Thursday, June 30, 2005
Aids to the Life of Priests
That's what part three (consisting of sections 18-21) is entitled.
First, on aids to encourage the spiritual life ... priests share the celebration of the Eucharist, Word and Sacrament, with the laity.
1. They should avail themselves of the sacraments of Eucharist and Penance often.
2. Spiritual reading is mentioned next.
3. Then devotion to the Blessed Mother.
4. Then Eucharistic veneration
6. Spiritual direction
In that order.
Priests are to fervently pray that God will grant them the spirit of true adoration whereby they themselves, along with the people committed to them, may intimately unite themselves with Christ ...
Section 19 deals with "(s)tudy and pastoral knowledge." The Word of God, first, but it is equally nourished by the study of the Holy Fathers and other Doctors and monuments or tradition. Priests should be able to respond to questions posed by (people) of this age...
Bishops are said to be responsible for overseeing the continuing education of priests, especially those just a few years out of seminary.
Section 20 treats remuneration, the responsibility of the laity. Note this priority that priests "should not only be able to honorably provide for themselves but also themselves be provided with some means of helping the needy. For the ministry to the poor has always been held in great honor in the Church from its beginnings."
PO 21 suggests a form of "social security" for priests.
So it is supremely fitting, at least in regions where the support of the clergy completely or largely depends on the offerings of the faithful, that their offerings for this purpose be collected by a particular diocesan institution, which the bishop administers with the help of priests and, when useful, of (laypeople) who are expert in financial matters. Further it is hoped that insofar as is possible in individual dioceses or regions there be established a common fund enabling bishops to satisfy obligations to other deserving persons and meet the needs of various dioceses. This would also enable wealthier dioceses to help the poorer, that the need of the latter might be supplemented by the abundance of the former. These common funds, even though they should be principally made up of the offerings of the faithful, also should be provided for by other duly established sources.
No denying this is a priority. I suppose I wouldn't mind something like that on behalf of my wife and myself when we hit our seventies.
Priests and Poverty
Presbyterorum Ordinis 17 tackles poverty. In sum, it encourages clergy to practice voluntary poverty. Some highlights:
By living in the world, let priests know how not to be of the world, according to the word of our Lord and Master.
By using the world as those who do not use it, let them achieve that freedom whereby they are free from every inordinate concern and become docile to the voice of God in their daily life.
(L)et them see all that comes to them in the light of faith, so that they might correctly use goods in response to the will of God and reject those which are harmful to their mission.
Ecclesiastical goods ... should be administered by priests with the help of capable (laypeople) as far as possible ... and should always be employed ... for the carrying out of divine worship, for the procuring of honest sustenance for the clergy, and for the exercise of the works of the holy apostolate or works of charity, especially in behalf of the needy.
Those goods which priests and bishops receive for the exercise of their ecclesiastical office should be used for adequate support and the fulfillment of their office and status ...
That which is in excess they should be willing to set aside for the good of the Church or for works of charity.
Therefore, in no way placing their heart in treasures, they should avoid all greediness and carefully abstain from every appearance of business.
Note the mention for the assistance of the laity in handling church finances, dependent not on whim, but on the capable abilities of laypeople.
Priests, moreover, are invited to embrace voluntary poverty by which they are more manifestly conformed to Christ and become eager in the sacred ministry.
Why? Because of the example of Christ, the same example used for celibacy, and the attitude of service and charity.
Led by the Spirit of the Lord, who anointed the Savior and sent him to evangelize the poor,(53) priests, therefore, and also bishops, should avoid everything which in any way could turn the poor away.
Before the other followers of Christ, let priests set aside every appearance of vanity in their possessions.
Let them arrange their homes so that they might not appear unapproachable to anyone, lest anyone, even the most humble, fear to visit them.
I cannot help but think of the new Belleville bishop who alienated clergy to the point where they sought to block his installation. The issue? The visible one was asking for a few hundred thousand dollars to renovate his living quarters. Property squabbles aside, what a bad way to begin a relationship with a bishop. It seems one might wait a few years before insisting on new living quarters.
On the whole, I find it interesting that poverty would merit "equal" treatment--it's own section--as celibacy.
Ready or not?
As a space geek, I want to see the space program thrive with both a human presence in space as well as far flung robot/computer probes. The space shuttle has been a problem from the beginning: a good concept awash in incredible budget overages. Back in the early 70's, NASA was promising earth-to-orbit flight rates dropping from $1000 per pound to $15. Heck; I'd go into orbit for $3000; wouldn't most people?
NASA is very eager to get the shuttle up and running, it's brushed aside
the objections that it hasn't quite solved three important problems. It's probably a credit to the astronaut corps and the prep teams that the shuttles are running at only a 2% catastrophic failure rate.
I'm getting closer to the sad realization that until we can build an elevator
, space travel will not be practical for large numbers of ordinary people. Did you know there's a space elevator blog
*Sigh* I was born in the wrong century.
By the way, did you know that any human lunar base would be the pastoral responsibility of the Bishop of Orlando? There's a sf concept someone
might tackle: the see of Orlando overtaking Rome as Rome stood out from the traditional patriarchates. Imagine 6000AD: OC no longer means orthodox Catholic but Orlando Catholic.
It won't tell you your IQ, which Harry Potter character you "are," or score points with your credit card holders, but ...
Vote for your favorite Cassini photo
(Celibacy is to be embraced and esteemed as a gift). Perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, commended by Christ the Lord and through the course of time as well as in our own days freely accepted and observed in a praiseworthy manner by many of the faithful, is held by the Church to be of great value in a special manner for the priestly life.
I don't think any sensible person could argue against it. The real debate would center on the notion that mandatory celibacy is better for the diocesan priesthood, and celibacy is better for every priest.
It is at the same time a sign and a stimulus for pastoral charity and a special source of spiritual fecundity in the world.
Are priests catechized to see celibacy in this way? Or does the clerical subculture see it as a sacrifice? A sacrifice can certainly have value as a sign and symbol. But this briefest understanding implies that a celibate is able to turn his or her emotional life to the exercise of the virtue of charity. Additionally, celibacy is meant to be generative. Does every diocesan priest have a grasp on this? Namely, that their exercise of celibacy is meant to bear fruit, not nonly in their own spiritual lives, but in the spiritual aspect of the world.
For the whole priestly mission is dedicated to the service of a new humanity which Christ, the victor over death, has aroused through his Spirit in the world and which has its origin "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God (Jn 1:13). Through virginity, then, or celibacy observed for the Kingdom of Heaven,(37) priests are consecrated to Christ by a new and exceptional reason.
Maybe not so new. Celibacy was part of many pagan traditions. The exceptionality of celibacy is dependent on the cooperation an individual gives to God's grace. And the sad truth is: Western culture sees celibacy as more deviant than exceptional. The sign value to those outside the Church has been much diminished.
They adhere to him more easily with an undivided heart,(38) they dedicate themselves more freely in him and through him to the service of God and men, and they more expeditiously minister to his Kingdom and the work of heavenly regeneration, and thus they are apt to accept, in a broad sense, paternity in Christ.
Yes. If, however, priests are actually disposed in this way. Celibacy can also be an excuse for misanthropy. As long as the emphasis is on the external promise of celibacy at ordination, there comes with it a false freedom to disengage. Is celibacy used for selfish ends? Sometimes it is. And with these priests, celibacy should be renewed in light of what it should be. Some priests could learn a lot from religious in that regard.
In this way they profess themselves before men as willing to be dedicated to the office committed to them-namely, to commit themselves faithfully to one man and to show themselves as a chaste virgin for Christ and thus to evoke the mysterious marriage established by Christ, and fully to be manifested in the future, in which the Church has Christ as her only Spouse.
The metaphor driving the practice instead of the practice evoking metaphor.
PO 16 reiterates the legislation of mandatory celibacy, though with an acknowledgement that insofar as perfect continence is thought by many men to be impossible in our times, to that extent priests should all the more humbly and steadfastly pray with the Church for that grace of fidelity, which is never denied those who seek it, and use all the supernatural and natural aids available.
The section concludes that we pray it will always be so: This holy synod asks not only priests but all the faithful that they might receive this precious gift of priestly celibacy in their hearts and ask of God that he will always bestow this gift upon his Church.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Readiness for Service: Presybterorum Ordinis 15
Among the virtues that priests must possess for their sacred ministry none is so important as a frame of mind and soul whereby they are always ready to know and do the will of him who sent them and not their own will.
A virtue any of us should strive for. PO 15 takes on a more devotional aspect, stressing humility, being attuned to God's desire for universal salvation, and looking for the opportunity to serve in life's most ordinary experiences. The value of obedience is recalled, "In a great spirit of faith, let them receive and execute whatever orders the holy father, their own bishop, or other superiors give or recommend."
Even the old prescription of dying with one's boots on is given a nod: "With a willing heart let them spend and even exhaust themselves in whatever task they are given, even though it be menial and unrecognized.
Unity with other priests is stressed yet again, unity under the umbrella of obedience. But innovation is also supported:
This obedience is designed to promote the mature freedom of the children of God; by its very nature it postulates that in the carrying out of their work, spurred on by charity, they develop new approaches and methods for the greater good of the Church. With enthusiasm and courage, let priests propose new projects and strive to satisfy the needs of their flocks.
This is another of those "Spirit of Vatican II" passages that seem lost on the retrenchment community. Any reading of the Vatican II documents gains one the pragmatic sense of the Council. We live in extraordinary (beyond the ordinary) times, and often, new approaches will be needed to satisfy the underlying goal, namely the needs (primarily salvation) of the people. Naturally, a proper brake is put on this. The notion of innovation is carefully preceded by a reflection on obedience, and following it, we read a responsibility disclaimer: "Of course, they must be ready to submit to the decisions of those who rule the Church of God."
Coming into the final stretch of CS's examination of Presybterorum Ordinis, we can easily identify important themes in this document: collaboration, the centrality of the Eucharist, the spiritual life--especially seeking God's will. All this is rooted in more traditional understandings of the place of the priest in the hierarchy, and a call for a practical obedience. As this series approaches a conclusion, keep in mind your own assessment of Presybterorum Ordinis. And by all means, don't be bashful about commenting.
A Healthy Balance in the Priestly Life
Continuing an examination of Presybterorum Ordinis, the Vatican II document on the Life and Ministry of Priests, section 14 treats the need for balance in a priest's life. Reiterating previous points made on adhering one's life to Christ and the Father's will, of the importance of the Eucharist, PO acknowledges the rushed and hectic pace of modern life. (Remember, this was the mid-60's; wasn't life supposed to be a bit slower then?)
Priests ... involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.
In reminding us "Christ works unceasingly through the Church," it is important to make the distinction that none of us, not even priests, are Christ. We join with Christ, the document reads, to acknowledge God's will. Being ever-present as God's will unfolds on earth is not part of the plan, not for a human being anyway.
Priests will find satisfaction and happiness in their ministry, but two certain steps are necessary, according to the document:
1. Priests should "examine all their works and projects to see what is the will of God-namely, to see how their endeavors compare with the goals of the Gospel mission of the Church."
2. Lone Rangers need not apply. Unity with bishops and brother priests dictate that nobody should be "operating in a vacuum and that they work in a strong bond of union with their bishops and brother priests."
Elaborating a bit on this last point, Presybterorum Ordinis 9 already has laid down the principle that priests work with the laity as part of their ministry:
They must work together with the lay faithful, and conduct themselves in their midst after the example of their Master ... They must willingly listen to the laity, consider their wants in a fraternal spirit, recognize their experience and competence in the different areas of human activity, so that together with them they will be able to recognize the signs of the times.
Clearly, the same must be said for the working relationship of a priest with the laity as is said concerning the bishop and priests. Indeed, the whole thrust of PO 14 is to teach that a priest's very happiness and satisfaction in ministry is tied in with the notion of collaboration.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
On The Eucharist
from Neil Dhingra
In a very interesting article
in the Christian Century, the Anglican priest Samuel Wells
reminds us that, in the Eucharist, elements of bread and wine are taken, blessed, broken and shared. Rev. Wells continues:
“The significance of these four actions becomes clearer in the light of Jesus' story. He took human nature in his incarnation. His human flesh bore the divine character in material form in his ministry. Through words of wisdom, question and command, and through gestures of compassion, challenge and miracle, he blessed humanity and the whole creation. In his agonizing death and the harrowing exposure of human sin that it entailed, he was broken for the life of the world. And in his resurrection, and perhaps most especially in the coming of his Holy Spirit, he gave and shared new life with all who trusted in him.”
And, thus, “The Eucharist is the definitive prophetic action because it identifies the whole life and work of Christ in a way that declares Christ's living presence today.”
Perhaps you are a Catholic who is well aware that the Eucharist is supposed to be "the source and summit of the Christian life" (Lumen Gentium
11), but have begun to participate in a Bible Study and noticed (with not a little anxiety) that the Eucharist doesn’t seem to come up all that often. There are, after all, only four accounts of the institution of the Eucharist (Mk 14:22-24
; Mt 26:26-28
; Lk 22:19-20
; 1 Cor 11:23-25
). And these accounts are not exactly identical – the Lucan account has a cup-bread-cup sequence that is apparently unique. But we can say that the four actions illuminated by Samuel Wells do show up in all the accounts in the Gospels – Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks the bread, and gives it to the disciples. We are still left with minor discrepancies – in Mark and Matthew, Jesus’ second action is to “praise” God, while in Luke and Paul, Jesus “gives thanks” (perhaps resulting from the difference between Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek), and Paul only describes a total of three actions. But, save for these exceptions, the same words are used for all these actions in all four accounts of the institution of the Eucharist. That’s not insignificant.
As Fr Elias D. Mallon, SA
, has written, once we familiarize ourselves with these four actions (to take, to give thanks/praise, to break, and to give), it becomes clear that they appear in other contexts in the Gospels. In Luke’s account of the road to Emmaus, Jesus appears to two disciples on Easter Sunday. They eventually ask Jesus to stay with them – they do not recognize him and have been discussing the events of Good Friday and Easter. Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives it to them (Lk 24:30
). The two disciples return to Jerusalem and “Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35
Furthermore, we see the same four actions in Jesus’ miraculous feedings of the crowds. A version of this story appears no less than six times in the Gospels (Mk 6:30-44
, Mt 14:13-21
; Lk 9:10-17
; Jn 6:1-13
; and Mk 8:1-10
and Mt 15:32-39
). In the first group of feedings (the first four references), five barley loaves and two fish are used to feed 5,000 people. Jesus takes the bread and fish (only the bread in John), gives praise, breaks (John skips this step), and gives. In the second series, we now see four thousand people, seven loaves and a “few” fish. But again, Jesus takes the bread and fish (only the bread in Mark), gives thanks, breaks, and gives. Fr Mallon notes that Paul could speak of the Eucharist as a “tradition” in the First Letter to the Corinthians, written only about twenty years after the Passion; Mallon suggests that the readers and authors of the New Testament would certainly have picked up on the Eucharistic allusions in the feeding narratives.
Then, Fr Mallon tells us to notice that, immediately after the feeding of the five thousand, we have the account of Jesus walking on the water (Mt 14:22-44
; Mk 6:45-52
; Jn 6:16-21
). Jesus goes unrecognized until he announces himself. In John’s Gospel, on the very next morning, Jesus confronts the crowd that he had just fed and begins to teach them about the Bread from Heaven. They must recognize that his flesh is “true food,” his blood “true drink.” Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him,” (Jn 6:56
), but declares, “there are some of you who do not believe” (Jn 6:64). The feeding of the four thousand in Mark and Matthew is also followed by an account in which the disciples must recognize a hidden meaning behind the feeding. In Mark 8:21
, Jesus even explicitly asks, “Do you still not understand?” In Matthew 16:9
, he asks, “Do you not yet understand, and do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many wicker baskets you took up?” Fr Mallon concludes, “Thus each of the stories about the miraculous feeding of the multitudes is followed by stories in which the eating of the bread is closely connected with recognition and understanding.” This, of course, is also true of the story of Emmaus.
If we are able to recognize the four actions of taking, praising, breaking, and giving, we will be able to recognize Eucharistic resonances in various places in the New Testament. But, even after we are able to do this, Jesus still addresses us: “Do you still not understand?” Rev. Samuel Wells reminds us that, in the breaking of bread, we must recognize the broken body of Christ on the cross. And, “The broken body of Christ crystallizes both the manner of God's sovereignty over his creation, and the ultimate purpose of that sovereignty. If God's sovereignty is the grain of the universe, the whole orientation of creation, then God's love is the most powerful force of all. The power of violence and of money are revealed for what they really are, not dominant but ultimately weak.”
Monday, June 27, 2005
Pastor boots kids from RE
Tracking Mass attendance by bar-coded collection envelopes, a pastor has denied 300 kids
seats in 2005-06 RE at a Staten Island Parish. Already much discussed on open book, a few more thoughts:
- What if the priest took his $150 per kid RE fee and hired a bus to bring kids to Sunday Mass if the parents were unwilling to come?
- How effective will this strategy be if neighboring pastors accept these kids and their parents' fees, churchgoing or not?
- Sunday Mass with one's parents is the single factor most tied in with church involvement as a young adult. Not RE. Not Catholic school. Not EWTN viewing habits.
History of Western Music
Graham Abbott of Australia is midway through a "survey of Western music history." You can catch up on music history
in this series of 55-minute programs. The first two programs are heavy on sacred music: very informative how things developed from chant to polyphony to later forms.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Priests who perform their duties sincerely and indefatigably in the Spirit of Christ arrive at holiness by this very fact.
So Presbyterorum Ordinis 13 asserts. First by attending to God's Word: giving and receiving:
Since they are ministers of God's word, each day they read and hear the word of God, which it is their task to teach others. If at the same time they are ready to receive the word themselves they will grow daily into more perfect followers of the Lord.
Hopefully mindful that it is God who opens hearts, and that power comes not from themselves but from the might of God...
A reaffirmation that (p)riests act especially in the person of Christ as ministers of holy things, particularly in the Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacrifice of Christ who gave himself for the sanctification of (all).
The section continues with an exhortation not to indulge temptations, quickly tying this in with the encouragement to celebrate Mass daily:
Hence, they are asked to take example from that with which they deal, and inasmuch as they celebrate the mystery of the Lord's death they should keep their bodies free of wantonness and lusts.(13) In the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which priests fulfill their greatest task, the work of our redemption is being constantly carried on;(14) and hence the daily celebration of Mass is strongly urged, since even if there cannot be present a number of the faithful, it is still an act of Christ and of the Church.(15) Thus when priests join in the act of Christ the Priest, they offer themselves entirely to God, and when they are nourished with the body of Christ they profoundly share in the love of him who gives himself as food to the faithful. In like fashion they are united with the intention and love of Christ when they administer the sacraments. This is true in a special way when in the performance of their duty in the sacrament of Penance they show themselves altogether and always ready whenever the sacrament is reasonably sought by the faithful. In the recitation of the Divine Office, they offer the voice of the Church which perseveres in prayer in the name of the whole human race, together with Christ who "lives on still to make intercession on our behalf."
The presumption, not literally spelled out, is that prayer, especially the sacraments, are the key to the grace to supercede "wantonness and lusts." A good direction for any Christian.
As leaders of the community they cultivate an asceticism becoming to a shepherd of souls, renouncing their personal convenience, seeking not what is useful to themselves but to many, for their salvation ...
The common refrain I hear about diocesan priests: vows to obedience and celibacy, but not poverty. Asceticism is close kin, but not the same as poverty. Do priests feel this priority in their lives? And in the overall quest for holiness, are they seen as holy more for their public practices (good homilies, good leadership in prayer, being good at counseling) than for their interior life? A good interior life, however, will shine through to the many aspects of ministry.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Grass Clippings in Chicago
The June USCCB meeting has some interesting stuff, as reported by CNS
. Lay ecclesial ministry
merited some discussion, and a forthcoming major document will get continued discussion in November.
People seem to think highly of Cardinal George, but I can't say that from a distance, he seems particularly impressive. According to CNS, "he cited the 'ministry of grass cutting' as an example of how, at one point, the notion of ministry had expanded so much that the word had lost real meaning."
I think un- or ill formed people might fail to make distinctions about church employees and church ministers, but I can't ever recall the pendulum swinging too inclusively far. My home parish
back in Rochester had lots of ministries in its heyday in the 80's, but still listed the parish organist with the secretary and custodian as part of support staff. My sense is that a lot of ministry goes on in the Church and the hierarchy still doesn't recognize it.
Cardinal George didn't have the best of times. CNS also reported on liturgical adaptations brought to the floor for discussion:
When it came time to vote on the entire package, however, Cardinal George asked if the bishops might not be "creating a needless conflict" since they do not yet know what the English translation of the new Roman Missal will look like and how the proposed adaptations will fit in.
Bishop Trautman reminded him that last year, when the liturgy committee decided to make the proposal seeking advance Vatican approval of those adaptations, "you were chair" of the committee.
"Well, I was wrong," Cardinal George replied.
At least he has the guts to admit it.
The liturgy proposals were tabled, pending a look at the newest English translation of the Roman Missal.
Oh, by the way ... my lawn still needs mowing this week. Don't suppose I have any takers, do I?
First, check out the small moon Pan's influence
on Saturn's Rings.
Second, when the sun goes down the next few nights, check out the planetary gathering
near the western horizon: Venus, Mercury, and Saturn. The three are aligned within an area the size of a fist held at arm's length. That doesn't happen more than once or twice a century. Be sure not to delay too long; these planets are very close to the horizon and will set soon after the sun does. Instead of that extra cup of coffee, make sure you take time to get to a place that doesn't have too many trees in the way.
By the way, have you ever wondered if the planets ever occult one another--merge in the sky to briefly form one bright object? Astronomers have summarized
these events, past and future. Don't think they weren't noticed in the past. Mars and Jupiter merged in 1170, an event recorded
in England and China, though not in telescopic detail the web site provides. The most spectacular conjunction
occured in 2BC, and was visible throughout the Middle East. Draw your own conclusions there.
A near miss of Jupiter and Saturn in 2020 could be seen in a telescope's field of view
. I'm marking my calendar for this one. Maybe it will be the sign to call Vatican III.
Presbyterorum Ordinis 12 is a pep talk to encourage priests to stay on the track toward holiness.
Like all other Christians (priests) have received in the sacrament of Baptism the symbol and gift of such a calling and such grace that even in human weakness they can and must seek for perfection, according to the exhortation of Christ: "Be you therefore perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48).
More good reinforcement for the baptismal call: every Christian is called for holiness and given grace to transcend human weakness to achieve it.
Priests are bound, however, to acquire that perfection in special fashion.
PO 12 makes an excellent distinction, calling all Christians to holiness, but stressing the priest's call is "special," not stronger, not more expected, not already accomplished.
(The priest) is enriched by a special grace, so that, as he serves the flock committed to him and the entire People of God, he may the better grow in the grace of him whose tasks he performs ...
In like fashion, priests consecrated by the anointing of the Holy Spirit and sent by Christ must mortify the works of the flesh in themselves and give themselves entirely to the service of men. It is in this way that they can go forward in that holiness with which Christ endows them ...
Note a few things: holiness is not a state given with the conferral of ordination. More than that, the lifestyle of the priest--the conscious choices of personal sacrifice and service--these are where the priest works out his daily walk with Christ. Like all of us, priests are just works in progress. They possess special graces to assist in the fulfillment of their life. But each person has his or her own special graces in work, vocation choices, and other opportunities.
Hence, this holy council, to fulfill its pastoral desires of an internal renewal of the Church, of the spread of the Gospel in every land and of a dialogue with the world of today, strongly urges all priests that they strive always for that growth in holiness by which they will become consistently better instruments in the service of the whole People of God, using for this purpose those means which the Church has approved.
Puts it in perspective. Note the clearly stated Vatican II goals:
- internal renewal of the Church
- spread of the Gospel everywhere
- a dialogue with the world of today
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Toni, in the comment boxes below, criticized me for belittling Karl Keating. Her sensible commentary gave me pause. Perhaps my sarcasm was over the top.
I have to admit the "smaller, better" Church argument really, really bothers me. I find it so antithetical to Catholic tradition and history, not to mention gravely at odds with what any sensible Catholic would want to see in her or his parish. But. That might not be an excuse for being severe, even though I suspect Mr Keating could take it.
Dissecting Karl Keating's Approval for a Shrinking Church
To Hell With Matthew 28:19-20
On the Catholic Answers web site, Karl Keating weighs in with his version of Catholicism. Starting with the question: IS THE CHURCH LIKELY TO SHRINK--AND SHOULD IT?
I have to say from the outset, the incredible shrinking church notion just slays me. It represents a degree of narcissism the worst excesses of the post-conciliar would have to work at to match.
The answer to that question is: It depends on where you live. In some places the Church is growing fast--Africa, for example, where Catholics were 12 percent of the population 25 years ago but now are 17 percent. The talk in such places is not about whether the Church will or should shrink; it is about how to manage runaway growth. It is a nice problem to have.
A nice problem to have, but no thanks. We want something smaller.
In other places Church participation is in decline, Europe being the most obvious example, but America is in this category too. A few decades ago three out of four American Catholics attended Mass regularly. Now the proportion is one out of four.
The research I've seen suggests one out of three registered Catholics is sitting in the pew on any given Sunday. Age certainly is a factor; commitment for ages 20-34 is very close to those 65 and older.
It is a little hard to brag about having 65 million American Catholics when only 16 million of them show up on Sundays.
If we want something to "brag" about, we could just say the same number of American Catholics are receiving Communion as fifty years ago.
Catholics are 23 percent of the U.S. population. If you subtract the nominal ("Christmas and Easter") Catholics and consider only regular Mass-goers, you can say that active Catholics are a mere 6 percent of the national population.
I'd say it's more like 8%.
Using the same formula, forty years ago they were 18 percent.
You have to use the same formula? What about the actual statistics for percentage Catholic in 1950 and percentage going to Mass?
Once upon a time Hollywood feared the Legion of Decency because the studios could not afford to have priests instruct tens of millions of Catholics not to attend particular movies.
From what I hear, the studios feared all committed Christian demographics. I remember how the network people were a bit nervous about Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie in the 60's. They were more concerned how those shows would play in the Protestant South more than the Catholic Northeast.
There is no such fear today.
More because the clerical leadership in both Catholic and Evangelical circles has taken huge PR hits.
There are proportionately fewer Catholics in the pews to hear such instructions, and no such instructions are given anyway. Older Catholics can remember a time when American bishops were paid attention to not just by Catholics but by the general public, even by political leaders. If you were a politician, you may not have agreed with someone like Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York, but you didn't cross him either. He had clout.
Ah yes. The same clout that was jealous of Fulton Sheen and shipped him to Rochester with the full expectation he would fail as a pastor of a diocese.
Does any American prelate have clout today? I can't think of one.
The last was probably Bernardin. I think a bishop is recognized as a voice to be listened to when he actually has something to say.
They have no clout partly because they do not try to exercise any but also because to have clout you need to have a committed or sizeable constituency behind you.
The Gospel is not enough. Now there's a novel theology: strength in numbers.
Six percent is not sizeable and does not suggest much commitment. How did we come to this pass?
Dying to hear.
Ironically, the Catholic Church's present-day unimportance in the U.S. is largely a consequence of a "big tent" mentality: Church leaders have not wanted to lose anyone, no matter how marginally Catholic. The result has been a Church that is big and flaccid and almost without influence.
And this was different in the past how?
(Who pays attention to USCCB position papers?)
Foreign policy and economic conservatives paid enough attention in the 80's to attack the bishops for making statements about things they didn't agree with. But with the curia clamping down on bishops' conferences there's nothing substantive coming out of the USCCB these days.
For the Church in this country to regain influence, it needs to shrink first, on the principle that if you want a fruit tree to grow and to produce good fruit, you must prune it aggressively.
Karl goes off the deep end on this one. Karl the branch deciding which other branches need to get pruned? I don't think so. Catholic Answers should check John 15:1; the Father is the vine grower. Karl's theology is a repudiation of Paul's Theology of the Body (1 Cor 12:12ff). He might wrap his ideas around pruning tools, but don't be fooled. It's all about the eye telling the hand, "I do not need you."
This is precisely what Pope Benedict XVI has been quoted as saying about the Church as a whole: A smaller Church is more likely to be a "creative minority."
I think we could say a more "intentional" Church is more likely to be creative.
A Church from which the heterodox take an early retirement will be internally more cohesive and can set itself some modest goals, such as getting back to the business of converting the whole world.
I've heard this argument frequently, but the narcissism of it intrigues me. The viewpoint is essentially that all the people who disagree with us are bothering us and stopping us from getting significant work done. Essentially, Catholic Answers is promoting a sort of whiny neocon Catholicism. Reminds me of all the excuses people give when they don't want to do something: I'll get to work when I get paid more ... when I lose some weight ... after I quit smoking or drinking ... when God gives me that new car. And they complain about liberals being navel-gazers!
A smaller, more orthodox, and more cohesive Church, one relieved of the burden of people who maintain membership in it primarily in order to oppose it (as some people remain registered in a political party only so they can vote against certain candidates in the primary elections)--such a Church is free to grow.
I see. All those liberal semi-Catholics reading their Sunday papers in bed are just on the rolls to drag down the True Believers who want to Get Things Done. I too lament the low church attendance on weekends, but it never occurred to me that inactive Catholics were sniggering over their tea and toast rubbing their hands with glee over all the evangelization they were sabotaging. Sorry, Karl; this seems a little too self-serving a theory to me.
It is free to be itself.
"I've just got to be me?"
It will end up doing more good for more people than it could have while paralyzed through internal bickerings.
Neocons used to populate more of the sidelines in post-conciliar Catholicism, and now they seem to be waking up. Someone should tell them active Catholics, progressive and traditional both got a lot of work done while they were eating their own bedroom breakfasts.
In last week's E-Letter I mentioned Rosemary Radford Ruether...
A common tactic: find someone ruethlessly objectionable and assume that all opponents think like that.
Why do people such as Ruether cling to the title but not to the content of the faith?
Because being a Catholic is a response to a call from God, not from a Catholic Answers orthodoxy survey.
Partly it is because of clout.
Wait! I thought we lost that clout when Cardinal Spellman died.
What little they have is a consequence of their being thought of as Catholics. If Ruether described herself as "a non-Christian New Ager," would her writings be taken as seriously as they are? Of course not. Where is Starhawk now?
Where is Deal Hudson now? Or Cardinal Law?
I have no insight into what Pope Benedict will do to make the Church a "creative minority." I think the Church in this country will trend that way no matter what. Someone like Rosemary Radford Ruether may stick it out until the bitter end, but over time many nominal Catholics will conform to truth-in-advertising principles and will start calling themselves something else.
Faith has become a matter of personal marketing? I think Keating is reading too much of the WSJ.
They will give up pretending to be what they manifestly are not. More importantly, they will give up trying to make the Church into what it is not. They will find another sandbox to play in.
I wouldn't give up on the bed and breakfast crowd so easily.
Even though things will go this way regardless, the Pope is positioned to give real momentum to the shift, and I hope he does, for everyone's sake. He could invite some people, particularly those with notoriety, to find their religious home elsewhere, but I hardly expect him to do that.
I don't either. Pope Benedict knows that God's call and the many traditional Catholic expressions of it override what any particular sub-group thinks or does.
I don't think he needs to. All he needs to do is to remove their wiggle room by defining and reiterating Catholic teaching ever more strongly.
Takes a lot of clout to do that. Do we have it or don't we?
The people who attend Call to Action conferences still push for women's ordination, arguing that the male-only priesthood is a cultural artifact, not an irreformable dogma. They pay scant attention to "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" or to the later dubium, signed by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, which affirmed the infallibility of the Church's teaching that woman cannot be ordained. But what if Pope Benedict issued a decree, couched in the plain and traditional language of infallible teachings, saying that it is now and always will be impossible to ordain women, take it or leave it?
It seems to me that's already been done. But the question seems to keep coming up, so it could be one of two things is happening. Either the teaching hasn't been taught as well as it could be, or perhaps the teaching is fundamentally flawed in some theological way. Either way, women's ordination (to use Keating's example) isn't on the top of most Catholics' list of essentials. I know a lot of women (and lay people ingeneral) who have particular expertise in many areas, and all they want is their priests and bishops to listen to their good ideas and input and take it seriously.
I think a fair number would leave it, and in the long run that would be good for them and for the Church.
Catholic tradition has usually seen it the other way around. People have always been dissatisfied with the larger institution of the Church, with the culture, with what the Church is doing or not doing to further the Gospel. In the 4th century, instead of shrinking the Church, they just went into the desert to pray and find their own way. It was good for then and the Church: we have the monastic tradition because of it, and people continue to seek God in very serious and intentional ways by separating themselves from the world. What Keating proposes is Country Club Catholicism: kick everybody but the Faithful Republicans out. Somehow, if the neocons got their wish for a smaller kick-butt Church, I suspect they would quickly lose their enthusiasm for converting the world.
It would be good for them because they no longer would be living a lie, and there would be hope that, at length, they would wake up, see the wisdom of the Catholic position, and come home--as fully Catholic. I've seen it happen.
In country clubs, no doubt.
Any other comments?
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Inspiring Others To Serve: The Challenge of Presbyterorum Ordinis 11
This section concludes PO's chapter 2, the Ministry of Priests, and deals in brief with recruiting. PO 11 refers to the "duty" being part of the "priestly mission" begun with the apostles. But this is again a shared responsibility, to be undertaken with the laity:
Since, however, there is common cause between the captain of a ship and the sailors, let all Christian people be taught that it is their duty to cooperate in one way or another, by constant prayer and other means at their disposal, that the Church will always have a sufficient number of priests to carry out her divine mission.
Look for the signs, the Church says, and spare "no effort or inconvenience" in preparing candidates for ordination.
In this effort, diligent and prudent spiritual direction is of the greatest value.
In addition to the targeting of specific candidates and giving good example, priests are commended to undertake general efforts:
In sermons, in catechetical instructions, and written articles, priests should set forth the needs of the Church both locally and universally, putting into vivid light the nature and excellence of the priestly ministry, which consoles heavy burdens with great joys, and in which in a special way, as the Fathers of the Church point out, the greatest love of Christ can be shown.
I was thinking how this can apply as well to any vocation. I could examine my own ministry over these past years and ask if I've been enthusiastic in identifying talented young people, encouraging them by writing and speaking in addition to making music. When Anita and I made out first Marriage Encounter in 1998, we were quite gung-ho on our experience for a few years. We encouraged our friends to make the ME weekend, and I think three or four couples eventually did.
Lay people could make a convincing case for others to undertake the "burdens and joys" of ordination. I'm constantly exposed to people who have striking but undertold tales of experiences with clergy that would inspire the thought to serve in others. We should remain diligent about telling our tales whenever we can.
Of Shakespeare and Saint Paul
from Neil Dhingra
I hope that some of you have read the cover article in the current Commonweal
, “The Catholic Bard: Shakespeare and the ‘Old Religion.’” The author, Clare Asquith, is a Shakespeare scholar
who happened to spend some time in the Soviet Union as the wife of a British diplomat. She suggests that we should interpret Shakespeare as an early modern Catholic dissident in a Protestant police state who made use of “the double-speak of subversive drama” that “gave initiates an enjoyable sense of complicity, but was innocent enough to hoodwink the authorities.”
One example: in some often omitted lines from the first scene of Much Ado About Nothing
, the misogynistic Benedick’s friends joke that, if he ever does fall in love, he will sign a letter on “the sixth of July.” “Mock not, mock not,” Benedick responds, “‘ere you flout old ends any further, examine your consciences.” Elizabethan Catholics would remember that Henry VIII had executed St Thomas More
on that day for refusing to sign a letter, and Henry’s much-desired son Edward VI had also died on July 6 – a glaringly obvious judgment, it was thought, against his father. Benedick’s “Mock not, mock not” reminds his friends that the deaths of More and Edward should not be reduced to facetious banter, and his “examine your consciences” is a clear reference to More’s exemplary martyrdom as “God’s servant first.” Those who catch on will begin to detect a “hidden drama” behind Benedick’s behavior and the identity of Beatrice.
Here’s an interesting question: Does the idea of “the double-speak of subversive drama” help us understand Holy Scripture? Much of the New Testament, after all, was written in the shadow of the cult of the Roman emperor. The Lutheran exegete Harry O. Maier
has written about a “sly civility” in St Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. The Letter to the Colossians tells us of a pre-existing Son of God in whom “all things hold together” (3:17
), and through whom God “reconciled to himself all things, whether on earth on in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross” (3:20
). The church should have a harmonious communal life issuing forth from the incorporation of believers (1:18
; 2:11-12, 15, 19
) into the resurrection life of this “Christ seated at the right hand of God” (3:1
). Rev. Maier says that a first century Christian audience would have recognized similarities to a familiar imperial-sounding theme “celebrating the Roman order as a divinely ordained order representing a pacification of erstwhile hostile and ethnically dispersed peoples, brought by military might into a global pax by a divinely appointed emperor heading a moral, natural and spiritual renewal.”
Paul clearly speaks the political language of diplomacy and civil concord – even his description of the Colossian church as “stable and steadfast and not shifting” borrows from the architectural language common in civic representations of political peace. Christ is a “making of peace” (eirenopoios), he says. Well, Dio
had described Julius Caesar as an “eirenopoios” and by the time of Commodus
, it would become one of the emperor’s official titles. Keep in mind that this imperial peace was meant to be not just political, but cosmic. Nero’s
coins rather ambitiously associated him with the enthroned Jupiter. Less than 50 miles from Colossae was the temple complex at Sebasteion
with representations of the emperors depicted in the company of Olympian deities and personified natural and cosmic powers, all overlooking fifty statues representing the pacified peoples of the world.
Perhaps Paul’s evocation of imperial themes was meant to be “innocent enough to hoodwink the authorities.” But Paul’s allusions do not show the weakness of accommodation; they are actually deeply subversive. The pax of Colossians comes from the self-emptying of the cross, not the violence of military triumph. The Household Code of 3:18-4:1 might look like the Roman political ideal of the well-governed household, but the insistence upon love, justice, and equity (3:19
) “unsettles the traditional absolute rule and exploitation of Graeco-Roman patresfamilias over their subordinates.” And the reconciliation of the cross – bringing a cosmic peace to even those “barbarians and Scythians” (3:11
) at the farthest boundaries of Roman rule - makes the extra rituals and practices of Empire simply redundant. Those who catch on will begin to detect that Caesar is reduced to being a subject - just another “principality and power” (2:10
Of course, the Letter to the Colossians can be read as a call for Christendom. One example of this is Eusebius’
fawning Oration in Praise of Constantine, in which, as Rev. Maier says, “Christ and Caesar conspire together in a cosmic and global rule, as saving religion guarantees imperial peace and concord and a global imperial reach brings the gospel to the furthest points of the compass.” But Rev. Maier believes that a closer reading of Colossians brings us to a “destabilizing truth.” The cruciform peace of the Son of God, manifested by the “love, that is the bond of perfection,” (3:14
) of those who have died and risen with Christ, shows that the imperial peace of “the dominion of one over the vanquished who owe him honor” is really no peace at all. Paul’s letter “urges believers gathered in local house churches to realize by love what Rome seeks to achieve by the force of arms, and thereby to be the visible ecclesial manifestation of an alternative cosmic rule centered finally in an empire-renouncing logic. … Colossians twists Empire and makes it slip.”
Of course, we do not live under a Protestant police state or the cruel persecution of Nero. But in a time of suspicion, fear, and an inescapable preoccupation with survival and security, do we find ourselves at least tempted towards the “dangerous religion
” of a “theology of Empire”? If so, might we need to learn once more the “sly civility” of a Shakespeare – or a St Paul?
Friday, June 17, 2005
Presbyterorum Ordinis 10
deals with the distribution of priests in the Church. Leading off ...
The spiritual gift which priests receive at their ordination prepared them not for a sort of limited and narrow mission but for the widest possible and universal mission of salvation "even to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8), for every priestly ministry shares in the universality of the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles.
The intent of the document is openness to mission work when necessary. But I also wonder about this sentence in light of the training of priests. Are they just sacramental providers? Teachers? Preachers? Or jacks of all spiritual trades, as it were?
Hence, priests of such dioceses as are rich in vocations should show themselves willing and ready, with the permission of their own ordinaries (bishops), to volunteer for work in other regions, missions or endeavors which are poor in numbers of clergy.
A point probably lost in light of today's numbers game. But the spirit of the statement might apply to older clergy holding the plum assignments in suburbs while younger priests struggle in first assignments in difficult parishes the older guys would prefer not to take.
" ... there should be set up international seminaries, special personal dioceses or prelatures (vicariates), and so forth, by means of which, according to their particular statutes and always saving the right of bishops, priests may be trained and incardinated for the good of the whole Church.
This surprised me, too. Got me thinking about the possible advantages to international training--not just in Rome. Or temporary exchanges of priests from one diocese to another ... not that I have a particular oar in these waters.
Finishing up section 9, we read priests are to be defenders of the common good and also strenuous assertors of the truth, lest the faithful be carried about by every wind of doctrine.
I guess we're kind of vulnerable in that regard.
They are united by a special solicitude with those who have fallen away from the use of the sacraments, or perhaps even from the faith. Indeed, as good shepherds, they should not cease from going out to them.
I recalled the relationship portrayed in that great film The Bishop's Wife between Henry and the agnostic scholar. I know I don't know too many non-religious types, not as many as I used to, anyway. My few non-Catholics friends are often curious about my religion and my job, and I feel free to share my Catholicism openly with them. After my baptism, I remember our home being visited often by clergy, though I think it was more for my mother's sake than mine. (She has never become a Catholic.) The retired pastor was especially observant of the principle in PO 9, sending her books, medals, and conversing with her at every opportunity.
Mindful of the prescripts on ecumenism, let them not forget their brothers who do not enjoy full ecclesiastical communion with us. Finally, they have entrusted to them all those who do not recognize Christ as their Savior.
One internet priest put himself into a frenzy over non-Catholic ministers wearing Roman collars (Why are they Roman, for heaven's sake?) and causing all sorts of confusion. I probably commented that a person's attitude might also short-circuit belief that they are a man of God, but I don't think that argument was taken to heart. PO 9 doesn't say a priest should be involved in RCIA (and not just as a teacher) but RCIA had not quite been envisioned fully as of 1965.
The Christian faithful, for their part, should realize their obligations to their priests, and with filial love they should follow them as their pastors and fathers. In like manner, sharing their cares, they should help their priests by prayer and work insofar as possible so that their priests might more readily overcome difficulties and be able to fulfill their duties more fruitfully.
Point well taken. In planning liturgy of the hours, I've always made it a point of including prayers for pope, bishop, and pastor. Most guys aren't going to come right out and give you the pattern for praying for them, but they all appreciate the prayers when they come.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
The Roots of Rerum Novarum
from Neil Dhingra
In his June 11 “Sacred Mysteries” column
in the Daily Telegraph, Christopher Howse takes us back to 1887 London: “A great stir followed a declaration by Cardinal Manning that a starving man was not stealing if he took the food he needed from his neighbour. The natural right to life and food, he said, prevailed even over the laws of property.” Cardinal Manning
, the Archbishop of Westminster, was a great exponent of Catholic social doctrine, and Howse mentions him in way of introducing the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace’s new Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
, which clearly states, "When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice."
Where does “Catholic Social Doctrine” come from?
There is no better guide to answering that question than the eminent Louvain historian, Canon Roger Aubert. In 1966, he wrote a helpful article “Aux origines de la doctrine sociale catholique” (in English here
), which I will summarize. The easy answer to the question is “the encyclical Rerum Novarum
” (which Manning influenced), but we should note that Rerum Novarum was released in 1891, not less than 43 years after Marx published the Communist Manifesto. This late start, Canon Aubert tells us, “is less due to selfishness or to ignorance of the actual situation than it is to a lack of understanding of the new problems posed by the Industrial Revolution.”
Before Rerum Novarum, in France, different groups had struggled against these “new problems,” some denouncing the French Revolution, other seeking a synthesis of Catholicism with pre-Marxist Socialism. Many bishops, however, failed to see any link between the de-Christianization of the working classes and their increasing poverty, and could not imagine any solution to poverty that went beyond moral improvement and charity. They also recoiled from the anticlericalism of some socialists. And, describing Cardinal d’Astros, Archbishop of Toulouse, Canon Aubert writes, “there is still something else which can explain his reticence, and that of many of his colleagues, when faced with any attempt at modifying the established order: an almost unreal hyper-spiritualism, which makes him ignore everything at the level of the profane.”
The Vatican Council of 1870 was interrupted, but it might have taken up the social question. One of the preparatory commissions had composed a draft on “easing the misery of the poor and the workers.” But again we see only moral remedies without any sense of institutional solutions. At the time, any sort of social reform was regularly confused with strict communism – with Proudhon’s dangerous shout that “Property is theft” and Marx’s claim that religion was merely the opiate of the people. Perhaps it was for the best that the First Vatican Council didn’t take up the social question.
Catholic social doctrine really got its start in Germany. The main figure was the Bishop of Mainz, Wilhelm Emmanuel Baron von Ketteler
. After thinking about things for fifteen years, he wrote The Workers Question and Christianity, which presented an anti-individualistic view of society as an organism, with everyone working together for the smooth operation of the whole. Although he at first distrusted the State, eventually, to counterbalance the capitalists, he called on the government to augment salaries, reduce working hours, preserve the Sunday repose, and abolish child labor in the factories. He inspired the Center Party, which supported pioneering social legislation subsequently passed by the government. His ideas also met with notable success in Austria.
Now, Bishop Ketteler’s initial mistrust of the state characterized Italian Catholics. After all, the pope had found himself at odds with a Liberal government that was openly anticlerical and tended to interfere with the Church’s operation (e.g., the nomination of pastors). Thus, while opposing socialism, some Catholic intellectuals also attacked the Liberal economy, rooted (so it was seen) in the Protestant Reformation and French Revolution, and only concerned with materialistic and naturalistic goals. There was also a study group meeting in Rome, including a Jesuit named Matteo Liberatore
, who, in 1889, published his Principii di economia politica, which described a middle road between Liberalism and Socialism that would abandon modernity altogether. Pope Leo XIII
became interested in these Roman deliberations, and slowly became able to distinguish between different sorts of socialism, anarchism and total collectivism. In 1888, the efforts of Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore and Cardinal Manning prevented a papal condemnation of the Knights of Labor, the first American union, despite its image as a secret society connected with anarchism. Manning had also famously intervened during the famous Dock Strike of 1889, when 100,000 dockers went on strike for five weeks.
Obviously, the social question could not be dismissed. In 1886, 1887, and 1890, international congresses, organized by the Bishop of Liège, took place in Belgium, involving a good number of Germans and Austrians, all defending the idea of the necessity of State intervention in economic and social activities and the legitimacy of unions defending workers against their employers. The Liège school, “itself the inheritor of the social thought of Ketteler,” soon became controversial – at one congress, an intervention by another bishop forced the cancellation of a paper by the professor of morals at the local seminary which argued for State intervention to establish a minimum wage. Rome had to issue a directive. The directive was Rerum Novarum, which, on all principal points, came down in favor of the Liège school.
Fr Liberatore wrote the original draft of the encyclical. But his draft was too brief, wooden, and too partisan in favor of his unrealistic corporatist alternative to capitalism and socialism. The Dominican Cardinal Zigliara edited a new draft, which was subsequently revised. Interestingly, the social question was so new and unexpected that the encyclical-writers had to come up with numerous paraphrases, circumlocutions, and neologisms to get their points across (Leo was demanding on this score). You really should read the entire encyclical, but three modifications emerged during the drafting process that tell us something about the document.
The original version supported the stance taken by the Liège school and many others – that the worker had the right to a family-sustaining salary by justice. Some worried that this attacked private property much too directly. The edited version merely said that the worker had to be able to live on his salary, and if the employer could not pay him a decent salary, the courts should intervene. The third version asserted the importance of a livable wage, but got the courts out of it. Significantly, the final version retains the possibility of intervention by the state, but worries that “the public powers might intervene inopportunely.”
The original version presented intermediary corporative bodies, in which the employer and worker would be united, as a “Christian social order” free from class conflict. The second draft speaks instead of voluntary and private professional organizations, religious brotherhoods that could still unite employers and workers. At the last minute, the Pope introduced a modification to the text, praising associations, “whether composed entirely of workers, or mixed, assembling both workers and employers,” effectively allowing modern unions composed solely of workers.
The original version desired the State to have a rather extensive responsibility, including controlling monopolies and limiting stock market speculation. The State, it was said, should “vigilantly insure an honest and proportional repartition of resources from which the family will benefit” and “coordinate everyone’s efforts towards the formation of the common good and maintain the hierarchy of functions and powers.” Nuances and hints were introduced into the text. Canon Aubert suggests that the interventionist schema of the Liège school still received the official sanction of the Church, but with prudence, so as to avoid partisanship and the appearance of a more doctrinaire socialism.
Fr Liberatore’s first draft of the encyclical reflected a “pre-capitalist” world view that condemned capitalism as an evil. Canon Aubert writes, “One of the merits of the encyclical Rerum Novarum is to have been able to go beyond this pre-capitalist perspective, at least partially, and, while still keeping a good bit of what was positive in the corporatists’ protests against the new bourgeois order, to aim at raising up the working class within the framework of existing economic institutions; in other words, to renounce romantic utopias and to take a realistic stand analogous to that of reformist Socialism, not hesitating to accept finally, albeit halfheartedly, the political leverage which the latter would use so efficiently, labor unions.” The greatest merit, of course, is that “for the first time, worker’s rights and the injustice of the entire Liberal system were solemnly proclaimed by the highest spiritual authority.” And it was done so in a way that was interventionist while remaining prudent, drawing on different schools of Catholic thought that had been allowed to develop without papal interference.
What would a Rerum Novarum for our age of globalization look like?
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
"A vital branch in the stream of American music"
So Leonard Bernstein once referred to composer David Diamond, now dead at age 89.
I have few recordings of his work, but I like the combination of chromatic edginess and lyric melody. Diamond was from Rochester, my hometown, and his music was occasionally performed at the Eastman School. Interest in Diamond flagged while he spent his post-WWII years in Europe. Gerard Schwarz, while at the helm of the Seattle Symphony, was part of Diamond's "rehab," recording several disks of Diamond's works on the Delos label.
Diamond composed eleven symphonies, but is well-regarded for his art songs. I'm not aware of anything he's composed along the lines of sacred music.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
A Priest's Checklist
Presbyterorum Ordinis 9 contains a few surprisingly strong statements about what priests and laity hold in common in God's household, grounding these thoughts in baptism: the great equalizer. Priests are intended to be leaders, yes, but in the example of the Savior, who "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as redemption for many" (Mt 20:28).
Here's a checklist for priests:
* (S)eeking the things of Jesus Christ, not the things that are their own.
* (Working) with the lay faithful.
* (S)incerely acknowledg(ing) and promot(ing) the dignity of the laity and the part proper to them in the mission of the Church.
* (W)illingly listen to the laity,
* (C)onsider(ing) their wants in a fraternal spirit,
* (R)ecognize their experience and competence in the different areas of human activity, so that together with them they will be able to recognize the signs of the times.
Then there's this statement:
(P)riests should uncover with a sense of faith, acknowledge with joy and foster with diligence the various humble and exalted charisms of the laity. Among the other gifts of God, which are found in abundance among the laity, those are worthy of special mention by which not a few of the laity are attracted to a higher spiritual life. Likewise, they should confidently entrust to the laity duties in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action; in fact, they should invite them on suitable occasions to undertake worlds on their own initiative.
Important what it says about the laity: the call to a "higher spiritual life" and the inclusion of lay people in "service of the Church," which in the greater context of this document, probably is not confined to cooking, cleaning, and contracting.
Finally priests have been placed in the midst of the laity to lead them to the unity of charity, "loving one another with fraternal love, eager to give one another precedence" (Rom 12:10). It is their task, therefore, to reconcile differences of mentality in such a way that no one need feel ... a stranger in the community of the faithful.
Too little of this happens, and the blame for lack of charity rests largely with the laity of a parish, at least in my experience. More on PO 9 a bit later this week.
Brittany finishes Camp Systole
tomorrow. It's been rather quiet around the house without her. The cats have definitely noticed. I'm glad our empty nest days are still in the far future, though Anita and I have been enjoying some nice couple time this week. Still on tap for this summer: possible outing to Worlds of Fun
and my personal favorite, Oceans of Fun
. Brit is tall enough to pass muster on any roller coaster they toss at her, but I heard about that poor 4-year-old at Disney World who died on a ride a few days ago. My head says don't mess with it: keep it moderately thrilling at the water park, but parents among you know how the seeds of expectant fun get planted in little brains.
With or without your priests and/or kids, enjoy the week!
Saturday, June 11, 2005
Presbyterorum Ordinis 8: Priests as Brothers
All priests are sent as co-workers in the same apostolate, whether they engage in parochial or extra-parochial ministry. This is true whether they devote their efforts to scientific research or teaching, or whether by manual labor they share in the lot of the workers themselves-if there is need for this and competent authority approves-or finally whether they fulfill some other apostolic tasks or labor designed for the apostolate.
I found this slightly curious: mentioning sharing of the lot of workers by working manually with them. The following sentences develop further the idea of unity.
Older priests, therefore, should receive younger priests as true brothers and help them in their first undertakings and priestly duties. The older ones should likewise endeavor to understand the mentality of younger priests, even though it be different from their own, and follow their projects with good will. By the same token, young priests should respect the age and experience of their seniors; they should seek their advice and willingly cooperate with them in everything that pertains to the care of souls.
Nice. I've seen this happen more often than one might expect, given the separation and isolation of some diocesan priests in their ministry.
In a fraternal spirit, priests should extend hospitality, cultivate kindliness and share their goods in common. They should be particularly solicitous for the sick, the afflicted, those overburdened with work, the lonely, those exiled from their homeland, and those who suffer persecution.
Again, we read the emphasis on charity, and even the lighter side of life:
They should gladly and joyfully gather together for recreation, remembering Christ's invitation to the weary apostles: "Come aside to a desert place, and rest awhile" (Mk 6:31).
And further, in order that priests may find mutual assistance in the development of their spiritual and intellectual life, that they may be able to cooperate more effectively in their ministry and be saved from the dangers of loneliness which may arise, it is necessary that some kind of common life or some sharing of common life be encouraged among priests. This, however, may take many forms, according to different personal or pastoral needs, such as living together where this is possible, or having a common table, or at least by frequent and periodic meetings.
Look where Vatican II places necessity: on some kind of common life. Are bishops attuned to this? Some years ago Bishop DiNardo of Sioux City arranged for the Fort Dodge clergy of four or five parishes to live together in common as they served their canonical parishes. I heard that arrangement was very beneficial and admired--at least by those with whom I spoke about it.
Finally, by reason of the same communion in the priesthood, priests should realize that they are obliged in a special manner toward those priests who labor under certain difficulties. They should give them timely help, and also, if necessary, admonish them discreetly.
I can't help but think of that sex predator in Australia who reportedly went to confession hundreds of times for abusing girls and boys.
How do your parish priests keep a common life? My pastor hosts a Wednesday dinner for a handful of area priests. What's going on in your rectories?
Friday, June 10, 2005
A Jesuit and the Witch Trials
from Neil Dhingra
Some of you might have come across Ronald Modras
’ new book, Ignatian Humanism: A Dynamic Spirituality for the 21st Century
(you can read a review here
). I’d like to look at a very interesting chapter on the seventeenth-century Jesuit, Friedrich Spee (which can also be read
as the September 2003 issue of Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits). A subtitle for this post might be: How to avoid killing people.
Who was Friedrich Spee
? Spee wrote a 1631 Latin treatise entitled Cautio Criminalis
, in which he described contemporary witch trials. He wrote, “I confess that I myself have accompanied several women to their deaths in various places over the preceding years whose innocence even now I am so sure of that there could never be any effort and diligence too great that I would not undertake it in order to reveal this truth … One can easily guess what feelings were in my soul when I was present at such miserable deaths.” One can’t so easily guess what feelings were in the soul of the auxiliary bishop of Paderborn when he wrote to a fellow prelate about a “liber pestilentissimus” (most poisonous book) written anonymously by a certain Jesuit priest named Spee who dared to compare burnt witches to Christian martyrs.
But we should try to understand the feelings of Bishop Johannes Pelcking. He could read about the frighteningly effective “secret arts” of Pharaoh’s magicians (Ex 7:8-12
), and God’s command, “You shall not permit a witch to live” (Ex 22:17
), would seem rather clear. The first trial conducted by priest-inquisitors for witchcraft ending in an execution took place in 1275. These trials had continued, killing St Joan of Arc
along the way and reaching a peak in number between 1580 and 1630. By then, most inquisitors were laymen. Professor Modras figures that 60,000 people were executed for witchcraft. The fear of witches was an ecumenical dread; Luther spoke of the Teufelshuren (devil’s whores), who rode through the air and created storms. It was worst of all in Pelcking and Spee’s Germany, where war, famine, and epidemics, in Modras’ words, “certainly promoted widespread anxiety and a collective sense of being delivered over to mysterious evil powers.” In Würzburg, 1639, the Prince-bishop’s chancellor wrote that no less than “four hundred in the city, high and low, of every rank and sex” had been accused. But most of the scapegoats were women. After all, women were more likely to be morally weak and driven by carnal lust. Or so it was thought.
Many great Christian minds had thought about witches. St Thomas Aquinas clarified
at least some of the details of sexual intercourse between demons and men, but the greatest thinkers were two Dominicans, Sprenger and Kramer, who wrote the Malleus Maleficarum
(The Witch-hammer). In the Malleus, you could read more about demon-sex, and how witches transport themselves from place to place. You could also read about proper judicial procedure, including the application of torture, which had been allowed since 1252 to uncover heretics. And you could read that women are more susceptible to witchcraft – even the very word femina, our Dominican authors tell us, comes from fe (faith) and mina (less). Modras writes, “Page after page, the Malleus betrays an obsession with the idea of sexual intercourse with the devil, going on at length on how witches deprive men of their sexual organs.” Next to the Malleus on the witch-hunter’s bookshelf was the French jurist Jean Bodin’s
De la Demonomanie des Sorciers (1580), which suggested that women are more vulnerable to the devil than men because of their increased “force of animal desire.” Most unfortunately, according to Bodin, evil women also happen to know fifty different magic knots that render men impotent.
Enter Friedrich Spee, who was born in 1591, and entered the Society of Jesus. He was ordained in 1622. His career was largely marked by disappointment, even before three of Spee’s colleagues (including the college rector) requested that his Cautio be placed on the Index of Forbidden Books. The Jesuit secretary general wondered if Spee should be allowed to remain in the Society – and, if he were expelled, left without the Society’s protection, he might have been brought up on charges of sorcery himself. Nothing ultimately happened to Spee. Perhaps he had a protector in a certain provincial. He was transferred to Trier, which was invaded by French soldiers in 1635, becoming the scene of horrific hand-to-hand combat. Through the fighting, Spee showed remarkable charity, collecting food and clothing for even the French prisoners of war. He visited military hospitals, crowded with the wounded, and became sick himself. He died at the age of 44 in 1635.
Spee’s Cautio began by claiming that witches did exist. But Spee thought that the number of witches was rather small and blamed judicial procedure for most executions. He accused religious men who refused to make themselves aware of the corruption of the public courts, lawyers who found prosecuting witches to be a lucrative business, common people who took revenge on their enemies by accusing them, and inquisitors who often seemed to accuse one another. Spee also noted, “It is incredible what people say under the compulsion of torture, and how many lies they will tell about themselves and about others; in the end whatever the torturers want to be true is true.” He was thus ahead of our own time. Spee then attacked the circular reasoning of the so-called demonologists, many of whom never visited the dungeons or talked with the accused.
An accused woman, Spee said, would be brought to the prison. If she were frightened, this was evidence of bad conscience. If she were not, this too was evidence, because witches were said to possess a certain self-confidence. And, because she was charged with an “exceptional crime,” she did not receive defense counsel. If the woman failed to answer the accusation, she was stripped and shaved of all her hair (including her public hair) and then tortured. She could not be found innocent by withstanding the torture, because that would embarrass her inquisitors. The judge could then keep her imprisoned for an entire year. And if she finally broke and confessed, she would be pressured to name names, some suggested to her. If those denounced fled, it would be evidence of a guilty conscience; if they remained, it was evidence that the devil was holding them fast. In the face of this travesty, Spee refused to be a dog that did not bark (Is 56:10
), and his writing caused Bishop Johann Philipp von Schönborn to put an end to witch trials in Würzburg and Mainz. Spee influenced even more Protestants, including Queen Christina of Sweden and the great Protestant jurist Thomasius.
Why did Spee risk so much to defend accused witches? Perhaps the best answer is because he was assigned to hear their confessions. Modras speculates that his experience of having to console condemned women and overcome their despair affected the treatment of faith in his posthumously published Güldenes Tugend-Buch. There Spee described faith as trust, opening the section by asking rhetorical questions – Would you dare to doubt God’s mercy, if you were the world’s greatest sinner? Spee cited Isaiah (49:15
), “Can a mother forget her child?” - and described God as a “mighty empress” who loves each of us like a favorite child. Later, the censors would remove his chapter on purgatory, because Spee emphasized trusting God’s mercy and grace so much that he said nothing about doing penances. Instead of thinking about works and merits, Spee told his reader to simply place herself in the hands of a God who is “a thousand times more gentle and generous than we imagine.” One could say the Lord’s Prayer, said Spee, in three simple words – “Dein Wille geschehe.” Modras thinks that Fr Spee told the condemned woman heading to the stake, “Put your trust in God’s love and mercy. Imagine yourself a martyr dying for Christ. The heavens are opening for you. Make your suffering and death a martyrdom.” Perhaps he himself came to regard these women as holy martyrs. And that’s why he risked everything for them.
And so Karl Rahner
, in his essay, “Ignatius of Loyola speaks to a Modern Jesuit,” placed Friedrich Spee next to Peter Claver
and Francis Regis
as a role model for Christian discipleship. He shows us, one might say, how to avoid killing people.