Theologian Hans Kung on Long Delayed Catholic Reforms

PopeFrancis cartoonExcellent article in the National Catholic Reporter by Catholic theologian Hans Kung on Pope Francis’ opportunity to take action on long delayed reforms, including inviting divorced Catholics or women who have had an abortion, use birth control, or have had artificial insemination back into the sacraments, and voluntary celibacy for the priesthood. Read Kung’s full essay:

“Pope Francis shows courage: not only in his brave appearance in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, but also by entering into an open dialogue with critical nonbelievers. He has written an open letter to leading Italian intellectual Eugenio Scalfari, founder and longtime editor in chief of the major liberal Roman daily newspaper La Repubblica. These are not papal instructions, but a friendly exchange of arguments on equal levels.

Among the 12 questions from Scalfari printed in La Repubblica Sept. 11, the fourth seems to me of particular importance for a church leadership ready for reforms: Jesus perceived his kingdom not to be of this world — “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” — but the Catholic church especially, writes Scalfari, all too often submits to the temptations of worldly power and represses the spiritual dimension of the church in favor of worldliness. Scalfari’s question: “Does Pope Francis represent after all the priority of a poor and pastoral church over an institutional and worldly church? …”

Read The Real Test of Francis’ Reform: Touching the Spiritually Poor

Pope Francis: Syria! Peace!

syria+peace.fullPope Francis rose up in all his moral grandeur on Sunday to make a global appeal for peace in Syria–calling Sept. 7 as a global day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and the Middle East. (You can send a note to Congress urging nonviolent action in Syria.)

The Catholic Church has very strong teachings against war. The U.S. bishops have not yet called on Catholic soldiers not to fight – but only because they are afraid of the chaos it would cause, not because it’s inconsistent with Catholic teaching. Catholics are not permitted to participate in pre-emptive war or any war that does not meet just war principles (which attacks on Syria do not).

As Americans, the question we face is not whether we condone chemical weapons use — of course we do not. The question is how should the international community responds when someone commits a war crime (ie uses chemical weapons).

The pope invites all people of good will to set aside a day for prayer, meditation, and fasting — or any discipline that leads one deeper into an experience of personal peace and peace for the world. Below is Pope Francis’ appeal:

“Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

“There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

“I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children who will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgement of God and of history upon our actions which is inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

Continue reading “Pope Francis: Syria! Peace!”

Pope Francis on the balance of ‘being’ and ‘doing’

Pope Francis boards commercial flight for Brazil for World Youth Day.
Pope Francis boards commercial flight for Brazil for World Youth Day.

Pope Francis reflects on the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42):

“[The two sisters] both welcome the Lord, but in different ways. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening, whereas Martha is absorbed in domestic tasks and is so busy that she turns to Jesus saying: ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me’. And Jesus responds rebuking her with sweetness. ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is the need for only one thing.’

What does Jesus wish to say? Above all it is important to understand that it is not a matter of two contrasting attitudes: listening to the Word of the Lord – contemplation – and concrete service to our neighbor. They are not two opposed attitudes but, on the contrary, they are both aspects that are essential for our Christian life; aspects that must never be separated but rather lived in profound unity and harmony.

So why does Jesus rebuke Martha? Because she considered only what she was doing to be essential; she was too absorbed and worried about things to ‘do’. For a Christian, the works of service and charity are never detached from the principle source of our action: that is, listening to the Word of the Lord, sitting – like Mary – at Jesus’ feet in the attitude of a disciple. And for this reason Mary is rebuked.

In our Christian life too prayer and action are always profoundly united. Prayer that does not lead to concrete action toward a [sister or] brother who is poor, sick, in need of help … is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when in ecclesial service we are only concerned with what we are doing, we give greater weight to things, functions and structures, forgetting the centrality of Christ; we do not set aside time for dialogue with Him in prayer, we run the risk of serving ourselves and not God, present in our [sister or] brother in need.”–Pope Francis

From the Vatican Information Service

Pope Francis: The Danger of Being ‘Merely Philanthropists’

mixed media 205 x 185 x 80 cm
Doubting Thomas poking at Christ’s chest wound by Michael Landy (Picture: National Gallery)

Below I include Pope Francis’ reflections this morning on the Feast of St. Thomas offered during Mass in the Santa Marta guest house where he lives. The accompanying art by Michael Landy illustrates to me the dangers of “mechanizing” our experience of touching of the wounds of Christ:

“After the Resurrection Jesus appears to the apostles, but Thomas is not there: He wanted him to wait a week. The Lord knows why He does such things. And He allows the time He believes best for each of us. He gave Thomas a week. Jesus reveals himself with His wounds: His whole body was clean, beautiful and full of light, but the wounds were and are still there, and when the Lord comes at the end of the world, we will see His wounds. Before he could believe, Thomas wanted to place his fingers in the wounds. He was stubborn. But that was what the Lord wanted – a stubborn person to make us understand something greater. Thomas saw the Lord and was invited to put his finger into the wounds left by the nails; to put his hand in His side. He did not merely say, ‘It’s true: the Lord is risen’. No! He went further. He said: ‘God’. He was the first of the disciples to confess the divinity of Christ after the Resurrection. And he worshipped Him.

And so, we understand what the Lord’s intention was when He made him wait: He wanted to take his disbelief and guide him not just to an affirmation of the Resurrection, but an affirmation of His Divinity. The path to our encounter with Jesus-God are his wounds. There is no other. In the history of the Church several mistakes have been made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God, the God of Christians can be found by the path of meditation, and indeed that we can reach higher levels through meditation. That is dangerous! How many are lost on that path, never to return? Yes, perhaps they arrive at a knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that. It is the path of the gnostics, isn’t it? They are good, they work, but they have not found the right path. It is very complicated and does not lead to a safe harbour.

Continue reading “Pope Francis: The Danger of Being ‘Merely Philanthropists’”

School Kids Pepper Pope With Questions

pope-francis5You gotta love a Pope who sets aside his speech and lets students just ask him unscripted questions. Wow! I promise to lighten up on the pope-stuff. I retain my hermeneutic of suspicion. But it’s just such a breath of fresh air to have a real pastor of a global church serving as Bishop of Rome.

Friday morning the Pope met with students from Jesuit-run schools in Italy and Albania. He said, “I’ve prepared a text but it’s five pages and that’s a little long. Let’s do this: I’ll give it to the Provincial Father and Fr. Federico Lombardi [director of the Holy See Press Office] so that you all can have it written and then some of you will ask me questions and I’ll answer them. That way we can talk.”

One student asked about the doubts regarding belief in God that he sometimes has and what he could do to grow in faith. Francis answered:

“Journeying is an art because, if we’re always in a hurry, we get tired and don’t arrive at our journey’s goal. If we stop, if we don’t go forward and we also miss the goal. Journeying is precisely the art of looking toward the horizon, thinking where I want to go but also enduring the fatigue of the journey, which is sometimes difficult … There are dark days, even days when we fail, even days when we fall. [Sometimes] one falls but always think of this: don’t be afraid of failures. Don’t be afraid of falling. What matters in the art of journeying isn’t not falling but not staying down. Get up right away and continue going forward. This is what’s beautiful: this is working every day, this is journeying as humans. But also, it’s bad walking alone: it’s bad and boring. Walking in community, with friends, with those who love us, that helps us. It helps us to arrive precisely at that goal, that ‘there where’ we’re supposed to arrive.”

Continue reading “School Kids Pepper Pope With Questions”

Pope Francis: ‘War is the Suicide of Humanity Because it Kills the Heart’

05-the-healing-of-the-centurions-servantI was impressed by the strength of Pope Francis’ message against the madness of war as he addressed military families, particularly those who have members in Afghanistan, on Italy’s “Memorial Day.” Would that more Christians would speak with such love and clarity. While the U.S. bishops spoke strongly against the Iraq war, I would bet that none of them preached as sermon like the Pope’s on Memorial Day. In his homily, the Pope commented on the gospel story of the centurion who asks Jesus to heal his slave.

“Our God is personal. He listens to everyone with his heart and He loves ‘wholeheartedly’. Today we have come to pray for our dead, for our wounded, for the victims of the madness that is war! It is the suicide of humanity because it kills the heart. It kills precisely that which is the Lord’s message: it kills love! War grows out of hatred, envy, and the desire for power, as well as—how very many times we see it—from the hunger for more power.”

“So many times we’ve seen the great ones of the earth wanting to solve local problems, economic problems, and economic crises with war. Why?” the Holy Father continued. “Because, for them, money is more important than people! And war is just that: it is an act of faith in money, in idols, in the idols of hatred, in that idol that leads to killing one’s brother, that leads to killing love. It reminds me of God our Father’s words to Cain, who, out of envy, had killed his brother: ‘Cain, where is your brother?’ Today we can hear this voice: it is God our Father who weeps, weeps for this madness of ours, who asks all of us: ‘Where is your brother?’ Who says to the powerful of the earth: ‘Where is your brother? What have you done!’”

“[Pray that the Lord might] take all evil far away from us, … even with tears, with the tears of the heart [pray]: “’Turn to us, O Lord, and have mercy on us, because we are sad, we are in anguish. See our misery and our pain and forgive our sins’; because behind war there are always sins: the sin of idolatry, the sin of exploiting persons on the altar of power, of sacrificing them. ‘Turn to us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we are sad and in anguish.’ … We are confident that the Lord will hear us and will do everything to give us the spirit of consolation. So be it.”–Pope Francis

Read the whole article.

Pope Francis: ‘The Disciples’ Solution is for Everyone to Take Care of Themselves’

family-reunion-signThe U.S. Congress is approving huge funding cuts to food stamps/SNAP and other food assistance programs. At the same time, a study released this week reveals that one in six Americans live in households that cannot afford adequate food.

Of these 50 million people, nearly 17 million are children. Food insecurity has jumped by 14 million between 2007-2011.

Pope Francis led a procession on foot through the Italian streets yesterday in celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi (“The Body of Christ”). The gospel reading focused on the “Loaves and Fishes” or the “Feeding of the 5,000,” a kind of family reunion hosted by Jesus. Here’s an excerpt from Pope Francis’ sermon:

“The invitation that Jesus extends to his disciples to feed the multitude themselves is born of two elements: most of all from the crowd that, having followed Jesus, now finds itself outside, far from inhabited areas, as evening falls, and then, from the disciples’ concern, who asked Jesus to dismiss the crowd so that they might seek food and lodging in the nearby towns. Faced with the crowd’s needs, the disciples’ solution is for everyone to take care of themselves. … How many times do we Christians have this temptation! We do not care for the needs of others, dismissing them with a pitiful, ‘May God help you’. … But Jesus’ solution goes in another direction … He asks the disciples to seat the people in communities of fifty persons. He raises his eyes to heaven, recites the blessing, breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples to distribute.”

“It is a moment of profound communion. The crowd, whose thirst has been quenched by the word of the Lord, is now nourished by his bread of life. … This evening, we too are gathered around the Lord’s table … It is in listening to his Word, in nourishing ourselves with his Body and his Blood, that He makes us transforms us from a multitude into a community, from anonymity to communion. The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion, which brings us out from our selfishness to live together our journey in his footsteps, our faith in him. We all ought, therefore, to ask ourselves before the Lord: How do I live the Eucharist? Do I live it anonymously or as a moment of true communion with the Lord and also with the many brothers and sisters who share this same table?”–Pope Francis’ sermon on the Feast of Corpus Christi, 2013

Pope Francis Kicks At the Money Changers

goldencalfYesterday, Pope Francis addressed a gathering of new ambassadors with his first major analysis on the causes of the global financial crisis.

I appreciate how he makes the connection between ethics and God. In our post-Enlightenment world, we are strong on human ethics as separated from religion. But against cancerous market capitalism, ethics separated from human solidarity and God are not powerful enough. Ethics then simply becomes a new thing to be manipulated in the market place.

“…Our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communications. At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. Consequently the financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis. In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.

Continue reading “Pope Francis Kicks At the Money Changers”

President of LCWR Addresses Global Gathering of Catholic Sisters

florencedeaconIn Rome on May 4, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sr. Florence Deacon, addressed 800 leaders of women religious throughout the world.

“Serious misunderstandings” exist between Vatican officials and Catholic sisters, said the head of the U.S. sisters’ group that was ordered to place itself under the review of bishops.

Deacon’s 20-minute address was LCWR’s most public statement to date of their relations with the Vatican. Women religious around the world are watching closely how the process between the Vatican and LCWR moves forward.

“It’s had a huge impact in Australia,” Mercy Sr. Catherine Ryan from Australia told the National Catholic Reporter. “We watch it very carefully because the LCWR … has huge significance for our lives,” said Ryan. “I don’t see that the religious women in Australia are any different than the religious women in America.”

Here’s an excerpt from Sr. Deacon’s address:

“What this assessment shows is that there is serious misunderstanding between officials of the Vatican and women religious, and the need for prayer, discernment, and deep listening.

We determined that we would do this negotiation outside of the glare of the media and we turned down thousands of requests. We could have been on every news program on every major channel in every part of the world if we would have said yes. Continue reading “President of LCWR Addresses Global Gathering of Catholic Sisters”