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Apr 18 17 6:46 AM
Letter from Rome: Who Will Speak Out to Solve the Vocations Crisis?Easter is the “most solemn festival” on the church’s calendar. But this yearly commemoration of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—stretched over a three-day period within Holy Week known as the Sacred Triduum—actually happens every single Sunday.“By a tradition handed down from the apostles, which took its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day… the Lord’s Day or Sunday.” That’s from the Second Vatican Council’s (1962-65) document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.It notes “Christ’s faithful are bound to come together into one place” each Sunday “so that, by hearing the word of God and taking part in the Eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, the resurrection and the glorification of the Lord Jesus.” (SC, 106) The Council stated clearly that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the church’s life and all its activity. And in its decree on priestly life and ministry Vatican II said it’s impossible to truly build up a Christian community “unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, no. 6). Hence, the need for priests, more properly known as presbyters; persons ordained and sanctioned by the church authorities (the bishops) to preside at the Eucharistic liturgy, the Mass. But the church has a serious shortage of ordained presbyters in almost every part of the world, except in some countries in Africa and Asia. And this “vocations crisis” is not something new. The first signs of it started appearing even before Vatican Council II got underway.But Paul VI (pope from 1963-1978) stifled any serious discernment on how to effectively respond to the problem when he forbade the Council Fathers from questioning mandatory priestly celibacy or deliberating over the possible ordination of the so-called viri probati—married men of proven virtue. In fact, the Council never had a serious discussion on the much larger and important issue of ministries (in general) in the church or how we discern, recognize, distinguish and verify the different charisms (spiritual gifts) Christ bestows on the Holy People of God. “To some, his ‘gift’ was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; to knit God’s holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ,” St. Paul says (Eph. 4:11-12).The diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopate are a necessary, but only a very limited manifestation of these charisms. And down the centuries church authority has tried to circumscribe all these gifts within these Holy Orders. And, in doing so, it may have limited and/or resisted the working of the Holy Spirit. In the immediate decade following Vatican II, there were many theologians and even a good number of bishops that tried to keep the discussion alive as they explored some of those questions that were off-limits or never mentioned at the Council. However, that was all brought to an abrupt halt shortly after the election of Pope John Paul II who quickly imposed lock-step discipline throughout the hierarchy and it was directed from the centralizing offices in Rome. No more discussion of the possibility of ordaining the viri probati. Absolutely no questioning of mandatory celibacy. Woman priests? Forget about it, and your church job (or even your membership in the church), if you as much as broach the topic.Then in 1990 the Polish pope and his Vatican aides strong-armed the Synod of Bishops into rubberstamping his firm reinforcement of the Tridentine paradigm of the priesthood and its model of seminary formation. The ethos and basic structure of priestly formation and ministry, all dating back to the sixteenth-century, was repackaged with contemporary semantics and the ever-so-lightly seasoning of an updated psychological and sociological pedagogy. The document John Paul issued two years later as a recapitulation of that Synod assembly, Pastores Dabo Vobis, was disturbingly backwards looking. It even endorsed the re-opening of high-school seminaries, most of which had long been shuttered for very good and sane reasons. Yet the vocations crisis continued. While there was a steady, though modest rise in the number of major seminarians during John Paul’s pontificate, it was not enough to replace an aging clergy—or keep pace with the growing number of Catholics. We all know what happened next. Bishops started closing or merging parishes. And it soon became clear that the Eucharist-centered communities that Vatican II said were imperative had succumbed to being (or, in reality, had always been) priest-centered communities. And, of course, the priest at the center had to be a man—and only a man who was willing to make a promise to live celibately and be obedient to his bishop.Without other possibilities, what was a bishop to do? He could not ordain married men or reinstate priests who had left to get married. What bishop in his right mind would even dare to try that in the long reign of Il Santo Subito? A growing number of bishops from countries where the shortage was growing more and more acute (especially in the United States, Australia, and parts of Europe) began “importing” foreign priests. Some of these clerics came from dioceses in India and Africa, places Rome hailed as being “blessed” with numerous vocations. But others were young men from countries (such as in Latin America) where the priest-to-people ratio was even higher than in the places abroad that were recruiting them. There are all sorts of sensitive issues connected to these “imports” that have to be very carefully worked out. What is their true motivation for leaving their native country, especially those from underdeveloped or impoverished areas? How willing and capable are they to adapt to a new culture? And then there are the normal verifications that must be made of anyone who believes he is called to the priesthood—his psychosexual maturity, commitment to serve and not be served, and so forth. Sometimes imported priests work out fine, but in many cases they do not.Just last week Archbishop Tommaso Valentinetti of Pescara-Penne had to suspend a priest from India who is incardinated in his central Italian diocese. Fr. Edward Pushparaj, 40, was ordained just four years ago. Parishioners had been complaining to the archbishop for several weeks because the priest was constantly criticizing Pope Francis. Things reached the boiling point on Palm Sunday when Fr. Pushparaj used his homily on the Feast of the Passion of the Lord to attack the pope. Some worshippers even stormed out of church in protests, yelling, “Shame on you!”According to Archbishop Valentinetti he was serving up the usual anti-Francis fare that one finds in “clericalist and pseudo-traditionalist circles.” What is so disturbing about this story is that this man was obviously not well vetted before being ordained. A simple background check, much of which could be done through the Internet, should have set off alarm bells immediately.Pushparaj went to the seminary in his hometown in southern India, beginning at the age of fourteen. He continued up through the study of philosophy and theology, but then discontinued his path towards priesthood—for about six years.“God wanted me to continue my formation outside the seminary,” he said in a recorded interview in January 2013 just hours before Archbishop Valentinetti ordained him a deacon.Pushparaj actually came to Italy the autumn of 2008. Because? “God wanted me here,” he said again.As a newly arrived thirty-one-year-old he joined the Olivetan Benedictines in the northern Italian city of Ferrara, eventually moving to another monastery in Bologna. He said it was an elderly priest of Pescara-Penne, now dead, who got him to join the archdiocese. No bishop is beyond criticism—not even the Bishop of Rome. But priests have no right to use the homily during the celebration of the Eucharist—especially during Holy Week—to have a go at the pope!But even if Fr. Pushparaj was a great devotee of Pope Francis, there is something that is not right about his profile or the way he and many other foreign-born priests are imported to places with dwindling vocations. They are pawns in a cynical stopgap strategy that the bishops have employed.The fact of the matter is that there really is not lack of vocations to priestly service. It is merely that the church authorities refuse to admit those who have the charism and feel the call. Married men or those who would like to marry; women in any category; those who for whatever reason resist making a lifetime commitment to ministry, but would be willing to serve for a time and season—all these are disqualified as candidates. This has to be re-thought, because a church that sticks stubbornly to the non-divine rule of mandatory celibacy when there is such a severe priest shortage deprives the Holy People of God of the Eucharist for which they rightly hunger. This is not only an injustice, but it might also be an act of opposing the Holy Spirit.Pope Francis has signaled his willingness to allow for the ordination of, at least, the viri probati. But people close to him, such as Cardinals Walter Kasper and Christoph Schönborn, say the pope wants the national episcopal conferences to take the initiative. In fact, Francis was as clear as he could be in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, that it is not the role of the papal magisterium to give “a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world”.He said, “It is not advisable for the pope to take the place of local bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound ‘decentralization’” (EG, 16).Francis is begging the bishops and all the faithful to join together in reforming and renewing the church.“I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities,” he says (EG, 33).But too many bishops seem incapable of what the pope is asking of them, especially regarding the priesthood. For far too long they have been afraid to ponder any change to the criteria the Tridentine paradigm imposed on how the church identifies and selects its presbyters.And it is a bitter irony that the now-sainted pope, John Paul II—the very one who began his pontificate by saying, “Be not afraid!”—was the man who instilled that fear in the bishops (and all who aspired to become part of the episcopate) when he forbade any discussion or discernment, any creativity or boldness in exploring possible changes. But this is exactly what Pope Francis is now calling for: bold and creative solutions to all the problems that inhibit the church’s ministry and mission. And the vocations crisis is one of the most glaring.Despite his prodding, too many bishops remain paralyzed by fear. They and far too many priests remain immobilized in the clerical club of their celibate, all-male fraternity or caste. But not all of them. There are those for whom Francis’s pontificate has offered encouragement and granted permission to speak up. And you can bet that at least one of them is likely to raise his voice when the pope convenes the Synod of Bishops in October 2018 to discuss young people and vocational discernment. Maybe it will be a Vatican official like Cardinal Kevin Farrell. Or perhaps it will again be a leader from the German-speaking Church or someone from Latin America.It’s even quite possible that the prophetic call for a creative and bold solution to the crisis will come from a prelate from the United States, someone such as Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark.Or perhaps… just perhaps, it will come from a future cardinal, like Robert McElroy in San Diego.Whom will the Holy Spirit prompt to speak up?
Apr 19 17 6:24 AM
How the Catholic Church determines a true Marian apparition When it comes to Marian apparitions, the Catholic Church takes a prudent approach that focuses more on the message than the miracle.Supernatural phenomena, like the alleged miracle of the sun in Fatima, Portugal, nearly 100 years ago, are not the primary factors in determining an apparition is worthy of belief.In that particular case, the bishop of Leiria—where Fatima is located—deemed the apparitions, but not the miracle of the sun, were worthy of belief. His ruling came in 1930, more than a dozen years after Mary's final apparition to Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto.More than 1,500 visions of Mary have been reported around the world, but in the past century, fewer than 20 cases have received church approval as worthy of belief.The Vatican's "Norms regarding the manner of proceedings in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations" were approved by Pope Paul VI in 1978. An official English translation was released in 2011.Like with Fatima, responsibility for determining an apparition's veracity lies with the local bishop, according to the norms established by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.The process is never brief, with some cases taking hundreds of years. Visionaries and witnesses must be questioned and the fruits of the apparitions, such as conversions, miracles and healings, must be examined.According to the norms, the local bishop should set up a commission of experts, including theologians, canonists, psychologists and doctors to help him determine the facts, the mental, moral and spiritual wholesomeness and seriousness of the visionary, and whether the messages and testimony are free from theological and doctrinal error.A bishop can come to one of three conclusions: He can determine the apparition to be true and worthy of belief; he can say it is not true, which leaves open the possibility for an appeal; or he can say that at the moment, he doesn't know and needs more help.In the last scenario, the investigation is brought to the country's bishops' conference. If that body cannot come to a conclusion, the matter is turned over to the pope, who delegates the doctrinal congregation to step in and give advice or appoint others to investigate.Still, the Catholic Church does not require the faithful to believe in apparitions, even those recognized by the church.Church recognition of a private revelation, in essence, is just the church's way of saying the message is not contrary to the faith or morality, it is licit to make the message public "and the faithful are authorized to give to it their prudent adhesion," now-retired Pope Benedict XVI said in his 2010 apostolic exhortation, "Verbum Domini" ("The Word of the Lord").
Apr 21 17 7:42 AM
Reading ‘Amoris Laetitia’ in the New Light of EasterJesuit Father James F. Keenan says Easter week is the perfect time to re-read Pope Francis’s 'Amoris Laetitia' - or read it for the first time. He says for Christians, newness is not a contradiction of the past; it’s born from it. The newness of 'Amoris Laetitia' brilliantly brings the tradition into the present, for the sake of the future.It is Easter. Jesus Christ rises from the tomb: He is made manifest, the Risen Lord. He is no longer understood as simply Jesus of Nazareth. He is Lord of the living and the dead. We confess him as such.Humanity will never be the same. By his resurrection we are brought into the way of the Lord. By his mercy, we are saved. By his resurrection we are not simply restored; rather all things are made new. The possibility for us to follow on the way of the Lord is given to us as a fruit of his resurrection. Only by his death and resurrection can we follow him.The Easter message unfolds for us as something, which only by faith, becomes believable. And, if we dare to accept the grace of that faith, then we can see a new dynamism in our lives that never dies again.That Easter dynamism, that call to see things new, that call to see not what is permissible but what is summoned is, in my estimation, so apparent in the apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.I invite you for Easter week to read the exhortation. If you do, you might start smiling and say, as I did, there’s a lot new here. And you might find that newness not to be so worrisome.Christian newness is not untethered from reality nor from its own heritage. The possibility of the extraordinarily radical newness of the resurrection comes not from thin air. When we Catholics believe in newness, we are not looking for the fanciful, the spontaneous, or the unreal. Christian newness always has history ever since the Lord rose from the tomb where Jesus of Nazareth was laid. Easter in Jerusalem had its roots in Bethlehem. There was no rupture between the two.For Christians, newness is not a contradiction of the past; it’s born from it. The newness of Amoris brilliantly brings the tradition into the present, for the sake of the future. Our tradition must always develop, as the great theologian Marie Dominique Chenu taught; otherwise we cannot bear it into the future.As you read Amoris, let me offer what I think is new in Amoris. 1. Amoris marks a turning point. For the past year, I have read and reviewed the reception of Amoris worldwide and the bottom line is what a group of German theologians called Amoris, in a book they edited: A “Wendpunkt,” a turning point.They looked at the uncanny number of fresh perspectives that are integrated in Amoris: Synodal teaching, a relational theology of marriage, dictating consciences, ministerial accompaniment, mercy bearing mercy, a confessing church. Like the Germans, the Belgians called it, admiringly, “the Point of No Return.” 2. The fruit of a synodal church. Twenty-five years ago, Archbishop John Quinn suggested that we have decision-making synods, not unlike the very spirit of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. At that Council, Peter, Paul and James, along with the rest of the church’s leadership, engaged robustly with the questions about how to accommodate pastorally the Gentiles in light of the then contemporary practices of the church.Against that background, the apostolic exhortation is born out of the work of two synods where Church leaders similarly wrestled, argued, bickered, and fought about the current state of Catholic marriage and the need for a pastoral response to the lives of those who are married.The exhortation is born out of the engagement of those two synods and Pope Francis offers his magisterial exhortation as the fruit of the synod. I expect we will see more synods and receive more from them. 3. Pace, doctrine! It’s a pastoral exhortation. One of the first synod participants to speak after the exhortation was promulgated was Cardinal Walter Kasper: “it doesn’t change anything of church doctrine or of canon law - but it changes everything.”Kasper understands the insightful claims of Church historian John O’Malley who reminds us that the Second Vatican Council was a pastoral one, in both style and content. He also adds: “Pope Francis’s blueprint for the initiatives of his pontificate has from the very first instant been the teachings of Vatican II.”This exhortation is, therefore, pastoral, and as O’Malley reminds us, pastoral teaching is when we are trying to get a right understanding of doctrine. That’s why we need the pastoral. That’s why we needed Vatican II. We needed to get doctrine right.Pastoral teaching is never a poor sister to doctrine, but its companion. Through pastoral teaching, doctrine is effectively taught. Moreover, as anyone who has read the landmark historical works by the late John T. Noonan, Jr. recognizes, it is precisely through pastoral teaching that doctrine develops. 4. The marital theology is profoundly concrete and relational. Francis seems often exasperated that readers run to the eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia without reading the first seven! Reading all of them, we find a new magisterial exhortation on marriage.German theologian Konrad Hilpert recognizes Amoris’s relationship dynamic of marriage and sexuality as the key to this newness. He argues that the focus of its relational ethics is not on the sexual act and the set of rules that determine it, but rather on the communicative context in which a person becomes further aware of the capacity to know, understand, accept, and love another.Here in the United States, Julie Hanlon Rubio, arguably the most prolific and significant writer on the theology of marriage, writes that the primary contribution of the exhortation is “its call to married couples to persist in married love through time. It takes up important questions-‘Why get married? Why stay married?’- and provides better answers than any other official Catholic teaching on marriage.” 5. Not surprisingly you need a primer to read it. The primers are not needed because the exhortation is complicated (it’s not), but rather it’s foundational and expansive. The theology has to be fleshed out for the local churches. This has also unleashed a market for such primers. The French published one as a “journey to take together.”The Jesuit Institute in South Africa provided a similar one. Italian, Spanish, and German primers are all over the internet. In the United States, the National Catholic Reporter offered its own, then Julie Hanlon Rubio published a faith formation guide of it for Liturgical Press and now Tom Rausch and Roberto Dell’Oro are editing a collection for Paulist Press. 6. Moral Theology has a new task: To accompany others in the formation of their own consciences. Connor Kelly writes that with the exhortation, Francis is shifting the entire task of moral theology: Now, not only does conscience acknowledge moral truth as it is taught, but it discerns and articulates its course for the future. All Catholics must let their conscience be their guide.Kelly directs us to paragraph 303. “Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel.It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; “it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.”The pope’s discerning competence of conscience resonates with conciliar theology, notably in Gaudium et spes. Kelly writes: “By taking this conciliar idea seriously, Amoris Laetitia significantly advances the magisterial understanding of conscience, representing another step in an ongoing process of development and reclamation of the tradition that has been active in the church since Vatican II.”Does this mean that the Catholic conscience is now free to ignore church teaching? No. But one has to ask how much of church teaching directly dictates the regular decisions of the Catholic conscience.The church guides us on some issues of parenting and married life, but the day to day living out of that vocation depends on the active conscientious discernment of what is best for one’s child, marriage or family. Similarly in the workplace, matters of accountability, fairness, transparency, and confidentiality prompt frequent conscientious challenges.These multitudinous decisions made every week are not made by consulting some magisterial handbook, but rather by engaging one’s conscience regularly. 7. The habit of invoking one’s conscience is moral discernment. The pope captures the idea of following one’s conscience by talking about discernment. This emphasis on discernment was routinely recognized by readers of the exhortation; as the editors of Commonweal magazine noted, it is “a recognition of human complexity and an endorsement of subsidiarity.”Moral theologians read the exhortation’s magisterial endorsement of this discernment as calling us to explore how as Catholics we in conscience discern what Christ is asking of us all the time. Herein lies what many refer to as the exhortation’s call not to minimalism but to the magis. 8. Accompaniment is the model of Amoris’s ministry. The pope’s voice, style, and insights are wonderfully pastoral and present in the exhortation. They are so present that when you read the exhortation you can get the uncanny feel that the pope is literally talking to you, actually following from one room of your home into another until he sits down in your kitchen and you sense he’s telling you the give and take of relationships, but he’s also listening, waiting for your replies and comments. He accompanies you as you face your own marriage and your own relationships.Not surprisingly, accompaniment is the summons that the pope gives to his own bishops, clergy, religious and lay ministers. We are called to accompany others as they form their consciences and make daily decisions in their marriages, their families, their work places, and their communities. 9. This accompaniment engages and does not suppress the Catholic conscience. In the early part of the exhortation, Francis lets loose with one of his pastoral quips: “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them” (AL 37). It is a sensational phrase. Google it! It’s cited again and again as a self-critical remark about the church’s teaching and preaching ministry.The phrase appears as the pope, reflecting on how often we are not open to the workings of grace remarks: “We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations.”This is a magisterial document that makes room for the Catholic conscience. 10. This ministry of accompaniment is not unlike the pastoral teachings of Pope John Paul II. I can think of any number of instructions wherein John Paul provided pastoral solutions of accompaniment to married persons. Two appear in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981). First, in paragraph 34, the pope talks about the legitimate process by which a married couple who recognize the authority of Humanae vitae, but are unable to follow its teaching seek out pastoral counsel and through the law of graduality are, in certain instances, able to receive communion though they practice birth control.The second pastoral teaching on accompaniment comes from paragraph 84. Interestingly, at the press conference where Amoris was launched, Austria’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn was asked how to square Francis’s opening the question on confession and communion for divorced and remarried couples with John Paul II’s refusal to permit divorced and remarried Catholics to approach the Eucharist unless after penance they agreed to live in “complete continence.” (84).With Familiaris, John Paul II allowed those divorced and remarried Catholics who lived “in complete continence” to receive communion. Before John Paul II, no pope had spoken of the possibility of divorced and remarried Catholics approaching the Eucharist.Could not Francis, like John Paul II, allow for the engagement of other questions?The cardinal added, “There is continuity in teaching here, but there is also something really new. There’s a real development [of doctrine], not a rupture.”Rocco Buttiglione on the pages of the Vatican’s Osservatore Romano picked up where Schönborn left off. He asked, “Is there any contradiction between the popes who excommunicated divorced and remarried persons and Saint John Paul II who lifted that excommunication?” How is Francis any different from John Paul II? Both are reading the signs of the times and guiding the church through her own development. 11. It accompanies the consciences even of the divorced and remarried Catholics. Much is written about the issue of Francis and whether he allows or not the sacraments of reconciliation and communion, in some instances, for the divorced and remarried who in conscience seek them.In a manner of speaking, he is suggesting (in footnote 351) that this is a question for the local churches to decide. Although some may be surprised and others may argue that local churches cannot make decisions on these issues, one of the achievements of Vatican II was to restore the integral role of the local churches within the universal church.Francis very much seeks to implement the Council’s decisions and, as we saw earlier on synodality and on conscience, the spirit of the Council animates very much his own teachings.Rightly Lisa Sowle Cahill noted “What Francis has done in effect is give local bishops permission and space to try innovations that are more flexible, merciful, and pastoral - but he is not mandating this.” Still, he is watching and waiting.A few initiatives deserve mention. The bishops of Buenos Aires wrote a letter to their priests regarding how to interpret chapter eight. After acknowledging the Familiaris Consortio case of a divorced and remarried couple maintaining continence so as to receive the sacraments, the bishops add, that if that option is not viable, “a path of discernment is still possible.”“When there is acknowledgement, in a concrete case, of the existence of limitations that diminish the degree of responsibility and culpability - particularly when a person believes they would commit another mistake that could harm any children born into the new union - Amoris Laetitia introduces the possibility of access to the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.”They add that in some instances confidentiality might be prudent as the local community moves forward in “a spirit of understanding and openness.” The pope commented that the letter was “very good and fully captures the meaning of chapter VIII of the Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations. I am sure it will do much good.”Rouen’s Archbishop Dominique Lebrun’s All Saints Vespers’ proposed to the church of Rouen seven priests as “missionaries of Mercy” for the diocese, who have been mandated to “specially” welcome divorced people who are in a new relationship with the objective of enabling them “to examine their consciences in complete discretion in the light of the Word of God.”Of course, other churches have been ahead of Amoris. A few days after its launch Schönborn revealed that he was “not a little proud” that the exhortation had now “fully adopted” the pastoral practice regarding remarried divorcees, which has been in use for well over 15 years in the Vienna archdiocese! 12. Restorer of mercy. My favorite admonition in the exhortation concerns mercy. In #311 Francis writes: “At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance.“That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel.” We have heard from all kinds of church leaders, time and again, the rebuke not to water down doctrine. But here we are warned that by conditioning God’s mercy we water down the Gospel. I have never heard that warning before. It’s a rebuke that I find refreshing.The pope continues, “It is true, for example, that mercy does not exclude justice and truth, but first and foremost we have to say that mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth. For this reason, we should always consider inadequate any theological conception which in the end puts in doubt the omnipotence of God and, especially, his mercy.”With these words I conclude. Restoring mercy, the fruit of Easter, the fruit of Amoris Laetitia. Read it now.
Apr 22 17 7:12 AM
How Catholic doctrine developed: case studies from Judge John NoonanJudge John T. Noonan, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the author of many books, including Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists (1965), died on April 17, 2017. This essay originally appeared in the April 3, 1999 issue of America.It is a truth acknowledged by all Catholics that revelation closed with the death of the last of the Apostles. No new revelation has been given or is expected. Novelty—often characterized disparagingly as "dangerous novelty"—is a sign of departure from what has been handed on. Perpetuating the teaching of her Lord, the church does not welcome and cannot abide innovators.Yet Christianity is not a relic laid in a museum; it is not a book entombed in an archive. Christianity is alive. It lives in the living people of God. The law of life, as each of us knows from our own lives, is change. As John Henry Newman put it in 1843 in An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, "In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often,"A living organism, subject to change as a condition of life, and oriented to change for perfection, and yet admitting nothing new to its constituent core—there is the paradox, there is the source of the tensions that mark the development of doctrine in the Catholic Church. It is that paradox that deserves to be approached irenically in reaching common ground for all persons of good will. The desire to deny change is understandable. Those who do so fear the uncertainty for the future that change in the past implies may happen. If this could change, why not that? Doctrines and practices that seem deplorable, even detestable, loom as horrid possibilities, no longer to be dismissed by a simple recitation of the mantra, "Nothing changes."There is a rational basis for some apprehension. Characteristics of organic life as fundamental as change are continuity and balance. Organisms do not suddenly break from their roots. At all times to live is to keep all vital functions in balance. A seemingly small change can at times be disruptive of the life of the whole. If the biological analogy is appropriate, the majority of mutations are harmful. Change is a law of life but not the only law of life.On the other hand, facts are stubborn. Wishing them away, torturous distinctions, simple denial will not dispel the truth, so refusal to admit the existence of past changes with the implicit possibility of future changes is not a path open to anyone aware of history. Why should experience be feared when the church is its repository and preserver?That development has occurred in the past is beyond dispute. It was the very fact that the Catholic Church, its doctrines and practices looked in 1843 so very different from the primitive Catholic Church of the first centuries that led Newman to write his essay, a kind of apologia for his conversion, published when he was still an Anglican and reissued by him as a Catholic, an essay that boldly accepted the development of doctrine as a mark of the true church. The essay pointed to various developments: of a canon for the New Testament, of reaching a fixed position on original sin, of instituting infant baptism, of requiring communion in one species, of establishing the consubstantiality of the Father with the Son and the equality of the three persons of the Trinity, of authorizing and encouraging the veneration of the Mother of God and of asserting the supremacy of the Pope—all being so many instances of developments rooted in the revelation but worked out in the course of conflict in the life of the church. Far from being a repetition of a message, these changes made manifest dimensions in the Christian life not immediately grasped by the first Christians.Newman had a profoundly conservative character, openly distrustful of "the wild living intellect" of the individual that might run off anywhere if not constrained by authority. But he celebrated these developments as authentic and he celebrated development itself as an authentic mark of the living church. He did not fear for the future. And a century and a half after An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, John Paul II chose in “Fides et Ratio,” an encyclical issued last October, to single out Cardinal Newman as a notable modern guide to the rational apprehension of matters of faith.Newman did not address the development of moral doctrine. For Americans that is what is of greatest interest. As James Brown informed Alexis de Tocqueville about Americans during Tocqueville's tour of America in the 1830s: "In the depths of their souls they have a pretty decided indifference to dogma. One never talks about that in the churches. It is morality with which they are concerned." Let us, then, look at some of the moral developments that have occurred since the New Testament was written. For convenience I will adopt an alphabetical approach:Adultery. Adultery is the sexual connection of two persons, one of whom is married to someone else. Adultery cannot occur absent an existing marriage. Whether a marriage exists has been the subject of extensive development. The Gospel texts indicate that those whom God has joined together are married. Addressed to Jews, the words of the Lord make no exception for the unbaptized. Marriage, it is a common teaching, is by nature indissoluble. However, as early as the First Letter to the Corinthians, an exception was recognized: A convert, married to an unbeliever who abandoned him or her, was free to leave and, at least by implication, was free to remarry. By the fourth century, the right to remarry, the so-called Pauline privilege, was clearly asserted. What would have been adultery if the Gospels were followed literally could be lawful Christian marriage. Other changes followed, first in relaxing the conditions necessary to claim the Pauline privilege, then in the creation of the Petrine privilege, a right reserved to the Holy See to dissolve any nonsacramental marriage in order to permit one of the parties to it to enter a valid marriage with a Catholic. The Petrine dissolution of the marriage of two unbelievers in this way could transform what had been adultery for a Catholic living with one of them into what became a Catholic marriage. The redefinition of certain marriages as dissoluble was a development in the meaning of adultery.Death Penalty. The death penalty was part of the mechanics of government of the Roman Empire and was not condemned as intrinsically immoral by Christians of the empire. Christian emperors did not hesitate to employ it. Individual bishops sought mercy but only in individual cases. In the 12th century the church accepted the death penalty as the appropriate penalty for a recalcitrant heretic. During the Counter-Reformation eminent theologians defended the church's role in securing the elimination of heretics in this way. In the 20th century, after World War II, the church began to see matters differently. In 1995, in his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” Pope John Paul II found conditions justifying the death penalty as necessary to the defense of society "very rare, if in fact any occur at all." The moral judgment about the death penalty is a very interesting instance of a moral rule in transition. Without justification by social necessity, the implication runs, executions are themselves a form of homicide. Still, the pope addresses governors to ask for mercy, not to tell them that they are about to become murderers.Religious liberty. Christ forced no one to believe. The Apostles followed his example. But after Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, imperial force was employed on behalf of orthodoxy. The Donatists, ultraconservative in not forgiving apostasy, were compelled by beatings to return to the faith: St. Augustine approved and defended the coercion exercised. In the Middle Ages deadly force was used against lapsed heretics and defended by the theologians. In the 19th century it was recognized that, in hypothetical circumstances, a state might not have the duty of suppressing heresy and that such circumstances now obtained in, for example, the United States. Only in 1965, in the "Declaration on Religious Freedom," did the Second Vatican Council proclaim the right of every person to be free from governmental coercion bearing on religious faith. What had once been theologically seen as an obligation (the duty of the state to repress heresy) was now theologically seen as an invasion of the human person.Slavery. Like the death penalty, slavery was accepted by the early Christians as a social institution. Kindness to slaves was recommended; manumission was acknowledged as a deed of charity; but as St. Augustine crisply put it, "Christ did not make men free from being slaves." The opposition to slavery was started in the 17th century by Quakers and carried on in 19th-century America by Congregationalists and Unitarians. Only after slavery had been abolished by all European nations, by the United States and by Brazil did Pope Leo XIII issue a general condemnation of human bondage. The present pope, John Paul II, has declared slavery to be intrinsically evil. Once morally licit and often engaged in by popes, religious orders and otherwise virtuous Christians, slaveholding has become seriously sinful behavior.Usury. Opposition to exploiting a fellow Jew in lending appears in the Old Testament. Jesus is reported in the Gospel of Luke as teaching, "Lend freely, hoping nothing thereby" (6:35). In the patristic period excessive interest was condemned as cruel. Beginning about 1150 the moral rule was laid down that it was wrong to make a profit from a loan. "Lend freely, hoping nothing thereby," was papally interpreted as a commandment. Popes, councils, bishops, theologians joined in the condemnation of usury, understood as anything added to the principal of a loan. In the 16th century, as the economy of Europe became more commercial, profitable alternative ways of extending credit were recognized by theologians engaged in a fierce battle with curial conservatives. By the 18th century the old usury rule was a shadow, formally maintained by the papacy, ineffective in practice. By the 20th century, investments in banks were commonplace for popes, bishops and ordinary Christian folk. What had been prohibited had become lawful.The list is not exhaustive, but these five examples illustrate the development of moral values so that the impermissible becomes permissible (certain marriages, once classed as adulterous; lending with the intention to profit from the loan); the permissible becomes impermissible (slaveholding; the common use of the death penalty); and the obligatory becomes forbidden (the state repression of heresy). The developments depend, in part, on changes in social conditions. They also depend, in part, on changes in perspective and theological analysis. For example, the developments on usury were facilitated by analyzing not the loan transaction but looking at the loan from the perspective of the lender. The developments on adultery were facilitated by discovering in the pope a power to dissolve certain marriages. The developments on the death penalty, religious liberty and slavery were facilitated by greater insight into the demands of human nature. In every instance, too, it may fairly be contended, the developments have reflected a deeper insight into the Gospel, a fuller realization of its message, a greater conformity to Christ.Faced with the facts of change, the informed reader could go in several directions. The facts could lead one to say that the church was simply wrong—the position taken by the Protestant controversialists whom Newman was seeking to disarm and the position taken by 19th-century rationalists such as William Lecky in his History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism. Believers in the Catholic Church must find this reaction unacceptable. Another response, that of believers, is to controvert the facts and deny that change has ever occurred. Newman did not believe he could do this; the historical record was too plain. We cannot do it now.A third response, also of believers, is to exclaim, "All this has changed; therefore any change is possible." Once stated, this position is pushed further. The existence of past change is said to prove the desirability of future change. The discovery of history leads to a reaction like that of first-year students of law who, on discovering the many variations of law, think that there is nothing stable and certain there, that all is flexible, to be molded to taste—a gross misperception of an organic enterprise. The argument that because certain changes have occurred other changes should take place is an equally gross fallacy.The appropriate response is to conclude: Change has occurred; let us ascertain the principles that guide development. That many doctrines not grasped by the first Christians, and many customs unknown to them, have emerged as part of Christianity as the outcome of prayer, worship, reflection, argument, conflict and the assertion of authority strongly suggests that developments will occur in the future. As long as there is life in the Christian community, there will be development. The discernment of authentic development will never cease to be a task. Believers have no reason to fear.
Apr 23 17 7:06 AM
What Happened to the Cross Jesus Died On?For 2,000 years, Christians have sought a piece of the cross Jesus died on—some have been willing to use their teeth.Last week, Christians around the world celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. An integral part of this, the foundational moment in Christian history, is that three days earlier Jesus was hung on a wooden cross in a humiliating and agonizing death. By the Middle Ages the True Cross (as the cross of Jesus is known) would become the most significant relic in the Christian world. To this day, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem claims to possess pieces of it. But they aren’t the only ones. Fragments of the True Cross are said to reside in churches and basilicas all over Europe. Is it possible that any of them are the real deal? Whatever happened to the scaffolding for the most important event in Christianity?At first blush it seems unlikely that any given European relic of the cross would be authentic. In the first place there are just so many. By the end of the medieval period, every royal, high ranking noble, and semi-large was claiming to house important relics of one kind or another. In a satirical piece on pilgrimage, the world-renowned sixteenth century humanist Erasmus wrote, “So they say of the cross of Our Lord, which is shown publicly and privately in so many places, that, if all the fragments were collected together, they would appear to form a fair cargo for a merchant ship.” Clearly not every one could be authentic.As it turns out, Erasmus was being hyperbolic. A survey of extant pieces of the cross, published in 1870 by de Fleury, concluded that actually the volume of fragments in circulation was not even enough to reconstruct a cross, much less build a boat. So far, so good, but are they real?Jesus was executed in Jerusalem. Early reports suggest that the cross was then broken up and dispersed to major centers of Christianity. An inscription found in North Africa, dating to 359, makes reference to the cross, and Cyril of Jerusalem wrote in 348 that the “whole world” was full of relics of the cross, a statement that suggests the deliberate distribution of relics. In certain cases it seems that the distribution of relics was official and politically motivated: bishops in Jerusalem dispatched pieces to the Pope and the Pope shared them with powerful monarchs. Gifting relics was a way to curry favor with one’s allies.In other cases people stole relics on the sly. In her late fourth century travel journal, a wealthy pilgrim named Egeria reports that when pieces of the cross were venerated during the Good Friday service in Jerusalem, deacons would be stationed nearby to ensure that people didn’t bite pieces off. This had apparently happened in the past and seems to have continued at least as late as the medieval period. According to the 12th century History of the Counts of Anjou, Fulk Nerra of Anjou bit off a piece of the cross relic when he was in Jerusalem on a pilgrimage in the early 11th century. He then returned it to France where, according to tradition, they were entrusted to the monks at the abbey of Beaulieu.Theoretically, therefore, it’s possible for some of these relics to have been carved from (or nibbled off of) the original cross. The key question, then, is how do we know that the cross venerated in the fourth century was the actual cross on which Jesus was crucified?Part of the problem is that the followers of Jesus and the first Christians weren’t all that interested in the physical remains of the the True Cross, because crucifixion was a humiliating form of death reserved for criminals and slaves.As prominent art historian Robin Jensen shows in her recently published book The Cross: History, Art and Controversy, second century Christians wrestled with the scandal of the cross and disagreed about how to interpret it. Unlike today, when crucifixes and crosses adorn churches and necks, early Christians did not incorporate the symbol of the cross into their liturgy, dress, or art. They were not ducking the crucifixion, she told me, but were trying to make sense of it. That process of making sense however does not appear to have included the artistic depiction of crosses or an interest in finding the True Cross itself.For some of these reasons it was not until the fourth century that Christians even went looking for the True Cross. And this is where things start to get complicated. In her remarkable book, A Heritage of Holy Wood, Barbara Baert traces the origins of the legends associated with the discovery of the True Cross. According to the popular medieval legend, which reappears in retellings to this day, the cross was discovered by Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine. In her youth, before she met Constantine’s father, Helena had been a “tavern girl” (a status that was in many parts of the empire equivalent to a prostitute). She took to the highly political world of the imperial empire and even seems to have engineered the execution of Constantine’s wife Fausta. The details of Fausta’s death are unclear but one version suggests that she suffocated in a bathhouse. In the waning years of her life she undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where she commissioned the building of important churches and attempted to retrace the steps of Jesus. It was during the demolition of the Temple of Venus in preparation for the construction of what would be the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that the crosses were discovered. Excavators discovered three crosses buried together, but Helena could not tell which was which. The identity of the True Cross was confirmed by means of a miracle, and, in 335, Helena placed part of it in the newly-constructed Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and sent another fragment to her son the emperor in Constantinople.These fragments had a somewhat illustrious history. John Eldevik, a professor of medieval history at Hamilton College, told The Daily Beast that “[The]Jerusalem cross was carried into battle by the Christian forces against Saladin at the Horns of Hattin in 1187 and was supposedly taken as booty by the victorious Muslims. Later Crusaders, including Richard Lionheart and Louis IX, believed that Saladin or his successors still held it somewhere and attempted to recover it or ransom it.” Most cross wood relics in Europe, he added, traced their origins to the Constantinople fragment.All roads, it seems, lead back to Helena’s discovery of the cross in Jerusalem. The problem is that our earliest sources for the “finding of the cross” story don’t mention Helena at all. Eusebius, who reports that Constantine asked the Bishop of Jerusalem to construct the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at the site of the Temple of Venus, never tells us anything about crosses. When Cyril of Jerusalem, our earliest source for references to the True Cross, refers to its discovery during the time of Constantine, he makes no reference to Helena. John Chrysostom, the bishop of Constantinople in the late fifth century, describes the discovery of three crosses in a homily in 390 C.E. He writes that the middle cross was identified as Jesus’ by the titulus (headboard) identifying Jesus as king of the Jews. But, again, he never mentions Helena.The first mention of Constantine’s mother is found in a funeral oration that Ambrose of Milan delivered for the Emperor Theodosius in February 395. According to Ambrose, Helena needed the help of the Holy Spirit to discern which was Christ’s Cross and that she, additionally, discovered the nails used to crucify Jesus. Helena also appears in a Church History written in 403 by Rufinus, who includes a story of a miraculous healing as the spiritual test by which the authentic cross was identified. Paulinus of Nola, an ascetic, also includes a version of the story that includes Helena and a miracle story (although they differ, in one version an invalid woman is healed, in another a man is brought back to life from the dead).What do we make of these different versions? Rufinus, Ambrose, and Paulinus share a common core, but differ on many details including the involvement of the Bishop of Jerusalem in the discovery of the cross. Earlier but roughly contemporaneous references by John Chrysostom and Cyril of Jerusalem are really quite different.Baert identifies Gelasius, the bishop of Caesarea in 367 and nephew of Cyril of Jerusalem, as Rufinus’ source and the origins of the legend about Helena’s involvement. She tentatively suggests that Gelasius included Helena and the miracle story in his version of events as part of his theopolitical agenda: he was a great admirer of Helena and Constantine and the story endeared him to their imperial heirs. Drawing on the work of continental European scholars Drijvers and Heid, she concludes that the construction of the Church of Holy Sepulcher on the site of Jesus’ tomb, the discovery of the cross, and the role of Helena are three stages in the evolution of the legend.What all of this means is that we don’t know exactly how the True Cross was rediscovered. Nor do we have any plausible explanation for why it was that these particular crosses came to be interred intact, while the crosses on which ordinary criminals hung were repurposed. Eldevik told me, “While we know that people in Roman times sometimes scavenged nails and other remains from crucifixions for use as magic talismans, Jews would not have done this, and the cross itself was likely either destroyed or simply reused for other executions.”If you’re a person of faith, the preservation of the True Cross can easily be explained as an act of divine protection. Historians would disagree, Eldevik said that it’s “quite unlikely” that any of the fragments are authentic. What we know for certain, though, is that Christians were so passionate about it that they would chew through wood to get a piece.
Apr 26 17 6:40 AM
A diocese's bold move to include the divorced and remarriedThe diocese of Le Havre last weekend organized a meeting for separated, divorced and remarried divorced people in an effort to understand what they expect from the Church. A year after Pope Francis’ "Amoris Laetitia" was published, integrating such people has become a concern for French dioceses.The unprecedented meeting took place in Le Havre on Sunday, the day of the presidential election. The bishop, Jean-Luc Brunin, had sent out plenty of invitations but fewer people than expected showed up: 26 people who had been through a breakup and who were now separated or divorced, and in some cases remarried after divorce. They were joined by eight members of the pastoral care of the family at a newly inaugurated mayoral center for “a day of sharing and friendship".The aim was to lay the groundwork for personal and pastoral discernment with a view to better integration into the Church.According to the bishop, these people, who are said to be in an “irregular” situation of matrimony, were less concerned about access to sacraments than with a more general sense of shame and marginalization.“Many feel they are relegated to the fringes of Christian communities, pushed out to the Church’s forecourt,” he said. Like many of his counterparts in France, the bishop of Le Havre wanted to make a concrete response to Pope Francis’ appeal to better integrate remarried divorcees into the Church.In the eighth chapter of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) which was published in April 2016, the pope called for a better integration of people in an “irregular” situation and for some of them to be given access to the sacraments. Bishop Brunin organized the diocesan day on Sunday to set in motion this ecclesial initiative.“Because we don’t live one’s faith in an individual trajectory, but always within a Christian community,” he said.Sophie Charpentier, a member, also attended together with her deacon husband, Dominique, of the Le Havre diocese pastoral care for the family. For them, the day also provided an opportunity to forge links with people who often feel stigmatized.“It was a very moving,” she said.Charpentier, who says her marriage is “going well", has long found it hard to know what to say to people who have been through a breakup. The new approach put forward by the pope has offered her “a breath of fresh air".“We should listen to these people’s request for mercy,” she said, adding that she believed everyone was fragile and should support each other.Phone numbers were swapped at the meeting and new meetings should be held in the future, probably at a more local level. Because, for the bishop, support for these people should be given locally; not necessarily at the level of the parish (there are 21 in the diocese of Le Havre) but at least in the seven pastoral units.Those who took part in Sunday’s event will be themselves be invited to become participants in the diocese’s pastoral landscape and to reach out to all those who, like them, live in family situations which are sometimes distanced from the Church.Over recent months, other dioceses in France have taken on this sensitive issue. In Rouen, a celebration, so far unique, took place on All Saints’ Day. Bishop Lebrun sent seven priests as “missionaries of mercy” to provide support to divorced people in a new relationship.But if Amoris Laetitia envisages that such discernment allows sacraments to be given, access to the Eucharist should not become something that remarried divorcees regard as a right, according to the bishops of Le Havre and of Rouen.
Apr 29 17 2:53 AM
Pope Francis and Coptic pope agree not to re-baptizeCAIRO Pope Francis' trip to Egypt was marked Friday, April 28, by a significant step forward in ecumenical relations between the Roman Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches.In a joint declaration signed April 28 by Francis and Coptic Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria during Francis' visit to the Orthodox St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo, the two churches agreed that they would not hold baptisms for members of one church wishing to join the other."We, with one mind and heart, will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other," the two popes said in the declaration. "This we confess in obedience to the Holy Scriptures."The declaration carries significance because Catholics and many Christian churches teach that people can only be baptized once in their lives. Re-baptizing someone is seen as a way of lessening the significance of the person's original baptism and faith community.Release of the declaration came as a surprise. It was not listed on the schedule of events for Francis' April 28-29 Egypt trip.In an interview before the trip, one expert on relations between the two churches had told NCR he did not expect them to come to agreement on the issue of re-baptism.Paulist Fr. Ron Roberson, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said that while re-baptism was a "serious question" between the churches, he thought the issue might come up in private discussion but not in public.The signing of the declaration came after Francis and Tawadros gave public remarks inside the cathedral church, which just three weeks ago was the scene of a bombing that killed dozens. People were killed in a chapel adjacent to the church while they were praying and preparing for Palm Sunday celebrations April 9.Francis assured Tawadros that Catholics share the Coptic Orthodox people's suffering."Your sufferings are also our sufferings," he said. "Let us strive to oppose violence by preaching and sowing goodness, fostering concord and preserving unity, praying that all these sacrifices may open the way to a future of full communion between us and of peace for all."Tawadros told Francis that while his people have lived through "difficult and turbulent periods," Egyptians are united in standing against violence."In these difficult times, the true worth of Egyptians manifests itself, united by joy and pain, announcing to the whole world that our disgrace and pain are those of a country united in agreement: Criminal minds cannot ever break or belittle the hearts of citizens," he said.Tawadros also praised Francis for choosing to emulate St. Francis of Assisi by coming to Egypt. St. Francis came to Egypt as a pilgrim of peace in the 13th century during the fifth crusade.Tawadros said that visit was "one of the most important experiences of intercultural dialogue in history, a dialogue which is renewed today with your visit to confirm the fact that dialogue is the way and the bridge that unites peoples and is the constant hope of humanity through the centuries."Following the signing of the joint declaration, Francis and Tawadros led an ecumenical prayer service for Coptic victims of violence in Egypt.Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was also present for the service, which included prayers from the two popes, a reading from Matthew's rendition of the Sermon on the Mount, and a joint Our Father prayer.The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is a small minority in Egypt, where about 90 percent of the country's population of some 92 million identifies as Muslim.The church traces its founding to the apostle Mark and is one of six churches that form Oriental Orthodoxy. Those churches, which have about 84 million members together, recognize only the first three ecumenical councils, breaking off from the other Christian churches in the fifth century.
COMMON DECLARATIONOF HIS HOLINESS FRANCIS AND HIS HOLINESS TAWADROS II1. We, Francis, Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church, and Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, give thanks to God in the Holy Spirit for granting us the joyful opportunity to meet once more, to exchange a fraternal embrace and to join again in common prayer. We glorify the Almighty for the bonds of fraternity and friendship existing between the See of Saint Peter and the See of Saint Mark. The privilege of being together here in Egypt is a sign that the solidity of our relationship is increasing year by year, and that we are growing in closeness, faith and love of Christ our Lord. We give thanks to God for this beloved Egypt, the “homeland that lives inside us,” as His Holiness Pope Shenouda III used to say, the “people blessed by God” (cf. Is 19:25) with its ancient Pharaonic civilization, the Greek and Roman heritage, the Coptic tradition and the Islamic presence. Egypt is the place where the Holy Family found refuge, a land of martyrs and saints.2. Our deep bond of friendship and fraternity has its origin in the full communion that existed between our Churches in the first centuries and was expressed in many different ways through the early Ecumenical Councils, dating back to the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the contribution of the courageous Church Father Saint Athanasius, who earned the title “Protector of the Faith”. Our communion was expressed through prayer and similar liturgical practices, the veneration of the same martyrs and saints, and in the development and spread of monasticism, following the example of the great Saint Anthony, known as the Father of all monks.This common experience of communion before the time of separation has a special significance in our efforts to restore full communion today. Most of the relations which existed in the early centuries between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church have continued to the present day in spite of divisions, and have recently been revitalized. They challenge us to intensify our common efforts to persevere in the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.3. We recall with gratitude the historic meeting forty-four years ago between our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III, in an embrace of peace and fraternity, after many centuries when our mutual bonds of love were not able to find expression due to the distance that had arisen between us. The Common Declaration they signed on 10 May 1973 represented a milestone on the path of ecumenism, and served as a starting point for the Commission for Theological Dialogue between our two Churches, which has borne much fruit and opened the way to a broader dialogue between the Catholic Church and the whole family of Oriental Orthodox Churches. In that Declaration, our Churches acknowledged that, in line with the apostolic tradition, they profess “one faith in the One Triune God” and “the divinity of the Only-begotten Son of God ... perfect God with respect to his divinity, perfect man with respect to his humanity”. It was also acknowledged that “the divine life is given to us and is nourished in us through the seven sacraments” and that “we venerate the Virgin Mary, Mother of the True Light”, the “Theotokos”.4. With deep gratitude we recall our own fraternal meeting in Rome on 10 May 2013, and the establishment of 10 May as the day when each year we deepen the friendship and brotherhood between our Churches. This renewed spirit of closeness has enabled us to discern once more that the bond uniting us was received from our one Lord on the day of our Baptism. For it is through Baptism that we become members of the one Body of Christ that is the Church (cf. 1 Cor 12:13). This common heritage is the basis of our pilgrimage together towards full communion, as we grow in love and reconciliation.5. We are aware that we still have far to go on this pilgrimage, yet we recall how much has already been accomplished. In particular, we call to mind the meeting between Pope Shenouda III and Saint John Paul II, who came as a pilgrim to Egypt during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000. We are determined to follow in their footsteps, moved by the love of Christ the good Shepherd, in the profound conviction that by walking together, we grow in unity. May we draw our strength from God, the perfect source of communion and love.6. This love finds its deepest expression in common prayer. When Christians pray together, they come to realize that what unites them is much greater than what divides them. Our longing for unity receives its inspiration from the prayer of Christ “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21). Let us deepen our shared roots in the one apostolic faith by praying together and by seeking common translations of the Lord’s Prayer and a common date for the celebration of Easter.7. As we journey towards the blessed day when we will at last gather at the same Eucharistic table, we can cooperate in many areas and demonstrate in a tangible way the great richness which already unites us. We can bear witness together to fundamental values such as the sanctity and dignity of human life, the sacredness of marriage and the family, and respect for all of creation, entrusted to us by God. In the face of many contemporary challenges such as secularization and the globalization of indifference, we are called to offer a shared response based on the values of the Gospel and the treasures of our respective traditions. In this regard, we are encouraged to engage in a deeper study of the Oriental and Latin Fathers, and to promote a fruitful exchange in pastoral life, especially in catechesis, and in mutual spiritual enrichment between monastic and religious communities.8. Our shared Christian witness is a grace-filled sign of reconciliation and hope for Egyptian society and its institutions, a seed planted to bear fruit in justice and peace. Since we believe that all human beings are created in the image of God, we strive for serenity and concord through a peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims, thus bearing witness to God’s desire for the unity and harmony of the entire human family and the equal dignity of each human being. We share a concern for the welfare and the future of Egypt. All members of society have the right and duty to participate fully in the life of the nation, enjoying full and equal citizenship and collaborating to build up their country. Religious freedom, including freedom of conscience, rooted in the dignity of the person, is the cornerstone of all other freedoms. It is a sacred and inalienable right.9. Let us intensify our unceasing prayer for all Christians in Egypt and throughout the whole world, and especially in the Middle East. The tragic experiences and the blood shed by our faithful who were persecuted and killed for the sole reason of being Christian, remind us all the more that the ecumenism of martyrdom unites us and encourages us along the way to peace and reconciliation. For, as Saint Paul writes: “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26).10. The mystery of Jesus who died and rose out of love lies at the heart of our journey towards full unity. Once again, the martyrs are our guides. In the early Church the blood of the martyrs was the seed of new Christians. So too in our own day, may the blood of so many martyrs be the seed of unity among all Christ’s disciples, a sign and instrument of communion and peace for the world.11. In obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies the Church, keeps her throughout the ages, and leads her to full unity – that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed:Today we, Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II, in order to please the heart of the Lord Jesus, as well as that of our sons and daughters in the faith, mutually declare that we, with one mind and heart, will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other. This we confess in obedience to the Holy Scriptures and the faith of the three Ecumenical Councils assembled in Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus.We ask God our Father to guide us, in the times and by the means that the Holy Spirit will choose, to full unity in the mystical Body of Christ.12. Let us, then, be guided by the teachings and the example of the Apostle Paul, who writes: “[Make] every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:3-6).Cairo, 28th April 2017
May 1 17 6:56 AM
Marriage and divorce: The limits of the Roman Catholic mindThe conservative resistance to Pope Francis has circled its firing squad around Amoris Laetitia, the year-old apostolic exhortation that opens the door to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.A week ago, speakers at a conference in Rome accused the pope of heresy in the latest in a series of challenges, the most notable of which were the “doubts” (dubia) about Amoris issued by four cardinals last September. “The pope,” declared Australian theologian Anna M. Silvas, “is a skandalon (scandal), the rock has become the stumbling block.”To be sure, the other side has mounted a defense, but it’s striking how little attention has been paid on either side to the theological concept that best supports the pope’s opening — and how ill-informed that attention has been.The concept is oikonomia, Greek for household management (economy), and as developed by the Cappadocian fathers of the fourth century it expresses Christianity’s profound insight into the flawed nature of humanity and the fallen condition of this world.This provides the rationale for permitting second (and third) marriages in Eastern Orthodoxy. While affirming the Christian ideal of marriage as indissoluble, the Orthodox recognize that sometimes marriages become broken, and provide a path for the parties to remarry within the church in a ceremony that is penitential.Likewise, oikonomia does not abandon the early Christian view that war is evil, but offers those who fight a penitential path to communion. In both cases, as in others, the point is that, in this world, it is sometimes necessary to do an evil thing in order to avoid a greater evil.Roman Catholicism would rather divide wars into just and unjust and valorize the heroes of the former. Instead of allowing second marriages, it prefers to determine that a first marriage was not a real marriage by the fiction of annulment.So on the right, the National Catholic Register waves away the Orthodox permission for second marriages as an artifact of Roman imperial law — as if oikonomia were nothing more than a concession to the secular state. And Sandro Magister, the anti-Francis Vaticanista, asserts that second marriages are not sacramental in Orthodoxy, which is not the case.Meanwhile, on the left, Cardinal Walter Kasper — the prime mover behind the opening to the divorced and remarried — shies away from embracing oikonomia while also claiming that the Orthodox do not consider the second marriage a sacrament. As for Pope Francis, he does not so much as mention oikonomia in Amoris.Fifteen years ago, Creighton University’s Michael G. Lawler made a strong case for Catholicism to embrace the principle of oikonomia when it came to marriage and divorce. More recently, Kevin Schembri of the University of Malta urged Catholics to learn from the Orthodox doctrine.But oikonomia may just be too far outside Catholicism’s comfort zone for that to happen. When you need white to be white and black to be black, accepting that this world sometimes requires us to do evil is an intolerable shade of gray.
May 8 17 5:51 AM
The Greatest Myths About the ApostlesFrom the actual number to Peter's wife and child, how well do you really know the apostles?After the death of Jesus, his core group of followers went on to spread the good news about the life, death, and resurrection of their leader. Known as the Disciples or the Apostles, this cluster of trusted followers essentially founded Christianity—an astonishing feat, given that most of them were poorly educated fishermen. But even if these unremarkable men were made remarkable through their encounter with Jesus, much of what we think we know about them comes to us from later tradition or efforts to smooth out the historical record. Here are some of the greatest myths about their stories. 1. There were twelve clearly identified Apostles.In the Gospels the Apostles are collectively known as “the Twelve.” The fact that there were twelve disciples suggests that they are representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel. But even if it is symbolic, that symbolism translates to practical action: after Judas betrays Jesus and commits suicide, Peter persuades the assembly of Jesus followers to elect a new member of the Twelve by drawing lots. It’s important to have twelve.The problem is that there is some disagreement about the identity of the original Twelve. There’s a consensus among the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke that the group includes Simon, also known as Peter; Andrew, his brother; James (sometimes called James the Elder) and John (the brother of James), the sons of Zebedee; Philip; Bartholomew; Thomas; Levi or Matthew; Judas Iscariot; Simon the Zealot ; and James the Lesser. They disagree about the identity of the final member, Jude. Mark calls the final disciple Thaddeus. Some manuscripts of Matthew also call him Thaddeus while others call him Lebbaeus. Other manuscripts of Matthew call him Judas the Zealot, and Luke calls him Judas, son of James. If we assume that they are all referring to the same person it seems likely that Mark and Matthew are trying to distinguish this Jude from Judas Iscariot.The Gospel of John is less clear on the identity of the Twelve. Of the nine he names he includes a man name Nathanael. Tradition maintains that Nathanael is Bartholomew, but that’s difficult to state with any certainty.The situation gets even more complicated when we start looking at all the other people who followed Jesus. In Luke there’s a larger group of seventy (or seventy-two) disciples who are sent out in pairs to prepare the way for Jesus. Luke also mentions a larger group of people, including three women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susannah), who are following Jesus. What all of this means is that while there is a numerically significant group of twelve disciples, they weren’t the only ones acting as “disciples,” and we don’t know exactly who they were.2. They all liked each other.Jesus may have chosen a central group of Twelve, but after his death there was at least one other who decided to call himself an Apostle. This man, who started life as Saul of Tarsus but is better known as St. Paul, never met Jesus during his ministry. Instead he claims that he received his knowledge about Christianity through direct revelations, or visions, from the risen Christ. Paul’s first interactions with the followers of Jesus took place before his famous Road to Damascus experience. He spent some time, he tells us, persecuting the followers of Jesus. Add to this backstory the fact that Paul was university educated, from Tarsus, and was of higher social status than the others, and the groundwork was laid for a rather strained relationship.In particular, there was some friction between Peter and Paul over the issue of whether or not they should eat with Gentiles. According to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, Peter regularly ate with Gentiles until delegates came from James (the brother of Jesus) in Jerusalem. At that point Peter decided to withdraw and eat only with Jews, because he was afraid of what Paul calls the “circumcision faction.” Apparently, when Peter was in Antioch, Paul called him a hypocrite, and there’s nothing in Paul’s letters to suggest that they ever patched things up. A much smoother version of events is recorded in Acts of the Apostles, and much later tradition would tell stories of Peter and Paul happily imprisoned together in Rome, but that isn’t how Paul told it. Whether or not they patched things up, they had sharp disagreements. 3. The leadership structure was clear.For Roman Catholics, Peter is chief among the Apostles. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says to Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:18-19). This statement forms the basis for papal authority. According to Roman Catholic tradition and the principle of Apostolic Succession, Peter became the Bishop of Rome, and his successors from Linus to Pope Francis all share in Peter’s elevated status in the Church.For many Protestants, there was a division of labor. They maintain that Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles and Peter was the Apostle to the Jews. There was no supreme authority figure in the early Church and, as a result, there isn’t one today.In truth, though, it depends which Gospel you are reading. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Peter is the most important member of Jesus’ inner circle, but he is not alone. The other members are James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Jesus frequently takes these three aside for special instruction and revelation. In fact, it is when he is in the company of this special group that the Transfiguration happens. The Sons of Zebedee are also somewhat ambitious. In a somewhat tragic misunderstanding of Jesus’ language of the Kingdom of God, they ask Jesus if they can sit at his right and left hand when he is in glory. They seem to be imagining that when he overthrows the Romans and becomes king they can be his right-hand men. What actually happens is that they promise Jesus that they will “drink from his cup,” a metaphor for martyrdom.In the Gospel of John, on the other hand, Peter is much less important: Jesus doesn’t call Peter the rock on which the Church is founded; Peter is described as a former disciple of John the Baptist; and Peter pales in comparison to another figure – the Beloved Disciple. The Beloved Disciple is never identified by name in John, but scholars tend to think that he is either John (the Gospel’s author) or Lazarus, who was raised from the dead. Given that early Christians usually had access to one Gospel, it’s likely that those who heard the Gospel of John thought that the Beloved Disciple was the most important of the Twelve.All of which is to say that there were a number of candidates vying for the position of “top Apostle” and that, depending on where one lived and which disciple was believed to have founded your community, you would have had a very different take on which of the Apostles was the most important. 4. They were unmarried.A common misconception about the Apostles is that they were unmarried. It’s easy to understand why people think this: Jesus spends multiple years preaching before his death and the Apostles accompany him everywhere. While parents are sometimes referred to, there are no explicit references to the wives or children of the Apostles. Paul is very clear that he is unmarried and that, ideally, other followers of Jesus would remain unmarried as well.Peter, though, had a wife. Paul tells us that Peter’s wife accompanied him on missionary journeys (1 Corinthians 9:5). A second-century text called the Acts of Peter further suggests that he had children. It begins with a description of Peter’s beautiful daughter, who was paralyzed on one side.The fact that Peter was married is sometimes used to argue against clerical celibacy. For much of the early Christian and late antique era, many priests and bishops continued to marry. As David Hunter, chair of Catholic studies at the University of Kentucky, has argued, it was only around the twelfth century that celibacy began to be enforced. It’s because of this, and the married status of some of the disciples, that married priests from different denominations can convert to Catholicism and that the Vatican sometimes hints at the possibility of married priests in the future.
May 12 17 5:34 AM
Catholic citizenship: Massimo Faggioli on the role of public theologians todayMassimo Faggioli’s new book, Catholicism and Citizenship: Political Cultures of the Church in the Twenty-First Century, is based on a series of lectures and essays the Villanova professor began publishing and delivering during the 50th anniversary of Vatican II in 2015. According to Faggioli, while Vatican II has left a massive imprint on American Catholicism, its legacy as “an integral part of our political and social history” has been lost in the “political crisis” of the American church. Faggioli immigrated to America from Italy in 2007, and, he says, “this is the most American” of his books.A rigorously scholarly book that’s nonetheless accessible to non-academics, Faggioli’s book examines the impact of Vatican II both on clergy and lay people. Faggioli says that many American Catholics “share part of the responsibility” for the “democratic crisis” in Catholicism, “because they have forgotten and neglected an important part of the Vatican II message.” His new book, and his additional role as a public theologian writing for Commonweal, La Croix International, and speaking both across the U.S. and abroad, is an attempt to reclaim and reframe that message.We spoke in April about the dangers of clericalism, the Benedict Option, the lack of study of Vatican II in America, the Times op-ed page, and the role of theologians in the public conversation about religion.Kaya Oakes: Your book returns often to the notion of clericalism as a problem for both lay Catholics and clergy. Could you talk about why it’s such a problem?Massimo Faggioli: It’s a problem for many reasons. One problem is that after the ’60s, after Vatican II, there was an attempt to revitalize the importance of the clergy with an emphasis on the common priesthood of all baptized. And we thought the problem [of clericalism] had been in a certain way solved. If you speak of wearing a cassock and that symbolism, it became less important. What we’ve seen in the last 15 years is the resurgence of clericalism in a much more serious way, because we’ve gone back not just to the ’60s but before the premodern era. What’s popular in seminaries is that being a priest makes you “ontologically different” from a non-ordained person. This is a very serious and dangerous term, because part of the church before Francis is the temptation to isolate institutions, roles, and functions that are essentially historical. Jesus never instituted any priesthood.That temptation to isolate those roles from any attempt to change them is dangerous because it’s an attempt to shield the institutions from changes that have already happened. They are trying to close the barn door when all the animals are gone. That is something new: not even an argument to go back to the past, but a philosophical ecclesiology on steroids.That’s even more striking because the most serious emergency in the church is the seminaries and the formation of priests. We hear about bishops and priests when they screw up, but hear little about seminaries. I’m afraid there’s something going on there that’s very alarming because [seminaries] have changed little with Francis. So clericalism is part of the emergency today and has consequences for priests, lay Catholics and non-Catholics.Part of this is the red line going through the whole book that one of the most serious temptations of the church today is to see itself as a separate planet. We have become accustomed to this with the Benedict Option, but that’s just one example. The clerical disease is at the heart of this temptation to recreate a world with the clergy in charge of everything. That is clearly a world that the vast majority of Catholics don’t live in. It could be the most serious backlash when Francis’ pontificate is over.Why has there been so little discussion and study of Vatican II in the U.S.A.?Backlash culture is part of this. One of the most striking things when I started my American journey was that those theologians on the progressive or centrist side were taking Vatican II for granted and looking forward without keeping an eye on the importance of preserving that. On the opposite side, those who wanted to destroy the legacy of the counsel were very active.Handbooks for lay Catholics were critical of Vatican II in two versions. The benign version is Vatican II was good but post Vatican II was bad. But there’s an equal voice that says Vatican II was really misguided and naïve and too liberal. That is something that’s really part of the clerical culture in the U.S.A. [The bishops] said the Catholic church has to be rebuilt because of what happened after Vatican II. That’s part of the clerical culture that felt threatened by the more horizontal and secular culture in which the Catholic church realized it had to operate.But there’s also the responsibility of Catholic academia, which took Vatican II for granted. And that is one of the typical elements of American Catholic theology. There’s either those who work between Augustine and Aquinas or those who work with the postmodern. Vatican II was in the middle no man’s land between conservative traditionalists and the other postmodern side. You can see the consequences of that in the bishops fighting for religious liberty against Obama, and they can do that only with a legal constitutional argument, but they make no reference to the teaching on religious liberty that began at Vatican II.You mention that it’s important for the church to recognize its disagreements, but you also acknowledge the blogs, magazines and retrograde movements that disagree with Vatican II and Francis are a real problem. What can lay Catholics do to bridge this divide?I can say what we should not do. What I think should be avoided is to look for a religious community in terms of a parish that looks like you. This is something that happens worldwide, but especially in the U.S.A. We tend to live close to people who look like us, the same ethnicity, income level. The ultimate version is the Benedict Option and all these options that try to create a Catholic community that’s homogenous and aligned on all possible issues. There are practical choices to make for example in terms of where you worship. Being Catholic in the U.S.A. was made possible by cars and parking lots.I would say worship with people that are not exactly like you if you can. And stay faithful to your local community as long as possible. The second thing is to try to read things that will have a life that is longer than 24 hours. Don’t just pay attention to what this bishop has said or done. Not just because it’s depressing, but because it creates a separationist mentality.The Catholic church lives or dies because of ideas and practices that have a very long horizon in mind. On every single issue, for example on LGBT issues or religious liberty, the most important contributions are not necessarily the ones published a few hours after the latest incident. They may be what we have to work with, but this is a big challenge because the world of ideas in the Catholic church has become much more volatile. There are a lot of people reading the New York Times op-ed page. And that’s unfortunate, because a lot of people just read the same thing. I lament that, because most people who care about Catholic stuff read from a niche. Being able to make sense of opposing views is something we’re less used to. I include myself in this.What is the role of a public theologian such as yourself in our increasingly secular society? At times, even writing about religion can feel like an act of translation for a secular audience. How do you handle that as a theologian?One thing that came and hit us very strongly in the last years is the idea that religion was going to be irrelevant very soon. This is not true, of course. We hear a lot more about religion today than in the 80s or 90s. And it’s much more subject to distortion than before. There’s more out there and it’s much more ideological in the way it’s used. What I try to do is the negative work, negative in the sense of cautioning people from the idea that this or that church event can be easily used by a particular agenda. But that is not the most urgent thing. To caution against the enthusiasm of the fans of some religious leader or the hatred of the opponents of that is.It is one part religious translation. What I’ve been doing is to translate not so much for the general public, but to translate things that are by non-Americans for American scholars and a public that’s not the same public as New York Times readers. This is something that struck and surprised me: how much translation there is in each of the sub-theological worlds of North America. Knowing and being able to read in one language says nothing of the real access to the idea of coming from that linguistic world.We know that there are almost half or more Catholics [who] are Spanish-speaking. But there’s little exchange between North American theologians and Latin American theologians. European theologians know little about what’s going on in America. This is more urgent right now because you can’t understand Catholicism from one observation point only. If you want to say something about Catholicism, it’s worthless to speak only from your national position. It’s subject to idiosyncrasies.
May 13 17 6:28 AM
'The Virgin Mary's message is now more relevant than in 1917'Father Carlos Cabecinhas, the rector of the Shrine of Fatima, believes the message of the Virgin Mary encouraging prayer for world peace, is as critical today as it ever was. "La Croix" spoke to him.One hundred years after the apparitions of Mary, which occurred between 13 May and 13 October 1917, who are the pilgrims that come here?Father Carlos Cabecinhas: Of the 5.3 million believers who came to Fatima last year, 75% were Portuguese from all social backgrounds and walks of life. The remaining 25% were from Europe, but also from further afield. Asians, mostly from India and South Korea, make up the fastest-growing group. The shrine took on a more international dimension thanks to the popes in the second half of the 20th century. They all came here either before or during their pontificates. Why does Fatima’s message continue to move people?Fr CC: The message that came at Fatima, asking people to pray for world peace, is even more relevant today as it was one hundred years ago. The apparitions happened during the First World War. Today we are going through what Pope Francis calls “a piecemeal third world war”.The Virgin’s message invites each of us to do what we can in service of peace around us. One hundred years ago in Europe, political regimes were waging war against God. Today there are political regimes who hide the war that is being waged. There are many similarities. What do pilgrims seek here?Fr CC: First and foremost they come here for the strong spiritual experience, to ask something from God, or to give thanks for a blessing bestowed. Many people come back regularly. Popular piety is very important here, and we really support it.After the Second Vatican Council, popular practice in religion was a little neglected, highlighting the importance of liturgy instead. But we have rediscovered the importance of popular piety because liturgy doesn’t account for the entirety of Christian spiritual life. It is a way of touching God’s people when it is done with the right balance. The laity is now increasingly educated, and liturgy is taking a fairer place. What does the site mean for the Portuguese Church?Fr CC: When he visited in 2010, Benedict XVI declared Fatima the spiritual heart of Portugal, explaining that without the message that was given here, the history of the 20th century couldn’t be fully understood. Its prophetic dimension had a clear influence on the reading of the last century. John-Paul II witnessed the fall of communism in light of the message of the Virgin at Fatima.What are you expecting from the visit of Pope Francis?Fr CC: After Paul VI’s visit, the three visits by John-Paul II and then Benedict XVI, this will be the sixth papal visit to the site and it brings great joy. He will let us be reminded of the importance of Fatima for the universal church. Francis will also see the bishops of Portugal who will gather here for the centenary of the apparitions of Mary, but he won’t travel anywhere else in the country.He has done the same for other one-off visits where he travels to other European countries for specific purposes. In doing so he is demonstrating that he comes here as a pilgrim among other pilgrims.Since the apparitions, we pray for the Pope here in Fatima. We will remind him of this prayer communion. And we are ready to listen to Pope Francis’ prophetic words. He has accustomed us to hearing such moving discourse!Two of the three visionaries are to be canonized in Fatima on Saturday. What does this canonization mean for Portuguese Catholics?Fr CC: Canonizations normally take place in Rome. The fact that Francisco and Jacinta Marto will be canonized in Fatima shows the significance of the shrine on a world scale. The relics of these two new saints are housed here in the Basilica of the Rosary. The double canonization is the pinnacle of the centenary celebrations which in themselves are already brilliant events, already made extra special with the Pope’s visit
May 16 17 7:12 AM
Medjugorje; the findings of the Ruini reportEsteemed by the Pope Francis, the report is positive on the first appearances, much less on the current ones while it proposes to turn the church into a pontifical sanctuary. Doubts from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that discussed the phenomenon in 2016Thirteen votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first seven appearances in Medjugorje, one vote against and one “suspensive” ballot, which will give a final answer later. A majority of suspensive votes and many doubts instead, concerning the apparition phenomenon from the end of 1981 to today.These are the results of the work done by the commission on Medjugorje established in 2010 by Benedict XVI and chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini. Pope Francis mentioned this report in the press conference on the return flight from Fatima when he revealed the distinction between the first apparitions and the later ones, saying, “A commission of good theologians, bishops, cardinals. Good, good, good. The Ruini report is very, very good.” It is well known that the signal emerged from the Pontiff’s words is positive about the spiritual fruits and the conversions (“people who go there and convert, people who meet God, who change life”), but is negative with regard to the current apparitions: “I prefer Our Lady Mother, and not the head of the telegraphic office, who sends a message every day”. A commission wanted by Ratzinger From 17 March 2010 to 17 January 2014, a commission chaired by Ruini was set up by the will of Benedict XVI. In addition to the former chairman of the CEI, Cardinals Jozef Tomko, Vinko Puljić, Josip Bozanić, Julián Herranz and Angelo Amato took part. The psychologist Tony Anatrella, the theologians Pierangelo Sequeri, Franjo Topić, Mihály Szentmártoni and Nela Gašpar, the Mariologist Salvatore Perrella, the anthropologist Achim Schütz, the canonist David Jaeger, the speaker of the causes of the saints Zdzisław Józef Kijas, the psychologist Mijo Nikić and the official of the Doctrine of the Faith Krzysztof Nykiel. Their task was to “collect and examine all the material” about Medjugorje and to present “a detailed report” followed by a vote on the “supernatural nature or not” of the apparitions as well as the most appropriate “pastoral solutions”. The committee met 17 times and screened all documents filed in the Vatican, the parish of Medjugorje and the archives of the secret services of the former Yugoslavia. The commission heard all the seers and witnesses involved, and in April 2012, they carried out an inspection in the village of Herzegovina. Positive Findings on First Appearances The commission noted a very clear difference between the beginning of the phenomenon and its following development, and therefore decided to issue two distinct votes on the two different phases: the first seven presumed appearances between June 24 and July 3, 1981, and all that happened later. Members and experts came out with 13 votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first visions. A member voted against and an expert expressed a suspensive vote. The committee argues that the seven young seers were psychically normal and were caught by surprise by the apparition, and that nothing of what they had seen was influenced by either the Franciscans of the parish or any other subjects. They showed resistance in telling what happened despite the police arrested them and death threats [against] them. The commission also rejected the hypothesis of a demonic origin of the apparitions. The doubts about the development of the phenomenon With regard to the second phase of the apparitions, the commission took note of the heavy interference caused by the conflict between the bishop and the Franciscans of the parish, as well as the fact that the apparitions, pre-announced and programmed individually for each seer continued with repetitive messages. These visions continued despite the youngsters had said they would end, however that actually has never happened. There is then the issue of the “secrets” of the somewhat apocalyptic flavor that the seers claim to have been revealed from the apparition. On this second stage, the committee voted in two steps. Firstly, taking into account the spiritual fruits of Medjugorje but leaving aside the behaviors of the seers. On this point, 3 members and 3 experts say there are positive outcomes, 4 members and 3 experts say they are mixed, with a majority of positive, effects and the remaining 3 experts claim there are mixed positive and negative effects. If, in addition to the spiritual fruits, the behaviors of the seers is also taken into account, eight members and four experts believe that an opinion cannot be expressed, while two other members have voted against the supernatural nature of the phenomenon. The Pastoral Solution Having noted that Medjugorje’s seers have never been adequately followed on the spiritual side, along the fact that for a long time they have no longer been a group, the commission has endorsed the end of the ban on pilgrimages organized in Medjugorje. In addition, 13 members and experts out of the 14 present voted in favor of the constitution of “an authority dependent on the Holy See” in Medjugorje as well as the transformation of the parish into a pontifical sanctuary. A decision based on pastoral reasons - the care of millions of pilgrims, avoiding the formation of “parallel churches”, clarity on economic issues - which would not imply the recognition of the supernatural nature of the apparitions. The doubts of the Doctrine of the Faith Francis mentioned them on the airplane. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith led by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller expressed doubts about the phenomenon and about the Ruini report, considered an authoritative contribution to be compared with other opinions and reports. In 2016 a “Feria IV”, the monthly meeting of Dicastry members, was summoned to discuss the Medjugorje case and the Ruini report. Each of the cardinals and bishops who [are] members of the Feria IV received the text of the commission but also other material in the hands of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During the meeting, members were asked to give their opinions. However, Pope Francis, unwilling to have the Ruini report, which he esteems, to be put up for “auction”, decided that the opinions of the Feria IV members had to be sent directly to him. And that’s exactly what happened. Francis’ decision After examining the Ruini report and the opinions of the members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pope decided to entrust to the Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser a “special mission of the Holy See” to “acquire more in-depth knowledge of the pastoral situation “In Medjugorje, and “above all, the needs of the faithful who come to pilgrimage” to “suggest any pastoral initiatives for the future.” By summer 2017 the Polish Archbishop will deliver the results of his work with which the Pope will make a decision.
May 17 17 11:30 PM
May 19 17 3:06 AM
If the Catholic Church recognizes as “worthy of belief” only the initial alleged apparitions of Mary at Medjugorje, it would be the first time the church distinguished between phases of a single event, but it also would acknowledge that human beings and a host of complicating factors are involved, said a theological expert in Mariology.Servite Father Salvatore Perrella, president of the Pontifical Institute Marianum and a member of the commission now-retired Pope Benedict XVI established to study the Medjugorje case, said that although Pope Francis has not yet made a formal pronouncement on the presumed apparitions, “he thought it was a good idea to clear some of the fog.”The pope’s remarks to journalists May 13 on his flight from Portugal to Rome “were a surprise, but he told the truth,” Father Perrella told Catholic News Service May 18. “For four years, the commission established by Pope Benedict investigated, interrogated, listened, studied and debated this phenomenon of the presumed apparitions of Mary” in a small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina.“The commission did not make a definitive pronouncement,” he said, but in discussing the apparitions that supposedly began June 24, 1981, and continue today, the commission opted to distinguish between what occurred in the first 10 days and what has occurred in the following three decades.“The commission held as credible the first apparitions,” he said. “Afterward, things became a little more complicated.”As a member of the papal commission, Father Perrella said he could not discuss specifics that had not already been revealed by Pope Francis to the media. But he did not object to the suggestion that one of the complicating factors was the tension existing at the parish in Medjugorje between the Franciscans assigned there and the local bishop. In some of the alleged messages, Mary sided with the Franciscans.In addition to cardinals, bishops and theologians, the papal commission also included several experts in psychology and psychiatry, a recommended component of any official investigation of presumed apparitions. A host of human factors and outside pressure — not just mental illness — can play a role in leading alleged visionaries astray.Just as Jesus chose men, not saints, to be his apostles, God does not choose saints to be visionaries, Father Perrella said. The apostles were called to grow in faith and holiness and become saints, just like visionaries are called to conversion and to follow the Gospel more closely each day, he said.The Catholic Church’s evaluation of alleged apparitions sees them as “a gift of God and a sign of God’s presence at a certain time, in a certain place and to certain seers,” Father Perrella said. “The mother of Jesus who appears, if it is real, as the pope says, does not and cannot add anything to the revelation of Christ, but she reminds people and calls them back to the Gospel.”Authentic messages are “simple and in line with the Gospel,” he said. If they are “banal, superficial” they cannot be truly from God.Father Perrella again said he could not discuss details about Medjugorje, but said the doubts Pope Francis expressed May 13 about a Mary presenting herself as “a telegraph operator who sends out a message every day at a certain time” show his skepticism about an alleged apparition in which Mary is “verbose.”Throughout history, the Servite said, the church has reacted to reports of apparitions with extreme caution and even “painful reserve,” but its first obligation is to protect the integrity of the faith and uphold the truth that no messages or revelations are needed to complete what Christ revealed.The Medjugorje commission also recommended that Pope Francis lift the ban on official diocesan and parish pilgrimages to Medjugorje and that he designate the town’s parish Church of St. James as a pontifical shrine with Vatican oversight.Such decisions would be “an intelligent pastoral choice,” Father Perrella said, and they could be made whether or not the church officially recognizes the apparitions as “worthy of belief.” Allowing pilgrimages and designating the church as a shrine would be a recognition of the prayer, devotion and conversion millions of people have experienced at Medjugorje.At the same time, he said, it would ensure that “a pastor and not a travel agency” is in charge of what happens there.Alleged apparitions of Mary have been reported since the early days of Christianity, he said, and long before the church became “preoccupied with documenting and investigating” whether a certain apparition was true, it allowed time to pass. And, if devotion there continued, a church or shrine was built.
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