Pope Francis: What Is Your Capacity to Cry?

Lachrymae - tear vials
Lachrymae – tear vials

Pope Francis’ press conference on the plane returning from the Philippines was lively as usual. Regarding the Charlie Hebdo murders, he elaborated on the nuances of “freedom of expression” tempered by the virtue of prudence. He also expanded his comments on “responsible parenthood” and what it means for Catholics today. As always, he set the “birth control” issue in the wider context of certain prevailing spirits of the age, in this case Neo-Malthusianism (whaaaa?): population control that is enforced or overly encouraged by governments or corporations.

However, what jumped out to me was his response to a question by La Nacion’s Elisabetta Pique:

Elisabetta Pique (La Nacion): … This was a moving voyage for everyone. We saw people crying the entire time in Tacloban [Philippines site of the Supertyphoon Haiyan], even we journalists cried. Yesterday you said, the world needs to cry. … What was for you the most moving moment, because the mass in Tacloban was such a moment and also yesterday when the little girl started to cry?

Pope Francis: For me the Mass in Tacloban was very moving. Very moving. To see all of God’s people standing still, praying, after this catastrophe, thinking of my sins and those people, it was moving, a very moving moment. In the moment of the mass there, I felt as though I was annihilated (“wiped out”) [devastated], I almost couldn’t speak. …

The other thing is the weeping. One of the things that is lost when there is too much wealth or when values are misunderstood or we have become accustomed to injustice, to this culture of waste, is the capacity to cry.

This is a grace we must ask for. There is a beautiful prayer in the ancient missal, for crying. It went more or less like this: Lord, you who have made it so that Moses with his cane could make water flow from a stone, make it so that from the rock that is my heart, the water of tears may flow.

It’s a beautiful prayer. We Christians must ask for the grace to cry, especially well-to-do Christians. And cry about injustice and cry about sins. Because crying opens you to understand new realities, or new dimensions to realities. This is what the girl said, what I said to her. She was the only one to ask that question to which there is no answer, why do children suffer?

The great Dostoyevsky asked himself this, and he could not answer. Why do children suffer? She, with her weeping, a woman who was weeping. When I say it is important that women be held in higher consideration in the church, it’s not just to give them a function as the secretary of a dicastery, though this could be ok too. No, it’s so that they may tell us how they feel and view reality. Because women view things from a different richness, a larger one.

Another thing I would like to underscore is what I said to the last young man (at the meeting with young people), who truly works well, he gives and gives and gives, he organizes to help the poor. But don’t forget that we too need to be beggars, from them, from the poor. Because the poor evangelize us. If we take the poor away from the Gospel, we cannot understand Jesus’ message. The poor evangelize us. I go to evangelize the poor, yes, but let you be evangelized by them. Because they have values that you do not.”

The prayer Pope Francis refers to is from the Missa ad petendam compunctionem cordis, for begging compunction of the heart, or a Mass for the Gift of Tears (1962 Roman Missal). The prayer says:

Almighty and most merciful God, who, to quench the thirst of your people, drew a fountain of living water out of a rock, draw from our stony hearts tears of compunction, that we may be able to mourn for our sins and win forgiveness for them by your mercy.

But see how he sets this moving and eloquent prayer as a jewel in the crown of justice and compassion!

Douglas Kmiec on Birth Control, Bishops, Religious Liberty, and ‘Obamacare’

All this hoopla from the Catholic Bishops Conference on birth control, and from the Vatican on religious liberty, and from everybody on “Obamacare” can leave one wanting to ignore the papers, radio, and TV and just bury one’s head in the sand. But, in the end, all that really gets you is a sandy head and grit in your lashes.

If you’ve got 15 minutes to read and think (and I ask that seriously because most of us don’t), then I’d commend to you Douglas Kmiec’s essay War No More … Or, At Least, Peace With Obama published this week in the National Catholic Reporter.

Kmiec, a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine, carefully thinks through the forces surrounding the contraceptive debate, health care, religious liberty, the Supreme Court deliberations, Obama and the Catholic bishops, and frames them with American jurisprudence and Catholic moral teaching. It’s worth reading the whole thing. But here’s an excerpt to get you started:

When the president chose to not grant an exemption from the mandate that employer-provided insurance should include contraceptive coverage, some bishops called the decision an act of war on the church and religious freedom.

With due respect, I believe this overstated matters considerably. This is especially so, since the president responded promptly to begin discussions on how the ethical concerns of the church might be met more satisfactorily. In particular, the president proposed that no Catholic employer would be directly asked to supply contraceptive coverage; instead, that coverage would be provided by the employer’s insurance company.

To a good many theologians, this worked well enough to avoid formal cooperation with evil, but left unanswered how the problem could be avoided where a Catholic employer did not use a third-party insurer, but was self-insured. Discussions continue, with some now suggesting that it might be possible to create a public entity by implementing regulation to offer the contraceptive benefit in this self-insured context in a way that similarly separates a Catholic employer. Continue reading “Douglas Kmiec on Birth Control, Bishops, Religious Liberty, and ‘Obamacare’”

The “Green” Issue of Birth Control?

Much has been said about Pope Benedict’s comments regarding selective condom use as a possible minor first step in taking personal responsibility for one’s actions. Below is a very thoughtful Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post from a member of a local Catholic parish:

The clarifications of Pope Benedict XVI’s comment on condoms [“Theologians debate meaning of pope’s condom remark,” news story, Nov. 24] are suggestive, given the oft-stated concern of this “green pope” for the environment.

Incongruously, he remains in denial about the reality of global overpopulation, even while accepting the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change.

But the view ascribed to him by his spokesman – of the moral imperative of “taking into consideration the risk of the life of another” and “avoiding passing a grave risk onto another” – applies as much to the ravaged world that we are leaving to posterity as it does to the AIDS epidemic.

Might not a sophisticated thinker such as Benedict eventually come to see that the ecological harm done by overpopulation is the strongest argument of all for birth control?–Daryl P. Domning, Silver Spring

In part, the issue Domning raises is whether principles of moral discernment can be applied in a variety of situations that require moral decisions or do certain virtue ethics apply in cases of sexuality but not in other equally dire situations.