Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Church teachings reflect harmony of God's plan, pope says
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Taken all together, the teachings of the Catholic faith are "a marvelous symphony that sings of God and his love," Pope Benedict XVI said.

In a world where people tend to pick and choose what to believe, what to study and what to specialize in, the church must help people see how all of its teachings about the Trinity, creation, redemption, the sacraments and morality reflect "the harmony of God's plan of salvation," the pope said Dec. 30 at his weekly general audience.

Before expressing his hope that friendship with Jesus would accompany each of his visitors throughout 2010, Pope Benedict delivered another installment in his series of audience talks about Christian theologians and philosophers of the Middle Ages.

Focusing on the work of Peter Lombard, who was born in Italy and died in 1160 as bishop of Paris, the pope emphasized the importance of systematic presentations of the Christian faith. Lombard's famous work, "The Sentences," like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, demonstrates how individual church teachings are linked to one another and must be taken together if one is to have a full understanding of the faith, he said.

Pope Benedict said Peter Lombard is still remembered for providing "the definitive definition" of a sacrament as "an outward sign and cause of grace."The sacraments are not simply rituals or symbols of God's action in people's lives, but "they really have the power to communicate divine grace," the pope said.

"The sacraments are the great treasure of the church," he said. The celebration of the sacraments "is always a surprising event; they touch our lives. Christ, through visible signs, comes to meet us. He purifies us, transforms us and makes us participants in his divine friendship."

Pope Benedict said Peter Lombard raised questions that could interest modern readers, including why God created Eve from the rib of Adam instead of from his head or his feet.

He said the 12th-century theologian explained that God formed woman not as "one who would dominate man, nor one who would be his slave, but one who would be a companion."

The pope encouraged Catholics to read "The Sentences," but even more to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a modern systematic presentation of Christian faith.

- - -Editor's Note: The text of the pope's audience remarks in English will be posted online at: text of the pope's audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at:
And this, my friends, is what justice and compassion are all about.

The woman who launched a Christmas Eve attack on Pope Benedict XVI will probably not face charges because of her mental state, Italian news agency ANSA says, citing Vatican sources.

A Vatican court will probably acquit 25-year-old Susanna Maiolo, who leapt over a security barrier and knocked the Pope to the ground at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in St Peter's Basilica, ANSA reported yesterday.

Acquittal was "the most likely hypothesis" because of the assailant's mental health problems and the court would rule on the case quickly, Vatican sources told the agency.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Robert Ventresca: Rescuing a pope's spiritual legacy
Posted: December 26, 2009, 9:00 AM by NP Editor

Pius XII — popularly vilified as “Hitler’s Pope” — is inching closer to becoming a 21st century saint. There are still some imposing tests to be met, and his canonization is far from certain, but under Pope Benedict XVI, an important step on that long journey has been taken.

Having spent some time studying the contentious issue of Pius XII’s role in the Holocaust, Pope Benedict has clearly seen nothing, even in the Vatican’s private records, that would prevent Pius’s canonization. Pope Benedict believes that Pius, born Eugenio Pacelli, worked constantly but prudently behind the scenes during the war, directing papal representatives and Catholic institutions throughout Europe to shelter and rescue thousands of Jews. This announcement suggests that Benedict intends to use the full weight of the papal office to challenge the public image of the wartime pope.

What makes Benedict’s decision so potentially provocative is that it will challenge the prevailing tendency to reduce Eugenio Pacelli’s long life of service to merely that period during the Second World War. Pius XII’s role during the Holocaust, important as it is, has obscured our view of this man’s broader legacy. After all, Pius XII continued to reign as Roman pontiff for some 13 years after the end of the war. In some respects, it was the Cold War that defined his pontificate. He was an influential scholar, diplomat and theologian, and left a lasting mark on the Church. Little of this is remembered today.

The judgment of history and historians has tended to obscure Pius XII’s spiritual legacy, which Pope Benedict wants to acknowledge. The Church teaches that the “goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” To say that he exhibited “heroic virtues” in his lifetime is to say that Pius XII gave extraordinary witness in word and deed to the Christian virtues, among them prudence, fortitude and temperance. Above all, it is to say that he made the three theological virtues — faith, hope and charity — the cornerstone of his conscience and activity.

Whether in his renowned asceticism and spirituality; his Eucharistic devotion; his concrete initiatives as a diplomat during the First World War and later as Pope on behalf of POWs and refugees; his prophetic warnings about the evils of pagan nationalism and atheistic materialism; even his cautious response to the many demonstrable crimes of Nazism — in all this, his promoters say, Pius XII practiced the Christian virtues in an extraordinary way.

Caution and prudence often have the feel of indifference or timidity. Pius never explicitly criticized the Third Reich, not even when the Nazis occupied Rome and began to round up the city’s small but ancient Jewish community in October 1943. One thousand Roman Jews were sent to Auschwitz; most were gassed within a week of arriving. All this, it was said, happened “under the Pope’s very window,” without public protest.

In fact, the Pope was not oblivious to the complaints coming from various corners of Nazi-occupied Europe that the Holy See was not responding to the Nazis’ brutality. As he wrote to the German bishops in February 1941, “Where the Pope wants to cry out loud and strong, it is expectation and silence that are unhappily often imposed upon him; where he would act and give assistance, it is patience and waiting [that are imposed].” Pius’s approach — silence, patience and waiting — was to avoid greater evil. This principle of avoiding greater evil was consistent with all of Pius XII’s diplomatic training and careful character. It may even have saved lives.

Pius XII’s oratorical restraint did not equal inaction. Some estimates suggest that Catholic institutions, including Vatican properties, offered shelter or offered assistance to more than 4,000 Roman Jews during the Nazi occupation of Rome. In Budapest, 25,000 Jews were sheltered and survived thanks to the efforts of papal representatives acting with Pius XII’s blessing and material assistance. Through his representatives, Pius XII protested directly and forcefully when the Slovak government began to deport approximately 80,000 Jews to Auschwitz.

Was this enough? More to the point: Was this prudence befit the Vicar of Christ? What if Pius XII had issued a forceful, unequivocal condemnation of Nazism and especially its persecution of Jews? What if the Pope had directed his representatives and all European Catholics to resist actively Nazi policies? How many more lives might have been saved?

It is impossible to provide properly historical answers to such imponderables. It is entirely understandable that for many people, especially Jews, such is not satisfactory. To many, Benedict’s decision to advance the process of Pius’ canonization will appear premature and insensitive, given the many fresh wounds and pronounced scars in Jewish-Catholic relations.
However, Benedict’s actions do not render a final verdict on the open questions about Pius’s wartime activities. Benedict simply suggests that Pius lived as a virtuous man striving in extraordinary ways to be like God. The extent to which he succeeded awaits final judgment.

National Post
Robert Ventresca is a historian at King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario. He is working on a biography of Pius XII titled Soldier of Christ: The Political Life of Pope Pius XII.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pope Considers St. Francis' Role in Christmas

Notes How Feast Developed in Middle Ages

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 23, 2009 ( While the celebration of Easter focuses on God's power, the Christmas feast shows a God who comes without weapons or strength in the hopes that man will receive him, Benedict XVI says.

And this image of God made a Child is particularly visible in the Nativity scene, a tradition that has marked the Christian celebration of Christmas and which can be traced to St. Francis of Assisi. In Greccio, Italy, he made the first Nativity scene in 1223.

The Holy Father reflected on St. Francis' role in the development of the Christmas celebration during the general audience today in Paul VI Hall.

"With St. Francis and his nativity, the defenseless love of God was shown, his humility and goodness, which in the incarnation of the Word is manifested to man so as to teach a new way to live and to love," he said.

The Pontiff explained how a biographer of the saint recounts a vision Francis was given at the famous Christmas celebration in Greccio: "He saw a little child lying still in a manger; the child woke up because Francis approached. And [the biographer] adds: 'This vision was not different than real life, since through the work of his grace acting by way of his holy servant Francis, the Child Jesus was resurrected in the hearts of many.'"

So near

Benedict XVI affirmed: "Thanks to St. Francis, the Christian people have been able to perceive that at Christmas, God truly has become Emmanuel, God-with-us, from whom no barrier or distance can separate us. In this Child, God has come so near to each one of us, so close, that we can address him with confidence and maintain with him a trusting relationship of deep affection, as we do with a newborn.

"In this Child, in fact, God-Love is manifested: God comes without weapons, without strength, because he does not aim to conquer, we could say, from without, but rather wants to be welcomed by man in liberty. God becomes a defenseless Child to conquer man's pride, violence and desire to possess. In Jesus, God took up this poor and defenseless condition to conquer with love and lead us to our true identity."

The Pope invited the faithful to pray to the Father, "so that he concedes to our hearts this simplicity that recognizes the Lord in this Child, precisely as Francis did in Greccio."

"Then," he said, "we too can experience what [...] happened to those present [...] 'Each one returned to his house filled with an ineffable joy.'"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holy Father's Year in Review

CNS STORY: Inside and outside the Vatican, 2009 was busy year for pope
Pope ‘won't stay at Buckingham Palace during UK visit’

During the first visit by a pontiff in almost 30 years, Pope Benedict XVI will also decline to attend a state dinner with the Queen and other dignitaries as well as open-carriage procession, a Scottish MP claimed.

It is understood that Pope Benedict will stay at the Ambassador to the Court of St James, the Apostolic Nunciature in Wimbledon rather than at Buckingham Palace during his visit from 16 to 19 September, The Tablet, the Catholic weekly, reported.

Jim Murphy, a Catholic MP who is Secretary of State for Scotland and heads the government team in charge of the visit, said that while it would have the status of a state visit, the Vatican did not want the trappings that accompany such a visit.

“It’s a unique constitutional arrangement as the Pope is head of a faith and the head of state,” Mr Murphy, who is leading the government’s planning of the visit, told the paper.
“The official title is ‘papal visit with the status of a state visit’.

“Normally state visits include banquets and gold carriages but the Vatican doesn’t want that.”
Pope Benedict XVI's tour would be only the second papal visit since Henry VIII broke with Rome and established the Church of England 475 years ago.

Mr. Murphy confirmed the Pope will spend three days in England and one day in Scotland. It is understood he will avoid visiting Ireland despite pleas from Irish church members, who want him to visit them and apologize in person for decades of child abuse by members of the clergy.

The paper reported a meeting with the Queen, in Scotland, when she holidays at Balmoral, during the Pope’s visit.
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Scottish Bishops’ Conference had drawn up an itinerary that was now with the Holy See, he added.

“It’s a pretty imaginative mix of public Masses, ecumenical events and other functions,” he said.
“Obviously, however, it’s up to the Vatican to make the final decision on it.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said: “I am delighted to help provide a place of worship for these traditionalist Anglicans, taking the lead from Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor Pope John Paul II.”

A series of events over the course of the visit is likely to attract hundreds of thousands of spectators. There are four million Roman Catholics in Britain.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Insanity rum amuk - yes, it can run amuk.

This post comes from I just HAD to share it here. Can things get anymore disturbing? Probably so but short of the Pope saying the same thing, probably not.


Just when you thought an Anglican bishop couldn't do anything crazier they do something crazier. England is in an uproar this morning because Bishop Venner-- the newly appointed bishop of the armed forces-- has publicly praised the 'faith, religious conviction and their loyalty' of the Taliban to their religion. The news story is here. Damian Thompson's typically waspish comment is here.

I am sure Bishop Venner meant well, and the media has probably taken his words out of context and bashed him with them. At very least he should choose his words carefully and have someone who is media saavy look them over first. At worst, he actually means to give the Taliban the benefit of the doubt. What tickles me most about this ridiculous comment is that an Anglican bishop (like all the naieve and snobbish English chattering class) bend over backward to accomodate Muslims while they run down their own church.

Here's an Anglican bishop who tries to cut the Taliban a break. The Taliban themselves rape boys and girls then set them up as teen suicide bombers. These are people who throw acid in the face of girls who dare to go to school. But I wonder what the bishop's attitude

The underlying problem with Bishop Venner's remarks is the shaky relativistic foundation on which his religion is built. He's used to making room for everyone and allowing everyone to 'agree to differ'. The only traits which validate one's view would be toleration and sincerity. The Taliban aren't tolerant, but at least they're sincere. So that's all right then. We can praise them for that.

Last week on this blog we were making fun of sincerity as a virtue on its own. I commented that most anyone could be sincere, but without truth, sincerity was about as substantial as a greeting card. I said sincerity on its own was not only sentimentality combined with silliness, but that it was also sinister.

Bishop Veneer's remarks prove my point.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Pope, Russia agree to upgrade diplomatic ties
By DANIELA PETROFF (AP) – 1 day ago
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI and visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed Thursday to upgrade Vatican-Kremlin relations to full diplomatic ties, the Vatican said.
The step forward on the diplomatic front comes at the same time as a warming in previously tense relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Vatican.

A Vatican statement said Benedict and Medvedev agreed that Russia will upgrade its representation at the Vatican from a special mission to embassy level and that the Vatican will reciprocate in Moscow.

The two men also discussed challenges to "security and peace" in the world and "themes of mutual interest such as the value of the family and the contribution of believers to the life of Russia," the Vatican said.

Medvedev, on a one-day visit to Rome, met with the German pope for 30 minutes, speaking through interpreters. He had earlier met with Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
After decades of hostility between the Vatican and the Kremlin during the Cold War, the major breakthrough came when former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met with Pope John Paul II in December 1989.

But the lifting of restrictions on religion led to new tensions with the Orthodox church, which accused the Vatican of poaching for souls in traditional Orthodox territory — a charge the Vatican denied.

The standoff prevented John Paul II of fulfilling his wish of making a pilgrimage to Russia.
Vatican officials, however, say that despite improved atmosphere such a trip is not on Benedict's agenda now. The Vatican statement after Thursday's meeting did not mention it.

Benedict had met with Medvedev's predecessor, Vladimir Putin, two years ago. As a gift, Medvedev presented Benedict with 22 volumes of an encyclopedia on the Russian Orthodox Church to complete a set brought by Putin.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Good Reading

The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism Because The Pope of Christian Unity (Pope Benedict XVI) Is Gathering the Scattered Flocks Left Behind by Those Who Thought They Knew Better Than The Church
The Catholic Church has always had a bull’s-eye attached to it, and in truth many of us wouldn’t want it any other way, for when we are almost universally loved, as has happened a few times in the last 40 years we have become “of the world,” instead of suffering for the world.” Lately, during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI dark forces have gathered at the gates of truth attacking the Church for a variety of long held beliefs.

These beliefs can range from the theological to the social. However, following the US Election of 2008 a tidal wave seems to have inundated the Church from the mainstream media, the political realm and even the entertainment world. The Church’s 2,000 year old teachings and beliefs have been attacked in the United States and Western Europe from elected officials, the mainstream media and well known entertainment celebrities. Some of the faithful have become discouraged and questioned me as to how the thesis of my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, could possibly be true in light of this news.

The truth of the matter is that against this troubling backdrop the Church continues to grow around the world, especially in African and Asia but even in North America, where much of the onslaught against the Church has emanated. Seminaries and Mother Houses often have no room for those pursuing a vocation and those young African and Asian men and women are often sent to the US or Europe to explore their vocation. Even in the US and pockets of Europe seminaries are experiencing a mini boom. One seminary rector told me that in the 40+ plus years of being affiliated with the Church, he has never seen a longer sustained period of top notch orthodox minded young men coming in and being ordained as he has seen in the last 10 years. Perhaps this is why the powers that be are so angry.

It seemed the US midterm Election of 2006 emboldened the cause of those militant liberals and secularists who have contempt for much of what orthodox minded Catholicism holds dear. Following the results of the Election of 2008, many pundits proclaimed the results as a sea change for America. Agnostics and atheists gleefully announced that a world where religion and especially conservative or orthodox minded Catholicism held sway was being replaced by a humanist brand of religion where age old teachings were replaced by the ideas of “enlightened” religious leaders, agnostic thinkers, and pop culture celebrities. It seemed this new brand of liberal thinker was less idealistic than their 1960s peers and displayed an anger and hostility that was a far cry from the utopian idealism displayed some 40 years ago.

Yet, beneath the surface and below the radar screens of many news organizations, lies the hope of the Catholic faithful who hold on to the ideas imparted by Christ, His Apostles, Popes, Bishops, Priests, Women Religious, Saints and holy laymen and laywomen throughout the centuries.

Hope doesn’t merely rest on those being ordained or vowed, but also on those young people who attend Mass. Recent data shows that the 18-30 age group, who attend Mass regularly, are the most supportive of the Church’s teachings and the most pro life of any generation, including their grandparents. How can this be one might ask, aren’t these the same young people who have become pampered by a self absorbed reality show culture and who voted en masse for liberal candidates in the 2008 Election? Actually this particular group of young people has seen firsthand what has happened and is happening to their Catholic friends who have been mesmerized by the increasingly militant secular culture. They have seen their friends check out of regular participation in the Faith, to say nothing of their friends and acquaintances who have turned their existence into sad real life television reality show. Because of this troubling reality, many young people are embracing Eucharistic Adoration and the rosary as a peaceful weapon against the forces of hedonism, self absorption, doubt and fear. The Doubting Thomas’s need look no further than the Catholic blogosphere where orthodox minded sites run by young people run in the hundreds, while liberal leaning sites can almost be counted on one hand.

It always seems to start innocently enough with those hoping to change perceived wrongs. In 1517 the Church was full of too many corrupt and sinful leaders. Martin Luther may have had the best of intentions when he began his actions. Indeed, he could have been many of the Church’s greatest reformers. However, instead of trying to reform the institution as did St Bernard of Clairveaux or St Catherine of Sienna, Luther let his personal demons against authority and sin get the better of him, which sadly caused him to abolish the Sacrament of Confession and the hierarchy when he created his own church. He would become the leader (or so he thought) of the Reformation Church and sin would be all but forgotten. Never mind what the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition said about authority, Martin Luther had been plagued by fear of authority and sin his entire life, and certainly he must have thought he wasn’t alone. As for Confession, even though it was the first thing Jesus instituted when he returned to the assembled Apostles on Easter Sunday night (John 20:19-23,) Martin Luther abolished it. Dutch Philosopher and frequent Church critic Erasmus and a future Catholic saint, Sir Thomas More both reached the same conclusion about Luther. They both voiced the opinion that he must be mad to think that 1,500 after the fact he knew better than the Church.

When some of Luther’s fellow leaders of the Protestant Reformation had a problem with the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist and Blessed Virgin Mary, which Luther largely didn’t have a problem with, Luther became enraged. At the Marburg Colloquy Luther was shown the door when he told his colleagues that he would rather drink blood with the pope then listen to their ramblings. They never met again but the damage had already been done and Pandora’s Box was wide open. Luther thought everyone who disagreed with the Church would naturally follow him. It did not happen and some five hundred years later and some 40,000 denominations and independent churches later, here we are even though Christ specifically told us to be One with One Shepherd (John 10:16.)

During the French Revolution, some 40,000 Catholic clergy, laity and nobility were starved, beaten to death or beheaded. Some of the very nobility who helped to kick out the Jesuits a few years earlier thought the revolution might not be all bad, perhaps a good way to thumb their nose at the Church. However, some months later, one would think they might have had second thoughts while looking up at the guillotine. Before the Russian Revolution some of the very elites who would suffer the same grisly fate as the Romanovs actually helped fund the Bolsheviks, perhaps thinking they were showing their trendy side by funding the same cause that their western cousins found so exciting.

As you can see a construct began to emerge, talented, intelligent and often financially well to do people with a lot of time on their hands began to somehow believe they knew better than the Church. It is nothing new, as one could say it started in the Garden or even before when the “light bearer” was supposedly repulsed by the idea of the Incarnation and tried to take over heaven. St Michael the Archangel booted the Prince of Lies out and today he tries to assuage others, most often using the formula of the seven deadly sins in order to join him in his kingdom of horrors. Unchecked egos can lead to our eternal downfall.

The 1960s set the stage for a tumultuous period in the Church. The times, as Bob Dylan reminded us, certainly were a changing. In 1961 some 500,000 people gathered in San Francisco’s City Park for a Rosary Rally, some six years later the same park was filled with what one would assume was a different crowd tripping out on LSD and espousing and practicing free love. Some liberals will tell you San Francisco was always liberal, obviously it wasn’t that liberal in 1961.

Vatican II, the transformational council which was called by Pope John XXIII, but had wanted to be called by Pope Pius XII before he fell ill, was in some ways the Church’s finest hour. However, activists within the Church would later twist the words of the Council and try to change the Church into something unrecognizable for many Catholics. The Council’s documents were as orthodox as anything coming out of Nicaea, Chalcedon, Ephesus etc. However, some twisted the words of the holy assembly and tried to make parish churches into something architecturally resembling a warehouse, not a holy place of worship. It didn’t stop there.

Some seemed to think that if the Byrds, Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan were popular on the radio, their sound might be popular at Mass. After all it wasn’t like they wanted these new found parish musical groups to do a cover version of Led Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times or Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary at Mass. What would be the harm they thought? However, Francis Beckwith noted after returning to the Church some 25 years after leaving it, why would we want to hear a bad Bob Dylan cover band when we could hear the real thing on the stereo or in concert? Many parish musical groups were talented, reverent and joyous. Sadly, some parish musical groups sounded like an American Idol first round reject that incurred the wrath of Simon Cowell, rather than something holy, solemn or joyful. Again, it didn’t stop

Some within the Church seemed to think that with the invention of the Birth Control Pill, if some young people were acting like rabbits, better to have them use the pill than to avoid it. Those who often felt this way seemed to think abortions were awash since it had to be a blob of tissue rather than a human being. Time and ultrasounds would prove this horrific conclusion wrong. In addition the birth control pill caused a demographic nightmare in the western world leaving the young to pay for the care of the old, who were much larger in number. Unfortunately, by the time many figured this out, millions had left the Church for something they felt was more tangible. Men in particular were turned off by homilies that had more in common with Alan Alda, David Gates & Bread and Air Supply more than they did an exhortation coming from a priest whose very title meant in the person of Christ.

Church liberals felt happy because in a way they had chased out the very element they had disliked (conservative oriented males) while welcoming in those who had a more liberal view of life. Just when thought they were in the driver’ seat, as evidenced by the censured priest Father Hans Kung’s 1980s assertion that liberals were now in control of most dioceses, seminaries and parishes, they realized their hold on the Church was slipping away. In Germany’s famed seminary of Tubingen, gone were the days when the liberal intelligentsia snickered as their “old school” Professor Father Josef Ratzinger huffed and puffed his way around town on his bicycle, while the rebel cause célèbre Father Kung tooled about in his sporty Porsche. The waves he enlisted from his fellow liberal elites, who had plenty of time on their hands, must now look like some grainy black and white movetone video of days gone by.

Younger liberals might be forgiven if they mistakenly believed the canard told by their elder comrades that 1950s Catholic leaders and especially bishops were all right wing conservatives who had no patience for the ideas of liberals but possessed the patience of Job for fellow conservatives. In his memoirs published shortly after his death, the late Senator Edward Kennedy wrote that his famous father the former Ambassador to England Joseph P Kennedy would often socialize with Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston. Senator Kennedy wrote that his father always called the famous prelate by his first name.

In a revealing account the late Senator spoke of an incident in which brother Bobby, the future Senator from New York, heard a controversial conservative priest at a Boston lecture whose views about Protestant salvation were deemed very conservative. After Bobby’s father made a phone call to “Richard” the priest was promptly booted from the Archdiocese. Senator Edward Kennedy surmises that because of this incident, his brother Bobby unwittingly played a part in bringing about Vatican II. As one can clearly see from this example, the right wing Catholic hierarchy may not have existed as vividly as it did in some liberal’s imagination.

Because of bold action taken under the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, an extended period of younger more orthodox minded seminarians, priests and women religious have entered the Church. Recent bishop’s appointments have also skewed more orthodox or conservative in their political and social leanings. The orthodox nature of these two pontiffs’ theological views has brought admiration from an unlikely quarter, Evangelicals. Many Evangelicals look with alarm at their own denominations and see an ally in the Catholic Church. Enter Pope Benedict XVI, whose pontificate couldn’t have come at a better time. He truly is “The Pope of Christian Unity,” rallying the Christian faithful to the call of theological and social orthodoxy which is the only hope an increasingly secular world has of saving itself from itself.

From Stalin to Mao to the radicals behind the flaming barricades of 1968 Paris, as well as today’s militant secular activists in Europe and the US, the world has seen the sort of outcome freedom from religion brings; utter chaos, mayhem and worse yet unrelenting violence against those who disapprove of espousing a militant secular agenda. Against this nefarious and sinister backdrop the Holy Spirit saw to it that the “springtime” promised by Pope John Paul II would continue with the blossoming pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. East and west, north and south the octogenarian pontiff travels to meet with other Christian leaders and propose better relations against a backdrop of increasing violence and hedonism which is paralyzing an already troubled world. When theologian Matthew Fox, who had penchant for polytheism, was censured by then Cardinal Ratzinger, the censured theologian took out a full page ad in the New York Times that read, “I Have Been Silenced.” The smoke of Satan that Pope Paul VI had lamented had entered the Vatican was being swept out by the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, but not before many choked on the fumes of self absoprtion emitted by Fox and many others.

Jesus warned us about the hired hands that would leave the flock when the wolves came, which is why he implored us to remain One (John 10:16.) These modern day religious hired hands were influenced by Marx, Engels, Freud and the latest pop culture bards more than they were by Scripture or Sacred Tradition. Whether inside the Church or in other Christian communities, they fled from the truth when it came. The world needed a man who would fight off the wolves and gather together the scattered and injured flock. The day the newly installed Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his Inauguration Mass he told the faithful assembled in St Peter’s Square to pray for him that he would not run when the wolves came. He has not and because of it he was ridiculed by many in the mainstream media, other Christian communities and even the Church itself. However, the discerning Christian faithful now see the picture more clearly.

The sad reality of division is beginning to see it’s elixir is in the pontificate of the man from Bavaria, who has seen the worst of what life has to offer and thus he is making it his life’ work to make sure that this won’t happen again. Pope Benedict XVI is reaching out to all Christian communities and asking them to join him in protecting the sacredness of all that binds Christianity as well as the sanctity that hold society together. The tide is turning thanks to Pope Benedict XVI, “The Pope of Christian Unity.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pope and Anglican leader agree on closer relations

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON, Associated Press Writer Victor L. Simpson, Associated Press Writer – Sat Nov 21, 2:29 pm ET

VATICAN CITY – After offering a home in his church to disaffected Anglicans, Pope Benedict XVI assured the archbishop of Canterbury on Saturday that he is still committed to seeking closer relations between Catholics and Anglicans.

Archbishop Rowan Williams said he came away convinced there was no "dawn raid" on his church by Rome, telling Vatican Radio he wishes "every blessing" for those who want to become Catholics.

Williams and Benedict met privately for 20 minutes in what the Vatican called "cordial discussions," as part of what has clearly been a difficult visit by the Anglican leader.

The Vatican said in a brief statement that the two leaders "turned to the challenges facing all Christian communities" and the need "to promote forms of collaboration and shared witness in facing these challenges."

Referring to the recent overture for traditional Anglicans upset over the ordination of women and gay bishops to become Catholics, the Vatican said the talks reiterated "the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans."
Williams' visit to Rome had been long planned but the Vatican overture to conservative Anglicans, for which he admittedly received little advance notice, cast a shadow over the trip and raised questions about the future of relations between Rome and the 77-million strong worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the U.S. Episcopal Church.

In the interview after the papal audience with Vatican Radio, Williams acknowledged the handling of the Vatican move put Anglicans "in an awkward position for a time. Not the contents so much, as some of the messages that were given out. So I needed to share with the pope some of those concerns and I think they were expressed and heard in a very friendly spirit."

Williams said he came away assured that it "did not represent any change in the Vatican's attitude to the Anglican communion as such; and a very strong statement came out."
In a personal gesture, the Vatican said the pope presented the archbishop with a gold bishop's cross as a gift.

Since coming to Rome on Thursday, Williams has sought to downplay the implications of the Vatican's unprecedented invitation.

The Vatican says it was merely responding to the many Anglican requests to join the Catholic Church and has denied it was poaching converts in the Anglican pond.

But the move already has strained Catholic-Anglican relations and is sure to affect the worldwide Anglican Communion, which was already on the verge of schism over homosexuality and women's ordination before the Vatican intervened.

In a speech at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Williams was gracious in referring to the Vatican's new policy, which he called the "elephant in the room." The policy was an "imaginative pastoral response" to requests by some Anglicans but broke no new doctrinal ground, Williams said.

He spent the bulk of his speech describing the progress that had been achieved so far in decades of Vatican-Anglican ecumenical talks and questioning whether the outstanding issues were really all that great.

Anglicans split from Rome in 1534 when English King Henry VIII was refused a marriage annulment. For decades, the two churches have held theological discussions on trying to reunite, part of the Vatican's broader, long-term ecumenical effort to unify all Christians.

But differences remain and the ecumenical talks were going nowhere as divisions mounted between liberals and traditionalists within the Anglican Communion itself.

The new policy allows Anglicans to convert to Catholicism but retain many of their Anglican liturgical traditions, including married priests. The Vatican will create the equivalent of new dioceses, so-called personal ordinariates, for these former Anglicans to be headed by a former Anglican priest or bishop.

Estimates on the number of possible converts has ranged from a few hundred to thousands.
Williams — the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion — wasn't informed of the change until right before it was announced.

It remains to be seen how the new policy will affect Pope Benedict XVI's planned trip to Britain next year. Saturday's Vatican statement did not mention it.

The Sistine Chapel

A Treasure for the Ages
Dear Cardinals,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Distinguished Artists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

With great joy I welcome you to this solemn place, so rich in art and in history. I cordially greet each and every one of you and I thank you for accepting my invitation. At this gathering I wish to express and renew the Church's friendship with the world of art, a friendship that has been strengthened over time; indeed Christianity from its earliest days has recognized the value of the arts and has made wise use of their varied language to express her unvarying message of salvation. This friendship must be continually promoted and supported so that it may be authentic and fruitful, adapted to different historical periods and attentive to social and cultural variations. Indeed, this is the reason for our meeting here today. I am deeply grateful to Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, and likewise to his officials, for promoting and organizing this meeting, and I thank him for the words he has just addressed to me. I greet the Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests and the various distinguished personalities present. I also thank the Sistine Chapel Choir for their contribution to this gathering. Today's event is focused on you, dear and illustrious artists, from different countries, cultures and religions, some of you perhaps remote from the practice of religion, but interested nevertheless in maintaining communication with the Catholic Church, in not reducing the horizons of existence to mere material realities, to a reductive and trivializing vision. You represent the varied world of the arts and so, through you, I would like to convey to all artists my invitation to friendship, dialogue and cooperation.

Some significant anniversaries occur around this time. It is ten years since the Letter to Artists by my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II. For the first time, on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Pope, who was an artist himself, wrote a Letter to artists, combining the solemnity of a pontifical document with the friendly tone of a conversation among all who, as we read in the initial salutation, "are passionately dedicated to the search for new 'epiphanies' of beauty". Twenty-five years ago the same Pope proclaimed Blessed Fra Angelico the patron of artists, presenting him as a model of perfect harmony between faith and art. I also recall how on 7 May 1964, forty-five years ago, in this very place, an historic event took place, at the express wish of Pope Paul VI, to confirm the friendship between the Church and the arts. The words that he spoke on that occasion resound once more today under the vault of the Sistine Chapel and touch our hearts and our minds. "We need you," he said. "We need your collaboration in order to carry out our ministry, which consists, as you know, in preaching and rendering accessible and comprehensible to the minds and hearts of our people the things of the spirit, the invisible, the ineffable, the things of God himself. And in this activity … you are masters. It is your task, your mission, and your art consists in grasping treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and clothing them in words, colours, forms – making them accessible." So great was Paul VI's esteem for artists that he was moved to use daring expressions. "And if we were deprived of your assistance," he added, "our ministry would become faltering and uncertain, and a special effort would be needed, one might say, to make it artistic, even prophetic. In order to scale the heights of lyrical expression of intuitive beauty, priesthood would have to coincide with art." On that occasion Paul VI made a commitment to "re-establish the friendship between the Church and artists", and he invited artists to make a similar, shared commitment, analyzing seriously and objectively the factors that disturbed this relationship, and assuming individual responsibility, courageously and passionately, for a newer and deeper journey in mutual acquaintance and dialogue in order to arrive at an authentic "renaissance" of art in the context of a new humanism.

That historic encounter, as I mentioned, took place here in this sanctuary of faith and human creativity. So it is not by chance that we come together in this place, esteemed for its architecture and its symbolism, and above all for the frescoes that make it unique, from the masterpieces of Perugino and Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli and others, to the Genesis scenes and the Last Judgement of Michelangelo Buonarroti, who has given us here one of the most extraordinary creations in the entire history of art. The universal language of music has often been heard here, thanks to the genius of great musicians who have placed their art at the service of the liturgy, assisting the spirit in its ascent towards God. At the same time, the Sistine Chapel is remarkably vibrant with history, since it is the solemn and austere setting of events that mark the history of the Church and of mankind. Here as you know, the College of Cardinals elects the Pope; here it was that I myself, with trepidation but also with absolute trust in the Lord, experienced the privileged moment of my election as Successor of the Apostle Peter.

Dear friends, let us allow these frescoes to speak to us today, drawing us towards the ultimate goal of human history. The Last Judgement, which you see behind me, reminds us that human history is movement and ascent, a continuing tension towards fullness, towards human happiness, towards a horizon that always transcends the present moment even as the two coincide. Yet the dramatic scene portrayed in this fresco also places before our eyes the risk of man's definitive fall, a risk that threatens to engulf him whenever he allows himself to be led astray by the forces of evil. So the fresco issues a strong prophetic cry against evil, against every form of injustice. For believers, though, the Risen Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For his faithful followers, he is the Door through which we are brought to that "face-to-face" vision of God from which limitless, full and definitive happiness flows. Thus Michelangelo presents to our gaze the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End of history, and he invites us to walk the path of life with joy, courage and hope. The dramatic beauty of Michelangelo's painting, its colours and forms, becomes a proclamation of hope, an invitation to raise our gaze to the ultimate horizon. The profound bond between beauty and hope was the essential content of the evocative Message that Paul VI addressed to artists at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on 8 December 1965: "To all of you," he proclaimed solemnly, "the Church of the Council declares through our lips: if you are friends of true art, you are our friends!" And he added: "This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration. And all this through the work of your hands . . . Remember that you are the custodians of beauty in the world."
Unfortunately, the present time is marked, not only by negative elements in the social and economic sphere, but also by a weakening of hope, by a certain lack of confidence in human relationships, which gives rise to increasing signs of resignation, aggression and despair. The world in which we live runs the risk of being altered beyond recognition because of unwise human actions which, instead of cultivating its beauty, unscrupulously exploit its resources for the advantage of a few and not infrequently disfigure the marvels of nature. What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation – if not beauty? Dear friends, as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.

Indeed, an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy "shock", it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum – it even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it "reawakens" him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft. Dostoevsky's words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical, but they invite reflection. He says this: "Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here." The painter Georges Braque echoes this sentiment: "Art is meant to disturb, science reassures." Beauty pulls us up short, but in so doing it reminds us of our final destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills us with new hope, gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life. The quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.

Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy. It is a seductive but hypocritical beauty that rekindles desire, the will to power, to possess, and to dominate others, it is a beauty which soon turns into its opposite, taking on the guise of indecency, transgression or gratuitous provocation. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence, the Mystery of which we are part; from this Mystery we can draw fullness, happiness, the passion to engage with it every day. In this regard, Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, quotes the following verse from a Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid: "Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up" (no. 3). And later he adds: "In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, the artist gives voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption" (no. 10). And in conclusion he states: "Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence" (no. 16).

These ideas impel us to take a further step in our reflection. Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality. This close proximity, this harmony between the journey of faith and the artist's path is attested by countless artworks that are based upon the personalities, the stories, the symbols of that immense deposit of "figures" – in the broad sense – namely the Bible, the Sacred Scriptures. The great biblical narratives, themes, images and parables have inspired innumerable masterpieces in every sector of the arts, just as they have spoken to the hearts of believers in every generation through the works of craftsmanship and folk art, that are no less eloquent and evocative.

In this regard, one may speak of a via pulchritudinis, a path of beauty which is at the same time an artistic and aesthetic journey, a journey of faith, of theological enquiry. The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar begins his great work entitled The Glory of the Lord – a Theological Aesthetics with these telling observations: "Beauty is the word with which we shall begin. Beauty is the last word that the thinking intellect dares to speak, because it simply forms a halo, an untouchable crown around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another." He then adds: "Beauty is the disinterested one, without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world, a world of interests, leaving it to its own avarice and sadness. It is no longer loved or fostered even by religion." And he concludes: "We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past – whether he admits it or not – can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love." The way of beauty leads us, then, to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity. Simone Weil wrote in this regard: "In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious." Hermann Hesse makes the point even more graphically: "Art means: revealing God in everything that exists." Echoing the words of Pope Paul VI, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II restated the Church's desire to renew dialogue and cooperation with artists: "In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art" (no. 12); but he immediately went on to ask: "Does art need the Church?" – thereby inviting artists to rediscover a source of fresh and well-founded inspiration in religious experience, in Christian revelation and in the "great codex" that is the Bible.

Dear artists, as I draw to a conclusion, I too would like to make a cordial, friendly and impassioned appeal to you, as did my Predecessor. You are the custodians of beauty: thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement. Be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty! Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity! And do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty! Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful.

Saint Augustine, who fell in love with beauty and sang its praises, wrote these words as he reflected on man's ultimate destiny, commenting almost ante litteram on the Judgement scene before your eyes today: "Therefore we are to see a certain vision, my brethren, that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived: a vision surpassing all earthly beauty, whether it be that of gold and silver, woods and fields, sea and sky, sun and moon, or stars and angels. The reason is this: it is the source of all other beauty" (In 1 Ioannis, 4:5). My wish for all of you, dear artists, is that you may carry this vision in your eyes, in your hands, and in your heart, that it may bring you joy and continue to inspire your fine works. From my heart I bless you and, like Paul VI, I greet you with a single word: arrivederci!

Dear friends, thank you for your presence here today. Let the beauty that you express by your God-given talents always direct the hearts of others to glorify the Creator, the source of all that is good. God's blessings upon you all!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pope: Humanity Must be Healed of Spiritual Deafness
Urges Hearing Impaired to Actively Participate in Church
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 20, 2009 (

Humanity needs to be saved from spiritual deafness, which blocks out the voices of God and one's neighbor, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope used this metaphor when he spoke today to participants in an international conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

The event's theme was "Ephphata: the Deaf Person in the Life of the Church," and it aimed to consider ways in which the Church could better serve some 1.3 million Catholic deaf people.

"[There is a] deafness of the spirit, which raises ever higher barriers to the voices of God and of neighbor -- especially the cry for help from the least ones and those who suffer -- and which encloses man in a profound and corrosive egoism," the Holy Father said.

He recalled Jesus' gesture in the Gospel account of the healing of the man who could not hear or speak. In this sign is seen "Jesus' ardent desire to overcome loneliness and incommunicability in man created by egoism, to give face to a 'new humanity,' a humanity of listening and of the word, of dialogue, of communication, of communion with God," the Pontiff said.

He explained that this new humanity must be "without discriminations, without exclusions [...] so that the world will be truly for all a 'field of genuine fraternity.'"

For the poor
Benedict XVI acknowledged that there is still today "a culture never surmounted, marked by prejudices and discriminations, concretely toward deaf people."

"These are deplorable and unjustifiable attitudes, because they are contrary to respect for the dignity of the non-hearing person and his or her full social integration," he said.

The Pontiff also mentioned "the serious situation that [the deaf] still endure in developing countries, both because of the lack of appropriate policies and legislation, as well as the difficulty in having access to primary health care."

"Deafness, in fact, is often a consequence of illnesses that are easily curable," the Pope lamented. And he appealed "to political and civil authorities, in addition to international organizations, to offer the necessary support to promote in [developing] countries as well, the due respect for the dignity and rights of non-hearing persons, fostering, with adequate aid, their full social integration."

In this connection, Benedict XVI said that the Church, already since the 18th century, has supported initiatives to care for the deaf.

The Holy Father further affirmed that the deaf must not only be considered "recipients" of evangelization, but "evangelizers" and active participants in the life of their communities.

"Following the example of her divine Founder," the Pope concluded, "the Church continues to support different pastoral and social initiatives for their benefit with love and solidarity, reserving special attention to those who suffer, aware that precisely in suffering is hidden a special strength that brings man interiorly closer to Christ, a particular grace."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good news of one individual from Notre Dame

ND theology prof receives papal honor
Tribune Staff Report SOUTH BEND --

John C. Cavadini, professor and chair of the theology department at the University of Notre Dame, has been named by Pope Benedict XVI a member of the Order of the Knights of St. Gregory the Great.

It is a high papal honor. The honor was bestowed by the pope at the request of the Most Rev. John M. D'Arcy, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

The Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great was established in 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI. It is one of five pontifical orders of knighthood in the Catholic Church. The order is bestowed on men and women in recognition of their service to the church, support of the Holy See, and for setting a good example in their country and communities.

"In an age when some theology is ever more necessary for the life of the Church, Professor Cavadini has avoided the trendy and the superficial," D'Arcy said in a written statement announcing the honor.

The bishop lauded Cavadini for his devotion to the study and teaching of theology, for renewing and strengthening Notre Dame's theology department, for organizing retreats and seminars for Catholic bishops, and for many other achievements.

Cavadini is director of Notre Dame's Institute for Church Life. In September he was appointed by the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, as co-chair of a new campus Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life.

Cavadini earned a bachelor's degree at Wesleyan University, a master's degree at Marquette University, and a master's degree and doctoral degree at Yale University. He is the author or editor of several books.

Among those who have previously been honored with membership in the Order of the Knights of St. Gregory the Great: entertainer Bob Hope, actor Ricardo Montalban, media baron Rupert Murdock, Irish tenor Frank Patterson and publisher/philanthropist Walter Annenberg.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Paul VI a Lover of the Church

Benedict XVI Draws Out Lessons for Today
BRESCIA, Italy, NOV. 8, 2009 (

Pope Paul VI was a great lover of the Church, says Benedict XVI, and he dedicated all his energies to serving it, so that in the Church, contemporary man finds Christ.

The Pope said this today when he reflected on Paul VI during a visit to the Italian Pontiff's birthplace for a one-day apostolic journey.

Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the Piazza Paul VI, drawing lessons presented by the two widows spoken of in today's liturgy.

"Jesus tells us to pay attention [to the widow] just as he told his disciples to on that day," the Pontiff said. "Pay careful attention to what the widow does, because her gesture contains a great teaching; it, in fact, expresses the fundamental characteristic of those who are the 'living stones' of the new Temple: the complete gift of self to the Lord and our neighbor; the widow of the Gospel, like the widow in the Old Testament [cf. 1 Kings 17:10-17], gives everything, she gives herself, and she puts herself in the hands of God for others.

"This is the perennial meaning of the poor widow’s offering, which Jesus commends because she gave more than the rich, who offer a part of their surplus, while she gave everything she had to live, and thus gave herself.”

Evangelical icon

The German Pontiff said he would use this "evangelical icon" to meditate on the “mystery of the Church, the Temple of the living God, and in this way pay homage to the memory of the great Pope Paul VI, who dedicated his whole life to the Church.”

Benedict XVI cited some thoughts from his predecessor's "A Thought About Death."
"Let us re-read the concluding part of his 'Pensiero alla Morte,' where he speaks about the Church," Benedict XVI proposed. "‘I could say,’ he writes, ‘that I always loved her … and that for her, and for no one else, I think I have lived.’"

The Pope said these are "the accents of a palpitating heart," and he continued to quote: "'Finally I would like to comprehend her entirely, in her history, in her divine plan, in her final destiny, in her complex, total and unitary composition, in her human and imperfect consistency, in her disasters and her sufferings, in her weaknesses and in the misery of so many of her children, in her less pleasing aspects, and in her perennial effort at fidelity, love, perfection and charity.'

"'Mystical Body of Christ. I want,’ the Pope continues, ‘to embrace her, to greet her, love her, in every being that constitutes her, in every bishop and priest who assists and guides her, in every soul that lives her and exemplifies her; to bless her.’

"And the last words are for her as for a life-long bride: ‘And to the Church, to whom I owe everything and who was mine, what will I say? May God’s blessings be upon you; be conscious of your nature and your mission; have a sense of the true and deep needs of humanity; and journey in poverty, that is free, strong and loving toward Christ poor.’”

Poor and free
The Holy Father said Paul VI's description of the Church contain a lesson for today.
"What can one add to such lofty and intense words?" he asked. "I would just like to stress this last vision of the Church as 'poor and free,' which recalls the evangelical figure of the widow."
Benedict said the ecclesial community must be this way "to reassure and speak to contemporary humanity."

"Giovanni Battista Montini had the Church’s encounter and dialogue with the humanity of our time at heart in every season of his life, from the first years of priesthood to the pontificate," he said. "He dedicated all of his energies to the service of a Church that would be as much as possible in conformity with her Lord Jesus Christ so that, encountering her, contemporary man could encounter him, Christ, because he has absolute need of Christ.”

Consciousness, renewal, dialogue
The German Pontiff suggested that this was the fundamental aim of the Vatican Council called by Paul VI and expounded in his 1964 encyclical, "Ecclesiam Suam."

With this first encyclical, the Holy Father explained, Paul VI proposed to explain the importance of the Church for the salvation of humanity.

Three words key to Paul's thinking about the Church at the beginning of his papacy were "consciousness," "renewal," and dialogue," he noted.

"First of all the demand that she deepen her consciousness of herself: her origin, nature, mission, final destiny; secondly, her need to renew and purify herself, looking to the model of Christ; finally the problem of her relationship to the modern world," Benedict XVI said.

These same three issues “remain absolutely central today," he contended. Echoing Paul VI, the Pope affirmed that the Church cannot engage the world without fostering a deep interior life: “Precisely the Christian open to the world, the Church open to the world, have need of a robust interior life.”

A word for priests
Benedict XVI affirmed that the whole Church should learn from Paul VI, but given the Year for Priests under way, he emphasized a particular lesson for priests, drawing from "Sacerdotalis Caelibatus."

"In his encyclical on priestly celibacy [Paul VI] wrote: 'Laid hold of by Christ unto the complete abandonment of one's entire self to him, the priest takes on a closer likeness to Christ, even in the love with which the eternal Priest has loved the Church his Body and offered himself entirely for her sake, in order to make her a glorious, holy and immaculate Spouse. The consecrated celibacy of the sacred ministers actually manifests the virginal love of Christ for the Church, and the virginal and supernatural fecundity of this marriage.'"

The Bishop of Rome concluded with an observation for the laity: "In the Insegnamenti of Paul VI, dear friends of Brescia, you will find always valuable indications about how to deal with the present challenges such as, above all, the economic crisis, immigration, and the education of the young."
A first reaction to today's publication of Anglicanorum Coetibus

The Holy See has today published the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which will provide for Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. The text of the Apostolic Constitution, and its Complementary Norms, can be read here.

The Chairman of Forward in Faith, Bishop John Broadhurst, has issued the following interim statement to those clergy who look to him, as Bishop of Fulham, for episcopal care at the present time and he is happy to share it with the membership of Forward in Faith worldwide.

I had thought the original notice from Rome was extremely generous. Today all the accompanying papers have been published and they are extremely impressive. I have been horrified that the Church of England while trying to accommodate us has consistently said we cannot have the jurisdiction and independent life that most of us feel we need to continue on our Christian pilgrimage.

What Rome has done is offer exactly what the Church of England has refused. Indeed it has offered the requests of Consecrated Women? with the completion of its ecumenical hopes. We all need now to ask the question 'is this what we want?' For some of us I suspect our bluff is called! This is both an exciting and dangerous time for Christianity in this country. Those who take up this offer will need to enter into negotiation with the Church of England about access to parish churches and many other matters. This situation must not be used to damage the Church of England but I do believe we have a valid claim on our own heritage in history.

The doctrinal standard demanded by Rome is the New Catechism which most of us use anyway. We would be allowed to use Anglican or Roman rites and our ordinaries would have jurisdiction. We will all need to meet and talk. I would hope that this could take place in collaboration with the PEVs and other Catholic bishops. It is not my style to give a expansive analysis of a document that I have only received today nor will I answer the question 'What are you going to do?' That is something we need to work out together.

Every Blessing,
+John Fulham

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Pope's Anglican offer accepted by Traditional Anglican Communion in Britain

And the discussion continues. But fortunately, some have stopped talking and have simply decided to move forward. Welcome home to all.

Pope's Anglican offer accepted by Traditional Anglican Communion in Britain

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Making Peace With Galileo

During International Year of Astronomy, Pope Benedict reflects on Galileo controversy

On October 30, Pope Benedict XVI received participants in the conference sponsored by the Specola Vaticana (Vatican Observatory) for the International Year of Astronomy.The International Year of Astronomy coincides with the 400-year anniversary of Galileo's first observations of the heavens made with a telescope.
Pope Benedict remarked: 'As you know, the history of the Observatory is in a very real way linked to the figure of Galileo, the controversies which surrounded his research, and the Church's attempt to attain a correct and fruitful understanding of the relationship between science and religion.'

Galileo Galilei's contributions to modern science include the telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the discovery of the satellites of Jupiter, and the observation of sunspots. The relationship between Galileo and the Catholic Church was a complicated one; despite Pope Urban VIII's early support of Galileo and his work, the Inquisition eventually found Galileo 'vehemently suspect of heresy,' due to Galileo's public support of the Copernican model of the universe, a heliocentric view that placed the sun at the center of the universe, rather than the Earth. After the publication of Galileo's most famous work, the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, in 1632, the Inquisition forced Galileo to recant his beliefs and to spend his remaining days under house arrest.

Centuries after his death, the Catholic Church has taken steps toward making peace with the legacy of Galileo. In 1939, Pope Pius XII, speaking to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, described Galileo as being among the 'most audacious heroes of research ... not afraid of the stumbling blocks and the risks on the way, nor fearful of the funereal monuments.' On February 15, 1990, then-Cardinal Ratzinger described the Galileo affair as 'a symptomatic case that permits us to see how deep the self-doubt of the modern age, of science and technology goes today.' And, on October 31, 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret over the handling of the Galileo affair, acknowledging the errors committed by the Church tribunal that judged his scientific positions.

On this 400th anniversary of Galileo's turning his telescope toward the heavens, Pope Benedict stated: 'I take this occasion to express my gratitude not only for the careful studies which have clarified the precise historical context of Galileo's condemnation, but also for the efforts of all those committed to ongoing dialogue and reflection on the complementarity of faith and reason in the service of an integral understanding of man and his place in the universe.'

The pontiff observed that 'the International Year of Astronomy is meant not least to recapture for people throughout our world the extraordinary wonder and amazement which characterized the great age of discovery in the sixteenth century. ...Our own age, poised at the edge of perhaps even greater and more far-ranging scientific discoveries, would benefit from that same sense of awe and the desire to attain a truly humanistic synthesis of knowledge which inspired the fathers of modern science.'

Will future scientists face the same condemnation from the Church that Galileo endured? In July of 2009, Monsignor Sergio Pagano, head of the Vatican's secret archives, suggested that today's Church and Vatican officials could learn from past mistakes when it comes to science. 'We should be careful,' he stated, 'when we read the Sacred Scriptures and have to deal with scientific questions, to not make the same mistake now that was made then. ...I am thinking of stem cells, I am thinking of eugenics, I am thinking of scientific research in these fields. Sometimes I have the impression that they are condemned with the same preconceptions that were used back then for the Copernican theory.'

According to Monsignor Pagano, while scientists should not presume they can teach the Church about faith, the Church 'should not be afraid to approach scientific issues with much humility and circumspection.'

During International Year of Astronomy, Pope Benedict reflects on Galileo controversy

During International Year of Astronomy, Pope Benedict reflects on Galileo controversy

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Faith-Reason Friendship Clear in Theology, Says Pope
Considers 12th-Century Advances in Study

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2009 (

Benedict XVI today considered two branches of theology used in the 12th century, drawing from their contrasting methodologies the wealth and value of both.

The Pope considered "monastic" and "scholastic" theology today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square, as he reflected on what he called "an interesting page of history, regarding the flowering of Latin theology in the 12th century."

"The representatives of monastic theology were monks, in general, abbots, gifted with wisdom and evangelical fervor, dedicated essentially to arousing and nourishing a loving desire for God," he noted.

On the other hand, "the representatives of scholastic theology were cultured men, passionate about research; magistri wishing to show the reasonableness and soundness of the mysteries of God and of man, believed in with faith, of course, but understood also by reason," the Pontiff explained.

He said the "contrasting objectives" of the two disciplines "explain the differences in their method and their way of doing theology."

The first type of theology, the Holy Father observed, was strongly linked to meditation on Scripture.

He said: "In the monasteries of the 12th century the theological method was linked primarily to the explanation of sacred Scripture, of the sacra pagina, to express ourselves as the authors of that period did. Biblical theololy was particularly widespread. The monks, in fact, were all devoted listeners and readers of sacred Scripture, and one of their main occupations consisted in lectio divina, namely, prayerful reading of the Bible."

The Pontiff noted that for these monks, simply reading Scripture was not enough. They sought "the profound meaning, the interior unity and the transcendent message."

"Therefore," he continued, "they had to practice a 'spiritual reading,' leading in docility to the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the school of the Fathers, the Bible was interpreted allegorically, to discover in every page, of the Old as well as the New Testament, what is said about Christ and his work of salvation."

The other type of theology, Benedict XVI explained, was centered on the "quaestio," that is "the problem posed to the reader in addressing the words of Scripture and Tradition."

"In face of the problem that these authoritative texts pose, questions arose and debate was born between the teacher and the students," he said. "In such a debate appeared, on one hand, the arguments of authority, and, on the other, those of reason, and the debate developed in the sense of finding, in the end, a synthesis between authority and reason to attain a more profound understanding of the word of God."

The scholastic methodology gave "confidence to human reason," the Pope added. "Grammar and philology are at the service of theological learning, but so increasingly is logic, namely that discipline that studies the 'functioning' of human reasoning, so that the truth of a proposition seems evident."

The Bishop of Rome emphasized how even today, "reading the scholastic summae, one is struck by the order, clarity, logical concatenation of the arguments, and of the depth of some of the intuitions. Attributed to every word, with technical language, is a precise meaning and, between believing and understanding, there is established a reciprocal movement of clarification."

This type of theology, the Holy Father affirmed, "stimulates us to be always ready to answer anyone asking for the reason for the hope that is in us.""It reminds us," he said, "that there is between faith and reason a natural friendship, founded on the order of creation itself."

On ZENIT's Web page:Full text of the general audience address:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Is Pope Benedict a closet liberal?
By David GibsonSunday, October 25, 2009

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in April 2005, all the world rejoiced -- or recoiled -- with the certain knowledge that the cardinals had settled on the one man who would be more conservative than John Paul II.

For those who weren't so enthused about the Holy Spirit's selection, there was grim consolation in the fact that Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, was 78 years old and was himself predicting a brief papacy that would serve as a transition to whatever came next.

Some transition. In less than five years Benedict has shown himself to be quietly yet deliberately engaged in reshaping Catholicism. Even more surprising are the remarkably liberal means he has used to achieve his ends -- means that could lead to places the pontiff may not intend to go.

A case in point is last week's stunning announcement (it took even the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, by surprise) that the pope is creating a novel "church within a church" so that Anglicans can join with Catholics without giving up their rites and traditions. The goal is to accommodate traditionalist Anglicans around the globe and conservative Episcopalians in the United States who are upset about the acceptance of openly gay clergy in North America and female bishops in the Church of England, and with what they see as the failure of their leadership to discipline the transgressors.

Under Benedict's unprecedented arrangement, bishops and whole dioceses and parishes could go Roman, and married clergy could bring their wives along and remain priests. Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- and Rome's point man in the secret negotiations with disaffected Anglicans that preceded the move -- said 20 to 30 Anglican bishops have asked the Vatican about joining up.

But much uncertainty remains, for both Anglicans and Catholics. As Father Thomas Reese of the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington has pointed out, allowing a separate Anglican rite in the Catholic Church -- complete with married priests and seminarians, new hymnals and good music (finally, many Catholics might say!) -- could alter Catholic views on celibacy and liturgy as much as it changes the Anglican Communion.

What this move confirms, however, is that change is the paradoxical mantra of Benedict's papacy. In another development last week, one that drew far less notice but could have a profound impact, the Vatican opened a dialogue with the leadership of a traditionalist, right-wing sect that split with Rome in 1988 over what its members saw as dangerous and even heretical trends resulting from the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Among other things, Vatican II affirmed the principle of religious liberty, launched dialogue with other churches and religions, expanded the role of lay Catholics and promoted liturgical changes that overhauled the Mass for the first time since the counter-Reformation Council of Trent in the 16th century.

Many observers say a rapprochement could require Benedict to make compromises on some of those issues, which could further encourage a critical reinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council and its modernizing reforms.

In 1988, under the direction of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican had already created a special provision to allow the schismatic group (called Lefebvrists after their late leader, rebel Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre) to continue to use the old Latin Mass and other pre-Vatican II rites if they would stay connected to Rome in some fashion.

But Ratzinger has always wanted to do more to bring the remaining schismatics back into the fold, and as pope he has made extraordinary concessions to achieve that end. The principal innovation was his personal order, in 2007, to allow the old Latin Mass to be celebrated anywhere in the world, whether the local bishop likes it or not. That created, for the first time in Catholic history, two parallel rites in the Western church -- one in Latin, the Tridentine rite (after the Council of Trent); another in a newer form, which is almost always celebrated in the vernacular, or local language.

Now, with the new provision for Anglicans, there could be three versions of the Roman Catholic Mass for different constituencies. As Reese says, "Once we have three versions, it is more difficult to argue against more."

Thus far, Benedict's papacy has been one of constant movement and change, the sort of dynamic that liberal Catholics -- or Protestants -- are usually criticized for pursuing. In Benedict's case, this liberalism serves a conservative agenda. But his activism should not be surprising: As a sharp critic of the reforms of Vatican II, Ratzinger has long pushed for what he calls a "reform of the reform" to correct what he considers the excesses or abuses of the time.
Of course a "reformed reform" doesn't equal a return to the past, even if that were the goal.

Indeed, Benedict's reforms are rapidly creating something entirely new in Catholicism. For example, when the pope restored the old Latin Mass, he also restored the use of the old Good Friday prayer, which spoke of the "blindness" of the Jews and called for their conversion. That prayer was often a spur to anti-Jewish pogroms in the past, so its revival appalled Jewish leaders. After months of protests, the pope agreed to modify the language of the prayer; that change and other modifications made the "traditional" Mass more a hybrid than a restoration.
More important, with the latest accommodation to Anglicans, Benedict has signaled that the standards for what it means to be Catholic -- such as the belief in the real presence of Christ in the Mass as celebrated by a validly ordained priest -- are changing or, some might argue, falling.

The Vatican is in effect saying that disagreements over gay priests and female bishops are the main issues dividing Catholics and Anglicans, rather than, say, the sacraments and the papacy and infallible dogmas on the Virgin Mary, to name just a few past points of contention.

That is revolutionary -- and unexpected from a pope like Benedict. It could encourage the view, which he and other conservatives say they reject, that all Christians are pretty much the same when it comes to beliefs, and the differences are just arguments over details.

And that could be the final irony. For all the hue and cry over last week's developments, Benedict's innovations may have glossed too lightly over the really tough issues: namely, the theological differences that traditional Anglicans say have kept them from converting, as they could always do.

"If I believed everything that the Roman Catholic Church teaches as dogma, I would be one and I would have been one years ago," Bishop William Ilgenfritz, of the recently formed Anglican Church in North America, a conservative splinter group, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week.

"I don't want to be a Roman Catholic," Bishop Martyn Minns, leader of a group of conservative Episcopalians, told the New York Times. "There was a Reformation, you remember."
Others, from England to Africa, have echoed that sentiment in the days since the Vatican's announcement.

In short, it may be premature to declare the Reformation over -- or to try to figure out which side is winning.

Originally printed in The Washington Post

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

As you can imagine . . .

. . . there is a lot being said today, on all sides, about the Pope's approval of setting up a special canonical structure that will ease the conversion of members of the Anglican Communion.  I don't plan to post anything else here about it for a while mainly because of the many comments that follow the online articles.  My intention, at this point, is to watch how it actually all plays out.  Many will be saying much but the reality is what people will actually do.

And that being said, check this out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Something Remarkable is Happening

Catholic Church Makes 'Stunning' Move
By JAMES GRAFF, World Editor, AOL News

(Oct. 20) -- The number of married Catholic priests could grow sharply as the result of the Vatican's epochal decision to welcome thousands of disaffected Anglicans and Episcopalians into the Catholic Church.

At press conferences in Rome and London on Tuesday, Vatican officials announced that the Church would set up a special canonical structure that will ease the conversion of members of the Anglican Communion without them having to give up what the Vatican called "the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony." That means not only a body of prayers and hymns, but also a tradition of married priests and bishops.

"It's a stunning turn of events," says Lawrence Cunningham, theology professor at Notre Dame University. "This decision will allow for many more married clergy in Western churches, and that's going to raise anew the question, 'If they can do it, why can't the priests of Rome?,'" says Cunningham. "I can already picture the electronic slugfest on the Internet in coming days and weeks."

The Catholic Church already allows clergymen who convert from Protestant denominations to remain married on a case by case basis, and married priests are common in the Eastern Rite, a group that uses Orthodox traditions but is loyal to Rome.

But the arrangement with the Anglican Communion goes much further. Cardinal William Levada, the Vatican's top doctrinal official, announced in Rome that the Church would set up a personal ordinariate -- in essence a diocese defined not by geography, but by function, like the division that serves Catholics in the military -- for converted Anglicans.

The move comes after years of discord within the Anglican Communion, which unites 77 million Anglicans and Episcopalians under the loose authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The church has been racked by schisms over the ordination of women and its stance towards homosexuality.

Some Anglicans believe the Vatican's move will deepen those divisions. "When it comes to elegant funerals, no one can beat the Vatican," wrote commentator Andrew Brown in The Guardian. "The Roman Catholic church is no longer even pretending to take seriously the existence of the Anglican Communion as a coherent body."

For many traditional Episcopalians, as the denomination is known in the U.S., the last straw was the 2003 election of openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. In protest, hundreds churches have broken links with the Episcopal Church and declared themselves in line with the conservative Anglican bishops in Africa or South America.

Martyn Minns, the bishop of one such dissident group, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, said today, "This move by the Catholic Church recognizes the reality of the divide within the Anglican Communion and affirms the decision to create a new North American province that embraces biblical truth."

The news is likely to have a particularly strong effect in Great Britain, where there has been a tendency for years for members of the nominally Anglican majority to join the Catholic Church, from theologian John Cardinal Newman in the 19th century to former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2007.

Such conversions have generally meant not only a recognition of the pope's authority, but also a rejection of Anglican traditions. That turning away may no longer be necessary. "Now you can be an Anglican and still be Catholic," says Jo Bailey Wells, director of Anglican Studies at Duke Divinity School. "The Anglicans never had that vote of confidence before."

Indeed, two prominent British priests who publicly broke from Anglicanism years ago stated today that after this ruling from Rome, some Anglicans "will begin to form a caravan, rather like the People of Israel crossing the desert in search of the Promised Land."

Whether that happens or not, today's decision marks a milestone in the relations between the Vatican and the Church of England, which King Henry VIII established in 1534 after the Pope refused to grant him a marriage annulment. Since then, religious and social battles have often marked relations between Catholics and Anglicans. Says Cunningham: "This would have been unthinkable 200 years ago, and barely imaginable in the 19th century."