Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A NATIONAL CATHOLIC A LA CHISMATIC REPORTER WRITES AN ARTICLE THAT HITS IT OUT OF THE PARK AND KUDOS TO HIM!


Speaking to a room full of religion reporters last month in Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles Chaput rejected the notion that US bishops, perceived to be more concerned with abortion than with social justice, were somehow at odds with Pope Francis, who’s tended to stress the latter during his two and a half years as pope.

Chaput, considered a leader of the conservative bloc of US bishops, pointed out that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which will host Pope Francis later this month during the World Meeting of Families, spends far more on poverty and other social justice issues than it does fighting abortion and contraception; 20 times more, in fact.

The subtext of Chaput’s remarks was in line with much of the conversation in Philadelphia during the Religion Newswriters Association conference: While we love the Holy Father, there’s nothing new going on here.

This is the debate raging in some Catholic circles as Francis prepares for his first-ever visit to the United States later this month, a trip that includes an address to the US Congress, a speech to the United Nations, and less splashy, but perhaps more moving, moments, such as a visit to a Philly prison and lunch with homeless folks at a DC Catholic Charities agency.

On one side of this debate are fans of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who see in Francis not a radical intent on remaking the Church, but a charismatic leader standing on the shoulders of giants, simply building on their legacies.
The other side is comprised largely of center-left Catholics, or former Catholics, who have felt lost in the wilderness for the past few decades, as a more conservative Church took hold under John Paul II, and who see in Francis a figure who will steer institutional Catholicism back to the ideological center.

The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle.

Although Francis hasn’t — and probably won’t — change much Church teaching, he is a revolutionary figure nonetheless because he’s a master when it comes to communicating in ways that make people listen.

Upon his election in March 2013, Francis inherited Pope Benedict XVI’s Twitter account, along with the now-retired pope’s 3 million followers. During his first week as pope, Francis published a tweet that has become the blueprint for his entire papacy:


This kind of sharp, to-the-point message has catapulted Francis into Twitter superstardom. He’s amassed more than 23 million followers and has been dubbed the most influential global leader on the social network three years running.

But it’s not just on social media where Francis has mastered the power of his unique bully pulpit.
Consider last week’s “virtual audience,” broadcast on ABC’s 20/20, during which Francis spoke via satellite to Catholics in three US regions he’s not visiting during his upcoming tour: Chicago, Los Angeles, and a border town in Texas.

During one segment, a single mother of two broke down in tears while describing how difficult her daughters have had it, telling Francis she hadn’t always made right choices.

The pope listened intently, and he offered not judgment, but compassion and mercy. He praised the single mom for doing the best she could with her two daughters. And, at the same time, he also reiterated the Church’s teaching against abortion, stating pretty matter-of-factly that the mother could have chosen to terminate the pregnancies. But she didn’t, and Pope Francis called her “a brave woman because you were able to bring two daughters into the world.”

The Twitterverse, as well as headlines the next day, focused on Francis’ compassion and mercy, not just for the single mom, but for all the participants with whom he interacted. The perception of the Catholic Church, not exactly glowing in recent years, is changing because of this pope, a pastor at heart, and how he communicates with his flock.

Like his tweeting, Friday night’s television special is another example of Francis’ power to communicate ancient truths via new technology. As Greg Kandra, a deacon who writes about Catholicism in popular media, put it, “we haven’t seen anything like this before.”

At other times, Francis communicates important messages without ever saying a word. For example, last week Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, announced that the papal Mass canonizing Junipero Serra would be celebrated primarily in Spanish.

This is the pope’s first language, of course, and he’s not comfortable using English, so this makes sense.

But there’s another message, too: The Northeast and Midwest centers of US Catholicism have gravitated to the Southwest, and the US Church is well on its way to becoming a Hispanic Church.

The pope’s message, brilliantly communicated well before he’s reached US soil, isn’t sitting well with everyone.

Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, for example, went on a tirade Friday, calling the pope’s decision to speak Spanish “provocative,” and sarcastically asked if Francis would address Congress in Spanish, too, “in recognition of all the Spanish-speaking members of Congress there are?” (He won’t; his remarks will be delivered in English.)

Finally, the trip itself is a master lesson in communications.

Francis will stop off in Cuba before he reaches the United States, and spend a few days with Catholics there. He might even gain a convert if Raul Castro is a man of his word. From there, he’ll take a short flight to Washington, where President Barack Obama and other US dignitaries will greet him.

The message is clear: These two nations are neighbors, closely linked by geography and culture, and Pope Francis wants peace. He was instrumental behind the scenes last year in helping US and Cuban diplomats end decades of hostilities, and these images of a joint US-Cuba visit will only add to the pope’s diplomatic legacy.

That Francis is communicating dusty teachings in refreshingly modern ways, and that he’s proven himself quite adept at capturing hearts and minds, doesn’t challenge or diminish his predecessors. In fact, who can doubt that Benedict, John Paul, and others would all be anything but delighted at the respect afforded their successor?

Here’s the crux of it: None of the pope’s tweets, TV specials, or symbolic gestures are about him at all. In fact, they all point back to something much bigger: If you love Pope Francis, wait until you hear about Jesus.

Is this wholly and completely new? Maybe not. But there’s certainly something novel in a pope so effectively getting the world to pay attention.

Crux national reporter Michael O’Loughlin is the author of a new book, “The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 40 Characters,” that examines the mission of Pope Francis through his extensive use of social media. Read an excerpt here.

31 comments:

Jusadbellum said...

Can anyone define for me what exactly constitutes "social" Justice as opposed to normal justice?

Do the ends justify the means when "social" justice is involved?

Who gets to decide what is and is not "social" about a situation involving justice?

Do people gain rights on a sliding scale or ontologically? In other words, is it "social justice" until you cross some income threshold or depending on the degree of "minority" blood you might have? If blacks or Hispanics ARE the local ethnic majority and have representatives running city hall, the police, school, and all local businesses, are their interests still "social justice" interests or just the normal sorts?

How does the concept of equal justice under the law work with "social justice" issues which seem to be special rights for special people (decided by special judges whom no one can second guess)?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The Church's teaching on social justice is decidedly progressive and has been so since the 1800's. That is why Catholics in this country, conservative Catholics at that, favored the Democrat party up until the late 1960's because of that party's concern for the poor and downtrodden many democrat leaders being from blue collar working class. They took concrete steps to help the poor, laborer and the sick and often mirrored Catholic papal teaching in this regard.

Jdj said...

Yes, Father, that was the ground roots political extension of Church teaching. You labeled it "progressive". In fact the Church has always and continues to have a "preferential option for the poor", which can be traced to back Jesus and then the earliest Christian community (described in Acts) following His Ascension. I don't tend to think of this as progressive vs conservative teaching, but that's just me talking.

Once again, I know exasperatingly, simplistically and even mindlessly to many, I have to refer to the "mission" of the Church to save souls--we don't disagree on the mission, but do disagree (sometimes vehemently!) HOW it is to be done.

John Nolan said...

The language of the Holy Sacrifice becomes a political issue. There's an obvious lesson here.

Calvin of Hippo said...

Social justice has become nothing but a Marxist, anti-capitalist slogan that uses the "poor" as a foil to break down moral values, law and order, and to attack Christian belief by trying to change it into social philosophy. Justice is justice...period. Besides, social justice has nothing to do with the Biblical concept of justice. The Church has allowed herself to be used by her enemies for way too long.

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald said..."The Church's teaching on social justice is decidedly progressive and has been so since the 1800's. That is why Catholics in this country, conservative Catholics at that, favored the Democrat party up until the late 1960's because of that party's concern for the poor and downtrodden many democrat leaders being from blue collar working class. They took concrete steps to help the poor, laborer and the sick and often mirrored Catholic papal teaching in this regard."

Dear Father, I wouldn't say that Catholic Social Teaching is "progressive."

Catholic Social Teaching is simply Catholic teaching. Please note that I am aware that you know that. As your final sentence above noted, "progressive" Democrats mirrored Catholic teachings...they borrowed from us.

Along that line, Pope Francis laughed when people, including uniformed Catholics, labeled him a "communist." Pope Francis noted that "I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: 'but then you are Christian.'"

By the way, you noted that many Catholics, particularly conservative Catholics, had favored the Democrat party up to the late 1960s.

Fred Dutton, particularly via his work on the McGovern Commission, is the man most responsible for having driven millions of Catholics from the Democrat party.

Fred Dutton was a very interesting figure in American corporate and political circles.

He was determined to radicalize the Democrat party to the point that he worked to destroy the pro-life Catholic voice that once upon a time informed the Democrat party.

He was instrumental in creating Earth Day.

Interestingly, despite his liberal political leanings, he shilled for Mobile Oil and Saudi Arabian interests. Although he opposed the Viet Nam War, he shilled for Saudi Arabia as he worked Congress to obtain shipments of armaments to the Saudis.

Fred Dutton was the ultimate Washington insider.

Create Earth Day...shill for oil companies. Oppose a war...receive money to help the Saudis obtain weapons.

Open the Democrat party to "everybody"...work to drive Catholics (pro-life Catholics in particular) from the Democrat party.

Ahh...the ways that the power elite of this world operate.

Pax.

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Jdj said..."You labeled it "progressive". In fact the Church has always and continues to have a "preferential option for the poor", which can be traced to back Jesus and then the earliest Christian community (described in Acts) following His Ascension. I don't tend to think of this as progressive vs conservative teaching, but that's just me talking."

Dear Jdj, I understand your point. I just posted (pending Father's approval) a post similar to yours. But in fairness to Father McDonald, he noted that progressives and their politics in regard to the poor and downtrodden "often mirrored Catholic papal teaching in this regard."

To go, if you will, to the ultimate "progressives," communists, His Holiness Pope Francis noted that they have stole our Catholic "flag." That is, as Pope Francis noted, 2,000 years ago, the Holy Catholic Church had thrown in with the poor...and the care for the poor.

It is interesting that just last year, Rorate Caeli praised Pope Francis as a true "Traditionalist" in regard to his supposed "radical" promotion of Catholic Social Teachings.

Conversely, Rorate Caeli denounced conservatives (and, in particular, a priest who runs a very popular conservative blog) for their criticism of Pope Francis' adherence to and promotion of Traditional Catholic Social Teaching.

Jdj, you are correct. The "preferential option for the poor" is 100 percent the way and teaching of Jesus Christ and His Church.

Pax.

Mark Thomas

Jdj said...

Mark Thomas, thanks for your input. I get so frustrated at times that the real, immutable teachings of the Church get co-opted, translated, and/or misinterpreted as "socialism/communism/etc. It just doesn't help when we put ithese inspired teachings into secular terminology, most especially when interpreted politically. We as Catholic Christians must adhere to a singular viewpoint involving the teachings of Christ as handed down to us through the Church.
My rant is done, thanks Father!

Bernard Fischer said...

If the center of US Catholicism is moving to the South and the West, why isn't the Pope going there? I'm not sure I'd call the DC-Philly corridor "the peripheries" of the US, unless Francis is judging by Mass attendance.

George said...

Social Justice is often conflated with socialism and there is overlap between the two.

The following Popes all wrote against both socialism and communism and they did so within encyclicals

PIUS IX(Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, December 8, 1849)

LEO XIII (Encyclical Humanum Genus, April 20, 1884, n. 27)

PIUS XI (1922-1939)(Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris, December 28, 1878, n. 1)

PIUS X(Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, May 15, 1931, n. 117)

JOHN XXIII(Encyclical Mater et Magistra, May 15, 1961, n. 34)

BENEDICT XVI (2005 - present) (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, December 25, 2005, n. 28


In Rerum Novarum Pope Leo XIIII supported the rights of labor to form unions, rejected socialism and unrestricted capitalism, and affirmed the right to private property.

For employers, he listed such obligations as: payment of fair wages, employee time off for religious practice and family life, and respect for the dignity of workers. The pope also supported the right of workers to form labor unions and engage in collective bargaining. The obligation sof the workers were to peform the work agreed to, to refrain from vandalism or personal attacks, and to refrain from rioting and violence.

Keep in mind that at the time Rerum Novarum was written, the conditions for workers in the U.S. were such that the labor movement was without much power, there were no child labor laws, there was no 40 hour work week, 10 to 14 hour days were the norm, there was no time and a half for overtime, no paid time off, no paid medical insurance, no "cost-of living" raises, no workers comp, no unemployment insurance, no food stamps, and no Social Security and retirement pensions. Did I leave anything out?

We have come a long way. I side with Mother Teresa's observation though. We today suffer more from spiritual poverty and not material poverty.





George said...


To add to my statement above:

Correct understanding of Church teaching is that there is no equivalence between Social justice as properly understood, and Communism/Socialism.

Calvin of Hippo said...

George, of course you are correct...but, the key here is "properly understood." This issue has not been properly understood for a long time in the Church, in fact, it is deliberately and willfully misinterpreted to the people by those in the Church who no longer believe the Gospel message.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" is available online via the Vatican website. It has an extensive glossary, index, and footnote section, making it very easy to find the answers to pretty much all of the Q's here, beginning with "What constitutes social justice?".

MR said...

Today, Francis said a couple of things that seem a little encouraging regarding the Synod.

He said: “..the family, as God wills it, composed of a man and a woman..." and also said people in failed marriages should participate "in an appropriate manner" in the life of the Church.

https://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=26072

Mark Thomas said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said..."The "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" is available online via the Vatican website."

Father, thank you for that reference. I have just spent a few minutes reading parts of the Compendium. I searched the Compendium particularly for teachings on Sunday and found the following:

285. "Sunday is a day that should be made holy...believers should distinguish themselves on this day too by their moderation, avoiding the excesses and certainly the violence that mass entertainment sometimes occasions.[614]"

Footnote 614 referenced the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2187, which noted that we are to avoid any "leisure activity" that involves violence.

I ask Fathers McDonald and Kavanaugh (and input please from Father McDonald's readers) the following question:

On Sundays (or any time), should I avoid watching football (NFL) games?

I began to question several years ago whether it was appropriate on Sundays to watch football games which, of course, are saturated with violence. A few months ago, I decided that I would cease to watch NFL games (or any level of tackle football), Sunday or otherwise.

The violence that is part of football isn't the only reason for my having sworn off football. I have questioned as to whether watching any professional sporting event on Sundays is at odds with keeping Sunday holy.

At any rate, I have determined that as a Catholic, I must refrain from violent sports (NFL, ice hockey, etc). Is my believe tenable as a Catholic?

Thank you.

Pax.

Mark Thomas





Mark Thomas said...

MR said..."Today, Francis said a couple of things that seem a little encouraging regarding the Synod. He said: “..the family, as God wills it, composed of a man and a woman..." and also said people in failed marriages should participate "in an appropriate manner" in the life of the Church."

Thank you for that information. His Holiness Pope Francis has several times reiterated the above. But it's important that Pope Francis reinforced the teachings in question.

During his visit this past January, Pope Francis declared the following:

Pope Francis suggests gay marriage threatens traditional families

01/16/15 By Michele Richinick

"In a reference critical to gay marriage, Pope Francis on Friday warned against an ideological colonization of the family, during his five-day visit to the Philippines, Asia’s most Catholic country.

"At a rally for families in the country’s capital of Manila, the popular pontiff spoke of an “ideological colonization that we have to be careful about that is trying to destroy the family,” the pope said through a translator. Many people understood his remarks as a reference to same-sex marriage.


“The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” Francis said at a Mass in Manila. “These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation.”

"He also praised strongly Pope Paul VI’s controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, or On Human Life. “He had the strength to defend openness to life at a time when many people were worried about population growth,” Francis said of the former pope."

Pax.

Mark Thomas

Lefebvrian said...

Mark,

I have asked a priest a question very similar to the one that you are asking about the activity that is permissible on Sundays. The priest told me that it is permissible to watch sports on Sundays or even to go to a game (assuming of course that you make it to Mass).

The priest who gave me this advice has been a priest for 50 years and is a spiritual director for the FSSP seminary.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Mark, I would not watch NFL games, but not because they are violent. I think that American football is boring. Consider how much actual time is spent playing the game...

But there is an underlying sense of "gladiator spectator glee" that is probably 1) unhealthy and 2) un-Christian. That would certainly be the case with boxing and with its decendants, those obscene "octagon" MMA beat-downs.

We have a desire to witness mayhem, injury, and the like. Add to that the obscene amounts of money involved - for men who participate in a multi-million dollar business we euphemistically call a "game" and what you end up with is basically little more than an escape from reality via brutality.

Surely there are better, more uplifting ways the enjoy a relaxing Sunday afternoon. When was the last time a fight broke out between fans leaving a string quartet recital...?

Calvin of Hippo said...

Dang, Mark, I'm Catholic and I have been in the martial arts for 40 years, went to war, shoot guns all the time (even on Sunday), and collect swords. I do not think this affects my salvation. You worry too much. I don't watch football and haven't for years (except private HS football) because it is a sham of thugs and felons who never should have even gotten into college or pro ball and most of whom cannot write their names twice the same way. But, that is another story.

Lefebvrian said...

After all these years, I've found common ground with Fr. Kavanaugh -- we both dislike American football and for the same reasons.

The end is nigh.

Lefebvrian said...

"When was the last time a fight broke out between fans leaving a string quartet recital...?"

Also, I desperately wish this weren't rhetorical because the answer would be hilarious.

Calvin of Hippo said...

Sounds like a Victor Borge routine...LOL!

Mark Thomas said...

Calvin of Hippo said..."...I have been in the martial arts for 40 years, went to war, shoot guns all the time (even on Sunday), and collect swords. I do not think this affects my salvation."

Nobody would insist that your salvation is in jeopardy over a sword collection. The same applies to your firing of guns...into targets I hope (a bit of humor).

Your statement is very different from the following: Should we watch, let alone play, violent sports on Sundays (or any time) when the Church teaches that "Sunday is a day that should be made holy...believers should distinguish themselves on this day too by their moderation, avoiding the excesses and certainly the violence that mass entertainment sometimes occasions."?

Pax.

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Lefebvrian said..."I have asked a priest a question very similar to the one that you are asking about the activity that is permissible on Sundays. The priest told me that it is permissible to watch sports on Sundays or even to go to a game assuming of course that you make it to Mass).

"The priest who gave me this advice has been a priest for 50 years and is a spiritual director for the FSSP seminary."

Lefebvrian, thank you for your reply. The question at hand is something that has bothered me for years.

I would point out the following to the priest at the FSSP seminary: Okay, on Sunday I go to Mass then watch a football game at a stadium. I help to fill a stadium. That, in turn, forces people to perform servile work on Sunday.

Players, coaches, officials, ushers, parking lot attendants, concession stand employees, security guards, TV network crews, and news media personnel must work on Sunday so that I may attend a football game (or any major sporting event on a Sunday).

Nearby restaurants, bars, and additional businesses will open as they will be tempted by the presence of tens of thousands of potential customers.

Lefebvrian, in light of the above, the priest at the FSSP seminary believes that it's not problematic for a Catholic to help to fuel the above on a Sunday?

How can Catholics combat materialism when we help to ensure that Sunday, at least in the United States, will remain a day filled with business activity?

A NFL game is about a three-hour event. But people arrive at stadiums prior to games. Stadium gates open early. Several hours of business activity surrounds an NFL game (or just about any major sporting event).

Therefore, would the FSSP seminary priest approve the following: As long as we go to Mass on Sunday (or Saturday vigil Mass), is it acceptable to spend several hours shopping on Sunday?

Why not open every business on Sunday? Hey, I went to Mass. Now, rather than force people to work on Sunday at an NFL stadium so that I may watch a football game, I'll just make people work at Wal-Mart so that I can shop.

We should open malls, restaurants, grocery stores, bars...every business...so that Christians are free to spend Sundays buying and selling.

If it's acceptable for Christians to spend their Sundays watching violent money-making professional sports (professional sports is just big business), then are we not free to spend Sundays in non-violent business activities?

Pax.

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Dear Father Michael J. Kavanaugh, thank you for your response. I will contemplate your thoughtful reply.

"Add to that the obscene amounts of money involved"...

Father, I have thought about that but does that border on envy? At the very least, should we take that into consideration in determining whether to watch a sporting event?

There are corporate executives and Hollywood folks who earn far more money than football players earn. Should we take that into consideration the next time that we shop at a store or purchase a ticket to a concert or movie?

Pax.

Mark Thomas

Lefebvrian said...

Mark, I try not to make it a habit of asking priests for advice and then debating with them about their response. I trust the priest I consulted, and I abide by his advice even though I could personally think of many arguments in favor of a more stringent approach to Sunday rest.

I would suggest you find (in person) a priest you trust and address your questions and, if you must, your arguments to him.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Mark - Who might be jealous of the wealthy?

Joe Potillor said...

One does not need to change Church teaching to cause damage or confusion to anything. The lessons post Vatican II should have taught us this point.

Anyone who simply attempts to change dogma can be quickly pointed out, and be dealt with accordingly. Someone who "merely changes praxis" arguably does more damage. Because praxis is often intertwined with our beliefs, damage is done by changing praxis in many (but not all) occasions.



Calvin of Hippo said...

I believe we were better off when everything was closed on Sunday except for hospitals, the police department, and fire department. When I was a kid, you could not hunt on Sundays, and most people would not fish. There might be a gas station open in the afternoon. It was assumed (rightly) that everyone went to Church and then spent the day with family.

It is stupid to be jealous of the wealthy (or anyone else, for that matter). The fact that some people are wealthy and make a lot of money is not money out of anyone else's pocket. If you want to be like the wealthy, then get off your duff and be creative and entrepreneurial. As of yet, that is still possible in this country...even with an administration that is doing its best to create class warfare.

Mark Thomas said...

Father Michael J. Kavanaugh said..."Mark - Who might be jealous of the wealthy?"

Who might be?

Pax.

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Anonymous Lefebvrian said..."Mark, I try not to make it a habit of asking priests for advice and then debating with them about their response."

That is fine. You have trusted his advice and that's that.

I pointed out simply the fact that to follow his advice would force many people to engage in servile work on a given Sunday. I am gathering opinions on the topic at hand. Thanks.

Pax.

Mark Thomas