The Slow Boat From Ghana

I scanned through the usual internet sources for furor, or even just comment, on Archbishop Palmer-Buckle’s interview touching on remarriage, Communion, gays, and polygamy. A bit of furor at Pewsitter, sure. I see Grant Gallicho picked up the story for dotCommonweal today. But just to review, here is the timetable for your consideration:

  • 27 days ago in Rome, Diane Montagna interviewed the Archbishop of Accra, Ghana, Charles Palmer-Buckle for the website Aleteia.
  • After sitting on the story for twenty days, the piece is published.
  • The day after, I commented on a few aspects of the piece here.
  • Commonweal brings the story to their much larger audience today, with the description of  “jaw-dropping.”

A few thoughts …

For me, I don’t think this interview was as much jaw-dropping as chin-rubbing and hmm-going. Is the Catholic blogosphere surprised because African bishops are not in lock-step with law-n-ecclesiastical order? That’s not to say I think, or anyone should think, this prelate is a maverick. His responses to the interviewer are just what pastoral people and theological people and many good clergy think. What’s different today? He is thinking them out loud. What else? He is not going to be punished for it. He’s going to the synod this Fall. Not a retreat house or a basement office in Rome.

My goodness, the internet was sure slow in getting this information-age piece out there, weren’t they?

Speaking for myself, I can think of an instance in which the Church might show mercy. I’ve known couples who suffered through each of these factors, but let me merge them into a troubling illustration.

Suppose a “good” Catholic marriage breaks up after, say, ten years. One “good” Catholic leaves the spouse and their children for another person. On top of adultery, we have abandonment. Perhaps even criminal fraud if money is involved.

The surviving spouse gives up on the Church because of a lack of support, and after many years, meets another person, remarries, and a new but blended family is begun. The second spouse is a devoted life partner , a good stepparent, and the home front is fruitful emotionally for the children. Perhaps there is even spiritual growth.

What if, after another ten years, this couple was nudged by the Holy Spirit to return/to join the Catholic Church? Without a declaration of nullity, it would be possible to return, but without the sacraments, and in the case of the new spouse, impossible to make a profession of faith, be confirmed, and receive First Eucharist. (There is admittedly, the option to break up the second relationship.) That seeker could be most ignorant of any jot or tittle of Christianity, but if he or she has been baptized, the annulment process must be engaged. Or else.

I know a number of pastors who would quietly ignore canon law and do what they felt was the right thing. I also know a non-Catholic for whom the numbers weren’t ten years and ten years, but four months and twenty-five years. Because of those first four months, there was never an entry into full Communion.

Who is better placed to render judgment on this situation? A book without a brain or heart? A bureaucrat in Rome with limited pastoral experience? A pastor who knows the couple in question and sees a budding/renewed faith commitment?

For the record, if the partner who abandoned a family came back with a request to marry without an annulment, I would be inclined to give the person the Cardinal Burke solution. There is a huge difference between a conscious decision to commit a grave sin, and to be victimized by such an offense. The Church must recognize this. Otherwise the whole notion of serious sin has been warped, and to what purpose?

I feel for the bishops meeting for this synod if they discuss the issue. Either way, they will violate what seems to be a truth. Mercy versus marriage.

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Piero Marini Pulled From CDWDS Assignment

From PrayTell, a Rome source telling us that the post-conclave rumors were true: Pope Francis was thinking about appointing Archbishop Piero Marini to CDWDS. Why on earth would he do that?

  • Years of loyal service to two popes
  • Expert in liturgy
  • Knows the Rome games
  • Ordained male.

Like one or two other commentators at PT, I actually admire Pope Francis for going with plan B on this. Why on earth would I write that?

  • Conservatives made Piero Marini a lightning rod for everything wrong with the Church’s public papal liturgies in the internet age. It may be unjust to deny a worthy person–even the best person–an appointment he might have been quite good at. It may be silly to deny the Church a good leader in liturgy. But sometimes life is unfair, and a good number of us in ministry realize that It’s Not About Us. Archbishop Marii realizes that, I’m sure. Pope Francis certainly does. The Temple Police, not so much.
  • I think it’s enough of a sting to the TLM crowd that this appointment was even considered. Now we can move on.
  • I can’t say I was exactly giddy over the rumors about Piero Marini. I was very public about the person for whom I was advocating to take the helm at CDWDS Master Control.
  • Mercy. I may poke at my conservative/traditionalist sisters and brothers, but they remain my sisters and brothers in Christ. No matter what they think of me. (I take heart that the Lord Jesus has not appointed them to the Last Judgment Committee.) If Piero Marini would have caused even more widespread dismay among some of my sisters and brothers, then it’s probably good he was passed over for the post. I write that with sincerity.
  • Good to see our Jesuit pope discerning. Darn good example for bishops, pastors, choir directors, and anybody else in charge of something in the Church.



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Mutuae Relationes 50: Esteem for Women Religious

SenanquecloisterIn this section, more is heaped on women religious. The collaborators of bishops in parishes and other organizations certainly know the life’s witness of women in religious life.

50. Bishops, together with their collaborators in the pastoral field, and superiors, both men and women, should see to it that the apostolic service of women religious be better known, intensified and increased.

It’s not just about quantity, but quality:

They should, therefore, in view not only of the number of religious women, but especially of their importance in the life of the Church, do their utmost to see that the principle of their greater ecclesial promotion be put into effect, lest the People of God remain deprived of that special assistance, which they alone, by virtue of the gifts conferred on them by God in their quality of woman, can offer.

Who they are is primary. What they do, though “useful and generous,” is secondary.

Always, however, special attention is to be given to this that religious women be held in high esteem and be justly and deservedly appreciated primarily for the witness given by them as consecrated women, and then for the useful and generous services they offer.

Thoughts? Remember to check the full document here.

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Lenten Reflections: Viriditas

Cucumber_leafHildegard of Bingen is associated with the spiritual principle of viriditas. It came to mind as I was introduced to this quote by the English mystic Caryll Houselander:

Love is most likely to spring from another’s need for us, and the fact of spending ourselves for another always generates new life in us. To give life is the purpose of love, and we love those people most of all whose needs waken a response in us that floods us with creative energy, causing us to put out new green shoots of life.

Green shoots, wouldn’t they be nice? Ice and near-zero temps are with us again in central Iowa. It seems like a long winter, though I know we have only sixteen days of it to go.

I wonder if Jesus experienced this as he mourned and fretted over the needs of the people he encountered. Certainly, he was all-loving and all-powerful. But we read in the Gospels that he reacted to human suffering. He did so several times. He certainly inspired such awakenings in others–not only his own disciples, but in his sisters and brothers, even to nearly two millennia later in time.

With a proper caution about enabling others, I think Lent is a good time to ponder the spending of ourselves. We do a bit of that with each of the three pillars, don’t we? In fasting, we spend our appetites. In praying, we spend time. In charity, we spend money–that’s the easy part. We can also give more deeply and personally of ourselves, considering Jesus’ example and mandatum of humble service at the Last Supper.

Yes, I am sure that green is on the way. You?

Image credit.

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DPPL 240: Five Points on Images

STA altar at night smallThe Church offers us five points on the theology of sacred images, so let’s consider them in turn:

240. According to the teaching of the Church, sacred images are:
• iconographical transcriptions of the Gospel message, in which image and revealed word are mutually clarified; ecclesiastical tradition requires that images conform “to the letter of the Gospel message” (Council of Nicea II, Definitio de sacris imaginibus, in Conciliorum Oecumeniorum Decreta, cit., p. 135 (not contained in DS));

Images preach the Gospel: do our artists express this? I suspect the DPPL is talking about something other than a mandate that images accurately depict Gospel scenes. I think we’re talking about the essence of the Lord’s teaching: seeking, finding, discipleship, joy, charity–the whole thing

• sacred signs which, in common with all liturgical signs, ultimately refer to Christ; images of the Saints “signify Christ who is glorified in them”(Catechism 1161);

This is a principle of iconography–notice that the Blessed Mother always gestures to Christ. Any image should be saying to us: “There is Christ. Go to him.” The image is to be a window, not a show for its own sake.

• memorials of our (sisters and brothers) who are Saints, and who “continue to participate in the salvation of the world, and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations”(Catechism 1161);

Basic Communion of Saints: the Church is peopled by not only the living, but also those who now live in eternal glory.

• an assistance in prayer: contemplation of the sacred images facilitates supplication and prompts us to give glory to God for the marvels done by his grace working in the Saints; – a stimulus to their imitation because “the more the eye rests on these sacred images, the more the recollection of those whom they depict grows vivid in the contemplative beholder” (Council of Nicea II, Definitio de sacris imaginibus, in DS 601); the faithful tend to imprint on their hearts what they contemplate with the eye: “a true image of the new man (or person)”, transformed in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and in fidelity to his proper vocation;

Images help many of us pray. Think of the various types of prayer: intercessory, contrition, adoration, and so on. For different people, different ways are working better than some others. Living as we do in a visual-oriented culture, this is probably as true as ever.

• and a form of catechesis, because “through the history of the mysteries of our redemption, expressed in pictures and other media, the faithful are instructed and confirmed in the faith, since they are afforded the means of meditating constantly on the articles of faith” (Council of Trent, Decretum de sacris invocatione, veneratione et reliquiis Sanctorum, et sacris imaginibus, in DS 1824).

Images also teach. This would have been vital in the centuries prior to the advent of the printed word. But it’s still important today, and not just for the young who have yet to learn to read. Good art communicates on significantly deeper levels, and that is a profound responsibility for any artist.

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

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Gregory of Narek

Pope Francis named an unfamiliar (to me) saint of Armenia as a Doctor of the Church. Gregory of Narek was a multi-talented man who devoted his life to God as a monk. Three talents brought a smile to me: he was a poet, a composer, and an astronomer.

A few musical reactions … Armenian Rhapsody by Alan Hovhaness and Jordi Savall’s rendering of Menk kaj tohmi, a traditional Armenian tune.

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A Dissent Against A Bishop

Rocco whispered the news of San Diego’s new bishop some hours before it became official. Robert McElroy has five academic degrees. Most recently he has been an auxiliary bishop and a parish pastor. Brief profile here, where he has written in the past.

The Temple Police are unimpressed, questioning the man’s Catholicity here, for example. Rorate Caeli has the bead on the situation with their complaint:

To no one’s surprise and a day after the news had been leaked to the “correct” blogs and websites …

ice cream coneIs that the problem? Self-styled “faithful” Catholic blogs are out of the loop. The way they talk about bishops, is it any wonder that the nice guys of the blogosphere are getting the juicy scoops? Sure, the pewsitters are going to get the news two days before Roman noon … just to pile up the research and the snipery. I think not.

Bishop McElroy is from frequent commenter Jimmy Mac’s neighborhood, the City by the Bay. Ever met the guy?

What I wonder about new bishops: how well do they preach? Can they sing? The main liturgical questions.

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