DPPL 65-66: Deviations in Popular Piety

STA altar at night smallAfter some praise from the Magisterium (DPPL 61-64) comes a few cautions. I’ve pulled out the particulars into bullet points–these are not formatted as such in the original text:

65. While the Magisterium highlights the undeniable qualities of popular piety, it does not hesitate to point out dangers which can affect it: lack of a sufficient number of Christian elements such as

  • the salvific significance of the Resurrection of Christ,
  • an awareness of belonging to the Church, the person and action of the Holy Spirit;
  • a disproportionate interest between the Saints and the absolute sovereignty of Jesus Christ and his mysteries;
  • lack of direct contact with Sacred Scripture;
  • isolation from the Church’s sacramental life;
  • a dichotomy between worship and the duties of Christian life;
  • a utilitarian view of some forms of popular piety;
  • the use of “signs, gestures and formulae, which sometimes become excessively important or even theatrical”(John Paul II, Allocution to the Conference of the Bishops of the Abruzzi and the Molise, ad Limina visit, 3, in AAS, 78 (1986) 1140);
  • and in certain instances, the risk of “promoting sects, or even superstition, magic, fatalism or oppression”(John Paul II, Discourse at Popayan (Colombia), in Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IX/2 (1986), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 1986, p. 115).

So these criticisms are not original to St John Paul, but he was certainly aware of them in these statements to Italian bishops and in Colombia. What strikes me is that many of these challenges seem to indicate people are leery of Jesus. I’ve never known any Christian to be directly anti-Jesus, but the distance between the Lord and some pious practices suggests to me many believers are a bit fearful of inching too close to God. Saints and long-held practices become a “safe” Christianity. Do you think “fear of the Lord” is overdone as a quality? Or is it just a human experience to latch on to the small and the tried-and-true?

66. In its attempts to remedy such defects in popular piety, the contemporary Magisterium has insistently stressed the need to “evangelize” popular piety*, and sees it in relation to the Gospel which “will progressively free it from its defects; purify it, consolidate it and clarify that which is ambiguous by referring it of the contents of faith, hope and charity”(John Paul II, Allocution to the Conference of the Bishops of the Abruzzi and the Molise, ad Limina visit, 6, in AAS 78 (1986) 1142).

* Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Vigesimus quintus annus, 18; Allocution to the Conference of the Bishops of the Abruzzi and the Molise, ad Limina visit, 6, in AAS, 78 (1986) 1142; Puebla, 458-459; CDWDS, Circular letter, Orientamenti e proposte per la celebrazione dell’anno mariano (3.4.1987), 68.

Pastoral sensibility recommends that the work of “evangelizing” popular piety should proceed patiently, tolerantly, and with great prudence, following the methodology adopted by the Church throughout the centuries in matters relating to inculturation of the Christian faith, the Sacred Liturgy(Varietatates legitimae, 9-20) and those inherent in popular piety.

That quality, prudence. Difficult to practice, demanding of great patience. Spiritual guidance is needed in these matters, but a guidance that can be trusty: not governed by charisma or power or impatience. But dialogue, in order to see what religious sensibilities are being addressed by “un-evangelized” piety, and working to see and show how Jesus Christ can better address the needs people seek to fill.

The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.

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Aparecida 79-80 – Situations of Injustice

In paragraphs 79 and 80, we find a very brief analysis of the political situation in terms of unjust laws and violations of human rights.

In paragraph 79, the bishops show that are keenly aware of the difference between justice and legality.

Some parliaments or legislative congresses pass unjust laws spurning human rights and the popular will, precisely because they are not close to their constituents and do not know how to listen and dialogue with citizens, but also out of ignorance, for failure to accompany them, and because many citizens abdicate their duty of participating in public life.

What I find missing in this section is the role played by large corporations (national and international) as well as by local elites. These forces often pressure the legislature and the executive to pass laws that reinforce their wealth and status in the society and prolong unjust social structures.

The bishops also note in paragraph 80, the problem of rising repression and violation of human rights.

In some states, there has been a rise in repression and the violation of human rights, even of the right of religious freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of teaching, as well as disrespect for conscientious objection.

The bishops mention “conscientious objection” without defining what they are discussing.

Conscientious objection in relation to military service is only recognized in Colombia, though a number of nations in Latin America have abolished military conscription. Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949. But I think that the reference is more in terms of conscientious objection to abortion and contraception, which is a particular point of contention in Peru, Mexico, and Chile.

Here is an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Cupich on Liturgy

New Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich was supposedly tapped to serve in Milwaukee a few years ago, but the move was blocked overseas, according to Rocco Palmo. That’s a fascinating little tidbit, as is the fact this is the first incoming Chicago ordinary in decades not to arrive already with a pallium. But he has been “married” to two other dioceses as bishop.

Here’s an interesting article on a workshop the archbishop-elect did on the eve of English MR3. He’s no dissenter from the messy translation, but he seems to have little regard for reform2:

This is not ‘reform of the reform’ – all that language we’re hearing from people who have an axe to grind or who are trying to cause trouble for the church; this is an ongoing attempt to try and have an actual translation of the Latin into vernacular. This is the first time in the history of the church we have done this; we have to be patient with ourselves.

I can’t quite agree with him on the laudability of the latest translation. But regarding that swipe at “troublemakers,” do you think Rome has a long memory on such things?

He was right to underscore the importance of English as a language of influence:

English is seen as the universal language. Texts throughout the world take their translations from the English. There is concern that the English translation is as accurate as possible so that when others use it, they are not distanced from the Latin.

Aside from a lack of service in the upper echelons of canon law, Blase Cupich’s resume isn’t a huge deviation from appointments of the past several cycles: six years as a parish priest, but more in education. He did serve in Omaha as an archdiocesan liturgy director for three years.

He seems to be an unsatisfactory pick in the eyes of more traditionally-minded Catholics.

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If It Is Archbishop Cupich …

… the prelate identified with this statement:

Very caustic language wears thin quickly. I think my approach works better in the long run.

The man is definitely not a culturewarrior.

Mark Shea is a skeptic. His commentariat comes down mostly to the Right of that. But, who am I to judge?

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On Goodell

Not a good week for the AWOL NFL commissioner. Even Michael Vick endorsed him.

You have to give the man a chance, you have to him a chance, you have to give everybody a chance to get it right.

I think the NFL is not in so much trouble. Corporate sponsors are suspending, at worst, not abandoning. Too many other moneymakers will line up to put their brand next to the shield.

The league has plenty of players to step in and replace abusers. The NFL could lose a hundred or two players if it needed to, and there would be hardly a bump. Just my cynicism talking.

On the other hand, the NFL could be part of the solution. Money, though, will keep rolling in.

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DPPL 64: An Antidote to “Sects”

STA altar at night smallJohn Paul II suggests that the Catholic distinctiveness is its culture of piety. Do you think it’s an adequate bulwark against “sects”–read evangelical Protestants?

64. The Magisterium also highlights the importance of popular piety for the faith-life of the People of God, for the conservation of the faith itself and in inspiring new efforts at evangelization.

It is impossible to overlook “those devotions practiced in certain regions by the faithful with fervour and a moving purity of intention”(Catechesi tradendae 54); that authentic popular piety “in virtue of its essentially Catholic roots, is an antidote to the sects and a guarantee of fidelity to the message of salvation”( John Paul II, Discourse at the inauguration of the IV General Conference of the Latin-American Bishops, Santo Domingo, (12.10.1992), 12: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XV/2, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 1994, p. 323.); that popular piety has been a providential means of preserving the faith in situations where Christians have been deprived of pastoral care; that in areas in which evangelization has been deficient, “the people for the most part express their faith primarily through popular piety”(Puebla 913); that popular piety is an important and indispensable “starting point in deepening the faith of the people and in bringing it to maturity”(Puebla, 960).

The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.

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Donuts and Rings

creme filledThe spin cycle is on full tilt in some quarters of the blogosphere. Fr Ray Blake fusses a bit about the Church going to the peripheries as he tries to convince himself it’s not all bad that Cardinal Burke’s career arc isn’t going up:

We talk a great deal about going out to the peripheries to evangelise but in doing that we the risk of turning the Church into a doughnut, all sides but no centre.

It seems that Fr Blake needs to read more of Pope Francis and less of his traditionalist heroes. I recall seeing quite a bit about caring for and feeding believers in Evangelii Gaudium. Thing is, the elder siblings are not what the Gospel is about. In Jesus’ time, those elder siblings conspired with  Roman authorities to put the Lord to death. The “center” always seemed to have something better to do: sacrificing one man for the good of the nation (as they saw it), sneaking around at night to meet Jesus, neglecting basic hospitality and respect and then resenting it when the sinners took over.

Sphere-like_degenerate_torusAnd what’s wrong with a torus, anyway? I wear one on one of my left fingers. Maybe it reminds me of the eternal and endless quality of my sacramental commitment. Maybe it suggests my best place is on the periphery with my wife–and not where all the action might be–in the world.

Or maybe the Holy Father is thinking more three-dimensionally, that the peripheries of which he speaks are those of a sphere. Maybe there is a center, after all. But some people have abandoned it because some of us don’t need the protection of the interior. The Church is not a castle, a museum, a fortress, or a country club behind protective gates. The Church also is not one of those cream-filled, chocolate-pasted creations my parish serves every Sunday. That puffy white mix of sugar and fat is attractive to children, perhaps. The other weekend, one young friend of mine was licking the chocolate periphery and leaving behind not only the center, but the meat of the matter. Maybe she has the better idea there …

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