with St John Paul’s Familiaris Consortio. The authentic teaching on Tradition, however, is that it grows and matures over time with the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit. As the centuries pass by, the Church is faced with ever new complexities which serve to enhance its own understanding of its doctrines, and through the charisms of the Pope, Bishops and all the faithful it navigates its way towards this end. It seems safe to say that until the Lord returns, the Holy Spirit will have something to teach the Church in its doctrinal mission to present the most perfect way of living the Gospel. In order to understand this reality more, we can turn to St Vincent of Lerins, the great fifth century theologian. In his Commonitorium, he discusses at length the issue of doctrinal development: “The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning…For it is right that those ancient doctrines of heavenly philosophy should, as time goes on, be cared for, smoothed, polished; but not that they should be changed, not that they should be maimed, not that they should be mutilated. They may receive proof, illustration, definiteness; but they must retain withal their completeness, their integrity, their characteristic properties.” So what is St Vincent getting at here? Isn’t it a contradiction to claim that one may not change doctrine but somehow also see it develop? The answer lies in the maturation akin to a person’s growth. Let us use a pianist for an example. A young virtuoso may have the technique to play a great work note perfect, and yet may not have the necessary revelation of the composer’s intention to interpret it in a way that perhaps another, more mature pianist could. In this case everything on the page is adhered to (as in the truth of a particular doctrine), but there is more refinement to come. If we actually look for a specific doctrine in which St Vincent’s teaching can be applied, then St Cyprien’s axiom “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (Outside the Church there is no salvation) is a very good example. Until recent times, the statement had an overriding negative connotation, in that it was understood (at least for many) that only official members of the Catholic Church could be saved, plus a few exceptions. In more recent times however, the Holy Spirit has led the Church to reveal the axiom from another angle: That it is only through the Church that one can be saved and this applies to non-Catholics as well; thus salvation is open to all genuinely seeking God, but that if and when it happens, it occurs through the Church. So we see here how Tradition is alive; it kept this teaching fully intact, but a more mature understanding grew through the passage of time. Other instances of authentic doctrinal development would be that of papal infallibility (Vatican I), the baptismal participation of the laity in the priesthood of Christ (Vatican II), and the recognition of the workings of grace in those outside the Catholic Church (Vatican II). What interests us here is how we can apply the development of doctrine to the issues surrounding Amoris Laetitia. Strange as it may seem, it does not really apply so much to the issue of allowing Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried in certain cases because that is purely a matter of sacramental discipline, of which the Holy Father has absolute authority to change. Rather, it concerns moral theology and the reasons why the people Pope Francis speaks of are not to be considered as being in a state of mortal sin. With the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes, the Church sought to reinvigorate moral theology in order to confront the issues facing modern man. Until then, guidance was given from what was essentially a manual of prohibitions: “yes you can” or “no you cant.” The problem was it didn’t delve into the spiritual relationship of the penitent and Christ. In fact, it was totally detached from a scriptural and Christological approach. Basically it was legalistic; it didn’t take into account mitigating factors of guilt, psychological problems or intentions. Objective grave matter was the overriding issue and thus many felt it was very easy to be in a state of mortal sin. In recent decades however, the magisterium has shed much needed light on the aspect of subjective guilt when sins are committed. In 1975, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s document Persona Humana stated: “It is true that in sins of the sexual order, in view of their kind and their causes, it more easily happens that free consent is not fully given; this is a fact which calls for caution in all judgment as to the subject’s responsibility.” During the pontificate of St John Paul II we discover the same teaching in several very important instances: In Veritatis Splendor he states: “Clearly, situations can occur which are very complex and obscure from a psychological viewpoint, and which influence the sinner’s subjective imputability”, while the Catechism is also firm that gravely sinful acts can be lessened in severity due to a variety of circumstances. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also weighed in on several occasions in order to ensure the entire truth of objective grave matter and subjective guilt was understood. In its 1986 document on the pastoral care of homosexual persons, it stated that guilt could be even removed completely in certain cases. Perhaps the most enlightening document however, is one from February 1989 entitled “The Moral Norm of Humanae Vitae and Pastoral Duty.” It is striking in its similarity to the moral theology present in Ch. 8 of Amoris Laetitia, and although the document is primarily concerned with the sin of contraception, its teaching applies equally to the sin of adultery: “The same Christian moral tradition just referred to, has also always maintained the distinction – not the separation and still less an opposition – between objective disorder and subjective guilt. Accordingly, when it is a matter of judging subjective moral behaviour without ever setting aside the norm which prohibits the intrinsic disorder of contraception, it is entirely licit to take into due consideration the various factors and aspects of the person’s concrete action, not only the person’s intentions and motivations, but also the diverse circumstances of life, in the first place all those causes which may affect the person’s knowledge and free will. This subjective situation, while it can never change into something ordered that which is intrinsically disordered, may to a greater or lesser extent modify the responsibility of the person who is acting. As is well known, this is a general principle, applicable to every moral disorder, even if intrinsic, it is accordingly applicable also to contraception. In this line, the concept of the “law of gradualness” has been rightly developed [St Vincent of Lerins again], not only in moral and pastoral theology, but also on the level of pronouncements of the Magisterium itself.” What is significant, is that we are told the general principle is applicable to every moral disorder thus for those who say adultery is always mortal sin are not in line with Christian moral tradition. This one single fact lies at the heart of the controversy and needs to be addressed especially by those priests and bishops who are only seeing black and white. As Cardinal Ratzinger once said “As judge, Christ is not a cold legalist” and again “The identity of the Church has clear distinguishing marks, so that it is not rigid.” So we see clearly that Pope Francis’ criticism of legalism and rigidity is nothing new. It seems to me that we must try and understand “truth” in these matters in its entirety; that is, not only the truth of the sinfulness of every moral disorder, but the truth concerning the state of an individual soul in those moments. Only then can we really speak about the truth and judgment of a situation as Jesus would see it. It is noticeable in the dialogue with the Samaritan Woman at the well (Jn. 4:5-42), that the woman in a state of adultery displays signs of grace at work: “give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty.” She also acknowledges that the fifth man in her life is not her husband, and further, she exhibits evangelical zeal with her witness among her own people. Jesus does not condemn, but opens her heart by instigating a dialogue. There is no legalism present in the Lord’s words and actions, just as there isn’t in the passage concerning the woman caught in the act of adultery. In fact, if we compare the two episodes, we notice the scriptural reality that Pope Francis has based his new approach on. In terms of the person in the irregular situation, he foresees someone who knows their situation is sinful and for various legitimate reasons cannot change at least for now, but who desires with all their heart what the Samaritan woman wanted; and from the perspective of the Saviour, a God who doesn’t condemn but who invites the sinner to begin a path of ascent, even if it is gradual and fragile. At this point, therefore it is right to address the points of contention among Pope Francis’ critics. They say simply one must abstain from sexual relations no matter what the circumstance of the family; there is no concern for how this added tension will possibly affect the children, or the peace within the home. This is frankly naïve. Ask couples who practise natural family planning-especially those with irregular cycles- and you will discover many suffer stress because of friction that can exist from time to time. In a perfect world of course, the couple in an irregular union would completely abstain, but in a perfect world we would all be giving up our possessions and living the life of St Francis of Assisi. We need a dose of Christian realism; one that Jesus displayed in the Gospels. Don’t condemn but gently lead, recognizing that if the good intention is there to begin with, then the Lord can get to work. So what about the question of absolution for those intent on continuing sexual relations? Sorrow for sin must be present and a firm purpose of amendment; that is not in dispute, and the fact a penitent is presenting themselves in confession would suggest they desire forgiveness and to change their ways. The single point though we must focus on is “intention”. Does Jesus forgive the person who says “Lord I don’t like this situation, I wish it were not as it is, and my heart desires purity, and yet if I refrain it will likely cause a spiral of more evil engulfing the children, and destroying love and peace in the process”? We should remind ourselves that in chapter 7 of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he seems to live a similar spiritual conflict: “for though the will to do what is good is in me, the power to do it is not (Rom 7:18) and again: “So I find this rule: that for me, where I want to do nothing but good, evil is close at my side. In my inmost self I dearly love God’s law, but I see that acting on my body there is a different law which battles against the law in my mind. So I am brought to be a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body.” (Rom 7:21-23). It is clear from St Paul that the “intention” of his soul is to embrace the perfect Christian ideal and yet sin, the flesh, interferes. He himself says he is a “prisoner.” As the spirit is more important than the flesh (cf John 6:63), it would seem that Jesus will forgive the “prisoner” –that person who finds themselves constrained by circumstances- because he sees the spiritual intention is of greater importance than the sin itself. For clarities sake however, we must maintain that this is still an intrinsically evil act-that does not change- but St John Paul in Veritatis Splendor says: “If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it”(no 81), thus we see again mortal sin is not the question for these people. We should also stress that in this scenario, a “creative” interpretation of conscience is also absent because the desire is to adhere to the moral law; there is no rebellion only weakness, and a near impossible situation where only more evil will likely result. If we now acknowledge-as we must-that not all adulterers are in a continuous state of mortal sin, the natural question arises as to why the critics of the Pope are so adamant that no exceptions should be made to the previous rule of John Paul II (even though in the 1970’s the internal forum was allowed for these cases). Yes, there is the theological reason that the second union contradicts the spousal relationship between Christ and his Church, but the problem is in this day and age, who in the pews appreciates that concept, and is that the only betrayal towards Jesus? What is needed is education aimed in two areas: 1) a proper exposition to all young people especially, on the true meaning of marriage with all its implications, and 2) where necessary, an education for those parish communities where a couple after very careful discernment have returned to receiving Holy Communion. It is my view, as a Catholic layman that there is a great deal of Christian realism among the faithful. They know the troubles and trials of life that leave a mess behind, and sadly many will have relatives that fall in this category. This is where life has changed drastically since 1981. The danger of scandal is not what it was, and if a catechesis on moral theology is able to explain why a couple have been admitted to the sacraments then that should be enough. In this way, it would also highlight the difference between a couple seeking the right path, and a couple in obstinate sin without a care in the world. We should also ask ourselves, if we persist in this attitude of rigidity, what message is that sending to the children of these couples? Do we expect them to understand why their parents are denied? Do we risk alienating them and possibly turning their hearts away from the Gospel of salvation? This might seem a great noble fight for truth, but in reality it is not concerned with truth at all because if it did, the traditional Christian moral theology on culpability would be central. Instead, that essential element of truth is conveniently ignored. We may rightly ask: where is the virtue in upholding the doctrine of Christian marriage if you are happy to ignore the doctrine on mortal and venial sin? Why are we so keen to stop honest venial sinners from receiving the sacraments of salvation? Do we consider them less deserving than ourselves? Obedience to the Magisterium The second element we need to consider - the continual criticism of the Pope from priests and certain Catholic commentators - is one that is most disconcerting and displays an arrogance and lack of humility that really is sad to see. The crux of this problem is a mystifying attitude where some are either claiming Amoris Laetitia is not a magisterial document – as in the case of Cardinal Burke - or others like the American Priest blogger Fr John Zuhlsdorf who continues to refer to Amoris defenders as “Kasperites”, even though we all know Pope Francis is the instigator of the change. Some bishops are even pretending nothing has changed at all. (And thus give a whole new meaning to the word "denial".) The one point that links these three variations is that all try to avoid the question of a pope erring in faith and morals, because in their view Tradition has or would be tampered with, thus a solution must be found which would not contradict continuous teaching on papal authority. As I showed in a previous essay, popes are always free from error in these areas: “St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour… his gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors.” Pope Leo XIII reiterated this teaching from the First Vatican Council in the Encyclical Inscrutabili Dei Consilio: “Pope Pius IX (1846-78) proclaimed the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and of the infallibility of the Popes in all matters related to faith and morals.” There can be no question that the Pope has approved new possibilities for some divorced and remarried. Even if we were to somehow claim that the original text is ambiguous, the Pope has twice confirmed his intention since then: once, in the press conference on the return from Lesvos where he said “I could say yes [there has been a change] and leave it at that”, (but then advised a reading of Cardinal Schonborn’s presentation), and second, in the Letter to the Bishops of Argentina in which he wrote: “there are no other interpretations.” Now the question is: are these two interventions magisterial? I would say yes, because he speaks as Pope, not as a private theologian, and St John Paul II taught that the Magisterium is also exercised through “oral and written interventions” and specifically when they derive from an “explicit or implicit intention to make pronouncements on faith and morals.” On both these occasions the Pope was directly affirming the correct assumption that Holy Communion was now possible in certain cases-affecting both faith and morals. This then leads us to the only possible conclusion: that Pope Francis has utilised his ordinary magisterium in order to bring about this pastoral change of discipline. And consequently the critics must accept that this is a legitimate act of papal authority that takes its place within Tradition (as something alive and dynamic) and which doesn’t affect the truth about papal infallibility in faith and morals. To claim there is no dissent but acceptable criticism is disingenuous. So what does the Church expect in terms of obedience towards the magisterium? Canon 752 states that “religious submission of the intellect and will must be given” when the Pope teaches in his authentic magisterium a doctrine concerning faith and morals - even if they don’t intend to proclaim it in a definitive way. This essentially means that is it not just a matter of exterior discipline, but obedience to the faith: we believe interiorly with the faith of the Church. The question is why is this necessary? Because we are taught that divine assistance is always given when the Pope exercises his ordinary magisterium regardless of whether a doctrine is definitively proclaimed or not (cf. Donum Veritatis 17). Furthermore, we read: “It is also to be borne in mind that all acts of the Magisterium derive from the same source, that is, from Christ who desires that His People walk in the entire truth. For this same reason, magisterial decisions in matters of discipline, even if they are not guaranteed by the charism of infallibility, are not without divine assistance and call for the adherence of the faithful”(cf Donum Veritatis 17) (14). It is also noteworthy, in the light of the four Cardinals’ dubia, that Donum Veritatis does not approve of the way this has been made public: “In cases like these, the theologian should avoid turning to the “mass media”, but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth” (no 30). So what we are reading here is a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clearly teaching that Amoris Laetitia, and its disciplinary alterations for some divorced and remarried derives from Christ himself. Pope Francis had divine assistance in formulating and presenting the document to the Church. There is no way around this fact. A second important document from the CDF, The Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Church is also extremely relevant to this discussion. In the text we are told that the Pope has the authority among others to: “establish pastoral structures to serve various particular Churches.” This is more or less what he has done in Amoris Laetitia no 300 in allowing the guidelines of the individual bishops to prevail. Furthermore we read: “Since the power of the primacy is supreme, there is no other authority to which the Roman Pontiff must juridically answer for his exercise of the gift he has received: “prima sedes a nemine iudicatur.” The document also stresses how the popes are guided to exercise their ministry in differing ways depending on the circumstances of each era: “The Holy Spirit helps the Church to recognize this necessity, and the Roman Pontiff, by listening to the Spirit’s voice in the Churches, looks for the answer and offers it when and how he considers it appropriate.” The Pope did this with the two synods by discerning what the Spirit was saying to the Churches and by what the Spirit was saying to him through that special charism of assistance. In conclusion, it is apparent that for too long now the magisterium of Pope Francis has had to be defended with arguments rebuffed and questions answered. I believe it is time for a reversal of this situation. There are issues concerning the nature of Tradition, moral theology and obedience towards the Pope, and thus Christ, which need to be answered by those who seem to think they are more in touch with the Holy Spirit than the one to whom Jesus promised his unique assistance.
“The same Christian moral tradition just referred to, has also always maintained the distinction – not the separation and still less an opposition – between objective disorder and subjective guilt. Accordingly, when it is a matter of judging subjective moral behaviour without ever setting aside the norm which prohibits the intrinsic disorder of contraception, it is entirely licit to take into due consideration the various factors and aspects of the person’s concrete action, not only the person’s intentions and motivations, but also the diverse circumstances of life, in the first place all those causes which may affect the person’s knowledge and free will. This subjective situation, while it can never change into something ordered that which is intrinsically disordered, may to a greater or lesser extent modify the responsibility of the person who is acting. As is well known, this is a general principle, applicable to every moral disorder, even if intrinsic, it is accordingly applicable also to contraception. In this line, the concept of the “law of gradualness” has been rightly developed [St Vincent of Lerins again], not only in moral and pastoral theology, but also on the level of pronouncements of the Magisterium itself.”
Mar 28 17 1:51 AM
Letter from Rome: The Church’s Seminary ProblemIt is such a serious problem that, according to one noted church historian, not even Pope Francis dares to speak about it.It’s the outdated model of Catholic priesthood and, even more significantly, how candidates for the ordained ministry are selected and prepared for service among the People of God.Professor Alberto Melloni of the John XXII Foundation for Religious Sciences (Bologna, Italy) recently pointed out that the archetype of today’s priest dates back to over 400 years ago and the reforms stemming from the Council of Trent (1545-1563).“That remarkable sixteenth century invention that shaped the politics, mentality and interior life, as well as the art and theology of the West and its former colonies, did not die out (there are still roughly 420,000 priests in the world). But in the last century it has been in crisis,” noted Melloni in a March 22 article in the Rome-based daily, La Repubblica.“Over the past ninety years in Italy we have gone from having nearly 15,000 to only 2,700 seminarians,” he pointed out.But the enormous drop in numbers is not the most worrying sign of this outdated model of priesthood and seminary formation.Instead, Melloni says it is the “drop in the intellectual quality” of the men who choose to join the priesthood and the bishops that ordain them. And, furthermore, it is the fact that the current system continues to be a breeding ground of the “vice” the professor correctly identifies as “clericalism.”Melloni, the leading voice of the so-called “Bologna School,” argues that the “diminished role and affective negligence” of priests has led to the “exaltation of celibacy, which traps sexuality in a search for sublimation and attracts people to the priesthood who have unresolved (problems) or are even sick”.Pope Francis has said as much on the numerous occasions he has talked about the selection and training of candidates for ordained ministry.Already in November 2013 he told a closed-door gathering of men who head religious orders that badly formed priests often turn out to be “little monsters” who then “shape the People of God.” The pope said this gives him the “creeps.”He went on to warn the superiors about the tendency of seminarians who “follow the rules smiling a lot” just to jump through the hoops to finish their formation and get ordained.“This is hypocrisy that is the result of clericalism, which is one of the worst evils,” Francis said. (He made similar comments to religious superiors this past November.)In 2015 he warned bishops and seminary formators to be wary of priesthood candidates who are “rigid” or, because they are “unconsciously aware” of having mental issues, “seek strong structures that will protect them in life.” He said this would turn out badly eventually.Whenever Pope Francis has talked about the selection and training of Catholic priests he has given every indication that he knows there are serious problems. And it is no secret that we find the most obstinate opposition to his blueprint for Church renewal among seminarians, priests most recently ordained and those bishops that ordained them.But, as Professor Melloni has shown, the pope cannot quite come around to naming the root cause of the problem—the woefully inadequate seminary system and the outdated model of priesthood it is perpetuating.In fact, according to comments made less than four months after his election, Francis seems convinced that the current system should remain in tact.“I always think of this: the worst seminary is better than no seminary! Why? Because community life is essential,” he said at a gathering of seminarians and novices of religious orders.That may belie his formation in the Society of Jesus. Like the vast majority of religious orders, it is generally the rule (though there are exceptions) that Jesuits continue to live together in unisex communities of various sizes even beyond their novitiate and early formation.Diocesan priests, on the other hand, tend to find themselves in pairs or, more frequently, alone. Their primary community is the parish, made up of men and women who are generally in families with children. It is not the all-male local presbyterate (that, is their brother priests in the diocese). And yet, by and large, the Vatican-mandated seminary system dating from the mid-1500s continues give future parish priests an all-male, quasi-monastic formation. Women, for example, and men who are not priests most often constitute a minority presence in the seminary.It is amazing how many of today’s seminaries still carefully regulate almost every waking hour of the seminarian’s day in a regimen that resembles a monastic horarium. These places of formation simply do not train men for the life they will be leading after ordination. Only during summer vacations do seminarians actually have the opportunity to live in a parish setting.And, even then, they are with men with the same seminary background where the mentality of being a group (caste) set apart from the rest of the People of God is fostered and takes root.This is a conundrum that needs to be carefully studied. And perhaps that work can begin in the Synod of Bishop when Pope Francis next convokes it in October 2018. The theme for that gathering, “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment”, could be a unique opportunity to expand the discussion on religious vocations to a wider and more courageous look at ministries in the church.The pope earlier this month acknowledged in an interview with the German weekly, Die Zeit, that too few men were entering seminaries—at least in the developed world. He said that was partly due to low birth rates.“And where there are no young men, there are no priests. That is a serious problem that we must tackle at the next Synod on youth,” he said. “Lots of young people come who do not have vocations and they will ruin the church,” the pope continued.“Selection is decisive, but so is people’s indignation,” Francis said.They asked why there is no priest in their parish to celebrate the Eucharist, which the pope said “weakens the church, since a church without the Eucharist has no strength.”Francis’ conclusion: “Priestly vocations are a problem, an enormous problem.”The problem has been growing, even in the decades immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). But as Alberto Melloni noted in his recent article, it’s a problem to which men in the church “have closed their eyes, particularly those who stand beneath episcopal mitres.”That goes for quantity and quality.Vatican II sought to bring the church and its Tridentine structures and mentality into the modern era. But it basically did nothing to update the doctrine and praxis of ministries in the church, let alone the types of candidates for ordained priesthood and the way they should be prepared or trained.There were discussions on these matters in the early years after Vatican II, but not long after John Paul II was elected in 1978 efforts to further the reforming momentum of the Council were closed down.“In fact, beginning in the mid-80s, up until the first decade of this century, under the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI we witnessed the prevalence of—not in a uniform, but even a heavy way—a strong discontinuity with Vatican II,” notes Andrea Grillo, a married layman who teaches theology and liturgy at the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’Anselmo in Rome.He says Pope Francis has reconnected the church with Vatican II by reconfirming that the “way of the Council” is the path forward.“In light of more than 30 years of a ‘lack of reception’ of the Council, the revival undertaken by Francis inevitably seems like an sudden acceleration,” he said.But Professor Grillo says this is only because the last two popes had hit the “stand by” or “slow motion” button on Vatican II’s implementation. Instead, he says Pope Francis has hit the “play” button and, by doing so, has continued a process that was interrupted decades ago.“The climate Francis has created upsets only those who are afraid of our deepest tradition and wish to cling exclusively to structures from the past,” says Grillo.So where does this leave us with the urgent issue highlighted by Professor Melloni; that is, the need to radically rethink the figure, role and preparation of ordained priests? The first thing to note is that the pope who said he’d rather have bad seminaries than no seminaries at all is the same pope who has shown a surprising capacity to listen, learn, and change his mind.In the nearly four years since he made those comments, Francis has had a much greater opportunity to see and hear about the real state of seminarian formation all over the world. And one can imagine he has not found it a pretty sight.But the pope is not fickle. He does not change his thinking or convictions on a whim. There is every indication that his thought process is closely guided by the continuous exercise of prayerful and lengthy discernment.And that includes consultation, discussions, and debate with people of many different points of view who come from various experiences within the church.Pope Francis understands the church and the world in which it finds its home is undergoing a massive transformation that must be navigated with boldness and creativity.“One could say that today we are not living an epoch of change so much as an epochal change,” he told leaders (both laymen and clerics) of the Italian church back in 2015.“The situations that we are living in today therefore pose new challenges which, at times, are also difficult for us to understand. Our time requires us to live problems as challenges and not as obstacles,” he said.Francis then called for a “deep reflection on Evangelii gaudium to draw from it practical parameters and to launch its dispositions.”And in the pages of this, the pope’s vision for renewing and reforming the church, one can find the rationale for taking a hard look at overhauling Catholic seminaries (though Francis never explicitly says so).Early in Evangelii gaudium he admits “there are ecclesial structures that can hamper efforts at evangelization” (EG, 26).Further he says he dreams of a “missionary option” that is “capable of transforming everything,” including the “Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures” (EG, 27).Transformation means change. And if we take the pope at his word then structures like seminaries can obviously be changed.And he seems to think more than most bishops that the Catholics who are likely to demand the types of changes the church really needs are its younger members.“Young people call us to renewed and expansive hope, for they represent new directions for humanity and open us up to the future, lest we cling to a nostalgia for structures and customs which are no longer life-giving in today’s world” (EG, 108).Francis has urged young Catholics to add their voices – their hopes and concerns, joys and critiques – to the preparatory phase now underway for the next meeting of the Synod of Bishops.Will the kids be bold enough to bring up the urgent problems that even he does not dare to speak about? And even if they do, will the bishops listen?
Apr 3 17 8:17 AM
Catholic Church must reform confession, abuse survivor saysAn Australian child abuse survivor has called on the Catholic Church to reform its laws on confession to ensure crimes are reported to police.Peter Gogarty said perpetrators knew anything disclosed in confession would not be revealed to authorities.He told the BBC it was effectively a "get-out-of-jail-free card".It follows the final public hearings in an Australian inquiry, which has heard evidence of abusers confessing knowing their actions would not be divulged.The issue of mandatory reporting has split Australia's Catholic Church, with archbishops differing on whether information given by a child victim during confession should be relayed to police."What they are doing is saying we are more prepared to protect an offender than we are to take care of this child," said Mr Gogarty, who was 12 when he was abused by a priest in New South Wales."If the royal commission [inquiry] has shown us one thing, it is that a paedophile does not stop until they die or are physically incapable of molesting any more."Criticism of responseThe inquiry, established in 2013, gathered evidence from 4,440 people who said they were victims of abuse at Catholic institutions in Australia.Mr Gogarty said the church had been slow to respond to the claims."The church in Australia has treated this like a nasty public relations disaster," he told the BBC."I don't think they understand the depth of the disaster they have created and the work they need to do to fix it."Francis Sullivan, head of the church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said the institution had recognised its "shameful" role in enabling and covering up abuse in the past.He admitted that evidence at the inquiry had "corroded the credibility of the church", and said it had already paid hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to victims.Confession 'sacrosanct'However, Mr Sullivan said confession should not be altered to make priests report abuse to the police."I think it would be a tragedy if the privileged communication in the confessional is abolished," he said."The Catholic Church says that when it involves the seal of confession then that information is sacrosanct - that the priest is bound by that."Mr Sullivan said he favoured a system where a perpetrator confessing abuse was advised to report the crime themselves."I think its incumbent on the priest to say to the person - if you are sincere about this, if you want to absolved - then going to the authorities is part of the exercise," he said.Mandatory reporting of abuse has been one of the key issues under consideration by the royal commission, which has heard allegations of abuse at more than 4,000 public organisations in Australia.The commissioners are due to submit their final report and recommendations in December.
Apr 9 17 2:30 AM
Much of the negative discussion around the pope's apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia has focused on his opening the possibility of divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion. His critics are quick to cite the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:
"Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate. ... whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery."Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."These statements are clear and definitive and end the discussion in the minds of the critics of Pope Francis. "Jesus said it. Case closed." But is it?I will not attempt here to do a scholarly analysis of the biblical issues involved in divorce and remarriage, but I think it is worth raising some questions about whether these quotes should end the discussion. There are at least three reasons that these words from Jesus do not prove that Pope Francis is wrong in opening up the possibility of some divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion.First, Jesus said a lot of things that we do not observe literally without exception.In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount, right before Jesus' words on divorce, he says, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna."And right after his words about divorce, he says, "Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.' But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King."No one literally follows the teaching of Jesus on gouging out an eye or cutting off a hand. And only an infinitesimally small group of Christians refuse to take oaths in court because of the teaching of Jesus.How do we determine which words of Jesus are to be treated as absolutes and which are open to interpretation?Immediately following Jesus' words on oaths, he says, "Offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow."If Christians believed and practiced this on a literal level, we would all have to be pacifists. There are lots of other quotes from Matthew that we do not take literally, or at least don't observe rigorously:"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.""Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.""No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.""Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear.""Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."Then Peter approaching asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times." "Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.""Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven."If you observe all of these on a literal level, I will send your name to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Since we don't, my question is, why do we insist on enforcing the words of Jesus on divorce literally without any exception, when we find all sorts of wiggle room in many of his other sayings?Second, Jesus does not list any punishment for divorce and remarriage. He does not say such persons will be consigned to hellfire. He does not say they should be excluded from the Christian community. He does not even say they cannot go to Communion. He does not say they cannot be forgiven.Yet, he does list punishment for other sins. In Matthew 25, for example, he says:"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."Any reading of the text would lead a neutral observer to conclude that Jesus was much more upset by people who ignored the needy than he was by divorced and remarried couples, yet the church has made a much bigger deal over divorce than our care of the poor. Why is that?Elsewhere in Matthew, Jesus says, "Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words — go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town."And in another place, Jesus says, “whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.”When Jesus wants to threaten someone with hell fire, he knows how to do it! But even here, do you really take him literally?The third point I would make is that it is important to ask why Jesus is making a big deal about divorce. Here the historical context is important. Note that Matthew only speaks of men divorcing women. In Matthew 19, he is responding to a question from the Pharisees, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?"Where Jesus lived and taught, divorce was only available to men. [Mark, whose gospel was used in Rome made the teaching of Jesus gender neutral because in Rome upper-class wives could divorce their husbands.]I look upon Jesus' teaching on divorce as the first feminist legislation because a divorced woman was kicked out on the street with no assets or alimony. Her father would not take her back because she was a failure. No man would marry her. She had no education and few marketable skills. She would have to beg on the streets or prostitute herself.It was not until the 19th Century that divorced women began to get some protection from the civil law. As a result, divorce was clearly a devastating injustice to women for most of human history. Jesus quite rightly condemned it since practically all divorces were done by powerful men to powerless women.Today we live in a different world. How can we be so certain that Jesus would respond in the same way to divorce today? True, most divorces involve sin, moral failure and great pain. True, in most divorces women get the short end of the stick. Divorce is not something to be shrugged off, but once it has happened and a marriage is dead, can there be a possibility for healing and life in the future?
"Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate. ... whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery."
Francis thinks so. So do I.
Apr 10 17 5:15 AM
Why is there resistance to 'Amoris Laetitia'?The apostolic exhortation “The joy of love” was published on April 8, 2016. In parishes that he visited to present the document, Dominican theologian, Fr Jean-Miguel Garrigues, has observed that the acceptance of divorced and remarried people causes difficulties for some Catholics. "La Croix" spoke to him. You have been regularly presenting Amoris Laetitia to diocesan priests for a year now. How have they welcomed the text?Fr Jean-Miguel Garrigues O.P.: Mostly with benevolence. I have not encountered any great opposition from them. On the contrary, some priests have experienced Chapter VIII as a liberation.In fact, they have been in contact with people involved in situations characterized as “irregular” [particularly divorced and remarried people: Editor] for a long time.Yet most such priests have already asked themselves if sacramental life would not help one or the other party to move forward…Moreover, some have already taken it upon themselves to give the people they are accompanying permission that they were not authorized to give.In Chapter VIII, Pope Francis has shed light on matters that until now have remained the secret of the confessional. Even so, is the implementation of the exhortation as simple as that?J-MG: No, because priests are already conscious that it is a demanding document. The ones whom I meet tell that they are not adequately trained in discernment and that they lack time.Seminarians need to be better trained and priests in each diocese need to be designated to work with people who are suffering so that they can accompany them over the long term and not just for the time of a particular confession. For the moment, however, I don’t see anything very concrete being implemented.If there is a criticism to be made of Amoris Laetitia, it is to assume that this kind of spiritual accompanist is easy to find… They exist, particularly in the field of Ignatian spirituality, but they are not in abundance for the moment. And how have lay people welcomed the pope’s document on the family?J-MG: With greater difficulty. Among practicing Catholics who are committed to the life of the Church, some have had difficulty to engage with the mercy process that Pope Francis has proposed for people characterized as being in “irregular” situations.Since they want to protect their own children from relativism, laxism and “social excesses", these lay people tend to listen to theologians who affirm that stricter positions are the safest from a doctrinal point of view.This happens until one of their own children is affected. They then see things in a different light. I perceive here a visceral attachment to their own family and a certain lack of experience. Priests, on the other hand, are in greater contact with the painful realities of the people whom Pope Francis wishes to assist. How do you explain this distrust by certain committed Catholics?J-MG: I think they have difficulty in complementing the Christian ideal of the family, for which John Paul II gave them a taste, with a realistic and merciful concern, encouraged by Pope Francis, for those who have difficulty in achieving this ideal.They belong to the “spiritual elite” of the World Youth Day generation and they have been formed in this exalted vision.Pope Francis completely recognizes the beauty and importance of this family ideal. However, he also makes us attentive to those who have difficulty in living it out and that we should not leave them by the wayside.Ultimately, we are all called to the holiness of Christ but everyone has to respond from where he or she is.
Apr 10 17 3:39 PM
CWN - The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has said that it may “take a long time” for the Vatican to issue a decision on the authenticity of the reported Marian apparitions at Medjugorje.Cardinal Gerhard Müller told the KAI news service that “there’s no specified deadline for completing research on the supernatural character of events there—and our Congregation won’t submit to pressure.”In 2014, a special Vatican investigative commission concluded a four-year study of the alleged apparitions and passed on its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Vatican has issued no formal statement since that time.Last week Archbishop Henryk Hoser concluded a week-long visit to Medjugorje, on a special mission for Pope Francis. The Vatican stressed, however, that the archbishop’s mission was to appraise the pastoral needs of the community there, not to judge the reports of apparitions.Cardinal Müller, in his conversation with KAI, remarked that the two questions are closely related. “A pastoral phenomenon can’t be built on false foundations,” he said; “and we can’t separate pastoral concerns from questions around the authenticity of these visions.”
Apr 12 17 7:32 AM
Cardinal says youth synod can’t be ‘a bunch of old men talking’Over the next two years, two major events will focus the attention of the Catholic Church on young people: A Synod of Bishops on Youth set for October 2018, and the next edition of World Youth Day in Panama in 2019. As far as the synod goes, Cardinal José Luis Lacunza of Panama says it can't be just a "bunch of old men talking," and American Cardinal Kevin Farrell says bishops should start reaching out to youth now.ROME - Ahead of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on Youth, one leading cardinal wants to make sure the meeting is not that of a “bunch of old men” talking about young people, but a gathering in which the voices of the protagonists come through loud and clear.“It cannot be a synod about the youth, where a bunch of old men talk about the youth, it has to be an opportunity to listen to them, to learn about their experiences, demands, challenges,” said Cardinal José Luis Lacunza of Panama.“I believe that, if we light a fire in the youth, there will be havoc, because by nature a young person is expressive, forthcoming, willing to take risks and come up with new ideas,” he said.The word “havoc” is a loose translation of the mostly Argentinian word lio, which Pope Francis used for the first time when he was addressing thousands of Argentine pilgrims at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro (WYD) in 2013, a few months after being elected to the papacy.Since there’s no literal translation for the word, “noise” or “mess” are also often used. In his remarks, Francis called on the youth to “go out on the streets” and raise havoc in their dioceses.“I want the Church to go out onto the streets, I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves,” he said.Young people are now being summoned by the Vatican to generate havoc not only in their dioceses but in the global Church, including both the Synod of Bishops on the Youth, to be held in October 2018, and the following year during World Youth Day 2019 in Panama.“It’s from what young people tell us that we have to move forth, because if we don’t listen to their suggestions on how to evangelize, then [a synod on the youth] would be worthless,” Lacunza said.The prelate was in Rome last week participating in an international gathering called, “From Krakow to Panama: The synod on the way with the young,” sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Family, Laity and Life, headed by American Cardinal Kevin Farrell.Before the synod, youth from around the world will be asked to respond to a questionnaire which will be made available in May. But local bishops shouldn’t wait until the results come out, Farrell said, or even until WYD Panama, to begin working with young people.“We would hope that all conferences of bishops, dioceses and bishops around the world would reach out to young people,” Farrell told Crux on Sunday at the Vatican’s press office.He agrees with his Panamanian peer, in the sense that the hierarchy needs to learn to listen to young people, and not just “talk to them.”This is something Francis excels at, Farrell said, mentioning in particular the pope’s off-the-cuff remarks to thousands of young people who’d gathered in Rome’s St. Mary Major Basilica on Saturday for a prayer vigil ahead of Palm Sunday.The pope, Farrell said, “Was on fire!”As is usually the case, the pontiff arrived at the meeting with a set of prepared remarks. However, after hearing the witness of a Franciscan sister and a young man who was pulled from the rubble of his school after it collapsed in an earthquake in 2002, killing his teacher and 27 classmates, Francis set his text aside and took notes instead, also a usual situation when he talks to the youth.In October 2018 the bishops are supposed to reflect on the theme: “Young people, faith and vocational discernment.”Yet Francis wants for it to be referred to as “the synod for young people,” one from which no young person feels excluded, be it that they’re Catholic or not, active in their parishes or questioning the existence of God.“Every young person has something to say to others, something to say to the adults, to the priests, sisters, bishops and even to the pope. We all need to hear you,” Francis said on Saturday.Young people appear ready to voice their thoughts. Together with Lacunza and Farrell, several dozen young people from Panama were on hand on Sunday, to talk to the press.“If asked, I would tell the priest of my parish or my bishop to follow John Paul’s II call: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ We, the youth, are up to the challenge of bringing joy into spreading the Gospel,” said Carla Polo, 25.But it’s not all on the bishops, she said: “We have to answer Pope Francis’s call from World Youth Day Krakow: Get up from our couches, put our sneakers on and get to work, putting our talents to the service of the Church, because oftentimes, we’re anesthetized!”It’s this two-way street Pope Francis wants to see at work throughout the synod process and in WYD Panama.During his remarks on Saturday, he asked the youth to reach out to their elders, ask about their dreams, and to work on making them a reality. Talking about WYD, with more than two years to go, Francis said that the pope will ask the youth if they’d complied.“I don’t know if it will be me, but the pope will be in Panama, and he will ask you: ‘Did you speak with your elders?’”
Apr 13 17 6:11 AM
‘Amoris Laetitia’ doesn’t undermine Church teaching on sin'Amoris Laetitia' has caused a shift in moral theology — but no innovation: As many have pointed out, it’s wholly consonant even with recent papal teaching, and is rooted in an ancient pastoral tradition. To walk with people living in objective states of sin but with diminished subjective culpability, helping them to do God’s will in their concrete state with the help of the sacraments, doesn’t undermine teaching on sin, but puts into practice the merciful pedagogy of God.If Father Raymond de Souza’s response to the Archbishop of Washington shows anything, it is that the lens through which Cardinal Wuerl suggests we read Amoris Laetitia remains hard for some to put on.The hermeneutic of interpretation of Pope Francis’s document on the joy of love, says Wuerl, is that the Church’s teaching on marriage has not changed. Questioning that idea, de Souza responds that Wuerl can only be right if the German and Maltese bishops are wrong.This is a classic maneuver of those whom the cardinal accurately describes as “challenging the integrity” of Amoris. De Souza says he hopes Wuerl is right, that “nothing has changed”; but if it hasn’t, then how can the Maltese bishops say “something has changed?”But Wuerl never says nothing has changed. He says church teaching and laws on marriage haven’t changed.Something has changed, not in church law or doctrine, but in moral theology and the pastoral application of sacramental discipline.This shouldn’t be necessary to say, but for the record, Amoris Laetitia throughout its nine chapters upholds, promotes and passionately seeks to restore lifelong, faithful, stable, indissoluble unions.Nowhere does it surrender to the individualist zeitgeist, the culture of divorce, or subjectivism, but issues a lucid and robust rejection of these. Nor does Amoris question, undermine, or dilute John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor’s clarification that intrinsically evil acts may be rendered subjectively good.And, just to be clear, it never remotely - not ever, not by a long shot - admits the possibility of recognizing second unions that have not been preceded by a death or annulment.Adultery remains adultery. There is no remarriage. In the Catholic Church. Ever.But as John Paul II compassionately recognized in Familiaris Consortio 84, it is inadequate to treat all divorced and remarried solely as adulterers living permanently and forever in a state of mortal sin.And as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recalled in February 1989, there is a distinction (but no opposition) between objective disorder and subjective guilt, which depends greatly on intentions, motivations, and concrete circumstances.“In this line, the law of gradualness has been rightly developed,” wrote Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “not only in moral and pastoral theology” but also in magisterial pronouncements. “As judge, Christ is not a cold legalist,” he added.Christ engages a person, seeks the truth in their situation, leading them in what Amoris describes as the “divine pedagogy” of gradualness.De Souza sets up a straw man in claiming that Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio’s excellent little treatise on Amoris posits a melodramatic and rare possibility of a wife wishing to leave her second husband but the man threatens to kill himself if she stops having sex with him.I have Coccopalmerio’s book in front of me, and his hypothetical case reads rather differently. He takes the example of woman who goes to live with a validly married man and his three children who has been abandoned by his wife.They form a loving stable union over time, and have a child together. Ten years on, she experiences a return to the Church, knows the situation is irregular, and seeks to change her life.But in practice, what options are available? She has rescued her husband from despair and loneliness, and been a mother to the three children as well as her own. What is God’s will for her?As Familiaris Consortio recognized, it is usually not open to such people to separate, because they have now taken on new responsibilities - including, usually, offspring.She doesn’t question church teaching; she doesn’t hold - as de Souza suggests - “that sexual relations outside of a valid marriage can be a good moral choice.” She is not trying to define a new morality.She might even sincerely regret the choices she has made; but she can’t turn back the clock. She wants, sincerely, to do God’s will in what is possible, in her concrete circumstances.Familiaris Consortio considered the possibility of admitting such couples to the sacraments - a far bigger break with the past, incidentally, than Amoris - but asked them to abstain from sex as the price of that admission. But Amoris quotes Gaudium et Spes 51 and Paul VI in noting that this can often lead to greater ills.In such situations, says Francis - and he makes clear that this is a long time after the first union - the Church’s priests must help couples who are seeking God’s will to enter into a deeper relationship with Him, through small, concrete steps, by discerning the signs of Grace in their lives, and understanding what God is asking of them within the real possibilities that are in fact open to them.That’s the shift in moral theology - but no innovation: As many have pointed out, it’s wholly consonant even with recent papal teaching, and is rooted in an ancient pastoral tradition.And as part of the Church accompanying such couples Amoris, like Familiaris, does not exclude admitting such couples to the sacraments, but demands a long period of discernment with a priest in the light of church teaching.That’s the shift.“It would certainly be a novelty for the Catholic Church to teach that there are circumstances in which sexual relations are morally permissible, much less morally advisory, outside of a valid marriage,” says de Souza. But of course, the Church wouldn’t be teaching that. To walk with people living in objective states of sin but with diminished subjective culpability, helping them to do God’s will in their concrete state with the help of the sacraments, doesn’t undermine teaching on sin but puts into practice the merciful pedagogy of God.The whole second half of de Souza’s argument - where he attempts to claim that Amoris sunders the link between sex and marriage - rests on this non sequitur.Sure, there is the risk of scandal, as Amoris points out; and the Buenos Aires bishops in their document make this one of the criteria for discernment in admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments.But the faithful are realistic. They know the mess people make of their lives. They know that God asks us not to fixate on a past that can’t be changed but to act in the present that can be. In various talks I have given on Amoris in parishes here in England, people have been delighted at Francis’s realism and compassion. Their only question is whether their priests are up to the task of really entering into the realities of people’s lives and assisting in the discernment that Amoris beautifully envisages.That’s what we should be discussing, one year on - not whether Amoris undermines church teaching (it doesn’t; let’s move on), but how the Church can practically make possible the accompaniment Amoris calls for.And how, practically, we rebuild marriage from the ground up, so that we are no longer having to deal with the fatal consequences of relying on law and culture, rather than our own catechesis, to properly prepare Catholics for marriage.
Apr 15 17 6:02 AM
A handful of modern Romans keep a Medieval devotion aliveIn the Church of Saint Praxedes in Rome, a treasure is kept: a fragment of stone alleged to be the pillar upon which Jesus was scourged. To this day, a handful of pilgrims pray before the column but even though most scholars are highly doubtful that the column is authentic, experts stress that the artifact should still be admired as a Medieval tradition.ROME - In the hours after evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, a few pilgrims in Rome make their way to the Church of Saint Praxedes, home to a fragment of stone alleged to be the pillar upon which Jesus was scourged.Known as the Column of the Flagellation, the stone offers an object of contemplation for those visiting the church to reflect on Christ’s Passion. This is especially true on Holy Thursday, when pilgrims traditionally go to churches throughout the city to venerate the decorated altars within which the Eucharist has been reposed in anticipation of Good Friday.The column is kept in a glass reliquary in one of the side chapels of Saint Praxedes, a 9th century church named after an early Christian martyr who has long-standing devotion in Rome, but about whom little is known for certain.The pillar itself, sculpted from black-and-white marble, was retrieved from the Holy Land during the medieval period.Is the artifact which continues to be visited by pilgrims as the column of the scourging a true relic of Christ’s Passion? Most scholars would say this is highly doubtful.Yet the probable inauthenticity of the pillar does not take away from the value in venerating it, says one expert. Rather, it is reminiscent of the genuine spirituality of medieval Christians, like those who found the pillar and brought it back from the Holy Land.“The Middle Ages had a very powerful sense of God’s Providence,” said Gregory DiPippo, managing editor of the New Liturgical Movement website, “and to them you could almost say it was illogical that God would allow something like (the pillar) - which would have been Sanctified by being part of the Lord’s Passion - to go missing.”Whether the true pillar of the flagellation still exists anywhere is uncertain. Jerusalem’s Chapel of the Apparition claims to have the true pillar: A broken red porphyry column which bears no resemblance to the artifact in Rome.However, in speaking of Saint Praxedes pillar, DiPippo explained it was improbable that the original would have survived on account of the 1st century uprisings which led to the destruction of Jerusalem.Nonetheless, there is inherent value in venerating an object that may not be genuine, when one takes into account the objective of veneration, he added.In the Western tradition, “you aren’t venerating the object for its own sake, necessarily, but rather as an expression of a sort of realized presence of the person or the event that it represents.”This point is further illustrated by comparing Western and Eastern liturgical practices, he said, observing that in the West, the priest incenses the relics of the saints, whereas Byzantines incense the images and icons.“It is the living presence, realized presence in this case, of the Passion of Christ,” DiPippo said. “Even if it isn’t authentic, we are still honoring the Passion of Christ by venerating it as such.”The pillar of Saint Praxedes was first brought to Italy by Cardinal Giovanni Colonna, a 13th century prelate appointed by Pope Innocent III, who had been serving as papal legate in the Holy Land during the sixth Crusade. Returning to Rome in the 1220s, he brought with him the column in question.“One mustn’t think of this as a conscious fraud on the part of Cardinal Colonna, or the people who received it as the relic of the flagellation,” DiPippo explained, but rather of Medieval devotion.
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