[plate clatters] [sighs]

posted by Mike on August 28th, 2018

Five years ago I went to the mass celebrating the election of this pope feeling ill over the first round of allegations against him. This weekend I went to mass feeling ill over the latest ones. In between, I’d hoped that the church would change, if not radically, then at least in that it would prioritize justice and healing for its victims. In some places [PDF], maybe this has happened. In the top ranks, apparently not so much.

Some of my Catholic friends have reminded me that we should live in hope, that maybe something really good will come from this summer’s revelations. I’m not feeling that way. Every morning I wake up feeling as disoriented as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. On bad mornings I feel as impotent, too.

The Pope, To Congress, Namechecks Dorothy Day And The Catholic Worker

posted by Mike on September 24th, 2015

I follow everything Pope Francis does with interest, and so far his trip to the US has been a real treat. But I was not prepared for his address to Congress to include my great hero Dorothy Day as one of four great Americans. Nor was I prepared to hear him name the “Catholic Worker movement” that has so shaped my adult life. Via Rocco Palmo, here’s part of that speech. The mention is brief enough that I’d call it more of a namecheck than anything else.
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World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation; or, pope links and quotes

posted by Mike on September 1st, 2015

As a lifelong Catholic and environmentalist, I am happy that today Pope Francis has decided the Roman Catholic Church will join the Orthodox Church in marking the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

The big Catholic environmental news of the summer was, of course, the release of the pope’s environmental encyclical, Laudato si’ (Praise Be). It covers a wide range of environmental and theological issue, often in a depth that surprised me. I think it’s the sort of document that, if you think you’d appreciate it, you would, and if you think you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t. You don’t have to be Catholic: as Pope Francis writes, “In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.”

The letter is 45,000 words long, and there have probably been 450,000 articles published about it. Fr. James Martin’s overview is pretty good. Most of the articles I’ve seen have tried to understand it in the context of American politics. My favorite on the left is Elizabeth Bruenig’s “Pope Francis’s Vision of a Moral Ecology Will Challenge Both Republicans and Democrats: His encyclical almost dares politicians to politicize it.” My favorite on the right is Rod Dreher’s more personal “Harmony, Communion, Incarnation.” The one article that touches on theological aspects that are a bit beyond me is Mark K. Spencer’s “Pope Francis, Platonist Traditionalist.”

But before you read more than one thinkpiece, you should be sure to read the encyclical itself. It’s full of great stuff like this line from Pope John Paul II, a quote which surprised me:

[Saint John Paul II] clearly explained that “the Church does indeed defend the legitimate right to private property, but she also teaches no less clearly that there is always a social mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose that God gave them”.

“Social mortgage.” That’s a great way of framing it.

Even if you don’t read the whole thing, anyone reading this blog will want to check out the prayers at the end, “A prayer for our earth” and “A Christian prayer in union with creation.”

I’ll end by quoting my favorite long passage, “A Universal Communion”:

V. A UNIVERSAL COMMUNION

The created things of this world are not free of ownership: “For they are yours, O Lord, who love the living” (Wis 11:26). This is the basis of our conviction that, as part of the universe, called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect. Here I would reiterate that “God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement”.

This is not to put all living beings on the same level nor to deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails. Nor does it imply a divinization of the earth which would prevent us from working on it and protecting it in its fragility. Such notions would end up creating new imbalances which would deflect us from the reality which challenges us. At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights.

A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. This compromises the very meaning of our struggle for the sake of the environment. It is no coincidence that, in the canticle in which Saint Francis praises God for his creatures, he goes on to say: “Praised be you my Lord, through those who give pardon for your love”. Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.

Moreover, when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one. It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity”.[69] We can hardly consider ourselves to be fully loving if we disregard any aspect of reality: “Peace, justice and the preservation of creation are three absolutely interconnected themes, which cannot be separated and treated individually without once again falling into reductionism”. Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.

House of Card(inal)s

posted by Scott Schaeffer-Duffy on May 20th, 2014

From the latest issue of the Catholic Radical. PDF here.
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posted by Scott Schaeffer-Duffy in The Papacy | on May 20th, 2014 | Permanent Link to “House of Card(inal)s” | No Comments »

Praying for Peace in Syria

posted by Mike on September 3rd, 2013

This afternoon, 16 people demonstrated in Worcester’s Lincoln Square against a US military strike in Syria. Some of them were praying; some not.

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Pope Francis has asked all Catholics to pray and fast for peace in Syria this Saturday:

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Related: Catholic Bishops’ Policy Chair Urges Secretary Kerry To Work For Ceasefire, Serious Negotiations In Syria, Bob Waldrop’s Getting Us Into Wars

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Telegram & Gazette photo

Mass to celebrate the election of Pope Francis, Worcester

posted by Mike on March 14th, 2013

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Today Bishop McManus said mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Worcester to celebrate the election of Pope Francis.

In his homily, the bishop said:

It seems to be true, very true, that God gives the Church what the Church needs at this time.

The bishop highlighted the new pope’s South American origins and his asking for the people’s blessing before blessing them at the announcement of his election.

I believe what the Church needs desperately at this moment is another Francis Xavier . . . a man who knows first-hand what it is to be a missionary.

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These were very appropriate remarks for a celebration. I appreciated the recognition that “this moment” is a crucial one. Maybe it’s a sign of my pessimism and anxiety about the hierarchy that my own thoughts kept drifting to unresolved questions about Pope Francis’s past actions under the Argentine dictatorship, and whether he will be willing and able to take bold action on the child sex abuse crisis.

Update: The Catholic Free Press has non-cellphone pix of the mass and lots of local reaction.

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Pope retires, and other items

posted by Mike on February 11th, 2013

We don’t post a lot of Catholic hierarchy news here, but this is outside the norm.

Pope Benedict XVI Says He Will Resign:

A profoundly conservative figure whose papacy was overshadowed by sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, the pope, 85, said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s Roman Catholics.

Pope Benedict:

I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

As someone who grew up under the leadership of John Paul II, Pope Benedict’s papacy will always be a mediocre one to me, lacking JPII’s charisma and vision, and marked by his failure to respond to the child sex abuse crisis with anything commensurate to the enormity of that crime.

More reactions via Andrew Sullivan.

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Midwest Catholic Worker retreat ends in protest, one arrest at Notre Dame

posted by Mike on March 26th, 2007

South Bend (Indiana) Tribune:

A few dozen members of the Catholic Worker movement staged a protest in front of the University of Notre Dame’s administration building today, saying the university’s ROTC program contradicts Catholic teaching.

“It saddens us that one of the preeminent universities is training warriors,” said the Rev. Ben Jimenez, a Catholic priest from Cleveland.

An appropriate quotation from the pope (Feb 18, 2007):

Why does Jesus ask us to love our very enemies, that is, ask a love that exceeds human capacities? What is certain is that Christ’s proposal is realistic, because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and that this situation cannot be overcome without positing more love, more kindness. This “more” comes from God: It is his mercy that has become flesh in Jesus and that alone can redress the balance of the world from evil to good, beginning from that small and decisive “world” which is man’s heart.

This page of the Gospel is rightly considered the “magna carta” of Christian nonviolence; it does not consist in surrendering to evil — as claims a false interpretation of “turn the other cheek” (Luke 6:29) — but in responding to evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21), and thus breaking the chain of injustice. It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God’s love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Loving the enemy is the nucleus of the “Christian revolution,” a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power. The revolution of love, a love that does not base itself definitively in human resources, but in the gift of God, that is obtained only and unreservedly in his merciful goodness. Herein lies the novelty of the Gospel, which changes the world without making noise. Herein lies the heroism of the “little ones,” who believe in the love of God and spread it even at the cost of life.

Emphasis added.

See also: Father Michael Bafaro’s address to the Worcester March 24 antiwar rally.

A token mention of the Regensburg speech

posted by Mike on September 21st, 2006

I’ve been thinking a lot about the pope’s now-controversial Regensburg speech, but I’m hardly the person to weigh in on theology, and this is hardly the place to discuss something so widely discussed elsewhere. (In fact, I’ve turned off comments on this post.)

But I wanted to point you to Mike Griffin’s comments on the speech, and especially the pope’s treatment of violence:

George Weigel and Richard John Neuhaus seem increasingly perplexed by the growing pacifism of the Holy See. First they tried to dismiss John Paul the Great as a kindly old man who, of course, wants peace but really should stick to religion and let the U.S. exercise “prudential” warcraft. But now comes along Benedict, the one who in a May 2, 2003 Zenit interview said that “we should be asking whether it is still licit to speak of the very existence of a ‘just war’.”

And again in last week’s Regensburg speech, the pope rejects the very basis for violence. It is not rational. One way of putting the pope’s point is that the authentic commands of God are reasonable, even if faith is needed to penetrate their depths. And, of course, to see what the Father commands, we turn to the Son who shows us the face of the Father. In that turn, to Jesus Christ, we have full clarity. Christ offers a way of nonviolent, sacrificial love of friends and enemies. Period. No wiggle room for building nukes—whether it is Muslim Iran or Christian America-—or using violence to further principles.

Andrew Sullivan:

One thing you can say about Jesus: he didn’t kill anyone, however bloodthirsty his subsequent followers might have been.

More Papal Tidbits

posted by Adam (Southern California) on April 20th, 2005

The last pope before John Paul I to use a new papal name was Pope Lando in 913. They say he was also the last pope to use his given name as his papal name. [See comments–ed.] There has been no Pope Chewbacca.

On the radio I heard the morning DJs joke that the new pope could have chosen any name for his papacy, even Cletus. Little did they know that the third pope ever was Pope St. Cletus.

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posted by Adam (Southern California) in The Papacy | on April 20th, 2005 | Permanent Link to “More Papal Tidbits” | 6 Comments »