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."

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Few Words From Holy Father

" . . . Music is a part of all cultures and, we might say, accompanies every human experience, from pain to pleasure, from hatred to love, from sadness to joy, from death to life. We see how, over the course of the centuries and millennia, music has always been used to give a form to that which we are not able to speak in words, because it awakens emotions that are difficult to communicate otherwise. So it is not by chance that every civilization has placed such importance and value on music in its various forms and expressions.

Music, great music, gives the spirit repose, awakens profound sentiments and almost naturally invites us to lift up our mind and heart to God in every situation, whether joyous or sad, of human existence. Music can become prayer."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Pope meets Palestinian leader, discusses Middle East conflict
By Sarah DelaneyCatholic News Service

Pope Benedict XVI met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a private audience Oct. 8 at the Vatican.During the meeting in the papal library, the two men discussed the problems in the Middle East and the need to find "a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which the rights of all are recognized and respected," said a statement from the Vatican press office.

Mutual respect and the support of the international community will be an important part of any agreement, the statement said.The situation of the dwindling Christian community in Palestine was also discussed, along with the contribution the region's Christians make "to social life and to peaceful coexistence among peoples," the Vatican statement said.

Reporters heard the pope ask Abbas, in English, about his meeting in New York last month with U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Reporters did not hear the Palestinian's reply.

The pope and Abbas spoke privately for 15 minutes before the president introduced his eight-man delegation, which included Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator on issues with Israel. Abbas introduced him to Pope Benedict as a man with "a very important job."

In the customary exchange of gifts, Abbas gave the pope a painting of Jerusalem on ceramic, with the caption in English and Arabic: "Jerusalem Capital of Arab Culture."

The pope gave Abbas a bas relief in pewter of St. Peter's Square surrounded by a circular ivory ceramic frame.Abbas later met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state.Pope Benedict supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He met both Abbas and Netanyahu in private meetings during his trip to the Holy Land in May.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Interview with Pope Benedict: De-Christianized Europe. Church as a 'Creative Minority' - Catholic Online

Interview with Pope Benedict: De-Christianized Europe. Church as a 'Creative Minority' - Catholic Online

Shared via AddThis
Pope meets new US envoy, praises Obama
By FRANCES D'EMILIO (AP) – 3 hours ago
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI pledged on Friday that the U.S. Catholic church will keep working to shape American consciences on ethical questions such as abortion as he praised the United States for its "vibrant" democracy.

He told new U.S. Ambassador Miguel H. Diaz, a university theology professor who is a Roman Catholic, that he was confident the two sides would continue to enjoy "fruitful dialogue and cooperation in the promotion of human rights, and the service of justice, solidarity and peace."
Vatican teaching forbids abortion, and some Catholic bishops have threatened to withhold Communion from Catholic politicians who support legalized abortion.

President Barack Obama is pro-choice but the Vatican welcomes many of the new U.S. administration's other initiatives and Benedict praised Obama's recent efforts at the U.N. Security Council to work toward a "goal of a world free of nuclear weapons."

Diaz, presenting his credentials to the pope in a ceremony in the Apostolic Palace, hailed Benedict for emphasizing "moral imperatives."

Benedict endorsed American Catholics efforts to be vocal about their faith's teaching on public issues.

"The church in the United States wishes to contribute to the discussion of the weighty ethical and social questions shaping America's future by proposing respectful and reasonable arguments grounded in natural law and confirmed by the perspective of faith," the pontiff said.
The U.S. church contributes through "the formation of consciences" particularly on issues regarding "the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death," Benedict said. "Conception to natural death" is a phrase the Vatican frequently uses to refer to abortion and euthanasia.

The church also needed to speak out clearly on behalf of the "right to conscientious objection" by health-care workers "and indeed all citizens" on moral issues like abortion, Benedict said.
Benedict said that when he visited the United States last year he found a "vibrant democracy, committed to the service of the common good and shaped by a vision of equality and equal opportunity based on the God-given dignity and freedom of each human being."

While not commenting directly on Obama's uphill battle with the U.S. Congress to guarantee health care to all Americans, Benedict cited "basic health care" along with secure access to food and water among a spectrum of global issues "linked to the future of humanity and the promotion of human dignity."

Other similarly vital priorities in the pontiff's view were "just policies" on trade and immigration, including matters involving families.

Hispanics make up a large segment of the U.S. Catholic population, and the Havana-born Diaz is the first Hispanic to serve Washington as envoy to the Holy See.

The ambassador told Benedict that his "urgent priorities" including efforts to combat climate change, ensure food security and find an ethical response to the financial crisis "coincide with those set forth by President Obama."

Obama's receipt of an honorary degree from the Catholic University of Notre Dame this year provoked criticism from dozens of Catholic bishops because Obama supports legalized abortion.

Benedict warmly welcomed Obama at the Vatican in July when the U.S. leader came to Italy for the G-8 summit. He told Diaz he recalled that meeting "with pleasure" and asked him to reciprocate "the kind greetings which you bring from him."

In his speech Friday, Benedict appeared to allude to the election of Obama as America's first black president when he said recent U.S. "reaffirmation" of the country's tradition of diversity "recaptured the imagination of the world."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 30 SEP 2009 (VIS) – Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for October is: “That Sunday may be lived as the day on which Christians gather to celebrate the risen Lord, participating in the Eucharist”.

His mission intention is: “That the entire People of God, to whom Christ entrusted the mandate to go and preach the Gospel to every creature, may eagerly assume their own missionary responsibility and consider it the highest service they can offer humanity”.