Douthat on Breaking, Bad

Ross Douthat is concerned about Pope Francis breaking the Church. He cleverly cites the Walter Murphy novel which came to my mind about two years and a month ago. He lays out the conservative case for disillusionment, but Mr Douthat is one of the more reasonable voices from the front porch. While others show the true colors more in public that they flashed in my email in-boxes over the past decade, I’m not sure he really wants to be there.

Still, Mr Douthat is not perfect. He misses badly on the aspirations of Catholic progressives. He doesn’t quite have a fix on the Murphy book. The young lion is a political commentator and sees the Church’s internal tussles through the lens of an American conservative. That’s not necessarily bad. But it’s like trying to view a situation with one’s right lung. Sure, you can breathe. But where’s the connection to the optic nerve to be able to see?

My sense is that open discussion among bishops and theologians gives the Church some significant benefits.

People, mainly conservatives, can no longer hide in the cassocks of their gurus. If someone has something on their mind, let them speak up. Start a blog. Publish a book. But no longer will they be able to set themselves up as a court of inquisition, declaring other Catholics heretics and getting people fired from jobs.

Discussion will be more out in the open, and as such, people of all viewpoints will be encouraged to a deeper discernment. It will be a discernment not cluttered by the junked remnants of the culturewar. Which was a lost enterprise from the start.

And lastly, if Ross Douthat really wants to get a bead on Pope Francis, I’d suggest he stop pouting with his confreres on the front porch, and make an eight-day Ignatian retreat. I can suggest a few places.

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DPPL 281: Christian Pilgrimage

STA altar at night smallGod’s people were transformed from conducting a pilgrimage as a devotional exercise to being challenged to make pilgrimage as a way of life. If we are urged to imitate Christ, then we cannot deny we are urged to be pilgrims as he was a pilgrim:

281. When Jesus accomplished in himself the mystery of the Temple (cf. John 2,22-23) and had passed from this world to the Father (cf. John 13,1), thereby going through the definitive exodus in his own person, no pilgrimage was binding any longer on his disciples: their entire lives now become a pilgrimage towards the sanctuary of heaven and the Church is seen as an “earthly pilgrimage”(Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer III, Intercessiones).

Pilgrimages are not just a Catholic thing:

The Church, however, because of the harmony between her teaching and the spiritual values inherent in pilgrimage, has not only regarded pilgrimage as a legitimate form of piety but has encouraged it throughout her history.

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

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Some Easter Music

como park zoo 4After Ottorino Respighi married Elsa Olivieri-Sangiacomo, a singer and chant scholar, themes of early music found their way into his compositions. See if you can detect some Easter music in his violin concerto here. And even without the clear influences of Gregorian chant, the whole piece is orchestrated for Easter, it seems to me.

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Humanae Vitae 8: God’s Loving Design

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Pope Paul presents the Church’s basic teaching on marriage.

8. Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” (See 1 Jn 4. 8) the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” (Eph 3. 15) Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in (people) His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives. The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.

There is a first acknowledgement here of “married love.” Love may not have always been considered essential to marriage, but in many human cultures, it is thought to be a vital part.

Is marriage the result of evolution? Many animals are loyal to mates to the death. We human beings are not quite unique in that respect. I can certainly accept God’s agency in that human beings were made for marriage, and this is certainly a key portion of God’s design of the human species.

Note that the exclusive union of two persons involves not just sexual intimacy, but is worded very broadly here. How about some questions for discussion:

  • Do we see marriage as a means of sanctification of a couple in all forms of marital intimacy?
  • Do we see the generation and rearing of new lives beyond just children, but extending to grandchildren and others in the family?
  • Do married couples provide a certain service within the Christian community for a shared bond with other couples, other families, and children?
  • Do couples married later in life not have the same duties and responsibilities outside of their biological state?
  • Does the married couple not also have a wider responsibility, perhaps in a deeper recognition of the need for fostering life through the exercise of Christ’s mandate in Matthew 25:31ff?
  • And how does the sacramentality of marriage enhance, add, or change any of this?

Any questions or answers coming from the commentariat here?

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By The Bay

I’ve been following the laity-archbishop kerfuffle in San Francisco somewhat closely. Frequent commenter Jimmy Mac sends me updates. Catholic bloggers near and far–but mostly far–weigh in regularly. Opinion polls are now popping up–and most pollees seem to think Archbishop Cordileone should stay put.

I think it’s a difficult thing to agitate for a bishop’s removal. I don’t think I’ve ever seriously suggested a prelate get fired here in the past several years. I probably stand in variance with some of you readers on this point. However much money was spent on that ad in the San Francisco paper was likely a waste of $$, in my opinion. How many meals will feed the poor for $$?

Since 1979, I’ve served in parishes under eight bishops. Some have been excellent, and those who have not been top-notch had good qualities. Perhaps I would have a different perspective were I a chancery employee. But I serve parishes. And outside of the occasional confirmation liturgy or pastoral directive, a bishop’s influence is fairly minimal in the day-to-day work in the trenches. For ordinary laity, contact with a bishop might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Otherwise, keep preaching the Gospel in season and out wherever you are. Bishops have little enough influence there. And that’s our mission as baptized laity anyway.

I’m aware Archbishop Cordileone is asking for morality clauses in teacher contracts. I think that’s his right to do so. But I question the prudence of the initiative. It seems to place a higher standard on educators than it does on pastors and bishops. Maybe impressionable children need more protection.

On the other hand, inflicting an employment punishment for something like attending the irregular wedding of a close relative or good friend seems to be a bit much. I think church employers resort to the pink slip more often than they should. People make mistakes on the job, like installing expensive sprinkler systems for sidewalks rather than lawns. Correct a mistake and move on: that would be my motto.

I have a high respect for the office of bishop. If I have a fault, I might respect the office more than some of the people who fill it. I’ve gone on the record here on this website that I think a bishop should be appointed to a diocese for life. No termination. No promotion. The old-fashioned, traditional approach of the ancient Church.

I know Jim would likely disagree, and possibly prefer his ex-auxiliary to his present ordinary, but there’s a value, somewhere, in having to work with a person knowing that firing them or lobbying their exit is off the table. In some ways, it’s like family. You can’t fire a family member who doesn’t want to go. But someone may choose to withdraw, resign, go away.

These are the San Francisco things I would give thumbs down on: new morality clauses, sprinkler systems, no girl servers, Mass mob protests, newspaper ads, online polls. But I wouldn’t fire anybody over them.

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Misericordiae Vultus 4bc: Opening and Closing the Council

head of ChristMercy was part of Pope John’s opening address back in 1962; mercy trumps severity:

We recall the poignant words of Saint John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity … The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children.”[Opening Address of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, 11 October 1962, 2-3]

Note compassion: another favorite Francis virtue, and of the Jesuits as well.

Blessed Paul VI spoke in a similar vein at the closing of the Council: “We prefer to point out how charity has been the principal religious feature of this Council … the old story of the Good Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the Council … a wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity. Errors were condemned, indeed, because charity demanded this no less than did truth, but for individuals themselves there was only admonition, respect and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, encouraging remedies; instead of direful predictions, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honored, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed … Another point we must stress is this: all this rich teaching is channeled in one direction, the service of (humankind), of every condition, in every weakness and need.”[Speech at the Final Public Session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 7 December 1965]

Three things of note in this excerpt:

  • the imagery of healing–not unlike Pope Francis’ field hospital
  • the posture of respect and engagement with the world, not warfare against it
  • the whole reason for the council is to serve all of humanity, not to build up or make comfortable the insiders.

Gratitude is not a surprising observation for a Jesuit:

With these sentiments of gratitude for everything the Church has received, and with a sense of responsibility for the task that lies ahead, we shall cross the threshold of the Holy Door fully confident that the strength of the Risen Lord, who constantly supports us on our pilgrim way, will sustain us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers in cooperating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of mercy.[Cf. Lumen Gentium 16: Gaudium et Spes 15.]

And we finish with a prayer of hope. What do you think about all this?

The highlighted text is © copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the document in its entirety on the Vatican website here.

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DPPL 280: Biblical Pilgrimage

STA altar at night smallPilgrimage was not a Christian invention. It has a Jewish tradition ranging across time, from the Pentateuch, through history, and inclusive of the Psalter:

280. In the Bible, pilgrimage, with its religious symbolism, goes back as far as that of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to Sichem (cf. Gn 12, 6-7; 33, 18-20), Bethel (cf. Gn 28, 10-22; 35, 1-15) and Mamre (Gn 13, 18; 18, 1-15) where God showed himself to them and made a commitment to give them the “promised land”.
For the tribes of Israel delivered from Egypt, Sinai, the mountain on which God revealed himself to Moses (cf Ex 19-20) became a sacred place and the crossing of the desert became a journey to the promised land: the journey had God’s blessing, the Ark (Num 9, 15-23) and the Tabernacle (cf. 2 Sam 7, 6) symbolised the presence of God among his people, leading them and protecting them by the Cloud (cf. Num 9, 15-23).
When Jerusalem became the place of the Temple and the Ark, it became a city-shrine for the Jews and the object of their “holy journey” (Ps 84, 6), in which the pilgrim encountered “cries of joy and praise and an exultant throng” (Ps 42, 5), and appeared in his presence in “God’s house” (cf Ps 84, 6-8)*

* The significance of the pilgrimage is borne out in the “canticles of ascent”, psalms 120-134, used by those going up to Jerusalem. In their Christian interpretation, these express the Church’s joy as she journeys on her earthly pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Love those Psalms of pilgrimage …

This was the heritage of Jesus and his family, and he makes allusions to a personal pilgrimage in his public ministry:

The men of Israel were obliged to present themselves before the Lord three times each year (cf. Ex 23, 17), in the Temple in Jerusalem: this gave rise to the pilgrimage to the Temple on the feast of the Pasch, of the feast of weeks (Pentecost) and of tents; every religious family, such as that of Jesus (cf Lk 2, 41), went to Jerusalem for these feast of the Passover. Jesus went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem during his public ministry (cf. John 11,55-56); St. Luke presents the saving mission of Jesus as a mystic pilgrimage (cf. Lk 9, 51-19, 45) whose object is Jerusalem, the messianic city, the place of his sacrifice and of his exodus to the Father: “I came from the Father and have come into the world and now I leave the world to go to the Father”(John 16, 28).The Church began her missionary journey during a gathering of pilgrims in Jerusalem when “there were devout men in Jerusalem from every nation under the heaven” (Acts 2, 5) to celebrate Pentecost.

Early in his public ministry (Mark 1) I recall Jesus responding to his disciples after they’ve searched for him in the early morning with the news that people are looking for him. Jesus’ response was to move on to the next town and preach there.

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

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