The Irish Times – Tuesday, February 19, 2013
PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent
More than 160 leading Catholic scholars worldwide have signed a “Declaration on authority in the Catholic Church” that calls for change in church governance.
The signatories include leading theologians Hans Kung, Leonardo Boff and Dr John Wijngaards, as well as three Australian bishops, William Morris, Pat Power and Geoffrey Robinson.
In a letter to The Irish Times today, Irish signatories to the declaration speak of the need for “a pope who will redress the present imbalance in the exercise of authority in the Catholic Church.” Their letter continues that “more autonomy should be given to national bishops’ conferences and collegiality enabled at all levels in the church”.
It calls for “a new, more democratic process of electing key office holders in the church including bishops, cardinals and experts of papal commissions”.
It also says that “until the key insights and principles of Vatican II are properly pursued, the Catholic Church will continue to be increasingly isolated and irrelevant within the lives of millions of people across the world.”
Signatories to The Irish Times letter are Prof Deirdre Carabine, vice-chancellor, Virtual University of Uganda, Kampala; Rev Dr Gabriel Daly, professor of theology, Irish School of Ecumenics; Rev Dr Donal Dorr, theologian and writer in Dublin; Prof Seán Freyne, director of the Centre for Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies in Dublin; and Dr Linda Hogan, vice-provost and professor of ecumenics at TCD.
Other Irish signatories, on the
churchauthority.orgwebsite, are former president of Ireland Mary McAleese; Dr Margaret Daly-Denton of TCD; Rev Prof Seán Fagan, theologian and author; Prof Wilfrid Harrington, author and lecturer; Dr Gerard Mannion, professor of theology and religious studies at San Diego University in California; and Dr Thomas O’Loughlin, professor of historical theology at the University of Nottingham. Other Irish signatories include Rev Dr Joseph O’Leary, professor of English literature at Sophia University in Tokyo, and Dr Michael Lawler, former professor of Catholic theology at Creighton University, Nebraska.
Pope Benedict XVI’s shocking announcement that he would renounce the Petrine office on Feb. 28, the first pope to do so in more than 500 years, has served as a fitting fillip to a man whose ecclesiastical career has been characterized by a dramatic struggle to come to terms with the tumultuous history of the Catholic Church and its grappling with change and modernity.
Propitiously enough, his decision to renounce the papacy followed the death of another theologian who, like him, had had to contend with issues revolving around the Church’s relevance: Fr. Anscar Chupungco, OSB, who died from a heart attack in the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Bukidnon last Jan. 9. He was 73.
Father Chupungco was a Benedictine liturgist who was a longtime president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome during the time when the Pope was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
As is well-known, it had been Ratzinger’s single-minded resolve to check the excesses of the Second Vatican Council, especially the liturgical reforms that came with its constitution on liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), the first document to be issued by the council and, as borne by events later on, perhaps the most contentious and far-reaching. The document called for “active participation” of the people in the liturgy and the translation of the Latin Mass in the vernacular.
In 2007, as Pope Benedict, Ratzinger issued the motu propio or decree, Summa Pontificum, which basically restored the Latin Mass.
In 2010, in a forum organized by the University of Santo Tomas Ecclesiastical Faculties, his alma mater, Father Chupungco took a subtle jab at the Pope for what he called as “reform of the reform” and for turning back the reforms of Vatican II. He explained there was a need to distinguish between papal decrees and the “theological musing” of Ratzinger, who wrote the celebrated book, “Spirit of the Liturgy,” which decried abuses in the aftermath of Vatican II.
In the book, Ratzinger said changes in the liturgy undermine the sacrificial nature of the Mass as worship, placing the focus on the priest and tending to celebrate the community, not the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice.
But Chupungco, who had also served as consultor to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Congregation for Catholic Education, said Ratzinger’s “reform of the reform” came at the expense of “active participation” of the community not familiar with the old prayers and language that had long been discarded.
“The agenda is an attempt to retrieve the discarded liturgical practices and paraphernalia, sometimes at the expense of active participation,” Chupungco said.
In highly poetic—and liturgical—language, Chupungco warned about the campaign to derail Vatican II:
“Dark clouds are forming ominously on the Western horizon. They move hurriedly and decisively toward the direction of the sun that burns radiantly in the sky. They cast upon it stronger shadows to hide it from view. Suddenly it is dusk, before the appointed time.”
But the darkness is provisional, caused by passing clouds:
“In the reality of our day, the realness is called by the passing clouds. This cannot put the clock back to yesterday’s evening hours.”
The soliloquy might as well have conjured for the audience the antipodal images of a Benedictine monk and the Pope pitted against each other in a theological joust.
The Varsitarian, the official student organ of UST, couldn’t resist the irony of the situation and headlined its front-page report of the lecture, “Benedictine hits Benedict for ‘reform of the reform.’”
From Cainta to Rome
When he joined the Benedictines after high school, he was given the name “Anscario,” after a good friend of the abbot who was killed during the religious persecutions that preceded the Spanish civil war.
Chupungco’s educational and religious formation straddled the period around the Second Vatican Council. He obtained his licentiate in Philosophy, magna cum laude, from the University of Santo Tomas in 1961, amid preparations for the convocation of the council the following year; and his licentiate in Theology, magna cum laude, also from UST, in 1965, the year the council closed. “He studied philosophy in the years before Vatican II, but his theological formation was influenced by the spirit of the council,” said fellow Benedictine Fr. Bernardo Ma. Perez.
Although he had wanted to take up systematic theology, Anscar was ordered by his superior to take up liturgical studies at San’t Anselmo, the great Benedictine pontifical school in the Aventine hill in Rome. His mentors were spearheading liturgical reform in the aftermath of Sacramentum Concilium. One of them was the famous liturgist Fr. Salvatore Marsili, who entered the lecture hall on the first day of class and after a prolonged awkward silence, asked, “And so, what is liturgy?”
The question had so preoccupied Anscar since then that in 2010, he titled his book, “What, then, is Liturgy?” (Claretian Publications; available in St. Pauls bookstores nationwide; www.stpauls.ph). Subtitled “Musings and Memoir,” the book combines a critique of Pope Benedict’s liturgical changes and Fr. Anscar’s reminiscences of a life well-lived. (Most of his quotations and views in this article are from the book.)
After receiving his doctorate in 1969, Chupungco returned to the Philippines to teach at San Beda College. In 1973, he received a letter from Rome inviting him to teach at San’t Anselmo: “(The dean and faculty) recognize your competence in the field and realize the importance of having a truly universal faculty which would reflect the universality of the Church herself. As the first Filipino on our faculty, your experience in that country and part of the world should bring a new dimension to studies here where so many students are coming from the Third World.”
A highly prolific author like Ratzinger, Chupungco contributed to Concilium, the famous journal of theologians supporting Vatican II reforms; authored the famous books, “Cultural Adaptation of the Liturgy” and “Liturgical Inculturation”; and edited the five-volume “Handbook for Liturgical Studies,” the best authority on the subject.
Most important Filipino theologian
In 1990, after 24 years of teaching in Rome, Chupungco was asked by Philippine bishops to establish a liturgical school in the country. He obliged and set it up in Bukidnon and named it after Paul VI.
In 1997, Father Chupungco received an honorary doctorate of theology from the Catholic Theological Union of Chicago, United States. In 2000, on the occasion of his 60th birthday, the Liturgical Press published “Liturgy for the New Millennium,” a festschrift in his honor.
Writing the foreword was Bishop William D. Gregory of Belleville, Illinois. “I am privileged to claim the honor of being Anscar’s first doctoral candidate—a title that is entirely the dignity of chronological coincidence,” the prelate said.
“Anscar’s scholarship and his professional expertise in ways far more profound than my initial experience of his tutelage no doubt have influenced and continue to influence dozens of other students of liturgy.”
In their introduction, the editors, Fathers Mark R. Francis, CSV, and Keith F. Pecklers, SJ, who were likewise former students of the Filipino Benedictine, wrote: He “has been one of the most important figures in the international postconciliar reform of the liturgy because of the special vision he brings to liturgical renewal.”
When he died last Jan. 9, Chupungco was executive secretary of the Asian Liturgy Forum, which has members from Southeast and North Asia, and teacher and thesis adviser to several scholars, many of them foreigners. His scholarly output, his pedagogical achievements, and his international reputation should point to Fr. Anscar Chupungco, OSB, as indubitably the most important Filipino theologian and arguably the most influential Asian theologian today.
Prayer as law
That Ratzinger and Chupungco should clash on the liturgy may confound many. From the Greek word denoting public duty, “liturgy” simply means the public worship of the Church. But considering prayer and worship draw freely from the sentiment and are more spontaneous, they are said to reveal the inner recesses of the being. So much so that in the liturgy may be felt the workings of God.
The Church has a Latin phrase for the importance of the liturgy, lex orandi lex credendi, “the law of prayer is the law of faith.”
Philosopher Roger Scrutton might have referred to the meaning of the Latin phrase when he warned against tinkering too much with the liturgy:
“Changes in the liturgy take on a momentous significance for the believer, for they are changes in his experience of God—changes… in God himself. The question whether to make the sign of the cross with two fingers or with three split a Church. So can the question whether or not to use the Book of Common Prayer or the Tridentine Mass.”
In fact, it was the Pope’s restoration of the Tridentine Mass that has divided theologians and Catholics.
In 1969, in a general audience address, Paul VI delivered the eulogy for the Latin Mass and said the new rite of the Mass with its preference for the vernacular was needed since participation was worth more than preserving the language of the previous Christian centuries, and valued “particularly by modern people, so fond of plain language which is understood and converted into everyday speech.”
Perhaps in reference to the ceremonious robes which attended the old rite, Paul VI said that the “understanding of prayer is worth more than the silken garments in which it is royally dressed.”
But Ratzinger, in his 2000 book, “Spirit of the Liturgy,” used fashion language as well to say that the Church should not be subjected to passing fads. He likened the Church with its efforts at updating to a “poorly managed haberdashery trying to lure more customers.”
He added that “active participation” should not mean crude inculturation.
Ratzinger even said that some contemporary liturgies may be forms of apostasy. He likened the changes in the liturgy so as to be comprehensible to the modern age to the Israelites worshipping the golden calf in the Old Testament.
He said the point of the Bible story is not that the Israelites were doing idol-worship; they knew that the statue was not God, but what they wanted was something brought down to their level so they could relate to it.
He also warned against “overnight” inculturation. “Not until a strong Christian identity has grown up in the mission countries can one begin to move, with great caution and on the basis of that identity into the liturgy and allowing Christian realities to merge with the forms of everyday life.”
But Chupungco argued that the Latin rite itself was a product of inculturation. He said the young churches of Northern Europe in the 10th century had been tampering with the Roman liturgy and that many popes then, German like Ratzinger, had allowed useless repetitions, allegorical interpretation of rites, and the mysteries-laden symbols that were typical of northern peoples at that time. “The Tridentine Mass was a byproduct of this hybrid liturgy.
In fact, the Vatican II agenda was the restoration of the original seventh-century Roman rite, the Benedictine argued, “because the simpler the rites and symbols are, the easier they will be understood; and the more people understand, the more fully they can participate.” He explained the adoption of the vernacular follows this spirit, arguing that the Church officially allowed in the fourth century the use of the vernacular Latin “to replace the elitist and foreign Greek koine.”
Contemplation vs action
“Active participation is Vatican II’s prized gift to the Church,” Chupungco declared.
Ratzinger said the Mass should foster contemplation.
Chupungco argued that contemplation and action are not mutually exclusive words; they complement one another.
“While active participation should not distract from contemplation, contemplation should not disengage itself from active participation,” the Benedictine said. “The liturgy is the action of Christ and the Church; it should not be merely regarded as a background for personal contemplation.”
Father Chupungco’s followers and those who champion Paul VI’s abolition of the Latin Mass feel that the restoration of the Tridentine rite is Pope Benedict’s attempt to rehabilitate the schismatic Society of St. Pius X, whose founder, Archbishop Marcel Levebre of Switzerland, had taken part in the Second Vatican Council, but never recognized and, in fact, opposed its reforms.
Fr. Roberto Loanzon, a Dominican student of Father Chupungco at San’t Anselmo who was set to have a dissertation consultation with him on the day he died in Bukidnon, said it was doubtful if the Levebrites would rejoin the Church after the restoration of the Tridentine Mass, since the differences “are fundamentally theological, not just liturgical.”
On translation, Fr. Chupungco upheld “dynamic equivalence” while Ratzinger demanded that the translation should hew as closely as possible to the Latin text.
Chupungco said there are words such as mysterium and sacramentum that defy translation and should therefore be transliterated. “But I would encourage translators to give dynamic equivalence a chance to prove its worth as a method of translation,” he said. “While formal correspondence can give the impression of propinquity to the source language, in reality it can obscure the message and raise more questions than it can answer. Servility is not the same as fidelity.”
Perhaps respecting his predecessors while sticking to his guns regarding the “organic development” of the liturgy, Pope Benedict issued Summorun Pontificum (SP), upholding the Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI as the “ordinary expression” of the law of prayer of the Church, but also ruling that the Roman Missal promulgated by Saint Pius V in the 16th century and reissued by Blessed John XXII in the 1960s is the “extraordinary expression” of the same law of prayer and should be given the proper honor.
While SP “has cast a menacing shadow on the future of inculturation,” Chupungco said it also opened a door when it classified rites into “ordinary” and “extraordinary.”
“I would like to consider this a basis for the Holy See to declare inculturated forms of liturgy as ‘other extraordinary’ forms of the Roman Mass along with the Tridentine rite.”
To his credit, Father Chupungco remained loyal to the Church. “With gratitude I recall my Dominican mentors (at UST) who sowed in my soul the difficult virtue of loyalty,” he wrote.
Even his teachers’ faith was rocked when Vatican II seemed to have introduced a Church that was “youngish and fashionable and behaved like a liberated person.” “To this new type of Church,” Father Anscar said, “my Dominican mentors struggled to be loyal.”
“Just stay inside the boat, they advised, and hold on to dear life, especially when the boat rocks mightily.”
The papacy of Benedict XVI, though sadly short, has been one of immense significance.
More than any other Pope in recent memory, he understood the deepest theological currents that lay behind Vatican II, and stood doggedly against a threatened revival of neo-scholastic conservatism by insisting on the co-belonging of faith and reason. Faith, for Benedict, requires reason to reach to the metaphysical heights, but reason must look to its fulfilment in the incarnation of the Logos itself. Likewise, natural law should once again govern our approaches to personal and public human existence, but our ethical lives are only complete in the light of the theological virtues.
By insisting with a new boldness on the role of these virtues even in the social and economic fields, he was able to produce the most radical and far-reaching social encyclical of the post-war period, Caritas in Veritate, in which he proposed a non-capitalist market founded on reciprocal exchange, while distancing himself from previous excessive enthusiasm for liberal democracy.
In his weekly doctrinal teachings, Benedict went yet further in the reinstatement of Origen as the instigator of the integral unity of Christian doctrine, Christian philosophy, Christian exegesis and Christian mysticism. He was brave enough to point to the dangers, at once authoritarian and anarchic, that lurk in the more voluntaristic theological currents of Islam – as a result, future Europeans will likely feel themselves very much in his debt. In his trilogy of books on Jesus of Nazareth, he soberly demolished some of the bizarre historical procedures of New Testament criticism, while in the field of liturgy he started to modify elements in the liturgical thinking of Vatican II which were actually out of step with the ressourcement that most inspired the Council in general.
At the same time, Benedict sponsored new initiatives of debate with Islam and fresh overtures to the Eastern churches. In a novel way, he recognised the dignity of the Anglican spiritual and liturgical tradition and the rootedness of British constitutionalism in the deep Catholic past. It is possible that these moves also will bear significant fruit in the future. Contrary to his reputation with some, he tended gently to prise doors open rather than slamming them shut.
Perhaps above all, he had the wisdom, given our contemporary circumstances, to focus in his main encyclicals – those three issued and his projected final one – on the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. In each case, he expounded something specific to Christian revelation which yet has the greatest manifest relevance to all human beings. In each case, he also focussed on the essential, rather than the immediately controversial and ephemeral. This was especially true of his first encyclical on love: Deus Caritas est.
The centrality of love
Pope Benedict’s choice of love as the topic of his first encyclical exhibited his characteristic unswerving boldness combined with calm judgement. Love is the proper topic for the twenty-first century because in the personal field there is a crisis over its meaning, in the religious field there is an increasing substitution of violence for loving persuasion, and in the world at large the global tightening of human bonds is not accompanied by an equivalent increase of solidarity secured through the exercise of charity.
At the same time, love is the most perennial human need; Christianity is the religion which most places love at its heart and the Catholic Church is the corporate body which has attempted the largest systematic organisation of human love in response to the gift of divine grace. By bringing together the immediately pressing with the perennial, Pope Benedict attempted to convey with both simplicity and subtlety just how the Catholic faith is able to offer a surprising fulfilment of universal human aspirations towards a loving peace and harmony.
While the Pope’s teaching clearly stood in continuity with that of his predecessor, it is nevertheless marked by the fact Benedict is a theologian before he is a philosopher and a theologian in the lineage of the nouvelle theologie, which tends to stress the implicit yearning of reason towards faith and the completion of reason by faith, even within its own proper sphere of human understanding.
As a consequence, Deus Caritas est stressed the priority of the spiritual and the mystically theological over practical details, ecclesial programs and theoretical controversies. At the same time, the religious is linked, from the outset of the encyclical, to a warm humanism, easily understandable by all.
But nor was there any sign of backing away from John Paul II’s commitment to thinking through of the moral and political issues of our day. One glimpsed instead something like an accentuation of an insistence upon the relevance of the specific perspectives of faith to these issues, rather than merely a reliance upon sound reason and natural law (although the fundamental importance and non-constrained character of human reasoning is not, of course, denied).
Agape and eros
Correspondingly, there was in Deus Caritas est an increased emphasis on the Church itself as an agency of justice and charity, and on the Church itself as the final site of true human society – an emphasis fully developed in his third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. For this reason, the encyclical moves from a general consideration of love in the first part to a consideration of the role of the diaconate in the second. While this is the driest part of the document, it is also perhaps the part that most invites interpretation.
A correct reading of the second part of the document requires one to bear in mind the full implications of the analysis of love in the first. Here again, somewhat more than his predecessor, Benedict demonstrated that he remains all too aware of recent debates in theology and philosophy about the nature of love, giving and friendship. Broadly speaking, these hover about the issue of whether love is primarily an agapeic self-oblation, or whether, to the contrary, it is an erotic reciprocity and mutual fulfilling of desire. In this encyclical, Benedict adroitly held a balance between both emphases, and in so doing completely undermined the claims of those who see Christianity as the enemy of erotic love.
In the face of the commodification of sex, and an illogical exaltation of homosexual relations to equal exemplarity with heterosexual ones, Benedict here makes heterosexual faithful union the central paradigm of love for human beings in a way that would surely have startled his nineteenth-century forebears. Indeed, he argued that unless agape is instanced in this mode of love and in other less acute instances of eros, it would be something merely abstract and without effect. For while agape is the descending love of God that is totally self-giving and self-abandoning, it is still also a preferential, fully erotic sort of love. God has elected all of humanity for his love; more specifically he has elected Israel and then Mary and the Church. The latter is the Bride of God the Son: hence the gospels are precisely, as Benedict never tired of saying, a “love story” – the story of God’s seeking out of his lost love, the highest possible romance.
But even within his own Trinitarian life, God is not just a free-giving; he is equally a constant receiving. Thus Benedict insisted that insofar as the Bible qualifies a Greek metaphysical presentation of the absolute with a personalist emphasis, it accentuates and purifies rather than abandoning the Greek concern with eros. As personal, God himself not only exhibits preference but also receptivity.
The Pope also cunningly turned the conventional tables in the case of human agape. To be sure, this concerns a love for the neighbour that must be self-sacrificial and include love for enemies and even the unknown. Yet how is such a superhuman and heroic love possible for us? Not because it is commanded. Rather, because its possibility is given to us insofar as it arrives along with our agape for God. But this love of God is overwhelmingly receptive and therefore has an erotic dimension: to love God is obviously not to meet his needs but rather is to encounter him in personal union that issues in a merging of will and purpose.
At the heart of the gospels, moving a subtle degree beyond the Old Testament in this respect, lies the absolute merging of the commands to love God and the neighbour, without priority given to one or the other. The source of inspiration for unstinting love of the neighbour lies in mystical union with God: yet Benedict rightly insisted that the only true mysticism is Eucharistic. Hence we encounter God only within the social body, only insofar as we also encounter the neighbour – and in a context of celebratory foretaste of the heavenly banquet rather than in a context of benefaction. Therefore, one might say, only in an “erotic” context.
Nevertheless Benedict also stressed that worship and ethics are entirely at one: it is part of the movement of Eucharistic worship itself for the body of the faithful to turn to active agapeic works of mercy. These, however, are not to do with a merely sacrificial devotion to “humanity in general.” Although the parable of the Good Samaritan insists that the far-one can be also the near-one, this is no abandonment of the importance of proximity, but rather the paradoxical insistence that proximity can abolish alien distance while conserving the distance of respect.
So agape is also eros. But for Benedict the inverse equally applies. In pagan religion eros was ecstasy, in the sense of mere self-intoxication which often involved the gross exploitation of women. By contrast, in the Hebraic Song of Songs the physically erotic is poetically intensified precisely because the erotic is now linked to preference for a single one, to fidelity and to commitment unto sacrificial death. Romance, one might say, is born here and not with the Greeks.
Nor – and here Benedict is particularly acute – does this represent any abandonment of ecstasy: rather the truly ecstatic is discovered in terms of a self-abandoning movement towards the other that is also a paradoxical self-realisation. Far from this being a banning of pleasure, it is rather the first discovery of real pleasure – including in a physical sense.
To put it bluntly: in his first encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI boldly declared that not only is the Catholic Church not opposed to sexual love, to the contrary it alone truly understands it and fully promotes it. In an epoch-making fashion, a Pope declared that the literal sense of the Song of Songs – in other words, its first intended meaning – is indeed what the naive reader would take it to be. The mystical meaning arises now only through a proper acceptance of the worth of this literal meaning; while, at the same time, the depth of the latter is lost if it is not read also allegorically – that is, as pointing to the mystical marriage between Christ and the Church.
The politics of charity
Difficult questions certainly follow here about the relative worth of celibate and married commitments and about the plight of those who appear to have an unalterable homosexual orientation – a plight that the Church now seems somewhat to concede. And these questions are linked to a deeper one: how to hold together such a strong affirmation of the sacramental centrality of married heterosexual love to a continuing challenge to the ways of this world such as was upheld by celibate vocations in the past. Perhaps the second part of Deus Caritas est is to be read as a response to such a concern.
Benedict quite strikingly placed a new stress upon the exercise of diakonia as constituting a third of the Church’s mission, alongside the sacramental and teaching vocations. Clearly, this diaconate is today increasingly exercised by the Catholic laity within a huge range of voluntary charitable and teaching vocations. Quite rightly the Pope expressed concerned that these functions, as much as clerical ones, be exercised as part of the Church’s specific ethos, rule and pedagogy, and do not occupy some sort of uneasy limbo between theological justification and secular ideology. It would thus seem to have been the Pope’s desire that a married Catholic laity carrying out ecclesial vocations should be able to stand outside the world, while being immersed wholly within the world. Obviously, this is the sort of challenge that organisations like Opus Dei have tried to meet – whatever one’s opinions about their success, their concern is unavoidable.
But it is this part of the encyclical that invited most controversy. The Pope strongly declared that the offering of welfare is a proper aspect of the Church’s own life and cannot be altogether handed over to the state. He also affirmed that this offering must not be directed by worldly ideologies and continued to excoriate Marxism for suggesting that the giving of charity might inhibit the demand for justice.
One can easily see how certain neo-conservatives might read this as sanctioning the privatisation of all welfare functions. Moreover, one might even say that the temptation offered by the Grand Inquisitor to the Church in our time – a temptation to which all too many Catholics have already succumbed – is to accept extreme free-market liberalism in return for increased Church power in the spheres of welfare, education and medicine.
But throughout his papacy, Benedict wholly refused such a temptation, in accordance with his general political orientation which includes an opposition to the Iraq war, nuclear weapons and the armaments trade, as well as a commitment to address environmental degradation, a determination to end global economic injustice and an insistence that the market must be regulated – though not wholly controlled – in terms of a hierarchy of truly human ends (a stance that condemns most modern “economics”).
Clearly, Pope Benedict was no ideological dogmatist of the Right about welfare. He consistently advocated collaboration with state and international agencies pursuing the genuine human good in every respect. Hence, his insistence on the diaconate is not to be read as lining up with a privatisation of welfare, but rather as a new and typically nouvelle theologie stress on the Church itself as the fulfilment of human society: with and yet beyond justice, the Church is the place of the exercise of charity.
State agencies can never displace ecclesial ones because what the human person needs is direct attention and appreciation of his uniqueness beyond the mere just granting of him his due – indeed, the Catechism of the Church, which Benedict oversaw prior to becoming Pope, teaches that charity cannot displace the demands of the poor for justice. Moreover, Benedict argued that even secular projects of justice will only reach fruition if they are infused by a grace-given sense of charity – that sense that through the Eucharist and in Christ we are becoming at one with an infinite and all-powerful love.
It should thus be apparent that the inseparability of agape and eros in the first part of Pope Benedict’s epocal encyclical acts as the hermeneutic key for reading the lessons on the diaconate in the second.
The ecclesial society of love exceeds the secular society of justice in part because it involves infinite concern for others beyond what is merely due to them – or rather, this is what is due to them, for perfect justice is charity. But it also exceeds just society in terms of a kind of extended eros: the true giver of charity, says Benedict, also receives love from the one he cares for. The personal bond that then emerges cannot be planned for, nor commanded: it rather arises by divine gift, by grace.
It is for this theological reason – and not for politically conservative ones – that Benedict has stridently opposed all secular “plans” for the improvement of the world. Of course, he has said, we should be trying to improve the world. However, this should never involve the sacrifice of present people to the future, not only because this would be wrong, but also because of the perfected harmonisation of people in truth and love – to which he devoted his last encyclical, Caritas in Veritate – cannot be planned, precisely because it is composed of a myriad of “erotic” as well as agapeic events. A truly radical politics would therefore involve longing for such a future, as well as the determination to work towards such a future through many particularities. But to suppose one already possesses the blueprint for such a future would be, as Benedict says, to suppress the most specifically personal dimension of human life.
In this way, more successfully than secular ideologies, the Pope has proved himself capable of linking the personal with the political. What humans yearn for is inter-personal love. But the extension of this through tempered measures of organisation committed to social justice and fraternity is the key to the arrival of a global loving community.
John Milbank is Research Professor of Politics, Religion and Ethics at the University of Nottingham, and Director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy.
When Pope Benedict announced Monday that he was stepping down from the job, he wasn’t, as one-third of Americans who were raised Catholic have already done, walking away from the church entirely. He was just giving notice on the professional side of it. But his choice, coming as it did just two days before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the most sacred and thoughtful time in the Catholic year, seemed designed to provoke that familiar, recurring question among many of us who fill the pews on Sunday mornings: What am I still doing here? I found myself wondering yet again why I, a feminist and eternal Christopher Hitchens fangirl, in spite of everything supremely messed up and awful in the church, still call myself a Catholic.
It helps, significantly, that I grew up in a relatively untroubled period in modern Catholicism — an era of post Vatican II ecumenicalism, progressivism and guitar masses. It was a church that even now, on some deeply rooted level, I sort of believe was founded by the Canadian ambassador from “Argo” in an afro. Who, by the way, is totally gay.
I went through eight years of Catholic school, and while it was often a mixed bag, I credit it for giving me a genuinely moral education. In Catholic school, I was taught, every day, to articulate what my values were and then put them into practice. At home, I learned from my aunt, the woman who co-raised me and the most devout human being I’ve ever known, to associate faith with the difficult but rewarding work of generosity, compassion and forgiveness. My aunt challenged me to be vulnerable, she expected me to be loving. Within my young heart, Catholicism spoke to my inherent attraction to the mystical. It’s never been for me about talking to an old man in the sky. It’s instead been about believing that we’re part of something bigger, and striving for connection to it. And even though now I still get it all wrong a lot of the time, I can’t ever deny that the better aspects of my character were all forged in my Catholic upbringing. I don’t apologize for that, and I don’t quantify it. Anything decent or good in me isn’t despite my Catholicism. It’s right there within it.
Benedict wasn’t my pope any more than George Bush was my president. I don’t vote for either of those goobers. I didn’t like the things they said and did, or their records as leaders or decent humans. So in case you’re wondering, I am consistently outraged by the corruption and abuse of power that has gone on within the church, and heartbroken over the lives that have been callously shattered because of it. I am appalled when an institution that should be a force for peace and progress instead focuses on promoting intolerance. I’m furious when rigid dogma leads to senseless death. That’s why I tackle these issues regularly in my writing. My religious upbringing trained me to speak out against injustice and exploitation, and hey, if that means making a stink about the way the church conducts itself, I guess I can thank Catholicism for showing me how to do it. Because if your whole enterprise was founded by a troublemaking, authority-questioning outsider, you shouldn’t be surprised if that’s what you get from his followers.
You might likewise get people like the Nuns on the Bus, the movement of American Catholic Sisters who told that nice Catholic boy Paul Ryan that his budget plan was a hateful slam against the poor. You might, relatedly, get the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who work closely with the needy and were condemned last year by the Vatican for not being sufficiently vocal enough about birth control and homosexuality. They, meanwhile, continue to espouse “open discussion of church doctrine.” You might get my small, multiethnic parish that’s run by Capuchin friars, an order “dedicated to the service of real human needs and the proclamation of God’s love.” They do clothing drives and hurricane relief, and I’ve yet to hear our pastor say anything intolerant or exclusionary, ever.
Last Halloween, after Hurricane Sandy shut down our traditional neighborhood celebration in our park, the pastor offered families the use of the Catholic school’s gym for the festivities instead. There was no request for a fee, no implicit indoctrination. That’s why what ultimately drove me in disgust off our local Yahoo parenting group were the responses from people I’d considered friends who were so open in their contempt and distrust of the offer, and who said flatly they wouldn’t bring their children into “a church.” Aside from the fact that it was a school, at the same location where they’d have to do their voting a few days later, the saddest thing about it was the bigotry it revealed. I take a whole lot of guff on a consistent basis from the so-called faithful who like to tell me I can’t be a Catholic and believe the things I believe. But frankly I have been just as condescended to, judged and ultimately bored by mean-spirited, know-it-all Catholic bashers in my life as I have my fellow Christians.
It’s an often lonely place here in the quiet land of LGBT-loving, pro-choice, liberal Catholics. Some days I like to imagine it’s a little party just for Stephen Colbert, Joe Biden and me. But it’s not: 60 percent of American Catholics say they don’t strongly adhere to the church’s stance on abortion, and even more don’t subscribe to its position on same-sex marriage. Nearly 80 percent think you can practice birth control and not attend Mass regularly and still be a good Catholic, while only 20 percent believe in the necessity of an all-male, celibate clergy. You can call us Cafeteria Catholics if you like, but it doesn’t change our principles or our hopes for reform. And you can say the church is unchangeable, but it’s revised itself plenty over 2,000 years. This is a body that once decided slavery didn’t contradict natural law, so don’t rule out the possibility of further enlightenment.
I’m trying to raise my daughters to be skeptical and questioning, to figure out for themselves what they believe and to be accepting of those whose beliefs are different. As they grow and go out into the world for themselves, I don’t require them to stay in the church. But I hope they get from it what I did, that they can take the best and be solid enough in themselves to leave behind the rest. I hope they’ll always take some time each week for the rituals of reflection, and of extending to their neighbors a wish for peace. I hope they live as Paul taught, in a loving way that “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
For her first communion last year, my younger daughter recited a payer she had learned in Sunday school. They were the words of St. Francis. And I don’t really care if you’re Catholic or not, they’re just a damn good guideline for living. “Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console,” he says, “to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.” That’s what I aspire to in my life, that’s what I want for my children. And it’s what I will never, ever stop fighting for in my church.
“[Readers] will come away with a renewed appreciation not only of Mary, the Jewish mother of Jesus, but of the history of the Catholic Church and its relations with Jews and with other Christians,” writes Eugene J. Fisher in the book’s foreword. Dr. Fisher is the executive secretary of the Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“In Quest of the Jewish Mary” is published by Orbis Books, the publishing division of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. In the book, the author draws on the latest historical research and the fruits of post-Vatican II Jewish-Christian dialogue, along with the insights of feminist theology and contemporary spiritual reflection, to rediscover the Jewish Mary.
Sister Mary Christine Athans is professor emerita at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. Presently, she is an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago and the Catholic Theological Union. Sister Mary Christine will speak about the Jewish Mary at the Maryknoll Mission Center in Ossining, New York, on Sunday, March 10, at 2:30 p.m. Information and directions can be found at www.maryknollsociety.org.
Praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory–even referring to them that way, in fact–can seem like a quaint, old-fashioned, pre-Vatican II approach to Catholicism. It can feel like a made up sort of devotion, the kind of thing you tell your kids when they don’t know what to do with themselves.
Susan Tassone’s new book, Prayers, Promises, and Devotions for the Holy Souls in Purgatory (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012), though, the latest in a long line of books devoted to the topic of praying for the souls in Purgatory, has a feel of a book that’s been passed down. That doesn’t keep it from being relevant, though, and completely accessible to modern readers.
Tassone has approached the topic in a way that those who feel rather lost by the phrase “souls in Purgatory” will appreciate. She’s also assembled prayers and devotions that aren’t often seen together.
Throughout the book, Tassone explains the importance of a devotion to the souls in Purgatory and even succeeds in making them real people. She has taken difficult Catholic concepts and used the beauty of existing devotions–from novenas to psalms to ancient prayers–to bring them to life.
Whether you read this book cover-to-cover or find it a dog-eared companion as you struggle to put its suggestions to work, it’s a good addition to your Catholic bookshelf.
To catch more about Susan and her book, tune into EWTN’s Bookmark program which airs every Sunday, 9:30 AM 11:30 PM ET; Monday, 5 AM ET; Wednesday, 5:30 PM ET
(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and President of the Indian Bishops Conference closed an International Conference on Vatican II in Bangalore, India with a call to Church leaders in Asia to dig deeper into the ‘golden treasures’ of the great ecumenical council.
“Revisiting Vatican II: 50 years of renewal” was the theme of the international conference organized by the Pontifical University of Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law in Bangalore “Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram” (DVK), under the auspices of the Theology Journal “Asian Horizons “. More than 300 experts and bishops met in the week long conference for an in-depth critical reflection on the impact of the Council on universal Church with special attention to the Churches in Asia.
Below we publish the full text of the Cardinal’s intervention:
The Golden Treasures of the Second Vatican Council and the Gift of Faith
Oswald Cardinal Gracias
Gaudet Mater Ecclesia hac in celebratione. Our Mother the Church rejoices in this celebration. These were the first words of the homily preached by Blessed Pope John XXIII fifty years ago at the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. They remind us that above everything else, a Council is the celebration of the faith of the Church. We can say that the Universal Church rejoices, and especially, the Church in Asia and the Church in India on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the Second Vatican Council. In a particular way for the Church in India, the message and teachings of the Council constitute a blueprint for renewal.
Called by Pope John XXIII, this 21st Ecumenical Council of the Church (which shall henceforth be called Vatican II) was the most significant religious event in the Roman Catholic Church in the twentieth century. Vatican II was not only the largest of the twenty-one ecumenical councils, it was also the most culturally diverse. The Pope set two main goals for the Council: to bring the presentation of the Church’s doctrine up to date and to promote the unity of Christians. The invitation to Protestants, Orthodox and other non-Catholics to attend the Council gave it a unique and historic value. The Council solemnly began on October 11, 1962, the feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Article 44 of Gaudium et Spes invokes the Holy Spirit for all the deliberations: “With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the entire People of God, especially pastors and Theologians, to hear, distinguish and interpret the many voices of our age, and to judge them in the light of the divine word, so that revealed truth can always be more deeply penetrated, better understood and set for to greater advantage”.
Blessed Pope John Paul II remarked that “Vatican II remains the fundamental event of the life of the contemporary Church; fundamental for the deepening of the richness given to them by Christ; fundamental for the fecundal contact with the contemporary world in a prospective of evangelization and of dialogue on every level with all men of attentive consciences”. He said that the Council “prepared the Church for the passage from the second millennium to the third millennium after the birth of Christ”. 70 of the 78 Indian Bishops attended the first session of the Council. On 23 November 1962, Pope John XXIII met the Indian Bishops. Being aware and concerned about the social and economic conditions of India, the Pope expressed the hope that in the course of time, India would overcome some of its problems. The Church as a whole, and particularly in India, has seen positive changes as a result of Vatican II. Cardinal Valerian Gracias affirmed that Vatican II desired “a thorough renewal of Christian life to answer the claims of God and the needs of the modern world. Archbishop Eugene D’Souza who welcomed the change brought about by Vatican II, especially the document Gaudium et Spes remarked: “The Church’s whole approach to the world is one of sincere admiration, not of dominating it, but of serving it, not of despising it but of appreciating it, not of condemning it but of strengthening it and saving it”. The Council changed the way the faith engages the modern world. For example, before the Council, you could not attend the wedding or the funeral of a friend or relative in a Protestant Church. The Council was for most Catholics a breath of fresh air and it opened up avenues for them to think critically, intelligently and thoughtfully about their religious tradition. The Church affirmed religious liberty, condemned anti-Semitism, highlighted common ground with other Christian churches, encouraged dialogue with people of other religions and championed human dignity. Religious life changed dramatically, as religious orders adopted norms of Vatican II and rewrote their own constitutions. Liturgical participation increased tremendously in many local churches. The council restored the permanent diaconate as a ministry and allowed married men to be ordained deacons. The collective experience of bishops from different parts of the world sharing their experiences in the Council made them conscious of their collegiality and collective responsibility in the mission of the Universal Church.
The Uniqueness of Vatican II
Vatican II, though it maintained continuity with previous councils, was unique in many ways. Its style was invitational and pastoral. It moved away from all the previous councils which used technical, juridical and punitive language. As Pope John XXIII himself told the council that the church wanted to offer the modern world the “medicine of mercy rather than that of severity … demonstrating the validity of her teachings rather than that of condemnations”. It used a language of interiority, asking people to appropriate the perennial Christian values. Unlike previous councils, Vatican II attached no penalties for failure to observe its directives. Instead of anathemas and excommunications, it used pleasant words such as sisters and brothers and men and women of goodwill. The style the council adopted was based, as was the style of the early Fathers of the Church, on the art of persuasion and the art of finding common ground. It looked to winning assent to its teachings rather than imposing it. The Council’s decision to positively engage the modern world, constituted a reversal from earlier papal policy. For the first time in the history of the Church, the Council spoke of the universal call to holiness. Most experts state that the council’s biggest achievement was a new way of understanding the church, namely, as the “people of God” and not simply a hierarchical structure.
The years between Vatican Council I (1869-70) and Vatican Council II, almost one hundred years later, produced a major change in the way theology was done. To meet the crisis of faith and to tell the Christian story in a faithful, credible and intelligible manner that would transform people’s hearts, the theologians at Vatican II who were attuned to the Spirit of God in the world produced a religious revitalization of theology especially with regard to the church’s attitude toward the world, toward the laity and toward itself. They were convinced that theology needs to dialogue with the contemporary world in a language of life, a language that men and women of any generation can understand. The German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner who served as a peritus, a theological expert at the Council, saw the Council as having even more importance than those participating realized or intended. He said that in Vatican II the Catholic Church had made a “qualitative leap” towards becoming a “world-church” as according to him, the Church had previously been too much culturally tied to Europe and North America. Vatican II was the first ecumenical council that Asian Bishops took part in, though the actual number of Asian Bishops were relatively small. When the council opened on 11 October 1962, out of the 2,449 participants of the first period of the Council, 298 came from Asia. In the fourth and last period, of the 2625 participants, 311 came from Asia. It is perhaps worth noting that the proportion of Asian bishops remained substantially the same.
The Eucharistic Congress in Bombay: At the end of the Third Session of the Council
After the Third Session of the Council, Pope John XXIII chose the city of Bombay as the venue for the 38th Eucharistic Congress (28 November to 6 December 1964). However, on the death of Pope John XXIII, it was actually Pope Paul VI who came to Bombay as a pilgrim of peace, of joy, of serenity and love. Cardinal Valerian Gracias was the Chief organizer and I was fortunate to be one of those who helped out in the Congress. It was attended by 20 Cardinals, 300 Bishops, 1000 priests, 4000 nuns and 2,00,000 faithful. The message of the Congress was ‘the call to universal love’, where the love of Christ was the principal force for the bond of union created to serve the whole of humanity. Catholics joined hands with people of other faiths for the success of the Congress. Some of the Vatican Council’s reforms were implemented here. Thus, the Indian Church had the unique opportunity to witness the reform and renewal offered by the aggiornamento of the Council.
For the first time the Church in India was privileged to enjoy the fruits of reform initiated by the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Concelebrating and congregational singing were introduced in the Eucharistic Congress. Masses were celebrated both in the Eastern and the Western rites (Latin, Syro-Malabar, Syro Malankara, Maronite, Melkite, Byzantine, Chaldean and Armenian) showing the truly international character of the event. Along with English, Hindi and other Indian languages were made use of in the celebrations.
The Eucharistic Congress was a challenge to Christians in India where religious practice often failed to touch their social, economic and professional life. It was hoped that the Congress would foster an ecumenical dialogue with non-Catholics and greater understanding with people of other religions. Dr. Zakir Hussein, the Vice President of India appreciated both the aims of the Congress, namely, spiritual renewal and creation of the greater awareness of social responsibilities and of our obligation to our fellowmen. In his speech to the representatives of the non-Christian religions, Pope Paul VI highlighted the new approach of the Church towards non-Christians. He even quoted the Upanishads: “From the unreal, lead me to the real; from darkness lead me to light; from death, lead me to immortality”. However, the Pope stated that in this sincere dialogue with non-Christians, the Catholic Church must remain faithful to Christ and his Gospel, to what was received from the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church.
Both the National and International media referred to the Eucharistic Congress as the Congress of the Council where “the Church appeared to the world, through the great communications media used with such effect in Bombay, as the praying Church, the servant Church, the Church going forth with outstretched arms to the whole world, Christian and non-Christian alike”. This International Eucharistic Congress was unique because of the presence of Pope Paul VI and its relationship with the Vatican Council. Archbishop Nicodemo who summed up the relationship of the Congress to the Council stated that “the Congress of Bombay will have … beneficial repercussions for the future evangelization of Asia and of the entire non-Christian world, in the light of and with the impetus given by the Council”. He stated that the Congress was pastoral, ecumenical and missionary. Cardinal Valerian Gracias affirmed that the Congress gave the Church in India an all-round impetus. On the occasion of a Symposium with major Indian religions, Cardinal König told the participants that Vatican II not only expressed its respect for Hinduism and its indefectible search for God but also affirmed a deep appreciation of Islam. He stressed the need of dialogue in the spirit of the Indian dictum Satyam Eva Jayate (Truth alone triumphs) and the Gandhian principle of ahimsa (to do no harm or non violence).
Influence of the Council:
The Church made some progress in ecumenism by engaging in noteworthy dialogue with Lutheran, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox churches. The Council also contributed to positive relations with other religions. One sees Pope John Paul II paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi as a man of true religious inspiration and also by having meetings with the Dalai Lama. Also, due to Vatican II’s new emphasis on the role of the laity in the life and mission of the Church, many Catholics got more deeply involved in problems of justice and peace in the world.
Many experts list the Council’s biggest achievement as a new way of understanding the Church as the “people of God”, as a “sacrament” to the world and having a responsible mission in society. The universal call to holiness in Lumen Gentium was a remarkable moment for the Church. In this regard, the document encouraged Pastors of parishes “to recognize and promote the dignity and responsibility of the laity in the Church. They should willingly use their prudent advice and confidently assign offices to them in the service of the Church, leaving them freedom and scope for activity. Indeed, they should encourage them to take on work on their own initiative”. This should be especially true in areas where the laity “to the extent of their knowledge, competence or authority, … are entitled, and indeed sometimes duty-bound, to express their opinion on matters which concern the good of the Church”. Vatican II was the first ecumenical council in the history of the Church to deal with the topic of the laity. The term lay person occurs 206 times in the council’s documents and all the references are constructive. Apostolicam Actuositatem, the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity had its roots in Lumen Gentium chapter 4 where we find the beginnings of a theological foundation for the lay apostolate. In the last two decades, more and more laity are being educated and formed in ecclesial disciplines. Collaboration with an educated laity is essential for creating true partnership in mission.
There has also been significant growth in Lay Movements such as the Small Christian Communities. The ecclesial movements and communities express a key notion contained in Dei Verbum, namely, the People of God’s continuous renewal within the continuity of the great Tradition of the Church. The Vatican Council urges pastors to discover and heed the charisms that the Spirit of God bestows on the Church. New forms of charismatic experience, of community structures, of lay participation and commitment to the poor and social justice can be gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the reception of them can be part of the reception of the Council. These ecclesial movements have made a significant impact in India.
The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) constituted an important pillar of Vatican II. All the documents depend on faith in God’s word to us, which the Council has spelled out in this Constitution. It speaks of the divine revelation that gives the church its direction and nourishes its life. It identified both scripture and tradition as instruments for transmitting divine revelation. According to Dei Verbum, scripture is “the utterance of God as it is set down in writing under the guidance of God’s Spirit” and Tradition “preserves the word of God as it was entrusted to the apostles by Christ our Lord and the Holy Spirit”. The Constitution insists that both are to be acknowledged and respected with the same fidelity because “tradition and scripture together form a single sacred deposit of the word of God, entrusted to the church”. With Vatican II’s approval of the contemporary tools of biblical analysis, Catholic biblical scholars felt encouraged to use the historical-critical method and other interpretative tools in interpreting the meaning of scripture and as a consequence nurturing the faith.
In the past, the spiritual riches contained in the Bible were often neglected. When the Mass used to be celebrated in Latin, many people could not understand its significance. Even in Catholic theology, the Bible was viewed as a remote source of doctrine. Dei Verbum emphasized that tradition and scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the word of God, which is entrusted to the Church. It insists that the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of theology. It stated that the “Magisterium is not superior to the word of God, but rather its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devoutly, guards it reverently and expounds it faithfully.The constitution powerfully affirmed that the Church has always venerated the divine scriptures as it has venerated the Body of the Lord and strongly urged that access to it ought to be widely available to the Christian faithful. Since then, there has been a deeper appreciation of Scripture in the life of the Church. As St. Jerome reminds us that “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. The Biblical apostolate has become active in many dioceses. There are many lay people thirsting for the Word of God and attending biblical courses, prayer groups, retreats and the like.
The final document of the Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes is the Magna Carta of Christian hope. It clearly states that Jesus Christ is the answer to man’s most profound questions about the meaning of life. By his incarnation, Christ has united himself with every man and through his life, death and resurrection, the possibility of salvation for all humans becomes a reality. It vividly states that the Church has a mission to the rest of humanity. The Church exists primarily to be at the service of humanity. In Gaudium et Spes the Church proposes to enter into dialogue with the world “in order to help shed light on the mystery of humanity, and to cooperate in finding solutions to the problems of our times”. Gaudium et Spes’ call for solidarity remains a powerfully relevant ethical and theological resource. It calls all people of goodwill to work together to create social conditions consonant with the dignity of every human person. It offers us a new way of looking at the world, of caring for the world and of serving the world. It is important to note that the Council underlined the church’s solidarity with humanity instead of its separation from the secular world, and this led to the rapid increase of social and benevolent activities. Often Church leaders addressed issues on the church’s concern and solidarity for the poor and suffering.
The conclusion of the document ended with the plea: “It is the Father’s will that we should recognize Christ our brother in the persons of all men and women and should love them with an active love, in word and in deed, thus bearing witness to the truth; and it is his will that we should share with others the mystery of his heavenly love. In this way people all over the world will awaken to a lively hope, the gift of the Holy Spirit, that they will one day be admitted to the haven of surpassing peace and happiness in their homeland radiant with the glory of the Lord” (GS 93). The document contains some of the most significant statements concerning the dignity of the human person and the social mission and obligation of everyone to work for the common good. It presents solidarity as the key for living an authentic Christian and human life.
The Gift of Faith:
Right from the beginning of his ministry, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the need to rediscover one’s journey of faith so as to shed clearer light on renewed enthusiasm of one’s encounter with Christ and to gain an understanding of how the Church continues Christ’s mission of redemption.
Hence, the Holy Father has launched a Year of Faith to help us appreciate the gift of faith, to deepen our relationship with God and to strengthen our commitment to sharing our faith with others. He chose to begin his Year of Faith on 11 October 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II to “provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the council fathers which ‘have lost nothing of their value or brilliance’. The Year of Faith will be a great grace for the entire Church, and it will help each member of the Church understand anew, or for the first time, how it was and is that the Second Vatican Council sought to make the Church’s venerable teachings more understandable and meaningful in a world of rapid change.
The starting date of the Year of Faith also marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI described the Catechism as “an authentic fruit of the Second Vatican Council”; and elsewhere in the same document he called it as “one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council”. The Catechism according to Pope John Paul II is meant to show “the power and beauty of the faith” as it truly expresses what could be called “the symphony of the faith”. He termed the Catechism as a statement of the Church’s faith and of Catholic Teaching. His said so beautifully that in reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church we can perceive the wonderful unity of the mystery of God. The Catechism is a synthesis of the faith, conveying the ‘melodious symphony of revealed truth’ that originates from God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.
According to the Pope’s Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, the 2012 Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world.” In other words, it is an opportunity for as Christians to experience a conversion – to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. It is also an invitation to each one of us to retrace the history of our faith with “our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ, the ‘pioneer and perfecter of our faith’”
In scripture we learn that the Apostles: “…called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” (Acts 14:27). To open the door of faith to people of every place and time is primarily the task of God Himself! If we lose sight of the ‘primacy’ of God’s Work, whatever effort we employ will be destined to not bring forth the desired fruit. It is God who opens the door of faith to our human brothers and sisters, and He does it, primarily, through His only Son. God has opened the “door of faith” for each one of us at our baptism (Rom 6: 4) and that door will always remain open for us, constantly inviting us into a life of communion with God. During this year of faith, we are called to walk through that door again and rediscover, renew and deepen our relationship with Christ and his Church. Pope Benedict remarked that “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy”. The Year of Faith is meant to be a year dedicated to the rediscovery of the joy of believing and the renewed enthusiasm for encountering Christ the Lord.
It is unfortunate that many Catholics do not know what the Catholic Church actually teaches. Many Catholics are only Sunday Catholics, and their faith has little or no relevance to their lives. This has led to what the fathers of the Second Vatican Council warned of – the “greatest error of our age, the separation between faith and life.” Pope Benedict aptly remarked that we are before a “growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less. But if we are to live and love our faith, if we are to love God and to hear him aright, we need to know what God has said to us – our minds and hearts must be touched by his word.” “We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples”. An important way to overcome religious illiteracy is proper catechesis.
The Year of Faith will be not so much a celebration as a missionary event – precisely in the perspective of the mission ad gentes and the new evangelization. The year of Faith will be an important step of purification and waiting for a new evangelization of the world, as Pope Benedict wrote in Porta Fidei: “It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied”. We need to turn back to the Credo to rediscover its riches. Faith is not a private act and implies public testimony and commitment. “Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him. Faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes”. The renewal of faith must be a priority for the entire Church.
The Year of Faith which is founded on the Second Vatican Council takes seriously the conviction of the Council Fathers of the obligation of the Church and every Christian to faithfully and enthusiastically proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
Vatican II has never been more relevant than it is at this moment in the history of the church. However, it is in need of further implementation. There is much more to be done with regard to receiving and living what the council taught and stood for. To re-read and to rediscover the Council, in all its prophetic and missionary worth, is one of the main urgent tasks in the Church today. The lively, ongoing, Spirit-led process of appropriating as a whole the vision and implications in doctrine and practice of the council is far from complete. As the late Cardinal Franz König, archbishop of Vienna wrote in the London Tablet in 2002: “The crucial process of reception, that all-important part of any church council, can take several generations. It continues today”. This ‘new Pentecost’ in the church depends not simply on the ‘institutional’ church but on the church as a whole. It was Pius XII who said that the laity are the Church in the world. Since Vatican II there has been an emergence of a large variety and ministries for the laity.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a few days before his election as Benedict XVI remarked: “What we need at this time of history, are people, who, through a faith which is enlightened and lived out in practice, make God credible in this world … We need people who keep their gaze fixed upon God, learning from there what true humanity is. We need people whose intellect is enlightened by the light of God and whose hearts God may open up in such a way that their intellect may speak to the intellect of others and that their hearts may open the hearts of others. Only through people who are touched by God can God return to humanity”.
The Church in Asia and India is constantly facing many challenges where our faith lives are put to the test. In this regard, I would like to encourage every believer and all our Christian communities and institutions everywhere to continue reflecting on their faith lives, being firm in their faith, witnessing their faith, deepening their faith and proclaiming their faith. We must profess the faith with renewed conviction, with confidence and with hope. We must not lose heart because where there is God, there is future. Pope Benedict XVI expressed this so well when he said that to understand Vatican II correctly one must begin with the first sentence of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “Christ is the light of all nations”. The point, he said, is that the church begins by talking about Christ, not about itself.
A few years ago Pope John Paul II said it so well: “The best preparation for the new millennium can only be expressed by a renewed commitment to apply, as faithfully as possible, the teachings of Vatican II to the life of every individual and of the whole Church” (The Coming Third Millennium, #20). May the Year of Faith be for each of us an opportunity to strengthen and deepen our faith at the personal and community level. May our motto be to live with intensity and renewed commitment this Year of Faith! May the Blessed Virgin Mary, “full of grace” and Star of the new Evangelization, guide us on our journey to Christ the Light!
For several decades now, I’ve been intrigued by the work and thinking of Hans Küng, the Swiss-born Catholic theologian whose authority to teach Catholic theology has been removed by the Vatican.
So naturally, I was attracted to Jason Berry’s recent NCR story about Küng and his continuing disagreements with the Vatican, particularly with Pope Benedict XVI, who once was Küng’s theology department colleague at the University of Tübingen.
Let me remind you of a few things Küng was quoted as saying in that piece:
“You cannot deny that Joseph Ratzinger has faith. But he is absolutely against freedom. He wants obedience. He is against the paradigm of Vatican II. He has a medieval idea of the papacy.”
Then Berry reported that Küng believes the sexual abuse scandal in the church and the crackdown on American nuns’ leadership group “is a crisis rivaling the Protestant Reformation.”
In some ways, what Küng said and is reported to believe is in harmony with my own observation in a July 2012 NCR column: “… it looks as if the current hierarchical institutional expression of the Catholic church is dying and will be essentially gone in a few generations — certainly in the U.S.” (I hope I’m not misquoting myself.)
What especially strikes me about all of this is that both the Catholic church today and the modern world of Protestantism seem incapable of getting in front of the currents of change. The very hierarchical structure to which Küng points with some disdain often seems to result in the church having to react to crises once they break rather than being in a position to prevent them by agile thinking and actions. (Vatican II can be viewed as an exception.) The sexual abuse scandal is but one example of this kind of failure.
By contrast, we Protestants seem incapable of a unified response to cultural, social and theological trends because we are the opposite of hierarchical, which is to say that we are atomized into speaking with hundreds if not thousands of voices.
Here and there, of course, at the congregational level or even at times the denominational level Protestants can and do muster a reasonable, biblical response to fast-moving trends, though in such matters as ordaining women as pastors or allowing the ordination of otherwise-qualified gays and lesbians, our systems clunk along with agonizing slowness rather than allowing us to be leaders in liberation.
Something else about Küng’s reaction puzzled me: Does the Catholic church continue to view the Protestant Reformation as a crisis?
It certainly had that character in the early 16th century, when Martin Luther was driving Vatican leaders crazy, resulting, ultimately, in a split church. But when religious leaders view (or continue to view) fast-moving developments as crises instead of as opportunities, their reactions almost certainly do more damage than good.
In many ways, the Protestant Reformation was an unnecessary result of what could have been a healthy internal reform movement. And now, 500 years later, if even flexible Catholics such as Küng continue to see it as a crisis (though that was Berry’s word, perhaps not Küng’s), there’s not much hope that the modern church is prepared to react quickly and constructively to internal reform movements.
Sometimes segments of the Protestant world seem to come untethered from their theological core and go running off into anarchistic streets. That’s what can happen when they toss off the kind of central authority represented by the Vatican.
But on the whole, the thousands of blooming Protestant flowers strike me as a more healthy way of being disciples of Jesus Christ than relying on one man and his deputies for direction and approval.
Still, even in such a hierarchical system, it’s a sign of health and dynamism that some people, such as Hans Küng, are willing to challenge the center, even when that center may be hearing but no longer listening.
[Bill Tammeus, a Presbyterian elder and former award-winning Faith columnist for The Kansas City Star, writes the daily "Faith Matters" blog for the Star's website and a monthly column for The Presbyterian Outlook. His latest book, co-authored with Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, is They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Editor’s note: We can send you an email alert every time Bill Tammeus’ column, “A small c catholic,” is posted to NCRonline.org. Go to this page and follow directions: Email alert sign-up.
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
Salt Lake Tribune/Religion News Service
(RNS) Whether by accident, serendipity or divine design, four future heavyweights of American Catholicism found themselves in the Class of 1962 at St. John’s Seminary.
Momentous societal changes were surfacing all around the young men, but seminary life for George Niederauer, Roger Mahony, William Levada and Tod Brown continued much the same as it had for centuries. The four friends — a pair of cardinals-to-be, a future archbishop and bishop — were assigned alphabetically to desks and dorms. They arose at 5:30 a.m. and, within a half hour headed to the chapel for prayers and Mass. Silence was required during meals and after 7:30 p.m. Moral theology and philosophy classes were taught in Latin.
The priests-in-waiting had neither televisions nor telephones and were forbidden to leave the campus in Camarillo, Calif., without permission. They could read about current events — such as the 1960 election of the first Catholic to the White House — but only in clips from approved newspapers.
Released from their Catholic cocoon in 1962, the young priests faced a church on the brink of volcanic reform with the opening of the Second Vatican Council, pushing the ancient institution into a new age. No more Latin Mass. Priests now faced the people, not the altar. Other Christians were embraced, and social work became gospel.
After being schooled in a Vatican I church, the foursome would step down, five decades later, as quintessential Vatican II men.
“There was no instruction manual with a chapter (to cover) every conceivable crisis for the next 50 years,” says Mahony, now the retired archbishop of Los Angeles.
And there were many unexpected twists — a precipitous decline in priests and nuns, growing divorce rates, the push for reproductive rights and gay rights, an increasingly ethnic population, widespread disaffection and school closings, and, of course, the priest sex abuse scandal.
Niederauer, Mahony, Levada and Brown were gifted, dedicated men whose skills were recognized early and tapped often.
Levada ascended to archbishop of San Francisco and, later, the highest-ranking American in the Vatican. He and Mahony became cardinals, Brown shepherded Idaho’s diocese and then the Catholic flock in Orange, Calif., the fastest-growing diocese in the Golden State.
Niederauer was the last of the four to get a bishop’s crosier and ring, overseeing the Diocese of Salt Lake City before replacing Levada as archbishop of San Francisco.
All four Class of ’62 alums are now retired, but they continue to meet regularly: once a year at Mahony’s cabin just outside Yosemite National Park and again on the day after Christmas.
* * *
Niederauer came of age after World War II during “an Indian summer of American Catholicism,” says the Rev. Steven Avella, a history professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
The once-outsider church was now well-rooted on U.S. soil, but in Southern California, where young George grew up, Catholics were vastly outnumbered among an increasingly diverse religious populace.
Niederauer’s parents drove him across town to Long Beach’s all-male St. Anthony’s Catholic High School, where he met Levada and where priests became the most potent forces in their lives. Teachers, mentors, confessors, counselors — these men of the cloth modeled a kind of life that left indelible imprints on the boys.
Slowly, the four men moved toward the priesthood. No flashes of lightning, no visions, no divine beckonings. Just a yearning to take their place alongside the men who had shaped them.
“They made the life of a priest attractive,” Niederauer recalled. “They were happy, effective, smart and approachable. A young man could look at that and think, ‘Well, that’s a possibility.’”
One by one, three boys opted for St. John’s after graduating from high school, but Niederauer had developed a separate passion — English literature.
The future professor enrolled at Stanford. Over Christmas break, however, he got together with his pals and, he says, “they were doing what I wanted to do.” So Niederauer transferred to the seminary, where he could become a priest and still write and produce witty skits and plays for students and faculty.
Niederauer was ordained May 1, 1962 — a day after Mahony — then worked in a parish for a few years, while pursuing graduate work in literature. By 1966, he had earned a doctorate from University of Southern California, and a year later, Niederauer returned to teach literature and moral philosophy at St. John’s and stayed another 27 years, eventually becoming seminary rector and wrestling with how best to train the new generation of priests.
Gregorian chants gave way to contemporary and non-Catholic hymns, while guitars became popular Mass instruments, says Monsignor Peter Nugent, a St. John’s music teacher and classmate of Niederauer. Silent periods were phased out, more classes and books were in English, and seminarians routinely left campus for parish and charity work.
There was more “acceptance of (priests’) humanity,” said University of Utah historian Colleen McDannell. “They went to the movies, traveled, vacationed with friends and family. The distance between priest and laity diminished.”
In Salt Lake City and again in San Francisco, Niederauer built morale among his priests by creatively matching talents with assignments, says Monsignor Terrence Fitzgerald, who served as his vicar general in Utah. The bishop’s “collaborative style of leadership” made him popular everywhere he went.
Though Niederauer defended his church’s anti-gay marriage stance and even enlisted Mormon leaders to help pass California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, the bishop hadn’t supported a similar Utah amendment. He pushed back when the Vatican tried to bar homosexuals from the seminary, allowed a short-lived Mass for gays and was the nation’s first Catholic bishop to praise the gay love story, “Brokeback Mountain.”
* * *
After Vatican II, the church transformed its approach to poverty, says McDannell, author of “The Spirit of Vatican II: A History of Catholic Reform in America.” It moved beyond feeding people to attacking the systemic and societal causes of hunger.
That direction fit Mahony’s instincts.
As a child, young Roger was traumatized by the sight of border patrol agents crashing through the doors of his father’s small poultry-processing plant in North Hollywood. Guns drawn, they were looking for illegal immigrants among the plant’s handful of Mexican-born employees.
“Turned out everybody had documentation,” Mahony said, “but the assumption that, because they were Latino there must be something wrong with them, struck me deeply.”
Mahony, a talkative, animated student, learned Spanish while still in high school and, during his seminary years, spent many Sundays in the fertile California fields helping a priest celebrate Mass and hear confessions from Mexican migrant workers. Mahony joined labor icon Cesar Chavez, who wielded protests, strikes and boycotts to draw attention to worker safety and wage issues.
After his 1962 ordination, Mahony earned a master’s degree in social work from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., focusing on community organizing. When he returned to the West, he became the church’s lobbyist in Sacramento, where he helped broker a settlement between farmworkers and growers, and then headed Catholic Charities of California. He was named auxiliary bishop of Fresno in 1975 at age 38. Five years later, he was elevated to bishop of Stockton. In 1985, he stepped up as archbishop of L.A.
The City of Angels was a sprawling diocese of more than 1 million Catholics, so Mahony engaged his old pal Levada to help manage the shifting demographics. The two divided the area into five pastoral regions, with an auxiliary bishop for each.
Mahony then set about pushing the church into the 20th century.
He surveyed the population, asking about their priorities. He organized and computerized church finances. When there were not enough priests, he recruited laity to shoulder the workload, which triggered some resistance from conservative Catholics. He closed down a historic cathedral over the objections of preservationists and old-school Catholics and built a modernist — and expensive — replacement, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
Mahony was “a deft practitioner of ecclesiastical politics,” Avella said. “He was personable and likable and could read the changing times.”
* * *
By all accounts, William Levada was the most intense and serious of the St. John’s quartet — which made him a prime target for pranks. One night, Niederauer, Brown and Mahony (who had the idea) put a camera flashbulb in Levada’s overhead light and a dead chicken hawk in the closet just to see his startled reaction.
What didn’t surprise them, though, was Levada’s decision to spend his final undergraduate years studying theology at the Pontifical North American College and Pontifical Gregorian University.
“Rome is the center of Catholicism and has been for 2,000 years,” Levada said. “Just being there was an education.”
From then on, the Vatican became the focus of his vision and ministry, eventually bringing him into the presence of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He returned again and again from California to the Eternal City to study — earning a doctorate with a dissertation on infallibility — and to work in the Vatican bureaucracy.
Always a careful, evenhanded writer, Levada was the only American on the Vatican’s 1986 bishops’ commission to redo the catechism, which spells out Catholic teachings.
After serving for nine years as archbishop of Portland, Ore., Levada returned to California to replace the liberal Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco.
Bay Area Catholics braced themselves for a conservative crackdown, but the self-effacing Levada put them at ease, quipping that he “left my Darth Vader costume at home.” As a moderate pragmatist, Levada defended church doctrines and decisions, yet refused to attack opponents.
When changing demographics and finances forced the diocese to shut down 14 churches, Levada found ways to appease angry parishioners by turning some into shrines or community centers. When other bishops showed their disapproval of politicians favoring abortion rights by withholding Communion, Levada preferred to engage with them instead.
In 2005, Benedict named Levada as his successor as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a powerful panel overseeing theological orthodoxy as well as abuse cases. Rather than being “God’s Rottweiler,” as some had dubbed Benedict, Levada joked that he would be, according to the National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen, more like God’s “cocker spaniel.”
Levada shuns the limelight — donning shorts and a floppy hat on weekends to tour Rome’s treasured churches and museums undetected — and is no ideologue. Sure, he signed off on recent criticism of progressive American nuns and was stern and unbending toward abusive priests, Allen writes, but admirers say the Vatican insider has “genuine empathy and a desire to find ways to keep (sides) talking despite differences.”
* * *
Tod Brown grew up in Northern California and met the others for the first time at St. John’s.
Like Levada, he spent his last seminary years at the church’s American universities in Rome. But he fell ill and returned to St. John’s to be ordained in May 1963, a year later than his three friends.
After ordination, Brown served in various California parishes. In 1989, he became bishop — consecrated by Levada — of Boise, Idaho, a place he had never visited and knew little about. The Catholics there were dwarfed in number by the predominant Mormons.
A decade later, he returned to California, taking the helm of the Diocese of Orange, a large community that included Latino, Vietnamese and Filipino immigrants.
Brown was named to the pope’s council on ecumenism and interreligious affairs and explored relationships with faiths such as Islam as well as other Christians.
Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, relations between his Catholic priests and Muslims were “cool,” but afterward, they warmed up dramatically, Brown said. “We’ve come to appreciate each other.”
In one of his last acts before retiring, Brown authorized the purchase of the all-glass Crystal Cathedral, built for the Rev. Robert Schuller’s “Hour of Power” broadcasts. Brown had been looking to build a cathedral for the diocese, which didn’t have one, but got Schuller’s iconic tower and surrounding campus for much less.
* * *
Most American Catholic bishops first handled abusive priests the way they had long treated alcoholic clerics — send the offender off to a retreat center to dry out, then bring him back to serve again. They relied on psychiatrists, they say, who promised them that these men were “cured” and safe for the ministry.
Reportedly, St. John’s Seminary, where these four men trained, had an even higher incidence of abuse than in the rest of the country. But, they say, they knew nothing of it.
The priests may have been their family, says the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Georgetown scholar, “but the thing all the bishops forgot was that the kids were also their family.”
The four acknowledge their failure to grasp the depth, breadth and insolubility of the problem. Niederauer was a member of the 2002 bishops’ committee charged with creating policies for protecting children in the future; Mahony, Brown and Levada were on the hot seat as they faced hundreds of cases and victims in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco. Eventually, the latter three would spend days testifying in court, fighting the push to open the church’s personnel files. All three oversaw payments of millions to victims.
Mahony, for one, sometimes felt downright powerless.
“Even during the middle of the night,” Mahony recalls, “I would get up and go to chapel and say, ‘Lord, I don’t have any answers. You’ve got to help us.’”
* * *
Many all-male Catholic high schools are gone now and lay men and women have taken over the role of priests at coed parochial schools. The country’s priest candidates are older and often foreign-born. More moderate Vatican II-esque leaders have been replaced by doctrinal conservatives, and priests do not run parishes alone as they once did.
That’s OK with Mahony.
“I don’t want to go back,” says the cardinal, who has taken up residence in the little house behind St. Charles Borromeo Church, his childhood parish in North Hollywood. “In God’s providence, we will have enough priests … (and will develop) new forms of ministry that make the church more vital.”
The four old friends, all age 76, plan to travel, write, assist in parishes and work on pet projects.
Mahony continues to blog, preach and push for immigration reform. Brown has settled into his predecessor’s house in Orange, where he will maintain his ecumenical outreach.
Niederauer and Levada are sharing a condo in Long Beach; Niederauer also has a house on the campus of St. Patrick’s Seminary University in Menlo Park, Calif., where Levada will spend some of his time.
Mutual affection runs deep.
“Grow old along with me,” Levada said, quoting the poet Robert Browning at Niederauer’s golden anniversary of his ordination last spring. “The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.”
Peggy Fletcher Stack writes for The Salt Lake Tribune.
Also on HuffPost:
The head of a controversial Catholic sect says that Jews are “enemies of the Church,” but the sect has denied any anti-Semitic intentions.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, declared Jews “enemies of the Church” during a talk that aired on a Canadian radio station, the Catholic News Agency recently reported. Fellay’s remarks took place on Dec. 28 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Chapel in New Hamburg, Ontario.
Fellay, discussing negotiations with the Vatican in 2012 concerning the Society’s future, said the following during the address: “Who, during that time, was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the Society? The enemies of the Church. The Jews, the Masons, the Modernists.”
Fellay said Jewish leaders’ support of the Second Vatican Council “shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the Church’s,” according to the Catholic Register.
The Second Vatican Council modernized the Catholic Church in the 1960s and is the reason the Society of St. Pius X split from the main body and was founded in 1970 as part of the Traditionalist Catholic movement. Some traditionalists blame Jews for the reforms that took place during the Vatican II council sessions, notes the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The Society of St. Pius X posted a press release in response to Fellay’s “enemies of the Church” comment, denying any anti-Semitic connotation. The release reads that “enemies” refers to “any group or religious sect which opposes the mission of the Catholic Church and her efforts to fulfill it: the salvation of souls.”
The release continued thus:
By referring to the Jews, Bishop Fellay’s comment was aimed at the leaders of Jewish organizations, and not the Jewish people, as is being implied by journalists. Accordingly the Society of St. Pius X denounces the repeated false accusations of anti-Semitism or hate speech made in an attempt to silence its message.
This is not the first time one of the sect’s members has spoken out against Jews.
In 1985, one of the Society’s founders, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, also identified enemies of the faith as “Jews, Communists and Freemasons,” according to JTA. In addition, traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson has denied that the Nazis used gas chambers to kill Jews in the Holocaust and that no more than 200,000 to 300,000 Jews died during WWII.
Jesuit Priest Rev. James Martin expressed his disapproval of Fellay’s comment and of the Society in general. “I cannot imagine how any further talks can continue with the group,” Martin told The Huffington Post. “Theologians have been silenced for dissenting in lesser ways from official church teaching.”
Click through the slideshow to see most and least Catholic states in the United States.
44,905 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.
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3504 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.
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