Friday, October 31, 2014

Justifying a Celebration of Reformation Day?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther wrote the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdelberg Albrecht to object to the sale of indulgences. Luther wrote "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" (which later became known as the 95 theses) and posted them on door of the Schlosskirche  in Wittenberg, (also known as the Church of All Saints). This defiant act by the Augustinian monk lead to the Protestant Revolution.

 Luther's major theological insight from the 95 Theses is Justification by Faith (sola fides), which undercuts indulgences.  

Contemporary Protestants have suggested celebrating Reformation Day as an alternative to Halloween. Wags waxed about Reformation Day that theology nerds need a holiday too.  But it seems dubious if kids will dress in brown robes and try to nail papers to many doors.

Two points of history underlie the Reformation protest.  The issuing of indulgences were fueled by the existence of the secular Papal States.  Indulgences were sold to support the Holy See.  Since the Holy See lost the Papal States in 1871 (and came to terms with the loss of secular power as embodied in the 1927 Treaty of Lateran) the Vatican can concentrate on pastoring the faithful.

 A marker in intellectual history is why the Protestant Reformation was spread so successfully.  The circulation of Luther's ideas in the 95 Theses was greatly aided by the advent of the Gutenberg printing press in the Fifteen Century.   

Many have likened the ease of exchanging ideas via the internet with the revolution brought about by  the Gutenberg press.  Social media is another cyber revolution which has religious reverberations to date.  

During the recent Synod on the Family at the Vatican, some of the organizers tried to insert language which the secular press called an earthquake.  A great majority of the Synod Fathers dissented but this was going against the machine.  However, social media proved to be an ideal platform for bishops to disseminate information and for the Catholic vox populi to share their concerns.  Disseminating information and allowing the faithful to voice their views proved successful.   Pope Francis had the Synod vote on every paragraph and the three egregious parts did not receive adequate support and were removed.

Although it took 482 years, the Lutheran World Federation and Catholic Church did come to terms with their differences in a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), in which a common understanding of our justification by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ."  Catholics maintain that it did not negate the Council of Trent but  that its canons are non-applicability to concrete Christian bodies in the modern world.  

Still, some Christian soldiers want to fight, but like the Hatfields and McCoys, they have forgotten what they are fighting over.  During a thoughtful conversation about faith, a Protestant was unphased when he learned of the agreement on sola fides between the Churches and wanted to continue to haggle over the other 94 points-- and he was not even Lutheran!

As we live in a time when Christians around the world are being persecuted for their faith, we ought to remember the wisdom of the Lutheran Theologian  Peter Meiderlin (a.k.a. Ruptertus Meldenius) :  "[U]nity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things." 

It is commendable to mark a point of history like Reformation Day.  It is cute but quixotic to try to have an alternative to Halloween with a holiday for theology nerds.  That is almost as futile as First Lady Michelle Obama's advice to kids about Trick or Treats.  But we should join with our brothers and sisters in faith on the many things on which we agree  to help build the Kingdom of God rather than continue to form a spiritual circular firing squad. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

On Reconsidering Liturgy

America, the Jesuit magazine, published an interview with Cardinal Francis George as he prepares to cede pastoral responsibilities for the Archdiocese of Chicago to current Spokane Archbishop Blaise Cupich. The  wide ranging interview touched upon secular hot button political issues, sacerdotal celibacy, clerical sexual abuse and the recent Synod of the Family.  

But Cardinal George's comments about Liturgy have particular as the third anniversary of the implementation of the New (Third) Translation of the Roman Missal approaches. Some priests formed "in the spirit of Vatican II" persist in improvising during the Liturgy or revert to favorite older translations.  

As one of the prominent people in the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), Cardinal Francis George's comments deserve consideration.  Cardinal George does concede that some things can sound "clunky" but can be facilitated by preparation to understand the grammar and intention of the prayers.

Recently, I participated in an challenging colloquy with a cleric who was contemptuous that the 1998 ICEL translation was rejected and who still feels liberated to say: "The Lord IS with you" in antiphons.  I noted that the loosey goosey improv impulse which was allowed under the 1969  Comme le prévoit  was illicit under the new translation. His retort was the aspiration to make liturgy accessible to the youthful masses. That seemed like a jesuitical argument as all Christian denominations have bled worshipers and vocations.  Yet diocese which have more traditional inclinations (e.g. Peoria IL, Lincoln NB, Steubensville OH) seem to be the most vocation rich.  Might there be a correlation? 

One of the pities about the implementation of Vatican II is that the works of the Council were overtaken by "the spirit of Vatican II" which fundamentally misunderstands the Council Fathers work.  Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963), the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, had the expectation that priests would educate the faithful. However, according to Fr. Gabriel O'Donnell, O.P. who co-authored “Spiritual Traditions for the Contemporary Church”, priests were not properly formed in the new liturgy before it was implemented to the laity.  The logic of  Comme le prévoit  gave great latitude to presiding liturgists.  Thus US Catholics misunderstood Sacrosanctum Concilium as a capitulation to modernity instead of the  "aggorionmento" ("bringing up to date) which Pope St. John XXIII intended when he called for the Council  in 1959.

It would behoove Catholics to become more educated about first things --not just what we do, but why we do them in the Liturgy.  The Liturgy along with Sacred Scripture are the primary means of how we experience Christ.  Our lack of learning on liturgy loses lackluster Catholics and makes mass or mechanical or risks relegation to religious entertainment.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pope Francis on Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI

During a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis lauded his predecessor in association with the dedication of a bust of Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI.  Pope Francis noted that Pope Benedict' "love of truth is not limited to theology and philosophy, but is open to science."  In addition, Pope Francis' observed that the bust recalled Pope Benedict's "spirit of his teachings, his example , his works, his devotion to the Church."

The bronze of Benedict XVI  was commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to sculptor Fernando Delia, a lawyer who is a self taught artist   was sculpted by Fernando Delia will be placed in the at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Pope Francis credits Delia with projecting Pope Benedict XVI's  " joyful emotion " for "recognition and gratitude " 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Archbishop Charles Chaput on the Meaning of Christianity and the Family

Even though Archbishop Charles Chaput was not a participant in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family at the Vatican, the Archbishop of Philadelphia certainly had some strong opinions about the Synod.  After delivering a lecture titled  "Strangers in a Strange Land" at a First Things symposium in Manhattan, Archbishop Chaput was asked the Extraordinary Synod.

Archbishop Chaput opined:  “I was very disturbed by what happened [at the synod]. I think confusion is of the devil, and I think the public image that came across was one of confusion".   The National Catholic Reporter mocked Chaput's confusion and denied that there was disunity at the Synod.  But the NRC's denials are about as credible as endangered Democrat Senators denying their support of President Obama.  

Archbishop Chaput was not adverse to the vigorous discussion on difficult issues for families on communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and how to treat same sex marriage.  In fact, Cardinal Chaput mused: “We also need to thank God for the gift of this present, difficult moment,because conflict always does two things: It purifies the church, and it clarifies the character of the enemies who hate her."

The Archbishop of Philadelphia has been a strong voice in support traditional marriage.  Archbishop Chaput felt that the original midterm relatio caused confusion within the Church and among the secular media.  Chaput felt that the final synod report was an improvement but still did not clearly restate Church teaching on marriage and homosexuality.This theological viewpoint was supported by Cardinal Burke and the vast majority of Synod Fathers, who insisted on correcting the skewed relatio.

Archbishop is expected to host Pope Francis when he visits Philadelphia in September 2015 for the global World Meeting of Families.  The Catechesis for the World Meeting of Families thesis is "Love is the mission" for families, but that  the power of procreation in a sacramentally committed husband and wife shares in the dignity of being created in the image of God so we need to live accordingly, And that marriage is a sacrament in which love is fruitful and offered without reservation that is the image of Jesus' faithfulness to the Church.

This World Meeting of Families catechesis mirrors why Archbishop Chaput rejected some of the interpolated accommodations in the relatio which created such confusion. 

St. John Paul II on Prayer

St. John Paul II on Prayer JP2

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pope Francis on the Journey for the Synod on the Family

As the Extraordinary Synod on the Family concluded at the Vatican, Pope Francis made an remarkable closing speech.

Among the tensions and temptations, Pope Francis includes:

  • Rigidity to the letter of the law which does not allow oneself to be surprised by the spirit within the law;
  • Being drawn to deceptive mercy which bind wounds without healing them;
  • To make transformation from sin unbearable burdens;
  • To bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God; and
  • Neglecting either the deposit of faith or neglecting realities.
Pope Francis' closing speech earned a four minute standing ovation from those assembled at the Synod.

The Synod Fathers voted on each of the paragraphs of the controversial midterm relatio. and all but three earned the three fourths majority.

The rejected paragraphs seem to be the ones inserted by Synod Secretary Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto Bruno Forte (particularly on celebrating homosexual Catholics gifts) and communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics (a favorite of Cardinal Walter Kasper).

These deliberations have been a preface for a month long ordinary Synod next year which will also focus on issues for the modern family.  Several months after the October 2015 synod, Pope Francis may publish an Apostolic Exhortation. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cardinal George Pell on Divorce

As Cardinal Pell cautioned the Catholic News Service about the Synod on the Family, "Pause, pray and catch your breath".

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fr. Robert Barron on the Relatio

Faithful Can’t Relatio With Synod Working Document (sic)

The Extraordinary Synod on the Family is a two week gathering at the  Vatican of over 250  Bishops to grapple with “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”  Each day was dedicated to contemplating a different issue. This Extraordinary Synod will produce a working document which will lay a foundation for an ordinary synod in 2015 which would implement any formal changes to church guidelines touching about difficult family matters as well as a prospective Apostolic Exhortation.

The Synod Fathers heard from selected lay Catholics from across the globe to illuminate some of the challenging issues facing the modern family.  “Synod 2014"  touched upon hot button issues such as: cohabitation; divorced Catholics who civilly remarry, contraception, homosexuality; and the current elite cause celebre same sex so called marriage. Considering the subject matter the secular media keenly monitored the Synod and promoted any signals of progressive politics.

Unfortunately for the faithful not participating in the proceedings, there are conflicting signals coming from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.  For example, Pope Francis encouraged participants to “speak fearlessly and listen humbly.”  Pope Francis spoke out against bishops afraid to disagree with the Pope when he said: “This is no good.  This is not synodality.”  Archbishop of Durbin, South Africa Winfrid Cardinal Napier certainly followed this exhortation.

This sounds like there would be a robust exchange of views and not a pre-ordained set of conclusions.  But Pope Francis took the unusual step of appointing six prelates to draft the final report from the Synod fathers.  Conservative Catholics lamented that many of the committee, including Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl, are reputed to have liberal tendencies.  However, the Synod participants elected relegators to report on the small working groups.  These relegators include Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura Raymond Burke (formerly Archbishop of St. Louis), President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum Robert Cardinal Sarah (of Guinea) and Arbishop of Brussels-Melechen Andre-Joseph Leonard, all of whom have conservative leanings.

Despite assurances from the Vatican Press Office at the start of the Synod that there would be no doctrinal changes only better strategies for communicating the truths of the family, the secular and liberal Catholic media reports  as demonstrated by Jesuit Fr. James Martin report of “stunning changes” on how the Catholic Church approaches the LBGTQQ? persons. This characterizes the Synod of the Media, which capitalizes on the media blackout to interject their Synod spin.

Since Synods are messy, General Secretary of the Synod Lorenzo Cardinal Badissiri (of Pisa, Italy) imposed a media blackout on the “interventions” (speeches made during the Synod) but with a daily press briefing from three participating prelates.  Chary  observers like Fr. John Zuhlsdorf think this media gag could be to coordinate leaks to control the agenda.

Mid way through the Synod, a relatio post disceptationem was released which summarized the large group session discussion for the small working groups.  Progressives praised the relatio, implying that it marked monumental changes rather than discussion points.  Conservatives are concerned that final pastoral positions may be preordained.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop of Poznan Stanislaw Gadecki, the President of the Polish Episcopal Conference seemingly rejected the relatio as being unacceptable.  Archbishop Gadecki postulated: 

"Is the purpose of this Synod pastoral support to families in difficulty, or is its goal the study of special cases? Our main task is to support the family pastorally, not to hit her, exposing these difficult situations that exist, but which do not constitute the nucleus of the same family; they [the special cases] do not void the need for support, which should be given to good, normal, ordinary families, who are struggling not so much for survival as for fidelity.”

The Polish Prelate expressed concern Pope St. John Paul II's teachings on the Family seemed to be ignored.  Gadecki urged preaching the truth and not give the impression that the Church has not teaching mercifully in the past.

Cardinal Burke's reaction to the relatio has be likened to aftershocks to the pastoral earthquake of the synod summary.  In an interview with Catholic World Report, Cardinal Burke blasted:

“While the document in question (Relatio post disceptationem) purports to report only the discussion which took place among the Synod Fathers, it, in fact, advances positions which many Synod Fathers do not accept and, I would say, as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept. Clearly, the response to the document in the discussion which immediately followed its presentation manifested that a great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable.”

After the relatio was released and not universally welcomed, the Synod  avoid a media briefing which included the regular question and answer session.  Catholic media sources like the Archdiocese of New York's Catholic Channel on Sirus XM satellite radio went wall-to-wall to correct impressions of the relatio.

The groundswell of dissent coming from within the Synod demonstrates that those pulling the strings did  not appreciate how the interim report would be proclaimed as the gospel truth in the so called Synod of the Media which has its hot button issues on sexuality. In addition, the relatio did not reflect a balanced view of the discussion points.  Moreover, this relatio concentrated pastoral approaches without clearly reaffirming Church teachings.

As the Synod on the Family proceeds, it will be curious how the groundswell of concerns about the interim relatio are corrected.  Furthermore, how these disputes in the final relatio are addressed may make a difference.  During the Second Vatican Council, Pope Blessed Paul VI wanted there to be unity coming from the Council.  Thus language in the final documents required 90% approval, which practically meant that there was ambiguity which allowed for various interpretations.  Hence a liberal "spirit of Vatican II" which led to innovations and consequence not anticipated by Vatican II council fathers.  Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI would disparagingly label this  as a  "hermaneutic of rupture".

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Countering Conceits of Graduality with a Framework of Fortitude

During a February 2014 Consistory in anticipation  for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Archbishop Walter Cardinal Kasper (President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council Promoting Christian Unity) suggested that there ought to be some sort of accommodation for Catholics who are civilly divorced and who remarry.  This sort of gradualism would allow such Catholics to receive communion after a period of penance.  Cardinal Kasper's modest proposal received more credence as the 80 year old Cardinal had been tagged as Pope Francis' theologian, as the Holy Father specifically praised Kasper  in his first Angelus as a clever theologian, especially for his book  Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life (2014).

But as the Synod met at the Vatican, discussions centered around how Natural Law informs cultural challenges to the family.

Archbishop Wilfrid  Cardinal Napier (of the Archdiocese of Durban, South Africa) wondered if German Catholics who are civilly divorced and  remarry receiving the sacrament would be parallel to a man in a polygamous marriage receiving the sacrament.   Napier seemed to support the traditional notion of fortitude or "carrying the cross with Christ". 

This Synod on the Family is merely doing the preparation work for a larger Synod to be held next fall.  Those who hope that there will be a change in doctrine may be quite disappointed as even the liberal National Catholic Reporter indicates that there will be no change in doctrine. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pope Francis' Prayer to the Holy Family

The Holy Family Resting-  Flight into Egypt, Bronze by Anna Hyatt Huntington (1963)
 at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC 

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love,to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,grant that our families too, may be places of communion and prayer; authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth, may the Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family and its beauty in God's plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer.

On the Peace of Christ

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Bayonne Nun Beatified-- Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich

On October 4, 2014, Miriam Teresa Demjanovich will be beatified at the Gothic styled Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.  When Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Cardinal Angelo Amato declares Demjanovich beata, it will be the first time it has been done on American soil.

Miriam Teresa Demjanovich was born on March 26, 1901 to Slovakian  immigrants in Bayonne, New Jersey.  Miriam was the youngest of seven children born into a very religious family.  She was baptized in the Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic Church 

After graduating high school in 1917, Demjanovich wanted to become a Carmelite, but had to care for her sick mother.  When her mother died during the influenza outbreak in 1918, she enrolled in the College of St. Elizabeth and graduated with highest honors with a BA in literature.  She taught for a year  at Academy of Saint Aloysius in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Miriam again sought to join the Carmelites in the Bronx, but was encouraged to wait due to her health issues.  She decided to join the Sisters of Charity, Convent Station in December, 1924 but had to delay due to her father's health issues.  She received her religious habit in May 1925.  By December, 1926, Miriam had repeated health issues which required hospitalization.  Demjanovich had complications from an appendicitis surgery and died in May, 1927.  Demjanovich  remained a Byzantine rite Catholic throughout her life despite serving as a sister in a Roman rite community.

This brief biography may prompt people to wonder why the Church recognizes Demjanovich entrance into heaven. While Miriam was a postulate and novice, she only took her vows in articulo mortis in April, 1927.  Demjanovich's cause for beatification was advanced by the Sisters of Charity in 1945 because of her saintly life as  her striving for perfection in her religious life, her spiritual writings and intercessions with God.  

In December, 2013, Pope Francis approved the miracle of a boy whose eyesight was completely restored from macular degeneration after praying for the intercessions of Miriam Teresa Demjanovich. 

During Miriam Teresa Demjanovich's short life on Earth, she wrote two plays, and several poems.  At the behest of her spiritual director Benedictine Fr. Benedict Bradley, she wrote 26 conferences on religious life which were published posthumously as The Greater Perfection.    It was extraordinary that such a task was given to a novice but Fr. Bradley proclaimed:

 “I believed that she enjoyed extraordinary lights, and I knew that she was living an exemplary life,” he stated. “I thought that, one day, she would be ranked among the saints of God, and I felt it was incumbent upon me to utilize whatever might contribute to an appreciation of her merits after her death.”

Demjanovich's spiritual writing seemed to blend spiritual wisdom from Eastern and Western Christendom.  Her quote about everyone seeking union with God and being called to live the Will of God  is inspiring and challenging.

Her Litany of Love poem demonstrates her deep faith and joy in the Christian life

Lord, have mercy on us;
Christ, have mercy on us;
Lord, have mercy on us;
Jesus, hear us,
Jesus, lovingly hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, my Well-Beloved
Jesus, my Strength
Jesus, Light of my mind
Jesus, Power of my will
Jesus, Fire of my Love
Jesus, Life of my life
Jesus, Life of my soul
Jesus, Soul of my life
Jesus, Soul of my soul
Jesus, my Ceaseless Delight
Jesus, my Rapturous Bliss
Jesus, my infinite Joy
Jesus, True Peace of my soul
Jesus, my only Existence
Jesus, my Own
Jesus, my Heaven
Jesus, my Magnificent Love
Jesus, my Eternal Repose
Jesus, my Vehement Desire
Jesus, my Crucified Spouse
Jesus, my King
Jesus, my God
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghose; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. 

St. Francis of Assisi on Hope

St. Francis Assisi San Francisco Giants Candle