2. A second point illustrated by this belief is the extraordinary importance attached by Catholics to actual external membership in this Society. It is perfectly true — and we are not in the least ashamed of it — that we will compass the whole world to make one proselyte; it is true also that we regard with the most extreme horror those unhappy persons who once members of the Church are no longer so.
To the Protestant, of course, such an attitude of mind is inconceivable; for the Protestant, properly so-called, has no idea that a human society can be anything besides human. The Protestant may think that this or that communion is better than the rest; he may desire his friends to belong to that which he considers best; he may regret it when they leave it. But to the Protestant there is not anywhere on earth a society other than human — a religious club or school, that is to say, to which it is advantageous or disadvantageous to belong. He regards therefore the Catholic who will not sit down at table with an apostate, or the convert who by his conversion ruins the peace of his family, as an inhuman monster who sets a greater value on his own opinions than on the most sacred ties of blood or charity. And from his own point of view, upon his own premisses, the Protestant is perfectly right.
But to the Catholic who sees in the Church a human society (often terribly human), but also a Body in which God dwells, an organism composed of countless individual cells, but indwelt by a Divine Personality — a Catholic who believes that this Society is actually redemptive of the human race, as well as the actually Divine Teacher — more than a school of thought, more than the best religious club in existence, more than theAmbassador of God, more than the Bride of Christ — to the Catholic who believes that the Church is not one among ten thousand, but One, unique, singular and final, between whom and other religious bodies there is no more comparison than between the creature and the Creator — to him, membership in that body, the position of a cell in that organism, is the one thing to which no other can be preferred; and the loss of that membership the one supreme catastrophe or crime. Certainly the Catholic holds that it is possible to belong to the Soul of the Church without external membership in the Body; it is possible, where there is no fault on the individual’s side, that he may be united inwardly to the Person who inhabits that body; but such is not God’s primary intention, and to forsake the Body is to forsake the soul. In any case the individual loses enormously by being forced to stand alone, without that grace and strength of unity which external membership in the external body can alone confer.
3. A third point we must notice is the following: On the Catholic hypothesis we have present upon earth in the Catholic Church that same personality and energy as lived upon the earth two thousand years ago in the Figure of Jesus Christ. And we have the same environment — namely, the human nature of the world, human ambitions, interests, virtues, vices, circumstances, strengths and weaknesses, now as then. We should expect to find then, if the Catholic hypothesis is true, the same results now as then. So far as Jesus Christ was accepted or rejected then bythe world into which He came, so will He be accepted and rejected now, and by the same kind of people for the same kind of reasons. It resemblesthe repetition of a chemical experiment. If there is brought to bear under certain circumstances upon certain elements a particular force, the same results will always be obtained. It will be a proof of the identity of the force that, given the same conditions, the same result is so produced. If, then, we find in the history of the Catholic Church the same psychological situations as those recorded in the Gospels continually reproduced under similar circumstances — if we find, that is, Peters and Judases and Pilates swarming round the Church’s progress through the ages — if we find that the same comments are made, the same paradoxes generated, the same accusations leveled, the same criticisms, the same bursts of flame and thunder — if we find the lepers healed, the dead raised, the devils cast out, and the same explanations offered of these phenomena by theincredulous — if we find the same amazing claims uttered to the world, and the same repudiations, demurrings, and acceptances of those claims — if, in short, we find that in the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church only, the endless intricacies and phenomena recorded in the Gospels reproduced on the stage of human history, the conclusion will be practically inevitable that the same Personality that produced those phenomena then is reproducing them now; and that the Catholic claim to possess Jesus Christ in a unique manner in herself is not unwarranted. If thecircumstances are the same and the phenomena are the same, the force must be the same.
There are certain arguments drawn from the Gospels in defense of the Divinity of Christ; for example, the story of the Resurrection. Now, if thenarrative of the Resurrection could once be accepted as literally true, as it is there recorded, I imagine that very few persons would be found to deny the Deity of Christ. But it is exactly the apparent impossibility of proving that the narrative is true which holds many minds back from theacceptance of the full Christian position. “That is all very well “— says such a man —” but how can I be certified that He did rise again? It was a credulous age, full of expectation of the marvelous. Those who are reported to have seen Christ risen are not altogether satisfactory witnesses; there are at least superficial discrepancies in the Four Gospels; further, there are innumerable difficulties of Biblical criticisms. I am not, therefore, prepared to stake my whole existence on a doctrine which I cannot possibly verify. He may have risen; He may not have risen. I was not there, and I did not see it. On the whole, however, it seems to me more likely that the Evangelists deceived or were deceived, than that Christ was very God. Both alternatives are perhaps unlikely; but I prefer that which seems to me the less unlikely of the two.” So, too, with other similar arguments drawn from the Gospels in defense of Christ’s Divinity.
Now the method I propose to follow in these pages meets, I think, at any rate indirectly, the difficulties of such a critic. It is true that I cannot demonstrate to the senses the physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ; but if it were possible to show that the phenomenon of Resurrection is characteristic of Catholicism; that Jesus Christ does, not once or twice, but repeatedly, rise again in the Catholic Church, rolling away stones far greater than that which lay on His sepulcher in the garden — if it were possible to see Him passing through doors more tightly closed than those ofthe upper room; coming through gardens in the dawnlight to lover after lover — if, in a word, this “sign of the Prophet Jonas” were a sign of Catholicism everywhere and always, it would create the strongest possible presumption that the Gospel narrative was nothing less than sober fact. And if, in addition to this, it were possible to show that all those other symptoms of His Divinity recorded in the Gospels were present in Catholicism — if His progress through the ages were seen to be accompanied by bursting tombs, opening eyes, the feeding of multitudes, and, above all, that strange aroma of Divinity attributed to Him then, the argument would be vastly increased in significance.
Somewhat parallel to this is the observation made by Mr. Mallock in one of his books. “I can understand,” he says, in effect (though he is not a Christian), “I can understandthe Catholic claim, though I cannot understand any other. The Church says to her children, you must believe these things because I tell you that I witnessed them myself, and you know that I am trustworthy. I do not refer you merely to written books, but to my continuous consciousness that is called Tradition. You can believe the Resurrection securely because I was there and saw it. I saw, with my own eyes, the stone rolled away; I sawthe Lord of Life come out; I went with the Maries to the tomb; I heard the footsteps on the garden path; I saw, through eyes blind with tears but clear with love, Him whom my companion thought to be the Gardener.” This, says Mr. Mallock, is at any rate an intelligible and reasonable claim.
Now this, more or less, is an illustration of the way I am attempting to argue. I am not referring simply back to written records, even though personally I may believe those records to be utterly trustworthy ; but it is my hope to present, so to speak, the Catholic Church as I know her myself, that you may examine her for yourself. It is my hope to draw attention to what may be called a “personage” now living upon earth whose consciousness runs back for two thousand years, one who has certain characteristics, instincts, and methods that are among her best credentials. And it is my further hope that, comparing what you can see of her with the written papers she holds in her hands, you may identify her for what she really is, and see in the persistence of that character for so long, as well as in her other credentials, at least a strong presumption that she is as unique as she claims to be; and that no hypothesis, except her actual Divinity, will adequately explain the phenomena of her life. In this manner, too, it is possible to fill up even what appear lacunae to some minds in the written record. If you have two old MSS., and find that where they are legible they agree perfectly, you are tolerably safe in filling up the illegibilities of one from the clear writing of the other. If you find that in numerous points the Living Church reproduces perfectly the clear testimony of the Gospels, you are justified in accepting the witness of the Church on further points in which the Gospel appears to you doubtful or difficult.
You can read more of Monsignor Benson’s argument on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.
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PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The Sisters at the Monastery of the Precious Blood took a rare break from their contemplative life to watch events unfold in Vatican City Wednesday.
The sisters normally spend their life in quiet devotion– offering prayers for whoever needs them. But this afternoon, they say the phone started ringing off the hook as the faithful called their monastery to make sure the sisters didn’t miss the papal election.
“He’s not a man we we knew of so this is a pure work of prayer through the Holy Spirit helping to select the right person,” says Sister Mary Jo. “The first thing he did was ask everyone to pray for him. He’s a beautiful man of faith.”
The sisters say they will now have masses of thanksgiving in the chapel to welcome the new leader of The Catholic Church.
The Papal Election is especially gratifying for member of the jesuit order… and the many Catholics who received a Jesuit education.
Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope in the history of The Catholic Church.
At Cheverus High School on Wednesday, the news was met with both surprise and excitement.
Seminarian Brett Mclaughlin says because there were so few Jesuits taking part in the conclave, it seemed highly unlikely that a Jesuit would be selected.
“Jesuits don’t usually serve as Bishops of Dioceses so were not usually responsible for churches within dioceses. our responsibility is with retreat houses, high schools, within universities.”
Mclaughlin says he believes the Jesuits’ focus on education and the life of the mind will help bring more young people to the church.
“Vince, there’s white smoke,” my wife, Janice, yells from the living room. She is clearly excited and begins taking photos of the TV screen with her iPhone.
I am more reserved. I have often been disappointed in Catholic leadership the past 35 years. I want to wait and see. And wait we did. For an hour and 10 minutes we waited.
Then the announcement comes: His name is Francis. Now I am excited. For me, Francis is the clearest icon of Jesus in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church. For 2,000 years and through 265 successors to Peter, no pope has ever chosen the name Francis. What does this mean?
He appears in a simple white cassock. He wears no papal cape. His cross is understated. He asks to be prayed for before he blesses. While seemingly small, little changes in ritual that has been hardened by history are significant.
Changes continue. On the first full day of being pope, he meets with school children, picks up his own bags at the hotel where he was staying and pays his own bill.
Stories come out. As cardinal in Buenos Aires, he refused the cardinal’s mansion, lived in a small apartment and rode the bus to work. When some of his priests refused to baptize children of single parents, he scolded them. He was the only Catholic cleric to praise the life of a former bishop who had left the priesthood to marry.
Two days after the election, he sends out a two-line message that may cause an earthquake. When a papacy ends, Vatican officials automatically lose their jobs. In his statement to them, he reappoints them, but only until other provisions are made. “The Holy Father wants to reserve some time for reflection, prayer and dialogue before definitive nominations or confirmations,” the statement said.
How did this happen? John Allen Jr. is a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter who spoke with five cardinals who were members of the conclave. They spoke off record and only in general terms so as not to violate their promise of secrecy. In the March 29 issue of NCR, Allen explains how this long-shot candidate became pope.
There were three basic forces that made Jorge Mario Bergoglio pope. The first was a strong anti-establishment mood. The cardinals did not want any candidate from the Roman Curia. There had been repeated breakdowns in governance over the past eight years, and it was time to shake up the old guard.
The second was a desire to have a pope from the developing world. Some cardinals consider the church in Africa and Asia as too young and unsettled to have a pope from there. This led them to Latin America, home for about half the Catholics in the world. Several American cardinals supported the idea of a Latin American, reflecting the reality that Latinos now represent almost a third of the 67 million Catholics in the U.S.
The final dynamic was to decide which Latino. One cardinal described it as a “winnowing” process of eliminating other possibilities. As other front-runners were eliminated, the instinct was to reach back to the conclave of 2005 where Bergoglio ran second. By the fifth ballot, the choice was clear.
Addressing a gathering of journalists on March 16, Francis recalls how he chose his name. He was sitting next to Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Sao Paulo when the election was final. Hummes embraced him and said, “Don’t forget the poor.” Then Francis told the reporters, “Right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation. How I would love a church that is poor and for the poor.”
On Holy Thursday, the pope again moved away from tradition and washed the feet of juvenile prisoners, including two women — one of whom was a Serbian Muslim.
The actions of leaders are important. They bring the rest of us with them. When President Barack Obama went to Newtown, Conn., I went also. When Pope Francis kissed the feet of the Serbian Muslim woman, I kissed them, too.
The week is named Holy. Francis made it more holy for me.
White smoke is changing my life.
Vince Hatt is a spiritual director who has master’s degrees in theology from the Catholic University of America and Aquinas Institute and has been in pastoral ministry for 46 years.
Growing up in the heights, I never once considered that the old seminary located on Tyler Street was anything out of the ordinary. In fact, the Gothic Revival-style buildings that surround the paved circle where I used to ride my bike were always a friendly sight to see.
I did not realize that I was playing Frisbee near an integral part of Little Rock’s History.
The history of the location is deeply intertwined with the local history of the Catholic Church. St. John’s would not have become what it is today without the work of John Baptist Morris, who in 1907 became the third Catholic Bishop of Little Rock. At the time he had ample funding to expand Catholic institutions and social services, which is exactly what he did when he purchased a site of land formerly occupied by the Arkansas Military Academy.
Located on the then-southern edge of little Rock, near 25th, 26th, Gaines, and State Streets, the site became the hub for Little Rock College. The Catholic prep school and college for boys aimed to train students in philosophy, Latin, English, history, mathematics, French, German, and Greek.
The number of students began to increase, creating a need for expansion. A two-story gymnasium, designed by Little Rock architect Charles S. Thompson was added to the facilities as well as a dormitory known as Fitzgerald Hall which is still standing today.
As the student body grew, however, so did the need for educators. Bishop Morris wanted to attract more priests to the area, which sparked the creation of St. John’s Seminary. Originally St. John’s occupied Fitzgerald Hall at the Little Rock College location. 10 seminarians who had previously been studying at different seminaries paved the way for its beginnings.
In 1915 Bishop Morris purchased a 40 acre plot of land that was mostly wooded pine trees. With the help of 150 people the land was quickly cleared and construction began. The next year both St. John’s Seminary and Little Rock College relocated to the Heights.
The three original buildings, Fitzgerald, Byrne, and Morris Halls were designed in the Gothic-Revival style by Little Rock resident Frank M. Blaisdell and completed in 1916.
Morris Hall was named for the Bishop John. The front entrance sports Bishop Morris’s Coat of Arms on the left and the Little Rock College seal on the right. Morris Hall contained classrooms, offices, living quarters, chapel, an infirmary and a library. The building is now home to Arkansas Catholic and offices of the Diocese.
Byrne Hall was named for the first Catholic bishop of Little Rock, Andrew Byrne. This building is the only one on the campus to sport gargoyles. The building used to house a dining hall for students as well as a kitchen and laundry area. The building also once housed a seismograph used to track movement of the New Madrid Fault. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra currently resides in the building along with Christopher Homes, a nonprofit organization that builds homes for low-income elderly.
Fitzgerald Hall, the last of the three original buildings, housed the science area for Little Rock College. Chemistry, biology, and physics labs and classrooms occupied the first floor along with an auditorium with a stage and two small dorm areas. The second floor had a study hall and classrooms, while the third floor had classrooms, a dorm, and a chapel.
After the influx of students after World War I, Bishop Morris thought it was necessary to separate Little Rock College and the Seminary. This time, Little Rock College stayed in the Heights location while St. John’s moved back downtown.
In 1925 the decision to separate the preparatory department (the high school aged boys) from the college-aged boys within Little Rock College’s umbrella was made. The new prep department took on the name of Morris Preparatory School. When Little Rock College closed in 1930, the prep department continued to function. It relocated to Roosevelt and State streets and became known as Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys opening in September 15, 1930.
The school remained there for the next 30 years until the Diocese purchased a 26-acre site in ‘west’ Little Rock. In 1961, Catholic High opened its doors to a new location on University and Lee, now knows as 6300 Father Tribou.
St. John’s, however, did not close during the 30s and instead was once again relocated to the Heights. In 1922 the Catholic Church Extension Society, which was based in Chicago, designated St. John’s Seminary to receive seminarians who were preparing to serve mission fields in the United States. The Seminary took on the name St. John’s Home Missions Seminary and began to attract those from all over the country.
A day in the life of a seminarian was one of a strict schedule. Occasionally, however, the seminarians were allowed ‘town permissions’ or ‘neighborhood permissions.’
Monsignor Thomas Sebaugh came to St. John’s in 1945 and was ordained a priest in 1959. The following information is taken from his personal collections.
A streetcar that traveled from St. John’s to downtown Little Rock costs a grand total of 6 cents, and was often the preferred travel method for town permissions. The seminarians enjoyed the soda fountain at Walgreen’s at Capitol and Main, and would sometimes see a movie at the Capitol Theater.
Favorite staple activities within the neighborhood near St. John’s was a meal at Browning’s, as well as other trips to Smith’s Country Club Drug Store and Hall’s Drug at University and Kavanaugh, both of which had soda fountains.
Unfortunately for St. John’s the 1960s created challenges for the seminary. Low enrollment, difficulty of obtaining adequately trained faculty, and financial constraints eventually lead to its closure in 1967.
A year later the campus became known as St. John Catholic Center and today houses the Diocese of Little Rock.
On nice summer evenings families from the nearby neighborhoods can be seen walking around the now-paved circle. Even young children who walk through the grassy front lawn can feel the site’s historic sense of peace.
Source: Information taken from “Sandwiching in History Tour” by Rachel Silva
ROME — Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, a humble pastor and Jesuit known for his care of the poor, was elected the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday. He chose the name Francis.
He is the first non-European pope in modern times and the first ever from Latin America, now home to 42 percent of the world’s Catholics. He is also the first member of a religious order elected since the early 19th century.
As a jubilant crowd of 100,000 in St. Peter’s Square cheered under bright lights and spitting rain, Francis, speaking in Italian, his bearing serene, accepted the duty thrust upon him.
“You know that it was the duty of the conclave to give Rome a bishop,”
he said. “It seems that my brother cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one. . . . I thank you for your welcome.”
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His election was a surprise. Many in the crowd turned to one another in puzzlement when his name was announced in Latin from a red-curtained window high above the square. Although he was said to have finished second to Joseph Ratzinger in the last conclave in 2005, he was not thought to be a front-runner this time.
He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church. Catholics are still buzzing over his speech last year accusing fellow church officials of hypocrisy for forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.
While his selection was historic, Francis appears unlikely to substantially alter the theological trajectory of the church. Much like his predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, he is a strident foe of abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage, having waged a forceful but ultimately unsuccessful battle against same-sex marriage in his homeland.
Across the planet, Latin Americans burst into tears and jubilation at news that the region finally had a pope to call its own.
‘‘It’s a huge gift for all of Latin America,’’ said Jose Antonio Cruz, a friar at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico. “We waited 20 centuries. It was worth the wait.’’
New popes traditionally bless the vast sea of people below them; Wednesday night, Francis asked the people to bless him first. “Before the bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me,” he said. “The prayer of the people asking the blessing for their bishop. Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.”
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
With some displaying Argentine flags, spectators greeted the papal announcement with jubilation.
For a few moments, a square that had echoed with tens of thousands of voices grew quiet.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who spoke with reporters later in the evening, said the new pontiff chose his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, known for reform and care for the poor.
Cardinal Bergoglio is known for riding the bus to work, cooking his own meals, and regularly visiting the slums around Buenos Aires.
Eric LeCompte, who directs Jubilee USA, a religious organization that works on financial reforms to help the poor, said the pontiff has a deep sense of solidarity with the poor and refers to extreme poverty as a violation of human rights.
“When times were tough” in his native Argentina, “he made sure people didn’t forget the poor and vulnerable,” LeCompte said.
Bergoglio’s elevation to the papacy was greeted with wariness in some quarters. Marianne Duddy-Burke — executive director of DignityUSA, an advocacy group for gay Catholics — lamented that in Argentina, Bergoglio “made some very harsh and inflammatory statements about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”
“We recognize that sometimes this new job on which he embarks can change the man called to it,” she said. “We invite him to take the time to learn about our lives, our faith, and our families before he makes any papal pronouncements about us, and we stand ready to enter into dialogue with him at any time.”
John F. Schwaller, author of a history of the Catholic Church in Latin America, said that Francis’s selection marks a signal moment in the life of the church and its 1.2 billion adherents worldwide. “The fact that someone from the region has been chosen as pope is going to be seen as a major recognition of interest in the issues of the Third World, Latin America specifically,” he said.
He noted that because of the pope’s ancestry, some early detractors of Francis’s have called him an Italian pope who happened to be born in Argentina. But Schwaller said that Bergoglio was born and raised in Argentina and has spent most of his life there.
Schwaller also said that with his choice of name, Francis may be acknowledging the legacy of liberation theology, but in a less political way than the liberation theologians of the 1960s and 1970s. Followers of liberation theology believe Catholicism should be viewed through the prism of freedom from economic and social oppression.
But Francis has been the target of criticism by some in Argentina who allege that he failed to intervene during the country’s Dirty Wars of the 1970s, when thousands were tortured and murdered. Those critics says he was aware of atrocities but would not stand up to the dictatorship. Francis has rejected that assertion, saying he hid people on church property during that era.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, visited Bergoglio on a trip to Buenos Aires in December 2010, O’Malley’s priest secretary, the Rev. Jonathan Gaspar, said.
O’Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan who was considered a contender for pope, has much in common with the new pontiff. In addition to membership in a religious order, a preference for simplicity, and concern for the poor, O’Malley is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.
O’Malley did not grant interviews last night, opting to spend an extra night at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where the cardinals stayed during the conclave. But Gaspar said the Boston cardinal was thrilled with Bergoglio, calling him someone who is “not just concerned about the poor, but his pattern of living eschews the trappings of power.”
Dolan said he was shocked, as he got off the minibus ferrying cardinals from the Apostolic Palace to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, that Francis had skipped a chance to ride in the waiting popemobile and hopped aboard the minibus, musing that he needed to drop by his hotel the next morning and settle his bill.
Francis told the other cardinals he plans to visit his predecessor, Benedict XVI, at the Castel Gandolfo on Thursday, Dolan said. He also plans to visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome to pray.
At 76, Bergoglio has slowed a bit with age and is feeling the effects of having a lung removed due to infection when he was a teenager.
The Rev. Thomas Worcester, a historian at the College of the Holy Cross who has written about the papacy, said the cardinals clearly felt no pressure to pick someone younger. “I think Benedict’s resignation opened the way,’’ Worcester said. “He could do eight, nine, or 10 years and resign if he has health problems.’’
The selection was surprisingly quick, coming after only three votes produced black smoke Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
At 7:06 p.m. Wednesday, when the smoke first appeared over the Sistine Chapel, a few despairing cries of “it’s black” rang out among the tens of thousands assembled on St. Peter’s Square. But not for long. As the smoke billowed white against the evening gloom, cheers rang out across the rain-soaked square.
An echelon of Swiss Guards marched into the square and assembled at the foot of St. Peter’s Basilica, under the red-curtained balcony. Cheers erupted when those curtains parted at 8:12 p.m., and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran walked out and proclaimed, in Latin, “I announce to you a great joy: We have a pope.”
As soon as he announced that the new pontiff had chosen the name Francis, the crowd began to chant, “Francesco, Francesco.”
Soon thereafter, Francis appeared on the balcony to a thunderous ovation and gave a slight, shy wave.
He led the crowd in the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and Gloria before asking his followers to say a silent prayer of blessing for him.
And then the pontiff finished his address with a wish of “rest well,” and the square rumbled back to life.
On February 28, Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope in nearly 600 years to resign from the position citing declining health as the reasoning behind the move. Following his resignation, Pope Francis of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected by the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13 in what was the shortest papal conclave in the history of the Catholic Church.
The selection of Pope Francis has historical significance as he is the first Pope to be selected from a country outside of Europe as well as the first Jesuit Pope. The following is an interview with Quinnipiac University’s professor of sociology Grace Yukich. Professor Yukich is a sociologist of religion who has studied Catholicism specifically.
Q: How significant is the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to the Roman Catholic Church and its followers?
A: I think it’s pretty significant. His resignation seemed to shock the world and certainly shocked most Catholics. I think one of the things that really surprised people about it is now they are going to have to completely rethink the whole idea of whether a Pope is always a Pope because now you have a situation where there are two living Popes. We don’t really know what that is going to look like and if there is going to be any conflicts in the halls of power.
Q: Do you believe Pope Benedict’s health is the only reason for his resignation, or does the story go deeper?
A: I know there has been some speculation about whether there are some scandals that might have led to him stepping down. I don’t know if that’s the case or not but I think it’s possible but it’s doubtful that that’s what made him step down. I think he has been very taxed by those situations and all those scandals just wore him out whereas other recent Popes haven’t had to deal with those issues on such a large scale.
Q: Has Pope Francis differentiated himself at all from the traditional view of a Pope?
A: He is certainly different from Pope Benedict although I feel like he has more in common with Pope John Paul II in that John Paul was more of a pastor than Benedict who was more of a theologian. Certainly the thing that really sets him apart is that he is the first Pope in 1200 years that is not from Europe. If you look at where most Catholics live today and where Catholicism is growing the most, it is in Latin America, Africa and Asia. There are fewer Catholics in Europe and the United States then there used to be. So I think that was an intentional choice on the part of the Cardinals and I think it was a good choice to be honest.
Q: How will having a Pope outside of Europe affect Catholicism around the world?
A: I think it could really affect Catholicism in Latin America because one of the things that has been happening over the last 30 years across Latin America is people have been converting to Evangelical Protestantism and so the Catholic Church has been losing a lot of its members to these other Christian traditions. Having a Pope from Latin American could put a hold on that because there may be some people who just feel so proud that the Church has picked someone from their part of the world and as a result, feel affirmed as Catholics.
More importantly, I think this reaffirms for all Catholics around the world that the Church is a universal church. It is not just a church for Europeans, it’s not just a church for Americans, it’s a church for the world and this decision helps to affirm that.
Q: What are some areas of the Church Pope Francis will chose to focus on first?
A: We have already seen Pope Francis distinguishing himself as really having a focus on the poor which could have a really important impact on the Church. So if he really sticks to that and really tries to get Catholics to focus more on the teachings of Jesus and how you are supposed to treat the poor, then that could potentially transform the Church but I don’t know if he will continue his focus on that or not.
Q: Pope Francis has been vocal with his stance against gay marriage. How, if at all, will this affect the social viewpoints of Catholics around the world?
A: When it comes to issues on gender and sexuality certainly his is orthodox regarding those issues. I think there are going to be some people who are really happy about that and some people that will be upset about that. In the United States I think his stances will be relatively unpopular. According to a recent Gallup poll, 87 percent of Catholics said that birth control is completely morally acceptable and he is taking a different stance. If Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul didn’t convince them that birth control is wrong then I don’t think Francis will either. In fact, it might make them more irritated with the Church.
It is the same thing with gay marriage. At least in the United States over half of Catholics say that they support gay marriage or civil unions for same sex couples. I don’t think this Pope is going to change their minds about this especially with things moving in that direction so strongly. People in other parts of the world aren’t as supportive of these issues as Americans are so they may see Pope Francis stance on these issues as wonderful and be really happy about it.
Q: How do you believe Pope Francis would define a successful term as Pope?
A: From his point of view, I think that a successful term as Pope was one where he was a pastor to people. He seems like he really does care about people, and if he is able to properly convey that to people then he will see that as a successful papacy. I also think that he recognizes how important it is to address the sex abuse scandal and I certainly think that if he is able to do that then he will view that as being successful. The other thing I would say is that Pope Francis is really concerned with the poor, and whether that be trying to make a different through state policy or simplifying the Vatican itself, but if he is able to do one of those two things then that would be a success for him.
There is a wealth of information on the Internet for those seeking more knowledge about a particular religion or religions in general.
This is another in a series of occasional articles on some of the sites that are out there and what they offer about religious subjects.
This site offers a fun but educational look at Easter. There is a short article on the history of Easter, plus two excellent short videos on the traditions of Easter and the history of Easter. Elementary school children to adults can learn about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and how that led to the addition of eggs, bunnies and the celebration of spring to the spiritual traditions.
There is also a link to a chaplain’s Easter speech to U.S. troops at Iwo Jima two days after the horrific fighting had ended. The chaplain refers to the many who died during the World War II battle. He quotes John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
This is the main site for The Association of Religion Data Archives. It looks at the growth of many denominations in the United States and encourages the use of its data on other websites with widgets and buttons.
There are plenty of statistics for those interested in religion demographics.
For example, it outlines the percentage of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members by county in the U.S. Statistics from 2010 have Morgan County at No. 3 (88.9 percent), Box Elder County at No. 11 (81.4 percent), Davis County at No. 18 (74.7 percent) and Weber County at No. 30 (60 percent).
The site also reports that, in 2010, Weber County had 18,933 Catholics.
The site includes a resource center with learning modules, quizzes, a teacher sharing center, a religious dictionary and a research hub explaining social theories, concepts and measures of religion.
Here you can a browse a thorough collection of information related to the history of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis said he took his papal name in honor of Francis of Assisi, who was born in Italy in 1181 or 1182 and died in 1226.
Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan Order and is widely credited for making the Nativity scene an important part of Christmas celebrations. Francis traveled significantly for the time and tried to show his love for Christ by taking a vow of poverty.
Pope Francis is from Argentina. The encyclopedia also provides a synopsis on the history of the Catholic Church in Argentina.
The LDS Church has expanded its online historic offerings. This year, the adult curriculum for Sunday school is the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of LDS revelations mainly to church founder Joseph Smith.
The online site offers a historical perspective and explains what was going on at the time of many of the revelations. DC 19 encourages Martin Harris to help with the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon. Harris later mortgaged his farm to help pay for the Book of Mormon’s publication.
The site also has a church history timeline. For example, the church began its association with the Boy Scouts of America 100 years ago.
There is also a section on who belonged to what pioneer company. An Internet archive catalog offers PDFs of many publications from the late 1800s and after.
This is the place for anyone who wants to study, read and even listen to a variety of editions of the Bible. There are reading plans, search tools, devotionals and blogs on the Bible. Be aware, though, the site has many ads to get around.
I don’t think a day has passed since March 13 without a student, colleague, fellow church member, family member, or friend asking what my perspective is on the election of Pope Francis, especially since they know that I was a member of the Baptist World Alliance delegation to our recent five-year dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and have otherwise written on ecumenical themes. Nearly a week of such conversations has helped me have a better idea of what it is that I think!
Much of what I think would merely echo perspectives that have already been widely aired in the media. Here I’ll restrict myself to my initial thoughts regarding what the pontificate of Pope Francis may mean for Baptists.
While I don’t think the pontificate of Benedict XVI should be regarded negatively where Baptist-Catholic relations are concerned, I think Baptists have good reason to be encouraged by the election of Pope Francis.
One encouraging sign is the admiration Pope Francis seems to have for Walter Cardinal Kasper, who played a key role in making possible and encouraging the second series of conversations between the Baptist World Alliance and the Roman Catholic Church from 2006 through 2010, the report of which will be officially published this summer. In his first public “Angelus” address in St. Peter’s Square on March 17, Pope Francis said this:
In these days, I have been able to read a book by a cardinal—Cardinal Kasper, a talented theologian, a good theologian—on mercy. And it did me such good, that book, but don’t think that I’m publicizing the books of my cardinals. That is not the case! But it did me such good, so much good… Cardinal Kasper said that hearing the word mercy changes everything. It is the best thing that we can hear: it changes the world. A bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand God’s mercy well, this merciful Father who has such patience…
Cardinal Kasper was Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the years before and during our conversations. When the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the controversial document Dominus Iesus in 2000 that seemed to say (though there are other more nuanced ways of reading it) that many non-Catholic churches including Baptist churches should not be really regarded as churches, Cardinal Kasper worked behind the scenes to repair the damage. One thing he did toward that end was to encourage the global leadership of the BWA to respond positively to the invitation for dialogue and to promote its desirability within the Vatican. While having an audience with Pope Benedict XVI was certainly a highlight of our five-year series of conversations, in many ways my most cherished memories of the dialogue will remain the lunch in 2007 that we had with Cardinal Kasper and the afternoon dialogue session in 2009 in which he spoke to us at length about his perspectives on ecclesiology and ecumenical relations and then responded at length to our questions. I am greatly encouraged to know of Pope Francis’ theological admiration for this influential theological friend of Baptists within the leadership of the Catholic Church.
Another reason for Baptists to be optimistic about this papacy is the warm and open relationship Pope Francis seems to have had with evangelicals in Argentina. Baptist-Catholic tensions in Latin America belong to a larger pattern of Evangelical-Catholic tensions there and were evident in some opposition among Latin American Baptists to approval of the report of the first series of conversations between the BWA and the Catholic Church (1984-1988) and in some initial resistance to the prospect of a second series of conversations. Francis may succeed in alleviating some of those tensions, and that can be a good thing for Baptists.
Many Baptists may be hoping that Pope Francis may be able to reform the Catholic Church in certain directions. The fact that Pope Francis belongs to the Jesuit order may be encouraging to those who hope for certain new developments, for historically the Jesuits have sometimes been on the outs with the Vatican and have themselves tended to be critical of the Curia.
Yet Baptists should expect the pope to be Catholic, which means that all the changes they might want to see happen within the Catholic Church may not come about during this papacy. But the history of the Catholic Church is one in which change has happened incrementally and symbolically, and there are good reasons to hope for incremental and symbolic changes during the pontificate of Pope Francis.
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Written by Steve Harmon
Steven R. Harmon teaches Christian Theology at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. His most recent book is “Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity” (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books, 2010). Dr. Harmon blogs at Ecclesial Theology.
There was no hearing on the future of the St. Augustine’s Church at 225 Dorchester St., because developers said they believe the structure can possibly be saved and reused.
At Wednesday’s hearing in City Hall, a few residents testified before the Commission on the importance of the structure emotionally and historically to the community. A number of letters were also submitted opposing the developers’ plans for the building that was constructed in 1893.
“These buildings show the history of the Catholic church not just in South Boston, but the city,” Donna Brown, a South Boston resident, told the Commission. “They’re a really important part of South Boston.”
“It would significantly impact the community to lose any part of the St. Augustine’s Complex,” Greg Galer, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance said.
Many voiced support for a delay to allow for more community input and analysis of the alternatives.
“While we do appreciate the church demolition has been being taking off…Councilor Linehan would like to go on the record asking for the 90-day delay,” said Mark McGonagle, a representative from City Councilor Bill Linehan’s office. “There was certain discussions around design that weren’t set in stone so we want to make sure there is an appropriate community process going forward now that the church is off the table.”
In addition to the 90-day Demolition Delay, any project for the structures would have to go through the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Article 80 review process, which includes a public meeting.
The church and school were closed in 2004 by the Archdiocese of Boston because of mounting financial pressures. Since then, the structures have sat unused and in deteriorating shape, stripped of their alters, pews, stained glass, windows, and other valuable property by the Archdiocese.
Daniel also addressed the Commission Wednesday. He said it’s not the school’s condition that’s the problem, but parking at the church on Dorchester Street. Preliminary plans have proposed rehabbing the church for housing, but because of the limited parking options at the church, the school would have to be razed and underground parking would have to be added for both buildings at the site.
“No one is saying it’s not feasible to adapt or reuse [the school building],” Daniel, told the Commission. “But you can’t look at both of these buildings in isolation. We want to take down the school, restore the church and provide 64-spaces in an underground garage at the school.”
A community meeting about alternative and future uses of the property is expected to be held in the coming weeks.
This is proving to be an historic year for the Catholic Church. In an unexpected move, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation in February, becoming the first pontiff to step down in nearly 600 years. His successor is a Jesuit from Latin America — a first for both — who will lead more than one billion Catholics worldwide.
In light of these monumental changes, we caught up with Matthew Butler, associate professor of modern Mexican history with research interests in Latin American Catholicism, to discuss the influence of Pope Francis and what the future holds for the Catholic Church.
A recent census indicates that only 65 percent of Brazilians identify as Catholic, down from more than 90 percent in 1970. What sparked this decline?
From the mid-20th century the Church faced real religious competition from new institutional rivals. It also faced a rapidly changing social context, one that sometimes it was slow or ill-equipped to understand. Protestantism — which in countries like Brazil, Chile and now even Mexico accounted for big depletions in the numbers affiliated to the Catholic Church — made enormous inroads in some indigenous communities and urban diasporas, the last of which grew prodigiously from the mid-20th century.
Slippage in Catholicism has been driven by the search for spiritual alternatives in emerging social constituencies that saw orthodox Catholicism as remote or irrelevant, combined with enormous increases in the variety of religious goods on offer. Some new religious actors proved themselves far more agile than the Catholic clergy in embedding themselves in these new sectors. You could even say that secularization in Latin America has really just meant, at least until now, the fragmentation of religious identities, rather than outright loss of faith. It is only the most recent census returns, at least for Mexico, that show significant numbers of people saying they have no religious affiliation at all.
Will a Latin American pope lure some of those Catholics back to the fold?
The short answer is “no.” The longer one is “wait and see.” People haven’t left the Catholic Church because popes were Italians or Polish, but because for some the Church was too rigid and ceased to express their spiritual and social yearnings adequately or at all. So, it would be naïve to expect the Latin American Church to revitalize itself on a wave of identification with an Argentine pope.
The success of Francis’s papacy from a Latin American perspective will depend on what kind of a pope he turns out to be rather than any kind of nationalistic or regional identification. The media coverage in Latin America — which shifted within a matter of hours from a congratulatory tone expressing surprise and excitement at the election of the first Latin American pope to a far more critical appraisal of Francis’s social mission and political trajectory — gave instant evidence of that. In Argentina and Mexico, for instance, there were critical reflections almost at once on Francis’s affection for celebrating Mass among Catholics in the poorest barrios in Buenos Aires, his opposition to gay civil marriage or his stance during Argentina’s military juntas, with which the Argentine Church maintained bitterly controversial ties.
There has been much discussion about the uniqueness of a papal resignation. Will there be more?
It’s always possible, but I doubt it. The papacy is a kind of elected sacral-monarchical office for which there are clear rules of succession. Benedict’s resignation seems to reflect a specific conjuncture of circumstances, including ill health. The change is ad hoc, not a permanent innovation.
Pope Francis has been described as a champion of the poor. Why is it important for the pope to advocate human rights?
It will depend on which rights, and on whose behalf, Francis decides to advocate. If he can steer the Latin American Church beyond its current fixation on moralistic issues and touch on broader social questions, this role could still be important. A lot has been made of the fact that Francis has chosen the name of the saint of the poor, which might suggest that he will privilege their concerns.
Less has been made of the fact that the followers of St. Francis were also the first friars to begin evangelizing the Americas in the 1520s. It would be exciting if Francis turned out to be a rebuilder of the American Church in that tradition and allowed the Church to speak with a more independent voice from the grassroots of Latin American society.
Matthew Butler is the author of “Popular Piety and Political Identity in Mexico’s Cristero rebellion: Michoacán, 1927-1929” (Oxford, 2004), and editor of “Faith and Impiety in revolutionary Mexico” (New York, 2007). He has published numerous articles on 20th-century Latin American religious history, with special emphasis on the history of the Catholic Church in revolutionary Mexico.
For a longer version of this interview, visit Life and Letters.
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