Aparecida 57 – Clash of Cultures

In paragraph 57, the bishops at Aparecida suggest that the cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean offer antidotes to the “globalized” culture with its emphasis in individualism and consumerism.

These cultures coexist under unequal conditions alongside the so-called globalized culture. They demand recognition and offer values that constitute a response to the negative values of the culture that is imposed through the mass media: community-orientation, appreciation for the family, openness to transcendence and solidarity. These cultures are dynamic and are in ongoing interaction with each other and with the various cultural offerings.

The varied cultures of Latin America are oriented toward community, though I see everyday the growing influence of North American individualism. There is an appreciation for the family which, however, is often more in words than in everyday reality. A few years ago the diocese where I work, Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, identified family disintegration as a major challenge to evangelization. The openness to transcendence is clear, even if it is at times expressed in ways that sometimes appear more magical and superstitious. Solidarity is a part of the culture which has been handed down, but is not always seen in practice.

Here is the USCCB translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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The Armchair Liturgist: Who Makes Announcements?

The topic of announcements at Mass usually centers on when. For a change, I’d like to change it up and suggest you sit in the purple chair and render judgment on who.

A few years ago, my parish switched from the clergy vetting and giving announcements to the liturgist (me) vetting and one of the lectors giving.

At a recent parish meeting someone noted that when the priest makes the announcement, people listen more. Do you think that’s true? Whether true or not, do you think the priest should be making announcements, or someone else? And if someone else, then who?

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EG 244-245: Ecumenical Dialogue

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis write on “Ecumenical dialogue,” citing Vatican II:

244. Commitment to ecumenism responds to the prayer of the Lord Jesus that “they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). The credibility of the Christian message would be much greater if Christians could overcome their divisions and the Church could realize “the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her children who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her”.[Unitatis Redintegratio 4]

An approach that has been difficult for many of us: to trust other Christians. Even sister and brother Catholics who don’t think like us, and who don’t support or attack the same bishops as us.

We must never forget that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one another. This means that we must have sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face. Trusting others is an art and peace is an art. Jesus told us: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9). In taking up this task, also among ourselves, we fulfill the ancient prophecy: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares” (Is 2:4).

The witness of Scripture is undeniable. Reaching out in dialogue and trust is a path to holiness, to the blessing and positive regard of God. I don’t think Pope Francis is indulging in metaphorical talk when he speaks of peacemaking as an art. It will certainly involve languages and means of expression that go beyond the mere communication of reason and intent. Words are simply insufficient.

A personal aside from the Holy Father and observation from the previous synod:

245. In this perspective, ecumenism can be seen as a contribution to the unity of the human family. At the Synod, the presence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomaios I, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Rowan Williams, was a true gift from God and a precious Christian witness.[Cf. Propositio 52]

Evangelii Gaudium is online to be read any time.

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When A Bishop Can No Longer Be A Bishop

Grant Gallicho at Commonweal keeps Archbishop Nienstedt in the news. The commentary there is interesting. It illustrates how administrative mismanagement tears at the fabric of unity in the Church. It also smears us in the mainstream media: a thousand miles away, another organ picks up the story.

The archbishop has his defenders, such as this blogger:

Archbishop Nienstedt may be guilty, but I doubt it. I don’t think Bishop Finn was really guilty, either.  I am 99.5% certain that these allegations are nothing more than an attempt to destroy a bishop that greatly annoys the Minnesota left.  I do not get the sense that Nienstedt is a sodomite.

I perceive that many people operate with their heroes, ideologies, and such as wishful thinkers.

Bishop Robert Finn admitted to committing a civil crime. In the eyes of the law, and by personal admission, he was guilty. His situation might have been written off as administrative inexperience. But not non-guilt.

I am sure that people sincerely do not want their heroes to have holes. Spouses make all kinds of excuses and even blame themselves for an addict partner’s behaviors. People don’t want to believe the bad. Even when it confronts them in the face.

I remember when a conservative Catholic friend was almost gleeful over the allegations against Cardinal Bernardin. And never brought up the man in conversation after this development.

There are danger zones for us believers. One is that we indulge the impulse for anti-heroes, to make demons of people with whom we disagree or whom we dislike. Another is blind hero worship, that anyone to whom we have attached ourselves can do no wrong. Neither of these practices supports unity in the Body. Aside from misplaced adulation or hatred, it tends to enhance smaller subsets: Catholics a little more pure, a little more “in,” and a little more informed than anyone else. That latter aspect can really flirt with Gnosticism, that my group and I have some special knowledge only we were able to discern.

What’s going to happen in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis? Suppose the archbishop resigns. Then what? If he is not found guilty of a crime, would he be able to serve as a parish pastor? Thomas Gumbleton did that as a bishop for decades, and he’s one of the few prelates to emerge from the last part of the last century with his credibility intact.

Would you want John Nienstedt teaching your diocese’s seminarians? What would a non-criminal do if he were to resign from the episcopacy? Who would have him? Some small parish that otherwise would shutter its doors?

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Good Guy Awarded

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA… and not just because he’s an astronomer and/or a Jesuit. Guy Consolmagno SJ, coordinator for public relations at the Vatican Observatory scored the Carl Sagan Medal. From the awarders:

(He) has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can coexist for believers.



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Reconciliation Lectionary: James 3:1-12

mary-the-penitent.jpgThe Reconciliation Lectionary gives four passages from the Letter of James, and this post reviews one of the two lengthy offerings.

To whom much is given …

Not many of you should become teachers,
my brothers and sisters,
for you realize that we will be judged more strictly,
for we all fall short in many respects.

That small bit may be enough to spark many of us in a sincere examination of conscience. But this passage is less about the sins of leadership. Let the parents, role models, and even the volunteers among us breathe easier–just a little.

James suggests that everybody sins with the tongue. Is the tongue an organ of original sin? Let’s read a bit more. And pardon the exclusive language …

If anyone does not fall short in speech,
he is a perfect man,
able to bridle his whole body also.
If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us,
we also guide their whole bodies.
It is the same with ships:
even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds,
they are steered by a very small rudder
wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes.

This is what James is driving at:

In the same way the tongue is a small member
and yet has great pretensions.
Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze.
The tongue is also a fire.
It exists among our members as a world of malice,
defiling the whole body
and setting the entire course of our lives on fire,
itself set on fire by Gehenna.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature,
can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species,
but no human being can tame the tongue.

I don’t think this is exaggeration at all. And today we might add our computer keyboards and online postings. Restlessness indeed sums it up well:

It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless the Lord and Father,
and with it we curse human beings
who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers and sisters, this need not be so.
Does a spring gush forth from the same opening
both pure and brackish water?
Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, produce olives, or a grapevine figs?
Neither can salt water yield fresh.

This is a strong passage. Would it be well-used at a parish’s communal liturgy? A preacher would really have to know the community for it to be effective. When confronted with our own sins, especially cherished ones, it can be hard to see the text really means us and not somebody else.

It’s a rather long Scripture to use with individual reconciliation. But it bears a serious reflection, as at one time or another, most of us have problems with communicating. What do you think?

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EG 242-243: Dialogue Between Faith, Reason, And Science

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneEvangelii Gaudium looks at the “Dialogue between faith, reason and science.” It will be just these two sections.

Instead of the adversarial approach between religion and science so often celebrated in our culture, Pope Francis suggests we look at a synthesis instead.

242. Dialogue between science and faith also belongs to the work of evangelization at the service of peace.[Cf. Propositio 54] Whereas positivism and scientism “refuse to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences”,[Fides et Ratio 88] the Church proposes another path, which calls for a synthesis between the responsible use of methods proper to the empirical sciences and other areas of knowledge such as philosophy, theology, as well as faith itself, which elevates us to the mystery transcending nature and human intelligence. Faith is not fearful of reason; on the contrary, it seeks and trusts reason, since “the light of reason and the light of faith both come from God”[Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, I, 7; cf. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio 43] and cannot contradict each other. Evangelization is attentive to scientific advances and wishes to shed on them the light of faith and the natural law so that they will remain respectful of the centrality and supreme value of the human person at every stage of life. All of society can be enriched thanks to this dialogue, which opens up new horizons for thought and expands the possibilities of reason. This too is a path of harmony and peace.

This has it right. Faith has nothing to fear from reason. And more, our concern as people of faith is advancing the Gospel and advocating for the value of every human person. Not that the bitty details on things like human origins or the structure of the universe trip us up.

The evidence from the natural world tell us there was no Adam and Eve, and that the sun and planets do not circle the Earth. It should make no difference. The spiritual point of Adam and Eve is to communicate personal, loving, and involved God. The spiritual point of an Earth-centered existence is to honor the persons created and loved by God. As long as keep our focus on the essentials of this and other points, we remain faithful to the Gospel, and on the path to harmony and peace with others.

243. The Church has no wish to hold back the marvelous progress of science. On the contrary, she rejoices and even delights in acknowledging the enormous potential that God has given to the human mind. Whenever the sciences – rigorously focused on their specific field of inquiry – arrive at a conclusion which reason cannot refute, faith does not contradict it. Neither can believers claim that a scientific opinion which is attractive but not sufficiently verified has the same weight as a dogma of faith. At times some scientists have exceeded the limits of their scientific competence by making certain statements or claims. But here the problem is not with reason itself, but with the promotion of a particular ideology which blocks the path to authentic, serene and productive dialogue.

Pope Francis, one of the first popes in a while trained in the sciences, has a good bead on the situation. Scientists and theologians each make pronouncements within their areas of expertise. When people of the two groups come together, it is the time for mutual discernment and dialogue. There, we find great enrichment, especially when such conversations are respectful and above all, attuned in listening to the other.

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