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Posts Tagged ‘Pope’

Pope St. Pius X (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

August – Month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

September – Month of Our Lady of Sorrows

Sunday, August 28 – 11th Sunday After Pentecost (Traditional) / 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (New)

St. Augustine (430), Bishop, Doctor of the Church, Patron of Theologians (Traditional, New)

St. Hermes (132), Martyr (Traditional)

Monday, August 29 – Beheading of St. John the Baptist (c. 32) (Traditional, New)

St. Sabina (127), Martyr (Traditional)

St. Medericus (Merry) (700), Abbot (Historical)

Tuesday, August 30

St. Rose of Lima (1617), Virgin, First Canonized Saint of the Americas, Patroness of South America and Gardeners (Traditional)

Sts. Felix and Adauctus (304), Martyrs (Traditional)

St. Fiancre of Brie (670), Hermit, Patron of Gardeners and Cab Drivers (Historical)

Blessed Bronislava (1259), Virgin, Patroness of Happy Death and Disease Prevention (Historical)

Wednesday, August 31

St. Raymond Nonnatus (1240), Religious, Patron of Midwives (Traditional)

St. Aristedes (2nd Century) (Historical)

Thursday, September 1

St. Giles (724), Abbot, Patron of the Physically Disabled (Traditional)

Twelve Holy Brothers (258), Martyrs (Traditional)

St. Anna, the Prophetess (1st Century) (Historical)

Friday, September 2 – First Friday (Obligatory Day of Abstinence)

St. Stephen (1038), King of Hungary (Traditional)

St. Agricolus (700), Bishop, Patron of Avignon (Historical)

St. Ingrid of Sweden (1282), Virgin (Historical)

Saturday, September 3 – Fist Saturday

St. Gregory the Great (604), Priest, Doctor of the Church, Patron of Teachers and Music (New)

St. Pius X (1914), Pope (Traditional)

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Photo: FreeFoto.com

In response to my re-posting of Archbishop Carlson’s article, “Before the Cross: Good Catholics cannot be Pro-Choice,” which, quite correctly, states that one cannot hold positions in opposition to fundamental Catholic teaching and still remain Catholic, I received the following comment from Dave, who seems to be exactly the type of  “Catholic” the Archbishop addressed:

“Most Catholics disagree with you on this. Just because the priests are with you doesn’t mean anything. Look who they are.”

While the comment is sadly uninformed and misguided, it unfortunately represents the view of many “Catholics” today who’ve been indoctrinated by a small, but vocal, group of dissenting theologians, Bishops and priests who worked (and unfortunately, a few still work) to undermine the true Church by claiming a false “Spirit of Vatican II” for the authority of their “teaching,” which wrongly claims Vatican II called for a complete break with established Tradition.  As a result, many “Catholics” today have been lead to the false belief that Catholicism is merely one religious sect among many, no better and no worse than any other, and that man determines the “doctrine of the day” by nothing more than a majority opinion poll on a certain topic at a certain time – further they believe that doctrine can (and must) change whenever the whims of man decide so.

Such false positions of relativism are very dangerous as they put one’s soul on the path to eternal damnation.  Consequently it becomes very important to counter these dissenting beliefs and, God willing, do something to help get these people back on the “small and narrow” path which leads to eternal salvation.  Instead of having my response buried in the comments, I decided to highlight this comment and my response in a post of its own.

It’s critically important for Catholics to understand Church authorities do not just “make up” doctrine as they go along.  Church doctrine, Church teachings and the authority of the Magisterium do not come from man.  Instead, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Catechism and centuries worth of ecumenical councils and papal encyclicals all very clearly state that what the Church teaches infallibly (which includes teachings on faith and morals) comes from the divine revelation of God, not from man, and is therefore Truth not subject to the changing whims of man.  Individuals might not like the Truth, yet it remains the Truth to which we are called and to which we are held accountable, whether we like it or not.  Therefore, when “Catholics” dissent from fundamental Church teaching, they no longer freely and obediently submit their will to the will of God – they are no longer in unity or communion with the Trinity through Jesus Christ and thereby no longer members of His Church, which means they are no longer Catholics no matter how loudly they might proclaim otherwise.  To claim you’re a member of a certain group and to then reject the fundamental teachings of that group is an absurdity.

May God have mercy on your soul for believing in and propagating such rubbish!  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  If you reject the Magisterium of the Church because you don’t like what the Catholic Church teaches and you find yourself incapable of surrendering your will to the will of God since you believe you know better what’s best for your soul than does God (which is what it means when you refuse to freely submit yourself to Church teaching), you are completely free to leave the Church and “worship” whatever you chose.  Donum Veritatis (On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian), issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on May 24, 1990, states the Church has always held “nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will.”  You do in fact, thanks to the infinite love of the Father, have the complete free will to absolutely reject His gift of salvation and instead chose the path of eternal damnation.

The Church has been quite clear from the time of Jesus to the present day that rejecting the defense of life is to choose death.  Just like the prodigal son, the Father gives you complete freedom to walk away from everything He lovingly offers you.  As Jesus tells us in His parable, the Father stands ready to joyfully welcome you back into the fold, but He will not go looking for you.  It’s up to you to return to Him of your own free will or to remain on the path of destruction.  “Catholics” who reject the Magisterium reject the Lord and thereby choose their own path and their own judgment.

Finally, your comment implies condemnation of the entire priesthood based on the heinous actions of a few (who, by the way, would not have been ordained to the priesthood had orthodox Catholic teaching been followed regarding the unsuitability of actively homosexual men to the priesthood – Ordination is a privilege, not a “right” – however that’s another blog post – funny how following the Magisterium can keep us on the right path and out of trouble).  While even one case of sexual abuse is unacceptable, in reality of the tens of thousands of active priests from the 1950s to today, only 1% have been accused of sexual abuse (in fact, children are one hundred times more likely to be abused at the hands of a public school employee than a Catholic priest).  In addition, in many cases, accusations are only coming out years after the accused died, which makes it rather difficult for the accused to present his side of the story.  Along with that, the vast majority of abuse cases in the United States are being filed by one attorney, who has a record of going on “fishing expeditions” in order to find “victims.”  While there are certainly legitimate cases which need to be severally dealt with (and the post-Vatican II Church is far from innocent in not taking the issue seriously – however, I suspect many complaining about Rome today would have accused it of acting “harshly” has it done what it should, when it had should), the fact remains that the vast majority of priests and Bishops stand accused of nothing and more importantly most of them are good, honorable and holy men.

Additionally, Ordination does not create saints.  It creates an instrument, the priest’s hands, through which God works by way of the Holy Spirit to being you the sanctifying grace of the Sacraments.  It’s our job to take care of our priests.  If you know a priest who needs help, it’s your job as a faithful Catholic to help that man.  You will be held accountable by God for doing nothing and will be judged even more harshly for loudly complaining and libeling the entire priesthood.  My friend, I must warn you, as a Christian concerned about the salvation of your soul, your comments give me great concern regarding the path you’re on.

Any Catholic who takes such issue with the entire priesthood needs to enter into serious prayerful reflection instead of condemning the entire priesthood in the “court of public opinion!”  Only God knows what’s in the hearts of these men and it’s up to Him to judge their souls.  St. Peter denied Jesus, his very savior, three times, yet Jesus forgave him – and not only forgave St. Peter, but built His entire Church upon the “rock” of St. Peter, telling us that even the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.  Instead of looking for ways to dissent from the Truth, I suggest you instead prayerfully seek God’s grace to help you freely surrender your will to His will and seek to live a life of Christian perfection through Jesus Christ in unity with His Church.

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On the Function of the Theologian

© 2010 by Steven Schultz

     The theologian’s vocation fulfills a critically important role within the life of the Church.  Pope John Paul II taught, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth…”  By helping provide reason for faith, the theologian assists the People of God, again as John Paul II put it, “…so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”  One of the most important documents explaining the role of the theologian is Donum Veritatis.  We shall use this document as our guide in exploring the function of the theologian, as well as showing how dissent from the Magisterium impedes the true function of the theologian.[1]

An important point to contemplate at the outset is the fact, in Donum Veritatis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith teaches that the role of theologian is a vocation.[2]  The work of a theologian is not simply a “job” or ordinary labor.  Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia defines vocation thus: “In the Christian life, the divine calling to follow a certain course of action in life…”[3]  By evoking the term vocation, the Congregation sets apart the work of a theologian as something special.

Donum Veritatis teaches us that “the truth which sets us free is a gift of Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 8:32).  Man’s nature calls him to seek the truth while ignorance keeps him in a condition of servitude… In the Christian faith, knowledge and life, truth and existence are intrinsically connected.  Assuredly, the truth given in God’s revelation exceeds the capacity of human knowledge, but it is not opposed to human reason.”[4]  The Sacrament of Baptism serves as the initiation into the mystery of Christ and sets the believer on a search for deeper understanding, or as St. Paul puts it, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18).[5]  Theology is the method by which believers “search for an understanding of the faith” and “is therefore something indispensable for the Church.”[6]

This indispensable role of theology has always been important for the Church, particularly “in times of great spiritual and cultural change,” so that She may carry out God’s plan, “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).  In this mission, theology is exposed to risks “since it must strive to ‘abide’ in the truth (cf. Jn 8:31), while at the same time taking into account the new problems which confront the human spirit.”  As we shall see, these risks are greatest when theologians dissent from the Magisterium, but mitigated when theologians operate with reverence and respect for the Magisterium.[7]

The vocation of the theologian is “to pursue in particular way ever deeper understanding of the Word of God found in Sacred Scriptures and handed on by the living Tradition of the Church.”  Fr. Aidan Nichols sums up this function by stating, “The task of theology is the disciplined exploration of what is contained in revelation.”[8]  In order to fulfill their vocation, theologians must operate in communion with the Magisterium, which has the responsibility to safeguard the deposit of faith.  In providing a deeper understanding of the faith, the theologian also “aids the People of God in fulfilling the Apostle’s command (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) to give an accounting for their hope to those who ask it.”[9]

Theology “seeks ‘reasons of faith’ and offers these reasons as a response to those seeking them.”  Through this process, theology becomes obedient to Christ’s command to make “disciples” of all nations and teach them, “for men cannot become disciples if the truth found in the word of faith is not presented to them (cf. Rom 10:14f).”  Theology contributes to the faith by enabling it to be communicated.  By the act of faith, man begins to love God.  This love leads him to seek deeper understanding of the beloved – theology helps satisfy this desire.[10]

The theologian is called to a high standard.  “Since the object of theology is the Truth, which is the living God and His plan for salvation revealed in Jesus Christ, the theologian is called to deepen his own life of faith and continuously unite his scientific research with prayer.”[11]  Similarly, while theology has developed into a true and proper science, and must hold to rigorous critical standards, it must not succumb to a critical spirit of feeling or prejudice.  Commitment to theology requires a spiritual effort to grow in virtue and holiness.[12]  Theologians must also recognize the human ability to know truth.  Divine revelation evaluates other sciences, not vice versa.[13]

A theologian must remember he is part of the People of God and must show respect for them by presenting only “teaching which in no way does harm to the doctrine of the faith” — which is Truth.[14]  Likewise, “the freedom proper to a theological research is exercised within the Church’s faith.”[15]  Consequently, theology, rightly done, “entails in essence an objective discussion, a fraternal dialogue, an openness and willingness to modify one’s own opinions.”[16]  While enjoying academic freedom, the theologian must accept as principles the object of theology as being given by divine Revelation, handed on and interpreted in the Church under the authority of the Magisterium.[17]

The Magisterium has a pastoral role of vigilance over the Faith.  “It seeks to ensure the People of God remain in the truth which sets free.”[18]  Theologians must understand this “proper mission of the Magisterium and collaborate with it.”[19]  The nature of the task to religiously guard and loyally teach the faith (Revelation) “implies the Magisterium can make pronouncements ‘in a definitive way’ on propositions which, even if not contained among the truths of the faith,” derive necessarily from Revelation itself.[20]  Therefore, morality can also be an object of the authentic Magisterium.  “Moral teachings [contained in Revelation] which per se could be known by natural reason” can be infallibly taught by the Magisterium.[21]

The Magisterium and theology “while having different gifts and functions, ultimately share the same goal: preserving the People of God in the Truth which sets free and thereby making them ‘a light to the nations’.”[22]  The Magisterium authentically teaches the doctrine of Jesus and the Apostles; theology provides a deeper meaning to this doctrine.[23]  In obedience to the faith, whatever the Magisterium proclaims, even if not infallible, must be firmly accepted and held.[24]  With this in mind, the theologian is charged with aiding future understanding of the Magisterium’s pronouncements, not refuting them.

Dissent is public opposition to the Magisterium.  Among the factors fostering dissent is growth of the ideology of philosophical liberalism, which places greater credence on individual thought than authority of tradition.  Dissent also comes about when public opinion is manipulated by “mass media” and people are pressured to conform.  However, we must remember the Church has always held “nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will.”[25]

Some believe theologians are not bound to any Magisterial teaching unless it is proclaimed infallibly, especially with regard to specific moral norms, believing it’s largely up to the individual to accept or reject teachings as he sees fit.[26]  Two arguments are often put forth to defend dissent.  The first is a hermeneutical argument which claims the Magisterium is nothing more than debatable theology.  The second is a theological pluralism/relativism which calls the integrity of the faith into question.[27]  Another form of dissent says “truth” is determined only by a majority opinion of a large number of Christians at a particular time on a particular issue.[28]

However, “the freedom of the act of faith cannot justify dissent.”[29]  It is a voluntary act to live in the faith and submit one’s will to the will of God.  Being subjects to the Law of God, we cannot appeal to the rights of man in order to oppose the Magisterium.[30]  Likewise, appealing to the so-called “obligation” to follow one’s conscience is not a justification for dissent since “conscience is not an independent and infallible faculty.”[31]

The mission and responsibility of the Magisterium with regards the Word of God gives it the power to pronounce against the work of theologians who harm the faith.   The Church is organized on a hierarchical structure instituted by Christ; not a democracy or poll for consensus of public opinion.  Therefore, theologians must operate in a spirit of communion to build Christ’s Body in unity and truth.[32]  As Cardinal Avery Dulles writes, “room must be made for responsible dissent [disagreement] in the Church, but dissent must not be glorified as though church authorities were generally ignorant, self-serving, and narrow-minded.”[33]

Bishops and theologians must remember “Christ is the definitive Word of the Father (cf. Heb 1:2)…He is the Truth who sets us free (cf. Jn 8:36; 14:6).”[34]  Consequently, our response to His Word is one of selfless, willing obedience.  The Virgin Mary, in her free and complete surrender of her will to the will of God, serves as our model of accepting and serving the Word of God.[35]

This article is copyright and may not be reporduced or reposted in any form without express written permission of the author.


Endnotes

[1] Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio (Boston, MA: Pauline, 1998), 7.

[2] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Veritatis – On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian (May 24, 1990), 6.

[3] Rev Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ed., Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia, Revised Edition (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1998), 996.

[4] Donum Veritatis (DV), 1.

[5] DV, 1

[6] DV, 1.

[7] DV, 1.

[8] Aidan Nichols, The Shape of Catholic Theology (Collegville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 32.

[9] DV, 6.

[10] DV, 7.

[11] DV, 8.

[12] DV, 9.

[13] DV, 10.

[14] DV, 11.

[15] DV, 11.

[16] DV, 11.

[17] DV, 12.

[18] DV, 20.

[19] DV, 20.

[20] DV, 16.

[21] DV, 16.

[22] DV, 21.

[23] DV, 21.

[24] DV, 23.

[25] DV, 32.

[26] DV, 33.

[27] DV, 34.

[28] DV, 35.

[29] DV, 36.

[30] DV, 36.

[31] DV, 38.

[32] DV, 37, 39, 40.

[33] Avery Dulles, Craft of Theology (New York: Crossroad, 1992), 14.

[34] DV, 41.

[35] DV, 42.

Bibliography

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  Donum Veritatis – On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.  May 24, 1990.

Dulles, Avery.  The Craft of Theology.  New York: Crossroad, 1992.

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, New Testament, Second Catholic Edition RSV.  San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2010.

John Paul II.  Fides et Ratio.  Boston, MA: Pauline, 1998.

Nichols, Aidan.  The Shape of Catholic Theology.  Collegville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991.

Stravinskas, Rev Peter M. J., Ed.  Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia, Revised Edition.  Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1998.

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Pope John Paul II

It is unfortunate so few Catholics read the Church’s own writings.  This is especially true in our age of great confusion and crisis of identity within the Church.  Far too many rely on what they think they know about the Church, which often comes from a childhood Catechism class, dimly remembered.  It is time to turn once again to the wealth of materials the Church presents us in order to truly know our faith and thereby come to love it even more.

Considering Pope Benedict XVI’s recent address on St. Thomas Aquinas and the harmony between faith and reason, it is particularly fitting to consider Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio.  Released on September 14, 1998, this encyclical on the relationship between faith and reason was directed primarily toward the Bishops, philosophers, scientists and theologians, but is very profitable for any Catholic who desires to better understand his faith.

The fundamental theme of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical is the deep connection between faith and reason.  As the Pope puts it: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Throughout human history, we find all cultures share a fundamental desire to seek answers to ultimate questions about existence and purpose.  We also find the more people know reality and the world, the more they know themselves in their uniqueness with the question of the meaning of things and their very existence becoming ever more pressing.  In other words, we are “programmed” to seek the truth.  This innate desire to discover the truth of things is one of the greatest aspects which define us as human beings. (1)

In Pope John Paul II’s first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, he told us: “We have become sharers in this mission of the prophet Christ, and in virtue of that mission we together with him are serving divine truth in the Church.  Being responsible for the truth also means loving it and seeking the most exact understanding of it, in order to bring it closer to ourselves and others in all its saving power, its splendor and its profundity joined with simplicity.”

Philosophy, as the love of wisdom, shares with theology the search for answers to the ultimate questions of human existence and purpose.  From the early Church fathers to the present day, the Church has held philosophy in high regard as a means of increasing our knowledge of God and aiding in our understanding of divine Revelation.  Indeed, the Pope tells us, “She [the Church] sees in philosophy the way to come to know fundamental truths of human life.  At the same time, the Church considers philosophy an indispensable help for a deeper understanding of faith and for communicating the truth of the Gospel to those who don’t yet know it” (5).

The reason the Church so strongly supports philosophy is because philosophy (rightly done) and theology are mutually supportive endeavors.  Since both arrive at the truth, they cannot contradict one another.  As the First Vatican Council tells us, the truth obtained by philosophy and the truth of revelation are neither identical nor mutually exclusive. (9)

The problem arises, the Pope tells us, due to the state of modern philosophy:  “Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing” (5).  Modern philosophy no longer ponders people’s ability for knowing the truth and instead emphasizes ways this ability is limited and conditioned.  Modern philosophy makes the fundamental error of assuming all positions are equally valid, a position which leads to agnosticism and relativism.

As various schools of modern philosophy have rejected the meaningfulness of being, this has led to society to a general, and dangerous, attitude of nihilism (90).  Nihilism is both a denial of all foundations and a negation of all objective truth.  Not only does Nihilism conflict with the demands and content of God’s word, it also denies humanity and the very identity of what it means to be human.

The Pope warns us, “Is should never be forgotten that the neglect of being inevitably leads to losing touch with objective truth and therefore with the very ground of human dignity.  This in turn makes it possible to erases from countenance of man and woman the marks of their likeness to God, and thus to lead them little by little either to a destructive will to power or to a solitude without hope.  Once the truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to try to set them free.  Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery.” (90)

We see signs of this illusionary freedom all around us, from abortion as a “right” to science gone mad, and even, quite fearfully, in modern democracy.  The “scientism” school of philosophical thought claims only knowledge derived from the positive sciences is acceptable and says all thought from religion, theology, ethics and aesthetics is mere fantasy (88).  This leads to the belief we see today that if something is technically possible, it’s morally acceptable.  Yet if technology is not ordered towards a higher good, but only utilitarian ends, it can quickly become inhuman and even a potential destroyer of the human race (81).  Similar pragmatic thinking infects modern democracy, which rejects any sort of reference to unchanging values, but instead believes any course of action is acceptable if determined so by majority vote (89).

In Redemptor Hominis, Pope John Paul II says that “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32) is at once a fundamental requirement and a warning.  On one hand, the words define an honest relationship with truth as a condition for authentic freedom.  However, they are also a warning “to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world.”

The solution, the Pope says, is for philosophy and theology to rediscover one another (101).  While the Church does not endorse any particular school of philosophy, the Magisterium does have the right and duty “to respond clearly and strongly when controversial philosophical opinions threaten right understanding of what has been revealed, and when false and partial theories which sow the seed of serious error, confusing the pure and simple faith of the People of God, begin to spread more widely” (49).  Therefore it becomes the Magisterium’s duty to discern and promote philosophy not at odds with the faith (63).

While reemphasizing that the study of philosophy is “fundamental and indispensable” to the study of theology (62) and that it must be carried out in light of valid philosophical tradition (106), the Pope lists three requirements of philosophy (81-83).  First, philosophy must recover as its primary purpose the search for “ultimate and overarching meaning of life.”  Second, philosophy must verify the human capacity to know the truth and the ability to arrive at objective truth by reasonable use of the intellect in the tradition of the Scholastic doctors.  Third, philosophy must regain its genuine metaphysical range “capable … of transcending empirical date in order something absolute, ultimate and foundational in its search for the truth” (83).

This reunion of philosophy and theology is vital, for as the Pope puts is: “Philosophical inquiry can help greatly to clarify the relationship between truth and life, between event and doctrinal truth, and above all between transcendent truth and humanly comprehensible language.  This involves a reciprocity between the theological disciplines and the insights drawn from the various strands of philosophy; and such a reciprocity can prove genuinely fruitful for the communication and deeper understanding of the faith.” (99)

Different philosophical systems have deceived man into believing he is his own master.  However, it is entering into true Wisdom that we find authentic freedom and full knowledge of God (107).  Consequently, we see much harmony between the vocation of the Blessed Virgin and the vocation of philosophy (108).

The early holy monks called Mary “the table at which faith sits in thought.”  Likewise, the Pope turns our final thoughts toward Mary: “May Mary, Seat of Wisdom, be a sure haven for all who devote their lives to the search for wisdom.  May their journey into wisdom, sure and final goal of all true knowledge, be freed of every hindrance by the intercession of the one who, in giving birth to the Truth and treasuring it in her heart, has shared it forever with all the world.” (108)

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Pope Benedict XVI

“A Flame … That, in Burning, Brings Forth the Better and Truer Part of Man”

VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today at a Mass he celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Pentecost.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the solemn celebration of Pentecost we are invited to profess our faith in the presence and in the action of the Holy Spirit and to invoke his outpouring upon us, upon the Church and upon the whole world. Let us make our own, and with special intensity, the Church’s invocation: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus!” 

It is such a simple and immediate invocation, but also extraordinarily profound, which came first of all from the heart of Christ. The Spirit, in fact, is the gift that Jesus asked and continually asks of his Father for his friends; the first and principal gift that he obtained for us through his Resurrection and Ascension in to heaven.

Today’s Gospel passage, which has the Last Supper as its context, speaks to us of this prayer of Christ. The Lord Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, follow my commandments; and I will pray to the Father and he will give you another Paraclete who will remain with you forever” (John 14:15-16). 

Here the praying heart of Jesus is revealed to us, his filial and fraternal heart. This prayer reaches its apex and its fulfillment on the cross, where Christ’s invocation is one with the total gift that he makes of himself, and thus his prayer becomes, so to speak, the very seal of his self-giving for love of the Father and humanity: Invocation and donation of the Spirit meet, they interpenetrate, they become one reality. “And I will pray to the Father and he will give you another Paraclete who will remain with you forever.” In reality, Jesus’ prayer — that of the Last Supper and the prayer on the cross — is a single prayer that continues even in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. Jesus, in fact, always lives his priesthood of intercession on behalf of the people of God and humanity and so prays for all of us, asking the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles — we listened to it in the first reading (Acts 2:1-11) — presents the “new course” of the work that God began with Christ’s resurrection, a work that involves man, history and the cosmos. The Son of God, dead and risen and returned to the Father, now breathes with untold energy the divine breath upon humanity, the Holy Spirit. And what does this new and powerful self-communication of God produce? Where there are divisions and estrangement he creates unity and understanding. The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family; persons, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, reached by the Spirit of Christ, open themselves to the experience of communion, can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new organism, a new subject: the Church. This is the effect of God’s work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the “business card” of the Church in the course of her universal history. From the very beginning, from the day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages. The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality. The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with states not with federations of states, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier.

From this, dear brothers, there derives a practical criterion of discernment for Christian life: When a person or a community, limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit. The path of Christians and of the particular Churches must always confront itself with the path of the one and catholic Church, and harmonize with it. This does not mean that the unity created by the Holy Spirit is a kind of homogenization. On the contrary, that is rather the model of Babel, that is, the imposition of a culture of unity that we could call “technological.” The Bible, in fact, tells us (cf. Genesis 11:1-9) that in Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Pentecost, however, the Apostles speak different languages in such a way that everyone understands the message in his own tongue. The unity of the Spirit is manifested in the plurality of understanding. The Church is one and multiple by her nature, destined as she is to live among all nations, all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She responds to her vocation to be a sign and instrument of unity of the human race (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” 1) only if she remains free from every state and every particular culture. Always and in every place the Church must truly be catholic and universal, the house of all in which each one can find a place.

The account of the Acts of the Apostles offers us another very concrete indication. The universality of the Church is expressed by the list of peoples according to the ancient tradition: “We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites …,” etc. One may note that St. Luke goes beyond the number 12, which always expresses a universality. He looks beyond the horizons of Asia and northwest Africa, and adds three other elements: the “Romans,” that is, the western world; the “Jews and proselytes,” encompass in a new way the unity between Israel and the world; and finally “Cretans and Arabs,” who represent the West and the East, islands and land. This opening of horizons subsequently confirms the newness of Christ in the human space, in the history of the nations: The Holy Spirit involves men and peoples and, through them, it overcomes walls and barriers.

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit manifests himself as fire. His flame descended upon the assembled disciples, it was enkindled in them and gave them the new ardor of God. In this way what Jesus had previously said was realized: “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I long that it already be burning!” (Luke 12:49). The Apostles, together with the faithful of different communities, carried this divine flame to the far corners of the earth; in this way they opened a path for humanity, a luminous path, and they worked with God, who wants to renew the face of the earth with his fire. How different this fire is from that of wars and bombs! How different is the fire of Christ, spread by the Church, compared with those lit by the dictators of every epoch, of last century too, who leave a scorched earth behind them. The fire of God, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is that of the bush that burned without being consumed (cf. Exodus 3:2). It is a flame that burns but does not destroy, that, in burning, brings forth the better and truer part of man, as in a fusion it makes his interior form emerge, his vocation to truth and to love.

A Father of the Church, Origen, in one of his homilies on Jeremiah, reports a saying attributed to Jesus, not contained in the sacred Scriptures but perhaps authentic, which he puts thus: “Whoever is near me, is near the fire” (“Homilies on Jeremiah,” L. I [III]). In Christ, in fact, there is the fullness of God, who in the Bible is compared to fire. We just observed that the flame of the Holy Spirit burns but does not destroy. And nevertheless it causes a transformation, and it must for this reason consume something in man, the waste that corrupts him and hinders his relations with God and neighbor. 

This effect of the divine fire, however, frightens us, we are afraid of being “burned,” we prefer to stay just as we are. This is because our life is often formed according to the logic of having, of possessing and not the logic of self-giving. Many people believe in God and admire the person of Jesus Christ, but when they are asked to lose something of themselves, then they retreat, they are afraid of the demands of faith. There is the fear of giving up something nice to which we are attached; the fear that following Christ deprives us of freedom, of certain experiences, of a part of ourselves. On one hand, we want to be with Jesus, follow him closely, and, on the other hand, we are afraid of the consequences that this brings with it.

Dear brothers and sisters, we always need to hear the Lord Jesus tell us what he often repeated to his friends: “Be not afraid.” Like Simon Peter and the others we must allow his presence and his grace to transform our heart, which is always subject to human weakness. We must know how to recognize that losing something, indeed, losing ourselves for the true God, the God of love and of life, is in reality gaining ourselves, finding ourselves more fully. Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus already experiences in this life peace and joy of heart, which the world cannot give, and it cannot even take it away once God has given it to us. 

So it is worthwhile to let ourselves be touched by the fire of the Holy Spirit! The suffering that it causes us is necessary for our transformation. It is the reality of the cross: It is not for nothing that in the language of Jesus “fire” is above all a representation of the cross, without which Christianity does not exist. 

Thus enlightened and comforted by these words of life, let us lift up our invocation: Come, Holy Spirit! Enkindle in us the fire of your love! We know that this is a bold prayer, with which we ask to be touched by the flame of God; but we know above all that this flame — and only it — has the power to save us. We do not want, in defending our life, to lose the eternal life that God wants to give us. We need the fire of the Holy Spirit, because only Love redeems. Amen.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Galileo

With “Catholic Bashing” seemingly back in vogue today, the true Catholic is called once again to stand up and defend his faith against ignorant and uninformed accusations.  Along with smearing the entire Church based on the heinous actions of a few “priests” (in reality, mostly actively homosexual men who should not have been ordained to the priesthood in the first place), we also see other bashing in the form of worn-out clichés and unfounded, but popular, myth.

One of these poplar myths portrays Galileo (1564-1642) as a lone crusader persecuted by a narrow-minded, superstitious Church.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If you actually study Galileo in depth, you’ll find he comes across not as a humble, brilliant scientist, but instead as something of an impatient and conceited pompous ass.  Galileo demanded his theories, many of which were later proven incorrect, be unquestioningly accepted as fact.  The Church repeatedly offered Galileo an “out” by asking him to correctly label his theories as theories instead of fact.  Galileo consistently refused.

During Galileo’s time, Latin remained the language of science.  The educated at the time used Latin as a “universal” language since it allowed for exchange of ideas without limits of vernacular language barriers.  However, Galileo chose to write in the vernacular, often using bawdy prose, in an effort to “play to the people” instead of subjecting his work to the review and critique of fellow scientists.  When his friends and supporters, including many in the Church hierarchy up through Pope Urban VIII, begged him to tone down his style and simply state his theories were not fact, Galileo arrogantly replied: “”You cannot help it . . . that it was granted to me alone to discover all the new phenomena in the sky and nothing to anybody else.”  Not exactly the speech of a persecuted underdog.

Because of his attitude, many of his fellow scientists were hostile to Galileo and condemned his theories.  It was not the “enlightened reformers,” but the Roman Catholic Church that sponsored Galileo’s lectures and supported his honest endeavors.  In fact, Pope Urban VIII, Cardinal Bellarmine, and many other leaders of the Church publicly supported Galileo’s scientific work and many of them owned telescopes made by Galileo and conducted their own observations.

Galileo was placed on trial only once, in 1633.  During his trail, the Church treated him as a guest of honor in Rome, providing him a palatial apartment and a personal servant.  He was given a moderate sentence (the recitation once a week for three years of the penitential psalms, which he had already been doing anyway and voluntarily continued to do afterwards, a practice taking only fifteen minutes per week) for publishing as fact what he was told to publish as theory.  Galileo did not spend a single day in prison. Additionally, the Church never prohibited Galileo from continuing his work and studies, and never barred him from receiving visitors.  In fact after his trail, he lived for a time in apartments provided by the Archbishop of Siena.  Galileo died at the age of 78 in his own bed, with the plenary indulgence and blessing of the pope.

When held to the light of honest scrutiny, the truth always shines through.  Truth always triumphs over falsehoods.  Considering those before us laid down their lives in defense of the faith, is it so much to ask today for us to speak up in defense of our faith?  Either we truly believe the Catholic Church is the one, true, holy and apostolic Church worth publically defending; or the Church is merely one denomination among many, no better or worse than any other.  What do you believe?  Do you have the courage to defend the Church in which you profess faith?

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From CatholicCulture.org:

by Phil Lawler, January 14, 2010

After Pope Benedict XVI delivered his “State of the World” address to the Vatican diplomatic corps on January 11, your local newspaper probably carried a headline like the one atop the story in the New York Times: “Pope Denounces Failure to Forge New Climate Treaty.” The AP story began:

Pope Benedict XVI denounced the failure of world leaders to agree to a new climate change treaty in Copenhagen last month, saying Monday that world peace depends on safeguarding God’s creation.

BBC carried a very similar headline: “Pope Benedict XVI lambasts Copenhagen failure.” And Time magazine, also running with the AP coverage, followed suit with its headline text: “Pope Denounces Lack of New Climate Treaty.”

You might have concluded, from the press coverage, that the Holy Father’s speech was devoted mostly to the Copenhagen conference. But that conclusion would have been wrong. In his full 3,000-word address, Pope Benedict spent barely 100 words on the climate-change summit. It was a part of his message, but only a small part. However, it was the part that the secular media wanted to hear.

Benedict XVI, the mass media tell us, is a “green Pope.” That description is undeniably accurate, in the sense that this Pontiff has frequently spoken about the need to care for the environment. Twice in quick succession—in his message for the World Day of Peace on January 11, and now in his address to the diplomatic corps just 10 days later—he has made that argument forcefully to representatives of the world’s political leadership. But the “green” message preached by Pope Benedict is very different from mainstream environmentalism. Unfortunately most secular reporters, deaf to the spiritual content of the Pope’s message, miss the distinction. 

Reporters always simplify stories. They are regularly called upon to sum up complicated ideas in a few paragraphs—in the case of headline writers, in a few words— and their work is much easier if they can classify an idea quickly, place an argument in a convenient pigeonhole, and pronounce the story done. Thus the Pope is an environmentalist, and environmentalists were disappointed by the results of the Copenhagen summit, therefore the Pope was disappointed by that summit. QED. 

Again, that message is accurate as far as it goes. The Pope did express disappointment about the Copenhagen results. But that was only a very small part of his message to the diplomatic corps. 

I know, from my own personal experience, how often the media oversimplify a speaker’s message. Ten years ago I was running for the US Senate (coincidentally, for the same seat that is now the focus of a hotly contested special election). I was running as a pro-life candidate, and so most press coverage of my campaign stressed the abortion issue. But it was frustrating to deliver speeches that address many other issues—nuclear weapons, the income tax, gun control, immigration—and then read press accounts that mentioned nothing but my opposition to legal abortion. Those accounts were accurate, insofar as I never gave a stump speech without including the pro-life argument. But I was appalled to realize that reporters were not really listening to my arguments, but only waiting for the “money quote” that would fit into the story they already planned to write. 

So it was with the Pope’s “State of the World” address. When the Holy Father opened with the remark that a “self-centered and materialistic way of thinking” today “endangers creation,” most reporters were quite ready to classify his speech as a standard environmentalist argument. When he mentioned the Copenhagen summit, they had their “money quote,” and the story was all but complete. 

Most of the world’s people—including most of the world’s Catholics—learned about the Pope’s talk not by reading the actual text, or even the official Vatican summary, but by hearing the reports that filtered through the secular news media. Secular reporters tend to read all events in secular terms—in political terms—and so they gravitated toward a politicized reading of the Pope’s words. 

To complicate matters, the Vatican’s public-relations efforts are notoriously inept, unable to focus reporters’ attention on the most important themes of papal teaching. Furthermore, the Vatican officials most likely to speak with reporters are the ones most inclined to put their own political “spin” on the Pope’s words. The net result is coverage that glosses over the most critical aspects of the Pope’s message. 

What was the essential thrust of that message? Pope Benedict made his argument for environmental stewardship in the context of an argument about the dignity of human life and human nature. “It is in man’s respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for creation is shown,” he told the diplomatic corps. “As Saint Thomas Aquinas has taught, man represents all that is most represents all that is most noble in the universe.” Now that message is the polar opposite of the extreme environmentalist line, which views mankind as a threat to the earth. Drawing on a Judeo-Christian tradition that traces back to Genesis, the Pope said that God set man up as steward over creation, to fill the earth and subdue it. The Christian is naturally an environmentalist, because he wants to fulfill God’s plan. 

Pope Benedict went further. Following God’s plan means respecting natural law, he said; it means honoring the lessons that are inscribed in human nature. So he explained that a reverence for life, and a determination to support marriage and the family, are also signs of respect for God’s creation. A few reporters caught that message, but then, predictably enough, expressed the Pope’s argument in crudely political terms. A Wall Street Journal account, written with ill-concealed sarcasm, began: “Pope Benedict linked the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage to concern about the environment, suggesting that laws undermining ‘the differences between the sexes’ were threats to creation.” 

“Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals, which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes,” he said. “I am thinking, for example, of certain countries in Europe or North and South America.” The headline on a Reuters story simplified still further: “Pope says gay marriage threat to creation.” 

Again, those accounts are not inaccurate; the Pope did make those arguments. But by presenting the Pope’s point in its barest simplified form—virtually as a slogan—the reports gave readers the grossly misleading impression that the Holy Father was delivering a political speech. He was not. Pope Benedict was addressing a political audience—the ambassadors representing the world’s governments to the Holy See—but he was delivering a spiritual message. I wrote above that the Pope began with an expression of concern for welfare of creation. That is not entirely accurate. The first words of the papal address were about “celebration of the birth of the Incarnate Word;” the Pontiff invited all the world to join in that celebration. 

In the annual “State of the World” address, a Pope traditionally tours the world’s trouble spots, offering observations about all the challenges that face political leaders. Pope Benedict’s address this year was no exception. He did not confine himself to the topics of environment and gay marriage. He also spoke about Darfur and the Congo; about peace in the Middle East and the drug traffic in Latin America; about nuclear weaponry and global hunger; about secularism in Europe and natural disasters in Asia His thoughts on all those topics, regrettably, did not fit into the story line that most reporters chose. 

There were a few exceptions. In Italy, Sandro Magister of L’Espresso saw the Pope’s address as an endorsement of three causes: an ecology of nature, but above all of man; a positive secularity; and religious freedom. Magister’s summary was not perfect, but it did accurately reflect the breadth and depth of the Pope’s address, in a way that no American secular reporter matched. 

Because the Pope’s address came through to the general public in such grossly oversimplified forms, many readers have expressed discontent about what the Pontiff said—or, perhaps, what they think he said. One recalls the words of Bishop Fulton Sheen: “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.” 

Yes, Pope Benedict did express dismay about the paltry results of the Copenhagen summit. But the Pope’s speech cannot be reduced to that one passage. (In fact, the Pope’s views on climate change should be a matter of only passing interest, even to loyal Catholics. His teaching authority extends to matters of faith and morals, not to questions of scientific fact.) The Pontiff is not committing the teaching authority of the Catholic Church to a political cause. 

Near the conclusion of his address to the diplomatic corps, Pope Benedict offered his own summary of the essential message: “There is so much suffering in our world, and human selfishness continues in many ways to harm creation,” he said. “For this reason, the yearning for salvation which affects all creation is that much more intense and present in the hearts of all men and women, believers and non-believers alike.” He also offered a solution—one that goes far above and beyond any political platform. The key, the Pope said, is to respect the nature of man: to recognize and embrace God’s plan for the human race. He concluded:

May the light and strength of Jesus help us to respect human ecology, in the knowledge that natural ecology will likewise benefit, since the book of nature is one and indivisible.

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