Americans must keep in mind how the Church is viewed by many Europeans, especially in Italy. The Church is the bishops and priests who for the most part seem aloof from rank and file Catholics who do not take a great deal of ownership in their Church because they see the Church not belonging to them but to the bishops and priests.
There isn't the same post-Vatican II pastoral theology in Italy as there is in the USA. Priests seldom mingle with the laity and when the laity, especially those on the margins of the Church seek the ministry of a priest they are met with a cold shoulder. My Italian relatives would feel like some of the laity interviewed in the video that I link above.
Some in the video, though, seem to have spiritual Alzheimers when they fail to remember that Pope Saint John Paul II in his healthy days was quite outgoing and mingled with the laity more so than Pope Francis. Pope Benedict tried to do so in his own introverted way and made great strides at it toward the end of his papacy.
Of course the traditionalists are vilified as the sticks in the mud. And to a certain extent they deserve the criticism heaped upon them. Many comments on my blog seem to forget the good that Pope Francis is accomplishing for the Church, especially moving her away from coverage exclusively on the sex abuse scandal.
The media is becoming more friendly toward the Church precisely because of Pope Francis and he is teaching us all how being Catholic should attract not repel the world. Some who comment on my blog could learn a lesson on this virtue. Sugar attracts, vinegar repels.
Even Fr. Z who would have some issues with Pope Francis can see the good that he is accomplishing by being the face of Catholicism that is attractive rather than cynical, dower and mean-spirited:
The “Francis Effect” and remembering to talk about GodBe sure to check out Andrea Galiarducci’s latest Monday Vatican analysis.
“A must today as ever: Talking about God in light of Pope Francis’ missionary push”
Galiarducci opines that Pope Francis has had some success in polishing the Church’s image. Francis has even been able to say some tough things to the European Parliament and not get blasted in the press for it. You will recall that he tackled the problem of abortion and infertility, calling Europe a “grandmother”, that is, no longer able to bear children. He inspired the wrath of the Fishwrap’s feminists, but the secular press gave him a pass. Similarly, the UN launched a couple nasty attacks on the Church, but they didn’t stick. Teflon seems to be part of the “Francis Effect”.
On the other hand, the way that Pope Francis speaks may be taking us away from serious, or deeper talk about God, which I think we can all recognize is important
Thus, Galiarducci points out that Benedict XVI (Emeritus) has suggested as a topic for his annual Schülerkreis (study meeting with former students held in August): “How to speak about God in the contemporary word.”
Even while the Church is getting a PR boost, in large part because of Pope Francis’ style, we can’t stop talking about God. As a matter of fact, how can we use the present positive upswing in order to talk about deeper issues?
It is possible that Benedict XVI has been watching what is going on in the world and the Church in this pontificate and has put his finger on a weak spot.
I am mindful of something Card. Sarah said in November. HERE
“It’s very important to express that the hunger we are suffering today is not having God in our life, in our society,” the cardinal said Nov. 7. He explained that Benedict XVI’s encyclical insists that charity is the way we express our faith. Although giving food is necessary, “the main food is God.”
He recounted a story from one of his two trips to Syria to visit refugees. He met a small child who asked him: “does God really exist? Why did he let my father be killed?”
This child had everything, the cardinal observed, including food and medicine, but still lacked the most essential thing, which is the assurance that God exists and is close to him.
“(So) charity today is not only to act for social work, for material assistance, but really to bring the Gospel to the people.”
…as the Pope plans to issue an encyclical on climate change…yep. Reduce emissions for Jesus. A Leftist, political Pope who now is an expert on climate change, US/Cuba relations, and economics. Give me a break...
People keep comparing one pope's introversion to another's extroversion. But, what the devil does that have to do with anything?
You of course, pastor, ARE IN FACT A TRUE expert on climate change, US/Cuba relations, economics, leftist politics, Popes, and, of course, Jesus.
Give me a break...
Almost forgot the talent at which you are truly MOST expert....emissions...
No, Anonymous, I am not an expert on any of those things…which is why I do not presumptuously issue encyclicals about them.
I could render an opinion on the weather, but who am I to judge?
Critical thinking time again, folks. When Pope Benedict writes about climate change and the environment in an encyclical, then I suppose that is just fine because, well, he can do no wrong in the eyes of so-called conservatives and traditionalists. But let Pope Francis write about it and he is mocked and dismissed by the very same people. So, someone (Gene?) please explain to me why Chapter Four of the following four legged Benedict encyclical is “good” and why Pope Francis’s rumored two-legged encyclical is “baaaad” or else why they are both “bad”:
Oh, and here are some additional references for Pope Benedict on the environment and climate change (three cheers, eh?):
Please note that this website praises Pope Benedict in the following terms:
“A clear and lasting legacy of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will be his consistent and prophetic voice–as well as his leadership by example–on environmental issues, particularly his concern about climate change and its impacts on the planet and poor and vulnerable people. The Coalition and it’s [sic] partners will be forever indebted to Pope Benedict XVI for his witness.”
Neither is good. But, Francis has the weight of his previous actions and statements against him. Francis is self-consciously Leftist, socialist, anti-capitalist, pro-Communist, modernist. Benedict was not. Benedict can be forgiven a moment of naiveté and PC weakness.
To be fair, in CARITAS IN VERITATE which you reference above, Pope Benedict emeritas also wrote:
"On the other hand, ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference, oblivious to the Creator and at risk of becoming equally oblivious to human values, constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today." Climate is mentioned only in one sentence.
The enviroment destruction and contamination is something which everyone can be concerned. Certainly, the USA, Western Europe, Canada and Australia have made great strides in cleaning up rivers and preserving wetlands. Getting the Non-Christian nations of China and India (both of whom are the biggest polluters) on board will be a real challenge. It is also important to keep in mind the effect that sin has on the physical world. It does have an effect.
Climate change is a controversial topic. We know there have been periods when the earth was much warmer than it is now and also periods when it was much colder. These were times prior to the appearance of humans or when the earth was so sparsely populated that man had no impact on the climate at all. Recent data suggests that global temperatures are dropping again after a brief period of warming. What does it all mean? Which position of the competing scientific opinions on this is correct one? There seems to be as many facets of this as a dodecahedron.
When the Holy Father speaks on something such as the Climate, he does not do so with ontological certitude although I believe he does so with a sincere concern.
At least you are consistent but those are a lot of “naïve” and “PC weak” moments on the part of Benedict listed on the website – and that’s just on the environment and climate change. Have you read the rest of his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” including the passages about excesses of the market and the resulting threats to systems of social security and the rights of labor unions, to name just a few controversial topics (controversial on this Blog, that is)? I gave you the link. Here is the Vatican summary of the encyclical:
Why is this encyclical also not Leftist and Socialist in your eyes? Or is it? And if so, what does that tell you? That Benedict was also a Leftist and Socialist, or just naïve and PC weak? Or possibly, just possibly, does it suggest that you might need to revise your own views about both Benedict and Francis?
Anon 2, The Catholic CHurch, being heavily European, has always erred in its love affair with Soicialist and Communist ideologies. Somewhere along the line (protestants are guilty, too, but not as much), the Church associated First Century Christianity with a sort of nascent Communism. Never mind this is total BS (theological term), it does seem to be what happened…or the Church, in her well-intentioned desire to help the poor, fell into the collectivist trap as being the "easiest" way to do so.
Given a socialist Benedict beside a socialist Francis, I will always choose Benedict because his being a true theologian and devout provides hope that the error of his ways will be seen by him and can be corrected. Lesser of two evils and all that…sort of like voting in the US.
Gene, were you drinking when you wrote that?
The Catholic CHurch, being heavily European, has always erred in its love affair with Soicialist
Flavius, Hey, it's New Year's…hic…*burp*
George and Gene:
It is true that Caritas in Veritate mentions the climate only once or twice. But that is because Pope Benedict is laying out some general principles and general approaches towards “integral human development” in which he emphasizes the moral dimension of all spheres of human activity. This said, the encyclical devotes several sections to the subject of the environment (which of course includes and implicates climate change as well). So to be really fair you should read at least sections 44-51 in Chapter Four, or better yet the entirety of Chapter Four or indeed the entire encyclical. You should also read the following document which Pope Benedict issued shortly afterwards and which elaborates on the principles set out in sections 44-51 of the encyclical:
In addition, you should also read Benedict’s many other relevant pronouncements. Here are two lists, the first of which I already gave yesterday:
Pope Benedict takes a very reasonable, balanced, and integral approach to these issues, avoiding extremes and ideologies and emphasizing the moral dimension. This is as it should be and is, in my view, perfectly appropriate for a Pope to do (irrespective of what China and India are or are not doing). It just frustrates me that when Pope Francis does this, it is somehow seen as bad but when Pope Benedict does it, this is seen as good or, for Gene, as not as bad. I am confounded by this attitude. Perhaps it is because some people are unable to see that morality (the legitimate province of the Church) extends beyond “pelvic issues” (there I said it, intending no mockery) but includes them and so much more besides. This is not socialism; it is about the common good, an ancient and venerable concept that has been at the heart of the Church’s teaching for centuries.
So, let’s get the best science we can and let it serve as a handmaid to morality and theology. And let us be very careful how we determine what is or is not “controversial.”
Fr JBS says: "People keep comparing one pope's introversion to another's extroversion. But, what the devil does that have to do with anything?"
Well, absolutely nothing, except when the extroversion of one is being used at the expense of the introversion of the other.
The constant thing I hear among some, is they like how Francis is a "man of the people" TM or or he's more outgoing, and does so much to show concern for the poor, as if the other guy (Benedict XVI) did not.
Benedict XVI rode the bus, visited prisoners, visited sex abuse victims, and constantly talked about love of neighbor as well...and it's downright annoying that people forget this.
Yes, Joe, I agree, but doesn’t that make Benedict as socialist too? =)
I did read the entire chapter four prior to your last comment (and my last one also). I actually found much in there that a conservative could accept. Some of the most environment-conscious people around are outdoorsmen (and women). Hunters and fisherman. There are a lot of conservatives among that group. I'm not coming down on Pope Francis(or Benedict) on this issue. I await what the Holy Father has to say on this. The environment has a moral aspect which is tangential to it. If one owned property and toxic metals were leaching into a nearby river (the degree of personal culpability for this occurring being a factor of course) then allowing that to continue to happen could be seriously sinful. Intentionally, willfully contaminating the environment with poisons is a serious sin.
In mentioning China and India in my previous comment, I neglected to include two other areas of the world where pollution and eco-destruction are a very serious problem:Central and South America. Perhaps what the Holy Father has to say on the issue will hit his home to his own area of the world (one can only hope anyway). On matters of faith and morals the Holy Father is infallible. On the climate he could be right in what he says (or he could turn out to be wrong).I think the term controversial is appropriate for the climate change debate. Controversial meaning something which causes much discussion, disagreement, or argument.
By the way, I am of the belief that sin has an effect on our world. The greater the prevalence of serious sin, the greater the effect. I truly believe that abortion and pornography for instance, contribute to some of the serious problems in the world, such as to the rise of terrorism and even affecting the climate. So man ends up having to commit vast sums and resources to counteract these effects. Of course this all goes back to the effect the Sin of Adm had on the world.
Climate change hysteria and other such nonsense are hardly a concern of the Church or the Pope. NT theology teaches us that this world is passing away, that it is ultimately fallen and that our calling is to save souls and bring people to the Church and to Christ before His return. Running around wringing one's hands about "global warming" is not on the theological agenda. Yes, there is good stewardship of God's gifts, but that is not our primary calling. Remember, this world is due for destruction and God's judgement…that means CNN, Disney, Wal Mart, MacDonald's, and Greenpeace. Such causes as global warming, gay rights, abortion rights, gun control, and other social causes are for unbelievers who have no hope other than in humanist agenda. This is not even getting to the bad science and thready hypotheses regarding climate change. As a former preacher, I might say that the temperature change you need to worry about is not the one the weather girl talks about everyday.
I agree that there is much in chapter 4 (and the entire encyclical) that a conservative could (and I believe should) accept. As a consummate scholar, Benedict is able to tie everything together as aspects of an integral human development that involves both human and environmental ecology. Moreover, I have never really understood how a true conservative -- as opposed to the “creative destruction in the name of economic ‘progress’ so I can make as much money as I can and damn the consequences” type of conservative so prevalent nowadays -- could not be in favor of “conserving” the whole of our patrimony (including our environmental patrimony) unless there is very persuasive reason not to do so in the case of a particular aspect.
Perhaps that is the core of the problem here: You invoke "NT theology" and the Popes invoke Catholic theology. Do I detect a lingering Protestantism in your approach and views?
Also, it might help to clarify matters if you explained to us in a little more detail just what you think it means to “save souls and bring people to the Church and to Christ before His return” and what that mission involves, particularly in a context in which “His return” would be regarded by the authors of much "NT theology" as somewhat overdue. Come to that, I believe you work in the financial industry (if I recall from some previous posts by you). On your premise, how can you possibly justify that? Shouldn’t all of your time be spent in advertently “sav[ing] souls and bring[ing] people to the Church and to Christ”? And if not, why not?
Anon 2, NT theology cuts across denominational lines, with both Catholic and protestant scholars dealing with the same issues. Theology is not to be confused with dogma. But, both Catholic and protestant NT theology have the same understandings regarding Christ's return and judgement (see Creeds).
Now, as to the timeliness of Christ's return…we do not know what the authors of the NT would say and it does not matter. Christ says in every Synoptic and indicates in the 14, 15, and 16th chapters of John that we know "neither the day nor the hour" of His return. Paul teaches the same thing, albeit with a bit more urgency. The warnings in Matthew are particularly strong regarding the suddenness of His coming as well as the rampant unbelief on earth. The petulant and sophomoric continue to stomp their feet and whine, "well, he hasn't come back yet and it sounded like in the Bible that He was coming soon." Jesus covered that, too, in the same passages.
So, the mission involves just that…bringing others into the Church through example and teaching.
Yes, I did work in the financial industry for a number of years after I left the ministry in disgust.
What does that have to do with anything? Why don't you quit teaching and go out on Pio Nono tonight and preach the Gospel? How can you justify being, of all things, a "scribe" so to speak?
You should be out teaching God's law, not man's.
Paul tells us that each of us have a talent and a calling…"he has given to some teaching, to some healing, to some tongues, etc." Not all are called to a life of preaching. But, we are called to evangelize through our work, whatever it may be.
If we believe that Christ will return in judgement and that there will be a general Resurrection to eternity with Him or damnation, then there is nothing more important than preaching the Gospel of salvation to as many as possible….not stewardship, not feeding the poor, not saving the earth, not womens' rights, not gay rights, not social welfare, not gun control, not anti war, not counting dolphins and whales, and not affirmative action. That is all bunk in light of "I am the Resurrection and the life saith the Lord. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." We are so trapped in our science and humanism (read concupiscence) that we simply cannot believe that.
Thank you for your response but I still see ambiguity and tension in this response, as in your post at 8:15 p.m. yesterday. Specifically, there is a clear difference between saying that the salvation of souls is “our primary calling” (at 8:15 p.m. yesterday) and that “there is nothing more important than this” (at 8:23 p.m. today) on the one hand, and saying that the other matters you mention (at least insofar as they are consistent with Catholic Faith as set out in the CCC and elaborated in other magisterial documents such as encyclicals) are “for unbelievers who have no hope other than in humanist agenda” (at 8:15 p.m. yesterday) and are “all bunk” (at 8:23 p.m. today), on the other.
With the second alternative as your premise, I could not understand how you could see any value in apparently secular activities such as those carried on by the financial industry or, as you say, through the law of the state (I did not mention this, though, because it was not my point; it was yours). With the first alternative as your premise, there clearly is value, albeit a secondary value, if only as providing an opportunity and vehicle for the primary mission of saving souls.
But, once you concede this, as you seem to do, how do you draw the line? Why shouldn’t a conscientious Catholic, concerned about saving souls, also be concerned with the material conditions in which those souls dwell and the matters you list (again insofar as they are consistent with Catholic teaching as discussed above)? Why doesn’t this even include the material well-being of the God-given planetary home on which those souls dwell? Aren’t these also aspects of the Great Commandments that are inextricably linked to the mission of saving souls, both because they can be ways for Christians to live out those Commandments and also because if ignored they may create various practical impediments to living out those Commandments and thus to salvation (yes, I know that only God can truly judge the heart of desperate people who do desperate things but does that really let us off the hook)? And doesn’t a refusal to see these aspects in this way represent a very narrow view of what the Great Commandments require, at least certainly one that is much narrower than is reflected in Catholic teaching? Thus the CCC and recent Popes, including Benedict, take a much more expansive view of what these Commandments than you seem to do.
To reinforce the point, I offer the following report of an address by Pope Benedict in 2008:
It contains the following passage:
"In truth, we live with a great responsibility. We have talents, we have to work so this world opens itself to Christ, so that it is renewed. . . . "
"Certainly, we don't want the end of the world to come now," the Bishop of Rome said. "But, on the other hand, we want this unjust world to end. We also want the world to be deeply changed, the civilization of love to begin, [we want] a world of justice and peace, without violence, without hunger, to arrive. We all want this -- and how can it happen without the presence of Christ? Without the presence of Christ, a just and renewed world will never really arrive."
Therefore, the Pope added, "though in another way, totally and deeply, we too can and should say, with great urgency and in the circumstances of our time, Come, Lord! Come to your world, in the way that you know.
"Come where there is injustice and violence. Come to the refugee camps, in Darfur and in North Kivu, in so many places in the world. Come where drugs dominate. Come, too, among those rich people who have forgotten you and who live only for themselves. Come where you are not known.
"Come to your world and renew the world of today."
Anon 2, In the Christian life, it isn't an either/or proposition. "Ye shall know them by their fruits." Of course, the Christian is concerned about worldly issues, the living conditions of the truly poor, violence, stewardship of God's creation. I am talking theological first principles here, as it were. Belief is primary…we cannot properly follow Christ's teachings and admonitions unless we do so for the right reasons. Simply saying that Jesus was a great man and taught some really cool things about how to get along is no good. Any atheist can do that. Non-believers and "neo-Christians" (read unbelievers) try to take Jesus' sometimes vague and ambiguous teachings and build an ethic upon them while ignoring Christology and true belief. Such approaches invariably lead to social programs and political solutions that end up robbing people of freedoms and making things worse than they already were. The teachings of Christ do not lend themselves to a systematic ethic or a meaningful, viable social philosophy. Jesus preached a highly individualistic ethic based upon a belief in Him as the son of God and Saviour and upon seeking the will of God and eternal salvation in one's individual life through the Church. The good works we do, the stewardship we perform are based upon belief in Him and obedience to His commandment so that Christians…believers... might live together in harmony until His return or until we die and rise to eternal life with Him. They are not based on any hope that the world and men can be improved or "saved" by any human effort or human belief system or by following Jesus' "ethic." We live the Christian life because we are commanded to do so for the salvation of our souls and the souls of others…not because there is ANY hope for this world.
So, belief is primary or nothing else makes any sense. Theologically, we do not predicate belief upon any human action. Belief stands alone and everything else follows from it. Surely, this is not too difficult to understand.
It does, however, separate the sheep from the goats…if you do not believe in Christ's literal, bodily resurrection, the Virgin birth, the Real Presence, or His return in judgement, all you have left (if you want to pretend you are a Christian) is to try to build some kind of social ethic on the unsystematic and often very difficult teachings of the man, Jesus. This has never worked and is, Biblically, doomed to failure.
PS With regard to Benedict's words you quote, certainly as Christians we pray for Christ to renew the world that men may live in harmony. But, any improvements Christ makes through us here are only part of the process of Salvation History that culminates in His return. Presumably, this is what the Pope understands by what he says.
Thank you for the additional clarifications. Perhaps I am just too obtuse but I still see a tension and ambiguity – for example, between suggesting there may be NO hope for this world (“not because there is ANY hope for this world”) and suggesting that this world may be improved (“any improvements Christ makes through us here”), unless of course you are just referring to the ultimate inevitable destruction of the world. But if you are just referring to the latter, the story of modern science tells us as much anyway. Thus the Sun will eventually become unstable and burn up the Earth, or there could be another major asteroid impact wiping out humanity as it wiped out the dinosaurs, and indeed (more speculatively perhaps) the entire universe may eventually die a frigid death as a result of entropy.
The issue, of course, is what to do in the meantime. And on this point, once you concede, even in a context of possible continuing ambiguity, that Christ may indeed make improvements in this world through His followers here with respect to such matters as “the living conditions of the truly poor, violence, and stewardship of God’s creation” (even though this world is passing away and such improvements can only be “part of the process of Salvation History that culminates in His return”), then you have in fact agreed that it is appropriate for Pope Benedict to pronounce on moral issues related to care of the environment and for Pope Francis to pronounce on moral issues related to climate change (And recall that this exchange began because of your opening comment lambasting Pope Francis over his apparently planned encyclical on climate change.)
So, on this at least I hope we do not disagree. Where we are more likely to disagree, however, is regarding the notion that non-believers can still do God’s work (for me, any good that anyone does originates with God and His Will even though the person may be unaware of that or even strenuously deny it, from Biblical Assyrians to modern atheists) and, moreover, that such good may be done, both by believers and non-believers, through political efforts and governmental structures. In recognizing the value of such efforts and structures I believe I follow St. Thomas’s Aristotelian corrective of St. Augustine (so that the State and its government is not just a “necessary evil,” made necessary by our fallen nature and sin, but can also be a positive force for good).
Anoin 2, I am definitely Augustinian on that issue. remember, when Satan took Jesus out and offered him all the kingdoms and powers of the world, Jesus never questioned Satan's ownership…his right to offer them.
One of the problems I have run across with some Catholics (even faithful, practicing ones) is their lack of understanding of Pelagianism and Semi-pelagianism. In attempting to articulate that some outside the Catholic Faith(the universal sacrament of salvation) are saved they inadvertantly and unintentionally slip into these heresies.
Saint Augustine(among others) taught that man cannot come to God without the grace of God.
We have to be careful here.
Some (even Christians) believe that man has the capacity to seek God in and of himself apart from any movement of God or the Holy Spirit. They hold that human beings are not born with a natural inclination towards sin. The Bible says the opposite (Romans 3:10-18). Romans 5:12 clearly states that Adam's sin is the reason sin infects the rest of humanity. These believe that that man can be saved through his own efforts. Others hold that man (through works etc.) would make an effort to move towards God, and then He would come into the picture so to speak. The Bible clearly teaches that without God “drawing” us, we are incapable of cooperating with God's grace. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).
That being said, the Church has taught that those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the True Faith, can be saved. Still, through the Grace of God. Good works by those outside the Faith can be an indication that God's grace is acting thriugh them.
Who can probe the inscrutable depths of the Divine Mercy or Fathom God’s Judgement?
We do not disagree. Everything is ultimately dependent on divine grace. I certainly do not subscribe to Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism. Any good that I may do and any gifts that I may have (despite my fallen nature and inclinations towards sin) are ultimately due to the movement of divine grace within me. I do, however, have free will to decide whether or not to cooperate with this grace. I believe that this is true for everyone on the planet, whether or not they recognize it. I am fairly confident that this is an orthodox position, but I stand to be corrected by our priests.
As George has brought up the topic of heresies, and warned against Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian tendencies, I will return the favor by also warning against Gnostic and Jansenist tendencies that unduly denigrate this world and our activity in it.
Anon 2, Ephesians 6. This world is lost in sin…man is lost in concupiscence. Any good done by world governments and institutions is strictly due to God's perfect and permissive will and has nothing to do with any inherent qualities in those institutions.
Good works are an act of will. Man's will, without Christ, is hopelessly corrupt due to sin. Although unredeemed man may do works which are considered "good" by human terms, and though God may use these works to His good purpose, until our wills are enslaved (Augustine) to God's will we can do no truly good works. Even then, the good works are not our's, rather the Holy Spirit's "who worketh in us both to will and to do." Pelagius' error was not so much saying that good works are necessary, it was saying that they may suffice separately from Christ's grace…that man's will can accomplish good works without God's image being restored in us. The very meaning of concupiscence is that man's will, left to its own devices, will invariably choose sin.
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