Friday, April 26, 2013
PONDERINGS BEFORE A NEW POPE IS ELECTED
Our parish has a monthly newsletter that we send to every household through the mail. I always write an article for our newsletter. The following one is the letter I had in April's newsletter and I wrote it before Pope Francis was elected:
Dear friends in Christ,
As I write this letter, the new pope hasn’t been elected. The media has its choice; progressive Catholics have their choice as do conservative Catholics. We could also call some of us traditionalists and others of us iconoclasts who have their choices. But all these labels are a bit unfair and tend to divide rather than unite.
By the time you read this letter, the only choice for pope that counts is God’s choice and God has given us a new pope!
The primary ministry of the Bishop of Rome as denoted in one of his titles, Pontifex or Pontiff is to be a “bridge builder.” He is to unite the people of God under his ministry as the universal pastor and as our “papa” or “pope” in English. But he does not do so only by the force of his personality, because some popes are outgoing and others more introverted; he does so by virtue of his teaching office, to hand on the Catholic Deposit of Faith in all its fullness and to call Catholics throughout the world to be obedient to the Faith, Morals and Canon Laws of the Church.
It is in the teachings of the Church revealed by God in the areas of faith and morals that Catholics are obligated to be obedient, to give the assent of the will; when we do so we build up the unity of the Church rather than bring division. Our unity as Catholics hinges on our foundational belief that Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried and on the third day, rose from the dead. He was seen by the apostles and many, many others after his death and resurrection. He continued to teach and heal in those 40 days and then He ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of God interceding for us and preparing an eternal dwelling for us. But He has not left us alone, He sends us His Holy Spirit to guide the Church and protect her in the tempests that toss her about, some of our own making and others that are inflicted upon us. He has not and will not abandon us, either as a Church or as individuals.
However and only in the last 50 years an evil spirit of “dissent” has entered into the Church and many Catholics have become like Southern Baptists who believe that each believer has a certain infallibility in terms of interpreting the Scriptures.
Fortunately the Catholic Church only accords infallibility to one person and that is the pope and only in the strictest sense of faith and morals. He can only declare something infallible as long as there is a precedent for it in Tradition and it is believed from the earliest centuries by the Church. In other words, he can’t make it up as he goes and he can’t change something that is already considered infallible. Infallibility is also accorded to the Bishops in union with the pope when they gather in an ecumenical council and define a particular teaching to be infallible.
The hottest and most divisive issues for Catholics today seem to revolve around sexuality and gender roles. Those who are influenced by secular trends (which are not always bad, unless these are used to manipulate the Church into being unfaithful to deposit of faith and morals) desire the Church to be as libertine as our culture is on matters of sexuality. This means specifically giving permission to Catholics to use artificial birth control (which goes against natural law) to have abortions, to have sex outside of marriage and any type of sex one is inclined to do and to extend the Sacrament of Marriage to same sex partners. In other words they want us to do away with the 6th Commandment and all that it implies and they want us to do away with natural law and all it implies and they want us to do away with 2000 years of Tradition and all that it implies.
Oh, on top of that (which goes in line with same sex marriage) they want women to be ordained to Holy Orders. Of course the sacramental image of the Catholic priest when he is celebrating the Mass is that he is a “sacramental” sign of Jesus Christ who is the Bridegroom of the Church and the gathered community of souls (anima in Latin which is a feminine word) is the sacramental sign of the Bride of Christ. If it doesn’t matter what gender spouses are, if the Church then allowed for the ordination of women, the Church would then allow that a woman can be a sacramental sign of a “bridegroom” who traditionally is a man.
Of course the Church can’t go against natural law and she never will. So don’t expect the new pope to do so, because he has absolutely no authority to do so. No Catholic has that authority. The pope’s infallibility is severely limited by Catholic teaching. He can’t contradict natural law. He cannot contradict Sacred Scripture and he cannot contradict Sacred Tradition. He is not the “Wizard of Oz” or “Oz, the Great and Powerful!” He is the pope, the bridge builder to Christ and he does so by fidelity to Sacred Scripture, Tradition and natural law.
We Catholics are united by the Petrine Ministry, the pope who is the Vicar of Christ and only in the areas of faith, morals (natural law) and canon law we Catholics owe obedience. When we are obedient in these areas, we are united in the mission that Christ as given the Church, to know, love and serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. We also propagate the truths of God to the world and call the world to conversion by our dialogue with the world. There is a danger in dialogue in that if we are wishy-washy in our own beliefs, we may be tempted to be converted by the world to its godless falsehoods.
Stick with the pope in the areas of faith and morals and you can’t go wrong and you won’t go to hell. God bless you.
Fr. Allan J. McDonald