Vol 7 Issue 48 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
November 29, 2014 ~ Saint Saturninus, opn!
1. First Sunday in Advent—Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
3.The Christian Family (29)
4.Articles and notices
As Holy Mother Church begins the Advent season, she does so with joy. Purple is the color of her vestments, signifying penance, since we join St. John the Baptist in the desert to prepare the way of the Lord. There is one who is in the midst of us whom the world does not recognize (Christ in His Mystical Body and Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament; cf. John 1:26), because we still seem to base our lives on appearances and we are deceived by science with its signs and wonders. We are distracted by the politics of this world such that we have no concern for the moral well-being of our children? May we use the beginning of this new Church year and its joy and expectation to teach our children the true meaning of a Catholic life: Knowing, loving and serving God. May we teach the young ones to pray when they awake and remind our older ones not to forget to pray as they arise from sleep (cf. Romans 13:11; Luke 22:46). Let our fathers set time aside that is consistent to have family prayer—prayer that expresses Christ is the center of the family life. May the preparation for Christmas be making straight our lives (Cf. Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; and Luke 3:4). It is not that Catholics should become fanatics, but they should have principles, they should have temperance, they should have consistency, they should have courage, they should have priorities: God is first. May we arrive on Christmas day where God is first and we celebrate His presence in our families.
As always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit. —The Editor
WEEK OF THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT
Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
- “Lift up your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Gospel). These are the glad tidings of Advent. “We look for the Savior” (Phil. 3: 20), in the “blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). Christmas will bring us redemption and pardon for our sins.
- “He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). By committing sin men have inflicted insult on God. Sin is a disgraceful attack upon God, a foolish attempt to cast Him from His throne and to banish Him from the world which He created. He, the almighty Creator, is to have no place in the world He created. Who is capable of making satisfaction to Him for this insufferable insult? No man is capable of it. How, then, is satisfaction of an infinite value to be made for the infinite offense? The good works of all men and of all generations would not suffice. What reparation they would be capable of making would be limited and therefore inadequate, and could not repair the offense to the infinite majesty of God. Even God Himself could not satisfy for the sins we have committed. Infinite majesty cannot lower itself sufficiently to make satisfaction commensurate to the offense. And so we should have remained in our sins, the children of wrath, unless there was found one who is at one and the same time God and man, and who is willing to take our sins upon Himself.
Christ “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7). By His death He blotted out “the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). He offers His blood as the price of our redemption. All the tears, the prayers, the works of penance, the sufferings, and the satisfactions of the entire race cannot be compared in value with one drop of His precious blood. Christ and Christ alone can redeem us from our Sins.
He could have left us in our sins. We were all eternally lost and eternally separated from God. But Christ’s love for us constrained Him to come and make reparation for His people. How deep should be our gratitude! “I will heal thee of thy wounds” (Jer. 30: 17). Christ comes to heal our wounds. He is the good Samaritan who finds the poor man that was left half dead by the wayside. He pours the oil of His grace into the wounds of the sufferer and gives Himself no rest until the victim of this attack is completely recovered.
He heals the mortal wound of our spiritual blindness, which for so long has kept us occupied with earthly things and has driven us to the worship of false gods. He rescues us from these inordinate pleasures, from covetousness, from our tepidity, from our unchecked sensuality and self-complacency, from our eagerness for power and honor. Christ brings us relief from all the ills that trouble humanity.
In the modern world, almost anything may serve as a god. Money, sensual pleasure, beauty, and athletics all have their worshipers. God appears to be the only thing that can be readily dispensed with. God is a tiresome burden. At Christmas time He appears among us as a man and offers us the truth. His own life furnishes us with a living example of the complete, true, and happy way of life. He shows us the way, and the only way, out of the confusion that bewilders the world today. He infuses into our souls a divine light and a divine strength. He pours oil and wine into our wounds and is tireless in His efforts to help us. With His plan of redemption He returns to us each year, just as He appeared on the first Christmas Day. “On earth peace to men of good will.” Blessed be the coming of the Lord!
- Acutely aware of the need of this godless and irreligious generation, and feeling the needs of the race as well as those of our immediate friends and neighbors, we seek to serve as intercessors and advocates for wretched humanity. “To Thee I have lifted up my soul” (Introit). We cry out in our own name and in the name of all men for the coming of the Savior. “Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy, and grant us Thy salvation” (Ps. 84:8). “Stir up Thy might, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come.” Thou shalt save Thy people from their sins; Thou shalt heal their wounds.
In the Mass we lift up to the Father our pure, holy, and immaculate gift, the body and blood of the Savior. In the name of all our brethren we ask mercy through the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. We ask God to forgive our sins and to “lead us not into temptation,” but to deliver us from the evil of the neglect of God and His commandments. We ask Him to deliver us from the evils of impenitence, spiritual blindness, and eternal damnation.
Stir up Thy power, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come; that from the threatening dangers of our sins, by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued, and be saved by Thy deliverance: Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
- “Lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand” (Gospel). We live in expectation of the Savior and of our corning redemption. The birth of Christ will bring us the assurance that God “hath sent redemption to His people; He hath commanded His covenant forever” (Ps. 110:9).
- “He shall save His people from their sins.” The angel Gabriel approached St. Joseph with the words: “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call His name Jesus. For He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20 f.). Jesus has come into the world to redeem His people from their sins. He has destroyed sin and has appeased the wrath of His Father. He has broken the power of hell and has cast forth the prince of this world. Hell has been conquered, and once again the gates of heaven are open. All this has been wrought through the life and death of the Savior. This is the sublime and consoling message that the Christmas season brings to us: We are rescued, we are redeemed.
“And when you were dead in your offenses and sins, wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief; in which also we conversed in time past, in the desires of our flesh, fulfilling the will of the flesh, and of our thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest; but God (who is rich in mercy) for His exceeding charity wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ (by whose grace you are saved) and hath raised us up together and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places through Christ Jesus. That He might show in the ages to come the abundant riches of His grace, in His bounty toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2: 1-8). Without doubt we are redeemed. How can we fail to rejoice and thank God for this assurance? We have been saved from hell, and heaven awaits us.
“Lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” We are already redeemed; yet Scripture merely says, “Your redemption is at hand.” Does this perhaps mean that many men need yet to be reconciled to God; that many men still labor under the burden of sin and guilt, and are still under the power of Satan? We must remember that there still remains in man the power to sin. Although we have been redeemed, the strength of human passion still remains; there is still the barrier of pride, and many of us may yet be the children of wrath. Our guilt in the eyes of God still remains to be destroyed by the application of the merits of Christ. Is the Church not right, then, when she places before us during Advent the redemption as something yet to be accomplished? Undoubtedly this applies to many of us. Many men are still at enmity with God and are spiritually dead because of their sins. Even though we may not actually be in the state of sin, we are still subject to the effects of sin, We are still bound by the servitude to the goods and allurements of the world and to our own selfish interests.
“Lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” Have confidence, for in the coming of Christ we shall find, salvation. Our spiritual need is great, our tendency to evil is persistent, and our attempts at virtue are weak and ineffective. We are slow to respond to the call of grace, and we shrink from sacrifice; we crave the esteem of men, and we are bound by many other chains to the things of earth. Who can save us from ourselves? The Savior alone can do this, and He is now approaching to redeem us. He comes for no other purpose than this, that He may supply the help we need. He comes as one possessed of “all power… in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28: 18). He is the strong one who crushes the power of Satan (Luke 11:22). He comes as one “who loved me and delivered Himself for me” (Gal. 2: 20). He appears as the shepherd who gives His life for His sheep (John 10:1l). “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Should I not expect all things from Him and place my complete trust in Him? “To Thee I have lifted up my soul. In Thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed” (Introit).
- Our sins have been destroyed. The power of Satan has been broken, and heaven is again attainable. We have been redeemed as a race, and as members of that race we have only to reclaim our share of that redemption. We have now merely to cooperate with God’s plan of redemption and we shall be saved. The merits of the redemption have been deposited by Christ in the treasury of the Church. Each of us must, however, assert his claim to membership in the kingdom of Christ in order to profit by the fruits of the redemption.
We are indeed redeemed, but in our present state our personal salvation is not assured. We are children of God, children of grace, branches of the vine that is Christ; and we draw upon that vine for spiritual life and vigor. Yet we are by no means perfect. We still need an increase of grace, of virtue, of union with God. Our faith needs to be strengthened, our hope needs to become more unwavering, our love must become more fervent. For an increase of these virtues we pray earnestly and perseveringly during the season of Advent. Perfection is our goal, and we must not be satisfied with less. Our spiritual life must never be allowed to become stationary.
We are redeemed, and yet have need of redemption. Even when we have become perfect, with the help of divine grace, we shall still be subject to the power of death. But from this we are to be freed when Christ appears on the last day. He will summon our wretched bodies and bid them to be joined again to our souls, that they may share in the eternal happiness we have merited by our lives. Only when this has been accomplished will our redemption be complete. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (I Cor. 2:9). “Your redemption is at hand.”
Establish in our hearts, we beseech thee, O Lord, the mysteries of the true faith, and lead us to eternal life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
NOVEMBER 30 (Transferred to December 1 this year)
St. Andrew, Apostle
- Andrew, the first Apostle called by our Lord, was born in Bethsaida of Galilee. He was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, but when Jesus came to Jordan and the Baptist announced: “Look, this is the lamb of God; look, this is he who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), Andrew went to Jesus. Satisfied with the new Teacher, he found his brother Simon Peter and said: “We have discovered the Messias.” Both then went back to their occupation as fishermen until our Lord called them formally, as recorded in the Gospel of this feast: “Come and follow me; I will make you into fishers of men.” Tradition says that after Pentecost Andrew labored for Christ in Scythia, Asia Minor, and Greece, until his death.
- “Brethren: The heart has only to believe, if we are to be justified; the lips have only to make confession, if we are to be saved” (Epistle). Andrew proved himself a man of faith by promptly accepting the new Teacher on the recommendation of his previous master. Again, when our Lord said, “Follow me,” he immediately left all he had and obeyed. It was such men that Christ needed for His mission, and He named Andrew not only among His seventy-two disciples, but also among the chosen twelve. As a zealous and faithful preacher of the word of God, Andrew encountered contradiction and failure. The Roman proconsul of Achaia imprisoned him and condemned him to death by crucifixion. The Apostle was happy to die for Christ; for two days he made his cross his pulpit. On the third day it became the altar on which he completed his sacrifice. “Anyone who believes in him [the Lord] will not be disappointed” (Gospel).
“Do not hinder my death as a martyr.” Later tradition reports that when the proconsul imprisoned Andrew, the peopIe rose up threatening to release “the just, holy man beloved of God.” But the prisoner himself calmed them saying: “Do not hinder my martyrdom; rather, prepare yourselves for a courageous fight.” When the proconsul threatened crucifixion, Andrew responded: “That will only make me more pleasing to the Lord. I am, after all, a servant of the Cross and must desire rather than fear it.” As soon as he saw the cross prepared for him he exclaimed: “O excellent cross that I have so long desired, so earnestly loved; that I have sought without ceasing! Finally I find you ready for me. Take me up, away from men, and give me back to my Master, so that He who redeemed me through thee may receive me back through thee.” Then the Saint was fastened with ropes and lifted up on the cross. He lived thus for two days, preaching and praying. Then he cried out: “Lord Jesus, take up my spirit in peace; it is time for me to come to thee” (cf. Breviary). St. Andrew was a lover of the Crucified and of His Cross.
- “They [Peter and Andrew] dropped their nets immediately and followed him [Jesus].” St. Gregory the Great comments as follows: “They had not yet seen Him perform any miracles. And yet, at the single call of the Master they parted with all they had. How many miracles we have seen the Lord work! With how many rods He has chastised us! And still we do not follow Him. He is sitting on His throne in heaven; He is waiting for our conversion. But, day after day, our proud spirit will not voluntarily give up even what we inevitably lose against our will. He abandons much, who fully abandons the little that he does abandon; who also abandons the desire to possess” (St. Gregory the Great). What a splendid example St. Andrew is for us!
Andrew considered it a great glory and honor to share with Christ the ignominy of the Cross. Such was the conviction and conduct of our Lord’s first pupil. Similarly, St. Paul declared: “God forbid that I should make a display of anything, except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world stands crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).
We pray to St. Andrew, that lover of the Cross, to obtain for us from the Lord a profound understanding of the Cross, so that, by sharing in the Cross of Christ, we may obtain the grace to learn to treasure and to love it. In the Cross is salvation.
Collect: We humbly entreat Thy majesty, Lord, that the blessed apostle Andrew may be as constant an advocate for us in Thy court as he was eminent in preaching and ruling over Thy Church. Amen.
THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY
By MOST REV. TIHAMER TOTH
THE FRUITFUL MARRIAGE
- I am often asked, when the educational duties of parents begin, when they should start the child’s training. When the child is six or ten years old?
1) That is much too late. Training, education must begin at the very start of a child’s earthly life. Yes, even before its earthly life begins.
The responsibility of parents begins well before the child is started on its earthly journey. It begins in their own youth when they must lead moral lives themselves. Today a new science, the science of genetics, testifies incontestably to what the Church has always proclaimed: that the moral purity of parents in their youth is a great blessing, and that parents who spend their youth in immoral ways may prepare a heritage for their children and grandchildren that will prove a dreadful curse.
2) Today we see ever more and more clearly how important are the impressions made in the first years of childhood. When the baptismal water touches an infant’s forehead, Christ plants the seed of eternal life in that soul, and the grand task of the parents is to develop this young Christian to its fullness. This work begins before the influence of school or Church enters into the life of the child. Thousands of opportunities present themselves to parents, especially to mothers, to lead the child’s soul toward the heavenly Father. A four-year-old child will remember all its life the impression made by the soft voice of its mother speaking of God, of little Jesus, of the Virgin Mary, and of fundamental religious truths. No teacher or priest can impart these truths with half as much feeling and effect as parents themselves can. Happy the child who has received such instructions from its parents! Happy the child that has grown up in a family circle, the air of which is impregnated with the life-giving force of a deep religious feeling! Happy the man who under many blows of fate finds his religion a firm rock to which to cling; the religion taught him by his parents in the susceptible years of early childhood!
- I have made particular mention of a mother’s role. What I have said of the educational duties of parents applies equally to both, but experience shows that of the two parents, the mother can make the deeper impression upon the child. Therefore a child’s first and most valuable instructor is its mother.
Someone once said to President John Quincy Adams: “I know how it is you became such an honest man.” “Well, how?” asked the President. “I have read a few of the letters your mother wrote to you,” was the reply.
When investigating some crime, the police often say: Cherchez la femme (“Look for the woman”). And in explaining the source of some noble deed, men might well say: Cherchez la mere (“Seek the mother”).
1) The Old Testament gives glowing examples of ideal mothers. Perhaps it will be sufficient if I now mention only one such example.
About a century before the birth of Christ, by the lips of a heroic mother were spoken words that should never be forgotten as long as man lives on earth. Nor will they be forgotten, for Holy Writ has immortalized them. I refer to the heroic mother of the Maccabees whose seven sons were put to death for observing the law of God. One after the other they were put to death before their mother’s eyes in the cruelest possible way. All would have been liberated had they denied their faith, but not one of them did so. When the youngest of her sons was being tortured, this amazing mother encouraged him with these sublime words: “I beseech thee, my son, look upon heaven and earth, and all that is in them, and considerthat God made them out of nothing, and mankind also. So thou shalt not fear this tormentor, but being made a worthy partner with thy brethren, receive death, that in that mercy I may receive thee again with thy brethren” (II Mac. 7: 28 f.). Then the youngest son died and his mother too, but they did not become traitors to their faith.
2) If the Old Testament records such ideal mothers, what should the picture of a Christian mother be like, before whose eyes shines the sublime example of the Immaculate Mother of God? Ever since the Virgin Mother held the divine Infant in her arms, every mother wears an invisible crown. A crown that sparkles more beautifully than diamonds that merits greater respect than any earthly jewel. A crown that casts marvelous beauty upon the face of its wearer. But a crown that often resembles the Master’s crown of thorns.
If only every mother were conscious of her dignity. If only every woman realized the dignity and importance of exclusively her own, the mother’s task of bringing up children. Ought it to not be a matter of course that women should be ambitious to attain the one position in which no one in the world can take their place?
Sadly enough, the economic life of today often compels a woman to leave the quiet family circle and to compete with men in the arena of public life. Today there are not only women in business, but women in politics. There are women doctors, women lawyers, women artists, women professors, policewomen, and in Russia women soldiers. In all these professions, however, men are much superior, and they could dispense with the cooperation of women without any loss to humanity.
There is one vocation that is for women only; a vocation upon which the existence of mankind depends. This is the vocation of motherhood. I do not think that anyone can know a greater joy on earth than that which a mother feels when her grown child says to her what our great Széchenyi wrote in his mother’s album: “You taught me, advised me, you planted in my heart the good that I am and shall be; and the little I shall do for God and for my country is your work” (May 1, 1871).
As I come to the end of this sermon in which I have spoken of the self-sacrificing nature of parental love, a wartime memory recurs to me with unusual force; an occurrence that happened many years ago, but one I shall never forget.
It happened in the spring of 1915. After the victory at Gorlice, the Hungarian troops rode triumphantly through liberated Galicia, and the field-hospital in which I served could hardly keep up with them. One day a young man, not more than twenty years old, was brought to us with a bad head wound. He was a Pole or a Ruthenian. A bullet had gone through his head, not killing him, but rendering him unconscious. For days his strong young constitution fought a hard battle with death. Often I stood beside him, thinking perhaps he would recover his senses for a few minutes so that I could hear his confession. He never recovered consciousness for a single moment. His lips moved incessantly day and night, but only these two words left them: Tatyinko, maminho; tatyinko, maminko. Night and day continually those two words: Tatyinko, maminko (“little father, little mother”). Then at last the poor boy died.
At that time it was dreadful to hear those two words for days on end. But now I often wonder who could have been the father and mother of that boy. How blessed must have been their memory, that it filled his mind even after a bullet had rendered him unconscious! What good parents they must have been, that their dying son found relief in the memory of their names in the agony of his last moments!
God grant long life to all good mothers. Amen.
To be continued.
For your information—The Editor.
The Lenses of the Cardinal, the Sociologist, the Journalists
All focused on Francis. To understand who he is and where he wants to go. In the Church, at all levels, criticisms of the pope are no longer being silenced. They are voiced openly. Among the cardinals, the most explicit is Francis George
by Sandro Magister
ROME, November 24, 2014 – The tempestuous October synod on the family, the appointment of the new archbishop of Chicago, and the demotion of Cardinal Raymond L. Burke have marked a turning point in the pontificate of Pope Francis.
The disquiet, the doubts, the critical judgments are coming out more and more into the light of day and are becoming ever more explicit and substantiated.
On all levels of the “people of God.” Among cardinals, among sociologists of religion, among journalists specializing in Vatican affairs.
The following are three testimonies of the new climate.
- THE CARDINAL
Francis George is not just any cardinal. Archbishop of Chicago until a few weeks ago and president of the United States bishops’ conference from 2007 to 2010, he is the one who guided the new course of the American Catholic Church during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, in perfect harmony with him.
By installing as his successor in Chicago a bishop with the opposite profile, Blase J. Cupich, Pope Francis has sent an unmistakable signal of disagreement with the stance of the episcopal conference.
Which in turn, however, has confirmed that it has no intention of backing off from the course it has undertaken.
In fact, in electing its four representatives at the second round of the synod on the family, it has concentrated its votes, apart from Joseph Kurtz and Daniel DiNardo, president and vice-president of the episcopal conference, on Charles Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia, and José Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles, two of the leading representatives of the Ratzingerian current.
Cupich turned out to be the first of the non-elect, but he was immediately followed by another diehard Ratzingerian, Salvatore Cordileone, archbishop of San Francisco.
It is in this context that in the middle of November Cardinal George gave a wide-ranging interview to the vaticanista John Allen of the “Boston Globe,” in which he presented as never before his reservations about Pope Francis.
Here are the key passages.
“IT’S CREATED EXPECTATIONS THAT HE CAN’T POSSIBLY MEET”
by Francis George
I can see why some people might be anxious. If you don’t push it, Pope Francis does seem to bring into question well-received doctrinal teaching. But when you look at it again, especially when you listen to his homilies in particular, you see that’s not it. Very often when he says those things, he’s putting it into a pastoral context of someone who’s caught in a kind of trap. Maybe the sympathy is expressed in a way that leaves people wondering if he still holds the doctrine. I have no reason to believe that he doesn’t. […]
The question is raised: why doesn’t he himself clarify these things? Why is it necessary that apologists have to bear that burden of trying to put the best possible face on it? Does he not realize the consequences of some of his statements, or even some of his actions? Does he not realize the repercussions? Perhaps he doesn’t. I don’t know whether he’s conscious of all the consequences of some of the things he’s said and done that raise these doubts in people’s minds.
That’s one of the things I’d like to have the chance to ask him, if I ever get over there: “Do you realize what has happened, just by that very phrase ‘Who am I to judge?’, how it’s been used and misused?”. It’s very misused, because he was talking about someone who has already asked for mercy and been given absolution whom he knows well. That’s entirely different than talking to somebody who demands acceptance rather than asking for forgiveness. It’s constantly misused.
It’s created expectations around him that he can’t possibly meet. That’s what worries me. At a certain moment, people who have painted him as a bit player in their scenarios about changes in the Church will discover that’s not who he is. He’s not going in that direction. Then he’ll perhaps get not only disillusionment, but opposition that could be harmful to the effectiveness of his magisterium. […]
It’s interesting to me that this pope talks about that novel:“Lord of the World.” That’s one thing I want to ask him: “How do you put together what you’re doing with what you say is the hermeneutical interpretation of your ministry, which is this eschatological vision that the anti-Christ is with us? Do you believe that?”. I would love to ask the Holy Father: In a sense, maybe it explains why he seems to be in a hurry. […] What does the pope believe about the end-times? […]
I didn’t know him well before he was elected. I knew him through the Brazilian bishops, who knew him well, and I asked them a lot of questions. […] I haven’t been to see him since he was elected. […] I don’t know Pope Francis well enough. I certainly respect him as pope, but there isn’t yet an understanding of. “What are you doing here?”.
The complete text of the interview with Cardinal George:
> Chicago’s exiting Cardinal: “The Church…”
- THE SOCIOLOGIST
Luca Diotallevi teaches sociology at Roma Tre University. But for years he has also been the sociologist of reference for the Italian episcopal conference. He was a speaker at the national ecclesial conference of Verona in 2006, with pope Joseph Ratzinger and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, and he is vice-president of the scholarly and organizing committee of the ‘Social Weeks’ for Italian Catholics.
Last November 12 he gave a presentation at the general assembly of the CEI, meeting in Assisi on the theme: “The transformations underway in the Catholic clergy. A sociological contribution in reference to the case of Italy.”
So then, in the final part of his presentation, Professor Diotallevi called the attention of the bishops to the change taking place in Catholicism, not only in Italy, toward a form of “low-intensity” religion.
A religion, that is, that “gains visibility and loses significance.”
Among the bishops present, there were some who saw in this an implicit reference to the “success” of Pope Francis.
In this same assembly the bishops resoundingly dismissed, in electing one of their three vice-presidents, the preferred candidate of the pope, archbishop and theologian Bruno Forte, the special secretary of pontifical appointment at the two synods on the family. Forte scraped together 60 votes against the 140 that went to the candidate chosen, Fiesole bishop Mario Meini.
The following is a passage from the presentation by Diotallevi.
TOWARD A “LOW-INTENSITY” CATHOLICISM
by Luca Diotallevi
What is taking place is not a moment of religious decline and secularization, it is on the contrary a moment of “religious boom.”
The present phase of the religious boom is built on the crisis of that confessionalized Christianity which asserted itself beginning in the 17th century as an element of support for the primacy of politics over society, in the form of the state.
Some currents of the Roman Catholic variation of Christianity turn out on paper to be less caught up in this crisis and are able to interpret it as rich in opportunities. Nonetheless, if the candidates for the leadership of this religious boom include Roman Catholicism, another is “low-intensity religion.”
The great advantage of this option consists in the fact that it gives the religious consumer an almost infinite variety of choice and of recombination among the goods and services placed on the market by the most varied providers of religious supply.
Low-intensity religion also offers great opportunities to the religious authorities. If these are able to reduce their normative demands, they are guaranteed a great future and a discrete spotlight as religious entrepreneurs.
In this competition, the new providers of religious supply – from the Pentecostals and Charismatics to the New Age – have good cards to play: an extreme flexibility, a great indulgence toward expressivity.
But the traditional religious providers also have substantial resources at their disposal: a consolidated “brand,” an enormous reserve of symbols and rites, a great understanding of the local markets. This is, of course, on the condition of liberating themselves from the “old” scruples of orthodoxy and orthopraxis; on the condition that they accept having less significance in order to have more visibility.
Within Catholicism as well many religious providers have adopted and are adopting the forms of a low-intensity religion.
In this atmosphere it is no accident that the Catholic Church should develop a problem with the sacrament of marriage. This is literally inconceivable in a perspective of low-intensity religion, which instead devotes great but generic attention to the well-being of the family.
Careful consideration of the features of the religious boom currently taking place is indispensable for understanding the meaning of processes and crises like those that concern the Catholic clergy. To a large extent these processes and these crises are an expression of the attempt to assimilate Catholicism with a low-intensity religion.
And great lucidity is also required to avoid resorting to solutions that are in the spotlight today, like those that would have priestly ordination no longer reserved for celibate males. The Christian traditions that ordain married men and even women, and therefore have a proportionally larger quantity of clergy available, find themselves facing exactly the same problems and often in decidedly more acute forms.
The complete text of the presentation by Professor Diotallevi will appear in the next issue of “La Rivista del Clero.”
He has written a more elaborate analysis of the phenomenon of low-intensity religion that can be found in this multi-author volume published by the theological faculty of Milan:
“Una fede per tutti? Forma cristiana e forma secolare”, Glossa, Milano, 2014.
- THE JOURNALISTS
Aldo Maria Valli is the top vaticanista in service at the RAI, the Italian state television network. And Rodolfo Lorenzoni also works at the RAI, for some time at RAI-Vaticano.
Both are fervent Catholics. But they don’t think the same way. Valli feels very much in harmony with Pope Francis. Lorenzoni is more critical.
And they have decided to put their positions side-by-side in a book entitled: “Viva il papa? La Chiesa, la fede, i cattolici. Un dialogo a viso aperto.
In the flood of apologetical books and booklets that have accompanied the pontificate of Francis, this one by Valli and Lorenzoni distinguishes itself by its objectivity.
Below is a passage from the book. In which the two vaticanisti attribute a large part of the incomprehension that weighs upon the pope to the portrait of him drawn by the media.
But then both agree in recognizing also Francis himself as the origin of this incomprehension.
Lorenzoni says this clearly: “Frankly I do not yet understand who this man is and where he intends to lead the Church of Christ.”
But Valli is dubious as well: “I sincerely do not know if this strategy of Francis is bearing fruit.”
Now it’s their turn to talk.
WHO IS THIS FRANCIS?
by Aldo Maria Valli and Rodolfo Lorenzoni
In spite of those who for the sake of their own interests depict him as a “progressive,” Pope Francis does not miss a chance to talk about death, the afterlife, hell and heaven. And he does so out in the open. Does it appear to you that these expressions of Francis have been extensively publicized? It doesn’t to me. And that’s understandable. The Francis phenomenon is great as long as it is useful to the rampant subjectivism. But when it goes against the tide, out comes the censure.
Perhaps we really needed a South American Jesuit so that the last things, the ultimate realities, could be pulled out of the attic to which they had been relegated. In Europe, in fact, for too long the Church was almost ashamed of them. But the question remains: to what extent is this eschatological Francis known, this pope who speaks unabashedly about hell as the exclusion from God’s embrace and is not at all afraid to commend purification as a condition for entering into heaven?
The answer is easy: he is hardly known or not at all, because there are those whose interest is to have us know just one Francis, the one apparently more “up to date,” the more politically correct one.
It is curious, in fact, that the mass media and Francis got themselves hitched as soon as Bergoglio came out onto the loggia of Saint Peter’s Square uttering his “buonasera.” Apart from the fact that I would have expected him to say “The Lord be with you,” in the very moment in which I heard that greeting I immediately intuited the coming danger. That is, I glimpsed the misunderstandings, omissions, distortions, conformisms, superficialities to which we would be constantly subjected by the media in order to exalt a certain type of pope at the expense of another. In order to give us the “figurine” rather than the substance.
And in fact right away came the nice full-page headlines, the slogans launched and repeated on every website, the insistent requests on the part of editors and directors to emphasize the soundbite or the big gesture, the ones that bore into the eyes and into the head of the viewer and keep him from changing the channel.
The operation has worked brilliantly, I must say. There is the matter, however, of going deeper into the analysis, above all under the scientific profile of the theory of mass communication, of sociology, of information technology.
But then, and I should say above all, I would like to really get to know him, Francis. Because as a journalist and as a Catholic, as a person who takes care to try to follow the Church and the pope, frankly I do not yet understand who this man is and where he intends to lead the Church of Christ.
You raise a crucial question: who is Francis really? In spite of the thousands of pages written about him, perhaps we don’t know this yet. But Jorge Mario Bergoglio, especially through a few of his interviews, has given indications here and there that could help us to give an answer.
During the return flight from Brazil, in July of 2013, when a journalist pressed him by noting that certain issues, like abortion and homosexual unions, raise a great deal of interest among young people and therefore should be addressed, Francis said: “Yes, but it wasn’t necessary to talk about this, but rather about the positive things that open the way for young people. Besides, young people know perfectly what the position of the Church is.”
So the change Francis is leading is not so much one of content as it is one of method. Instead of focusing on the norms, he prefers to present, in positive terms, the beauty of the Christian adventure. Instead of giving first place to the “didaché,” the doctrinal teaching, he has chosen to privilege the “kèrygma,” the gospel in the literal sense: the good news.
The doctrinal element is not entirely absent, but has been repositioned. Instead of being focused on what Benedict XVI called the nonnegotiable values – life, family, education – he focuses on “corruption,” an expression by which Francis mans not only placing oneself at the service of the idol of money, but also, or rather first of all, the failure to recognize the lordship of God and the need to have recourse to his mercy.
Karl Rahner once said that the Christian of tomorrow either will be a mystic or will not be at all. Francis has situated himself within this approach. Well aware of the fact that our society is no longer Christian, he maintains that the men and women of our time can return to the faith only by virtue of an intimate personal encounter with Jesus. An encounter that very often takes place in a moment of illness, solitude, poverty, and does not play out so much on the level of ideas but on that of the sentiments, not in the head but in the heart.
Under this aspect the pontificate of Francis has more than one affinity with the evangelical movements that are so widespread in Latin America.
Now I sincerely do not know if this strategy of Francis is bearing fruit. Do the full plazas and the cheering crowds mean that the pope has achieved his goal, or are they phenomena induced by a certain collective euphoria? Perhaps both at the same time.
In order to be given away effectively the Gospel needs tools, and in the case of Francis the first tool is he himself. He is also this with his ‘good morning,’ ‘good evening,’ and ‘enjoy your lunch,’ with his remarks that are brief but rich with images that remain imprinted on the mind, with his popular wisdom that smacks a bit of other times but succeeds in taking hold.
Where he takes the Church, that remains to be seen.
A.M. Valli, R. Lorenzoni, “Viva il papa? La Chiesa, la fede, i cattolici. Un dialogo a viso aperto”, Cantagalli, Siena, 2014.
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.