Monday, October 31, 2016

How a restless reforming pope can help heal Reformation rift

Austen Ivereigh
October 30, 2016

When, on this day 499 years ago, a small-town Augustinian friar lecturing in a start-up college in provincial Germany posted dozens of arguments on the door of a castle church, he offered a prime example of what scientists call “the butterfly effect,” namely that small causes can have large effects.

In reality, Martin Luther’s nailing (or more likely gluing) his hard-to-read 95 theses on what was, in effect, Wittenberg university’s bulletin board, was less the trigger of the Reformation than the copies he posted, together with an accompanying letter of breathtaking audacity.

One was to Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz, then the most powerful bishop in Germany, which meant, sooner or later, the pope himself would be involved.

Luther was not the first to critique the sale of indulgences, or the way the sacrament of confession had been reduced in late-medieval Europe from a channel of God’s grace to a mechanistic transaction. (A local Dominican friar loathed by Luther had a marketing jingle: ‘As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs’).

But as all great polemicists do, he nailed the theological error behind the corruption at the crucial moment, provoking a disproportionate reaction that in turn fueled an uprising. And part of that was about timing.

Tomorrow’s Feast of All Saints was when the ruler of Saxony used to bring out his impressive display of relics, and indulgences were granted (for a price) to the pilgrims who viewed them. By attacking the system, Luther put into doubt not just the whole medieval basis of clerical livelihoods, but a powerful network of interests - from bankers and bishops all the way up to Rome - that was never likely to take the assault lying down.

There was also a moment when the protest went viral: at Worms, when Luther in 1521 was called on to answer to the emperor. His extraordinarily courageous act of turning up and defying the might of state and Church won many hearts and minds, and gave birth to a revolutionary movement that soon span out of control.

It wasn’t just the authorities’ self-interested over-reaction, but Luther’s own mercurial psychology - tripped by the knowledge that he faced execution at any moment - that explains the series of events, movements and conflicts that we now call the Reformation.

But whatever its causes, the result was tragedy. A valid critique of genuine corruption descended into heresy, division and war.

Luther did not intend to split the Church, yet most of the northern European church over time rejected Rome. Luther never intended to question the Sacraments, yet they were soon thrown into doubt. He never wanted a social uprising, yet that is what occurred.

But of all the unintended consequences of Luther’s protest, the secularization of Europe, especially of its educated classes, is probably the greatest of all - a five-century process meticulously traced in Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation.

Endless doctrinal controversy followed by a hundred years of destructive and inconclusive political-religious wars led to the privatization of religion and the search for empirical observation and philosophy and ideology as a means of uniting society.

When these eventually collapsed - as they now have - relativism and individualism are (mostly) all that remains.

And, of course, shopping. The drive for technology and to consume were the seventeenth-century Dutch responses to sectarian conflict, and are nowadays pretty much the western world’s dominant religion.


Of course, both sides are to blame in that cycle of events - something that will be acknowledged today in the first ecumenical global commemoration of the Reformation in Lund.

The dialogue between the two sides is 50 years old, and has produced a number of significant documents - which begs the question of what Pope Francis today can add to the process.

Here, at least, are five things he brings to the table which no previous pope has.

First, he is - to borrow my biography’s title - a “great reformer,” one who sees the need for the Church to be always in need of renewal in response both to internal degradation and external needs. He has said this is something the Church can learn from Luther, although it is equally present in the great reforming popes of the past, or in saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Francis of Assisi.

Second, he comes with no fear or suspicion of Lutherans but decades of fellowship. In his interview with the Swedish Jesuit journal Signum he spoke of many friendships with Argentine Lutherans -Danish as well as Swedish - with whom he has had sincere exchanges. Traveling with him on the plane today will be one of his oldest non-Catholic friends, the evangelical pastor Marcelo Figueroa.

Third, he feels no obligation to remain within the boundaries of existing theological consensus. In his Signum interview, Francis approvingly quoted what Patriach Athenagoras allegedly told Pope Paul VI: “Let the two of us go ahead, and we will put the theologians on an island to discuss among themselves.”

“Going ahead” in this case means opening up opportunities for collaboration and friendship through common witness and joint works, which Francis passionately believes create new spaces for the Holy Spirit to bind people together. What happens today is intended to break new ground for the theologians later to work out.

Fourth, Francis has a specific abhorrence of the kind of corruption Luther denounced. One of the pope’s favorite phrases is “spiritual worldliness,” an illness identified by the Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac as using the Gospel in the service of particular worldly interests - whether ideology, money, or status.

In my biography I show how Jorge Mario Bergoglio constantly fought against symptoms of this worldliness in the Jesuits and later in the clergy. As cardinal he saw it in Rome and hated it; now he is pope, he is quietly attacking it on many different fronts.

To take one example: under John Paul II, a cardinal in receipt of a very fat donation could arrange for the benefactor to have a bacciamano - kiss the pope’s hand - after Mass with him, and of course a picture with the pope to sit on his desk to impress the world.

Try doing that now with Francis, and you’ll get a flea in your ear.

Finally, Francis is the pope who, more than any other leader of the Catholic Church in modern times. has restored the primacy of mercy to the Church’s proclamation. The whole point of mercy is that it is about God’s reckless forgiving and our complete inability to merit it.

Wasn’t that Luther’s point?


Perhaps the main task of today’s ecumenical acts in Lund and Malmö is simply to help both Lutherans and Catholics “receive” the results of 50 years of dialogue between the two Churches. The result of that dialogue is a series of agreements - as well as persisting disagreements - ably summed up in the joint document prepared for the occasion, From Conflict to Communion. Yet who knows about it? William G. Rusch, Professor of Lutheran Studies at Yale’s Divinity School and a leading ecumenist, believes “the task before us is to receive the fruit of 50 years of dialogue,” the results of which have not been “rejected” so much as “neglected.”

Which is why, said Rusch, the mere fact of the pope appearing today in Lund - where in 1947 the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) was founded - is “an enormous step, compared to where we’ve been.”

The LWF speaks for some 90 percent of the world’s Lutheran Churches, with a combined membership of around 80m people.

In a telephone interview, Rusch told Crux he hopes that the papal visit will enable what he believes to be the next step in the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, namely a juridical process that binds the LWF’s member Churches and of course Catholics.

The great step forward in this respect was the 1999 Declaration of Justification. According to Rusch the achievement was not just in what it said - essentially, that the roots of Luther’s disagreements with the papacy no longer pertain - but how it came about.

The process showed that there could be a “magisterial function for the global Lutheran communion,” which effectively allowed the theological agreements to move from paper to practice. It frustrates Rusch that since then, that gain hasn’t been built upon. While he admires From Conflict to Communion and the recent US Catholic-Lutheran document, Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist, he says neither provides a practical basis for moving forward. But this kind of institutional process is not where Francis’s interest lies. He believes in praying and working together for justice and peace; such common witness, he believes, is what opens hearts and minds - and prevents the kind of institutional rigidity which is toxic for Christian unity.

Today, we might just see a gesture, or an initiative, which shakes open a new phase for the future of the dialogue, and which is aimed as much at secular Europe as the Lutherans. “I am convinced those who don’t believe or don’t seek God, maybe haven’t felt the restlessness that comes from seeing a witness,” he told Signum, adding: “And this is very tied to affluence. Restlessness is rarely found in affluence.”

Restlessness is one area where the reformers Martin Luther and Pope Francis are definitely on common ground.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sulpicians withdraw from San Francisco Seminary

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
October 25, 2016

In an Oct. 21 announcement that apparently caught the San Francisco archdiocese and St. Patrick's Seminary and University off-guard, the U.S. province of the Society of the Priests of St. Sulpice informed the school's board of trustees that the order would be withdrawing its members from the school.

"We have recently been informed that we are no longer invited to provide Sulpician administrative leadership to St. Patrick's. As a consequence, we will not be able to serve the seminary according to the Sulpician tradition. After consultation, discussion and prayerful discernment, the Provincial Council has decided to withdraw totally from St. Patrick's as of June 30, 2017," said a statement issued by the Sulpicians' U.S. provincial office in Baltimore.

Known as Sulpicians, the community of priests helped found the seminary 118 years ago and has administered and helped staff it since then.

An Oct. 22 archdiocesan press release thanked the Sulpicians "for their very long service to the archdiocese and to those other dioceses served by the seminary," but also added:

"Before being informed of this decision, the Board of Trustees had intended to begin discussions that might lead to new Seminary administrative models with the Society. We regret that we did not have the opportunity to explore the possibility of forming a new collaborative model with the Sulpicians."

The seminary trustees "also announced the formation of a search committee to assist Archbishop [Salvatore] Cordileone in filling the position of rector of the seminary and university," concluded the archdiocesan release. Sulpician Fr. Gladstone H. "Bud" Stevens has served as the school's president and rector since June 1, 2014.

Mike Brown, director of archdiocesan communications, told NCR that the replacement search for Stevens was to be timed for the end of the school year when the Sulpicians withdraw, not for the near future.

Stevens referred all media inquiries to the provincial's office. Sulpician Provincial Fr. John Kemper was said to be traveling and had not returned requests for comment before this report's posting.

Brown also provided NCR with a copy of an Oct. 23 memo from Cordileone to priests of the archdiocese.

In it, the archbishop said a conference call had taken place prior to the trustees' gathering "with members of the Executive Committee of the Board and Fr. Kemper, and a member of the Provincial Council, Fr. Dan Moore, in order to apprise them of some concerns that had come to the attention of some of the Board members and to inform them that at the upcoming Board meeting some ideas would be proposed and discussed as to how best to address these challenges, one of which was the possibility of seeking a new collaborative relationship with the Sulpicians."

"The day before the Board meeting, however," continued the memo, "the Provincial Council for the United States met to deliberate on these issues, and reached their decision to withdraw entirely from the seminary."

Asked what sort of administrative collaboration might have been considered or suggested, Brown emailed, "That was all to have been further discussed at the Board meeting."

Tension between the Sulpicians and the archdiocese over administration of St. Patrick's is not new. In September 2013, Cordileone, then-San Jose Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Daly and then archdiocesan vicar for administration Fr. James Tarantino met with then president-rector Sulpician Fr. James McKearney, leaving McKearney no option but to resign, according to the Sulpician.

[ To understand this development in context, read the earlier story on the forced resignation of Fr. James McKearney several years ago]

People rigid about law are often hypocrites, Pope Francis says

Carol Glatz
October 25, 2016

People rigidly bound to the law suffer pain, pride and often live a double life, Pope Francis said in a morning homily.

God’s law was made not “to make us slaves but to make us free, to make us children” of God, he said in his homily during Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae Oct. 24.

The pope looked at the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke (13:10-17) in which the leader of a synagogue is furious that Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath. Jesus calls the religious leader a hypocrite because there is no problem releasing livestock from their ties for water on holy days, but it is considered wrong to release a woman from the chains of Satan.

The pope said that in the Gospel Jesus often accuses those who rigidly adhere to the law as being hypocrites; they are not free children of God, but “are slaves of the law.”

Behind this inflexibility, he said, “there is always something else. And that is why Jesus says, ‘Hypocrites!'” There is something “hidden” in that person’s life, “in many cases a double life, but there is also some kind of illness,” he said. Inflexibility is not a gift of God, he said. “Meekness, yes, benevolence, yes, forgiveness, yes, But rigidity, no.”

Those who are rigid suffer when they realize they are not free, he said. “They do not know how to walk within the law of the Lord and they are not blessed.”

“They seem good because they follow the law, but there is something underneath that doesn’t make them good - either they are hypocrites or they are sick.”

Lurking just beneath the surface, he said, there is often pride - the pride of believing oneself to be righteous.

“It’s not easy to walk within the law of the Lord without succumbing to rigidity,” he said. God’s grace is needed.

Pope Francis ended his homily asking for prayers “for our brothers and sisters who believe that walking in the Lord’s law (entails) becoming rigid.”

God prefers “mercy, tenderness, goodness, meekness and humility,” the pope said. May “he teach all of us to walk within the Lord’s law with these ways.”

Saturday, October 22, 2016

US bishops’ vote likely to be seen as referendum on Pope Francis

John L. Allen, Jr.
October 21, 2016

As it turns out, the Trump v. Clinton showdown isn’t the only election of interest to American Catholics this fall.

The U.S. bishops are also going to be voting for their own new leaders in mid-November, and in some ways their choices are almost certain to be read as a referendum on how the American hierarchy wants to position itself vis-à-vis the new winds blowing in the Church under Pope Francis.

By tradition, a slate of ten candidates is nominated for the presidency and the vice-presidency of the conference, and they select both positions from among those nominees. The new president will replace Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who’s served the usual three-year term.

Also by tradition, though not an inviolable one, the current vice-president is considered the front-runner for the presidency. Right now that’s Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

On Friday, the USCCB released the slate of nominees for the top two jobs, with voting set for the bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore Nov. 14-16.

The nominees are:

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston
Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami
Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe
If one were to open a betting line right now, I suspect a DiNardo/Gomez ticket would attract a lot of money, but of course that’s why we hold elections rather than letting bookmakers and pundits settle things - because anything can happen.

Gomez not only is seen as doctrinally solid but basically non-ideological (he’s a CPA by training, and an imminently practical figure), he also puts a face and voice on American Catholicism’s burgeoning Hispanic wing and has been among the leaders of the American bishops on immigration reform.

One immediately striking point is that none of Pope Francis’s recent picks for new American cardinals are on the list.

In the case of Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, that’s explicable by the fact that he’s moving to Rome to take up a new Vatican position as head of the pope’s department for Family, Laity and Life, meaning he’ll no longer be a residential American bishop.

With Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, however, they’re remaining in the States and theoretically would have been eligible to hold office in the conference.

These nominations were largely compiled before Pope Francis announced his new cardinals Oct. 9, but to the extent that was a factor, it might have hurt Cupich and Tobin rather than helped them. Though it’s not automatic - Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, for instance, was once elected president of the conference, and DiNardo may well be this time - in general some American bishops believe cardinals already have enough prominence, and prefer to elect someone else.

Scanning the list, Aymond, Wenski and Wester all generally would be perceived as fairly “Francis-friendly” prelates, while names such as Chaput, Lori and Vigneron would typically be seen as more conservative counter-points. (How fair or complete those perceptions are is, naturally, an entirely different conversation.) Should one of those latter figures prevail, some media outlets and church-watchers may be tempted to style the result as a protest vote by the American bishops against the broad direction of Catholicism under Francis. It’s worth pointing out, however, that’s not the only way to read things. Historically speaking, there’s also a grand tradition in Catholicism of local bishops trying to embrace what they see as the strengths of a given pope, while also doing what they can to remedy perceived weaknesses and to plug holes in his agenda.

For instance, bishops in earlier centuries who saw a particular pope as a terrific governor but a weak evangelist might try to step up their own missionary efforts, in order to pull some of the weight themselves - not because they didn’t like the pope’s governance, but because they were trying to help him out where they thought he needed it.

When Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York defeated Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson for president of the U.S. conference in 2010, it was seen as victory for conservatives, and certainly that was part of the picture. On the other hand, I spoke to several bishops at the time who had a different outlook. Because Benedict XVI was seen as a great theologian but not necessarily a terrific evangelist or pitchman, they thought it might help to have an extrovert at the top of the U.S. conference.

Even if perceived “conservatives” win, therefore, it doesn’t necessarily have to be seen as a Brexit-style pullout from the Francis experiment, but perhaps as a vote for balance and, to use a churchy term, “complementarity.” The thinking might be that since Francis is an excellent pastor and a determined reformer, we could use some other folks in leadership disposed to ensure that the doctrinal baby isn’t tossed out with the bathwater.

Rules stipulate that the president is chosen by a simple majority vote. Following that, the vice-president is elected from the remaining nine candidates. In either case, if a candidate does not receive more than half of the votes cast on the first ballot, a second vote is taken. If a third round of voting is necessary, that ballot is a run-off between the two bishops who received the most votes on the second ballot.

During the meeting, the bishops will also elect new chairs of the following committees:

Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance
Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis
Committee on International Justice and Peace
Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People
For all kinds of reasons, the results will be closely scrutinized for an indication of what America’s Catholic leadership is thinking now, and what their priorities are likely to be going forward.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Comfort level with dialogue a US gift to universal church

John L. Allen, Jr.
October 19, 2016

All three new American cardinals set to be elevated by Pope Francis on Nov. 19 bring strong backgrounds in ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue, but in reality there's little remarkable about that, since the pope could have thrown darts at a dartboard in the US and come up with much the same thing.

This week, Crux’s Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín, who’s an Argentinian, was in the United States, among other things for a sort of crash course in the realities of American Catholicism.

One quick impression she picked up along the way is the fact that all three new American cardinals come with a fairly strong background in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, for instance, is the first Catholic co-chair of the new National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, sponsored by the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, meanwhile, is the Catholic co-chair of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Consultation and an adviser to the bishops’ dialogue committee, while Bishop Kevin Farrell, simply by dint of serving in Dallas, has strong relations with the Protestant community, and has also taken a personal interest in Catholic/Jewish ties.

For Farrell, actually, ecumenical dialogue is more or less a family affair, since his brother Bishop Brian Farrell has served since 2002 as the number two official in the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Isn’t it striking, San Martín asked me at one point, that all three have that aspect of their biographies in common?

My answer? “Not really.”

In truth, Pope Francis could have chosen his new American cardinals by throwing darts at a dartboard with the names of every U.S. bishop on it, and the odds are that he would have come up with three men who also have a fairly deep experience of both ecumenical and inter-faith relations.

In effect, that’s one of the gifts Catholics in the United States can, and do, offer to the universal Church - a comfort level with religious diversity and with dialogue that one can’t always take for granted in other parts of the world, especially in places with one historically dominant religious tradition where other traditions are essentially invisible.

Historically speaking, there has never been an established church in America. Granted, at the beginning Protestants were the overwhelming majority and set the cultural tone, but that too equipped Catholics for dialogue, since avoiding contact with Protestants basically would have meant never leaving the house. Quite quickly, America began attracting new arrivals from various parts of the world who brought their religious traditions with them, and found in the United States a generally safe haven in which to practice and foster them.

Also because we’ve never had a state church, American religions have had to learn to hustle from the beginning. Public funding and state sponsorship was never going to ensure the survival of a church, or mosque, or synagogue, or temple, which meant they had to be self-reliant and, at least to some extent, missionary-oriented.

As a result, religion in America has always been something of a noisy and competitive affair, so even if one were inclined to ignore the “other,” it’s awfully difficult to do so in reality.

Perhaps at the level of formal, officially sanctioned dialogues, there wasn’t a lot happening in the United States, or, for that matter, anywhere else, prior to the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s. On the ground, however, in terms of the stuff of daily life, the demographic and political character of the United States compelled Catholics to be people of dialogue from the start.

As of 2016, there are 198 different Catholic jurisdictions in America - 177 Latin rite archdioceses and dioceses, 19 eparchies, archeparchies and exarchates of the Eastern churches, 1 military archdiocese and 1 personal Ordinariate for former Anglican communities. Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine the leader of any one of those outfits who lacks some personal experience of engaging both Protestants and other faiths, either in structured formal dialogues or in the informal “dialogue of life.”

Not all bishops are equally adept at such exchanges or invest the same level of personal energy in them, but it would be a rare American prelate who didn’t recognize taking part in such dialogue, at least in some form, as a basic part of the job description.

That’s not necessarily the case with churchmen from other parts of the world.

Pope Francis, for instance, was actually something of an exception among his fellow Latin American prelates in terms of his own résumé on ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, in part because Argentina is an outlier among Latin American states with large pockets of both Jews and Muslims, and also because he built strong ties with Protestant and Orthodox believers.

Many other Latin American prelates have been ambivalent about such dialogue in the past, in part because their primary experience of the Christian “other” has been of aggressively proselytizing Evangelical and Pentecostal groups, who often target Catholics for their missionary campaigns.

At one point during the 1990s, the Latin American bishops estimated they were losing more than 8,000 people a day to the Evangelicals and Pentecostals, and overall more people converted from Catholicism to Protestantism in Latin American during the late 20th century than did so in Europe in the century following the Protestant Reformation.

That’s not exactly a prescription, in other words, for good neighborly relations.

In the United States, however, a commitment to dialogue with other Christians and other faiths really isn’t a marker of being progressive or avant-garde, and it’s really not that exceptional in terms of the experience our bishops, clergy and laity bring to whatever else it is they end up doing.

So, yes, by elevating Cupich, Tobin and Farrell to the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis in effect will be injecting three more personalities into that mix personally committed to the idea of dialogue and outreach with other Christian churches and other faiths.

Presumably, however, he had other reasons that were more decisive in terms of why these three - because if that’s all he was looking for, virtually any churchman in the United States would have done the trick.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

3 for 3: the new cardinals

Michael Sean Winters
National Catholic Reporter
October 9, 2016

It is several miles past remarkable that if Pope Francis had asked a roomful of social justice Catholics whom he should make a cardinal, +Blase Cupich, +Kevin Farrell, and +Joe Tobin would have been the names likely to emerge. Actually, I would not have recommended all three for fear of being tagged as piggy.

Let’s not beat around the bush. The pope has sent his clearest signal yet about the direction he intends to take the Church in the United States, and within that signal is an unmistakable rebuke to those whom I have long called the “culture warriors.” The pope did not send a red hat to Philadelphia. He did not send one to Baltimore. He did not even send one to Los Angeles, and I do not think of Archbishop Jose Gomez as a culture warrior so much as he is someone who is a tad sympathetic to the culture warrior crowd. In a normal consistory, people would say, “Well, there wasn’t room for another American.” There was room when a hat is sent to Indianapolis. The pope not only chose these three, he did not choose others. This is not the list that would have been assembled by, say, George Weigel.

Another myth has been exploded. When a bishop is named a cardinal, they usually have a press conference and they say that this conferral of the red hat has nothing to do with them personally, that it is an honor to the local church. Of course, the fact that certain local churches traditionally discover that their archbishops end up as cardinals largely destroys any such distinction between the person and the place. They said that about this being an honor for the city because it allowed them to look humble. But it was always a lie. The cardinalate is a personal honor. He will be bestowing it on these men, not on their cities. Indianapolis is not on the periphery the way, say, Phoenix is or Gallup is. (There is a case to be made that the southside of Chicago is the periphery.) No, the pope wanted the selection of his successor, and the guidance of the universal Church, to be entrusted to these three men.

And such men. These three bishops have long been recognized as among the most intellectually formidable bishops in the country. They are all three of them “smell of the sheep” kinds of pastors as well. Archbishop Cupich got his start as a bishop in Rapid City, South Dakota, a land of intense rural poverty, especially on the Indian reservations. Archbishop Tobin is one of the few Latin rite bishops I have seen go to the Catholic Worker dinner held during the annual USCCB meetings in November. And Bishop Farrell took over the Centro Hispanico here in Washington, a social service center run by the Church, when friar Sean O’Malley was named a bishop. They are all in the mid-60s, which means they all received their seminary formation after Vatican II. All three are churchmen, which is the opposite of a culture warrior.

The naming of Archbishop Tobin also shows the degree to which Pope Francis is plugged into the concerns of women religious. During the twin investigations of women religious, Archbishop Tobin strongly opposed those who really wanted to take it to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious with a doctrinal investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He lost that battle and the CDF investigation went forward but, I am told, he retained the respect of Pope Benedict XVI. Once Francis came to town, that investigation was wound down with little attention and a red hat is on its way to Indianapolis not to Hartford or Baltimore.

Archbishop Tobin and Archbishop Cupich also bring international perspective to the U.S. bench. +Tobin served as a superior of the Redemptorists for years and they have houses all over the globe. Just last month, I met a Ukrainian bishop who is a Redemptorist and he spoke movingly of how much the order misses his leadership. Archbishop Cupich has headed the Committee on the Church in Central & Eastern Europe for years, and has developed extensive contacts not only there, but with German and English bishops through various collaborations with their similar committees. Sometimes we Americans think we are the center of the universe, so it is vital that we have Church leaders with a more global perspective.

It is a new day for our old Church. At a time when the political life of the nation could scarcely be more depressing, these three churchmen step forward and a sense of hopeful direction emerges. Pope Francis demonstrates that he is very well informed about the personnel and the challenges facing the Church in the U.S. This news is as happy as it is stunning.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Pope Francis says rigid ideology makes the holy spirit sad

Junno Arocho Esteves
October 7, 2016

Christians can fall prey to the enchantments of ideology that adhere to rigid requirements yet ignore and sadden the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said.

While following doctrine is important, those who focus solely on its strict observance can “reduce the Spirit and the Son to a law,” the pope said Oct. 6 during an early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

“It is true that there are the commandments and we should follow the commandments; but always from the grace of this great gift given to us by the Father, the Son; it is the gift of the Holy Spirit and thus, one can understand the law. But do not reduce the Spirit and the Son to a law,” he said.

The pope reflected on Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians in which he reproaches the Christian community for pinning their salvation on obeying the law rather than following Christ.

“I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you so stupid?” Saint Paul asks.

Saint Paul’s strong denouncement of the community, the pope said, can reveal three possible ways Christians can behave toward the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

In strongly denouncing the community, the pope said St. Paul reveals their belief of “being justified by the law and not by Jesus,” which is the first of three attitudes Christians act toward the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

“This attachment to the law makes one ignore the Holy Spirit. It does not allow the power of Christ’s redemption to come forward with the Holy Spirit,” he said. “This was the problem of these people: they ignored the Holy Spirit and didn’t know how to go forward. They were closed, closed in requirements: ‘do this, do that.’ We too, at times, can fall in this temptation.”

The second attitude, he continued, is to “sadden the Holy Spirit” when Christians allow their lives to be led by the “theology of the law” rather than “the freedom of the spirit.”

In doing so, he said, “we become lukewarm and fall into Christian mediocrity because the Holy Spirit cannot do great works in us.” However, the third attitude is to be open to the Holy Spirit which helps to understand and receive Jesus’ words, he said.

“When a man or a woman is open to the Holy Spirit, it is like a sailboat swept by the wind that goes on and on and never stops,” the pope said.

Pope Francis called on Christians to reflect on whether their spiritual lives are solely focused on observing the law or are “a continuous prayer” that helps them to “understand the doctrine of Jesus, the true doctrine, the one that does not enchant, the one that does not make me foolish.”

“May the Lord give us this grace to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that we do not become foolish, enchanted nor men and women who sadden the Spirit,” he said.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Another debate we can't ignore

David Wesson
Pray Tell
October 4, 2016

We all are aware of the ad orientem debate raging now. Like the recent U.S. presidential “debate,” we may want to just simply tune out and ignore it; after all, it often is reduced to the two sides screaming over one another. Unfortunately, like the presidential debate, we cannot afford the luxury of apathy.

In many dioceses, including my home diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, there has been a small but vocal number of priests who are zealously promoting and implementing this posture after Card. Sarah endorsed it in a private talk in July. Bishops have largely remained silent. This silence has continued to cause confusion as proponents of this posture continue to (wrongly) state that the GIRM recommends or even assumes ad orientem during the liturgy.

Only three bishops in this country, as far as I am aware, have issued clarifications for this murky topic.

In a terse email to his presbyterate and diaconate, Bishop Anthony Taylor in Little Rock, AK gave clear guidance. Taylor stated that since the GIRM states that whenever possible, priests should celebrate the Mass facing the people, they should. Bishop Taylor stated that since in his own diocese it is always possible to celebrate facing the people, “outside of Mass celebrated in Latin in the Extraordinary Form, [he] expect[s] Mass will always be celebrated facing the people in [that] diocese.”

Bishop Martin Amos of Davenport, IA, in a strong letter to his presbyterate, later published in his diocesan newspaper, stated: The pervasive nature of electronic communication has facilitated the distribution of [Cardinal Sarah’s] opinions. Therefore, in order to prevent confusion and foster unity within the diocese, I am sending you this letter to clarify matters as they stand.

The Cardinal Prefect offered his own, private opinions on this and other matters. His words do not, and indeed cannot, constitute a change in ecclesiastical law or practice. Therefore, the law of the Church stands, as exemplified in paragraph 299 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). … There are cases where it is not possible to assume this posture, so the Order of Mass makes some accommodation for it (GIRM 127, 132, 133, 141). However, it is clear that the normative position of the priest when presiding at Mass in the Ordinary Form is facing the people, or, better, of the priest and the assembly facing the Altar together… To be clear, this is the posture that priests are to take when celebrating the liturgy (in the Ordinary Form) in the Diocese of Davenport. I am confident of your obedience in this matter.

The Most. Rev. Joseph Naumann, the archbishop of Kansas City, KS, just sent a letter to his presbyterate on 21 September addressing this subject. Naumann wrote that “it is incorrect to assert either [orientation] is superior over the other… because of my concern for the liturgical unity of our people within the Archdiocese, and the welfare of all our priests, I am not inclined to affirmatively promote changing to “ad orientem” worship by priests at this time.”

Thank you, bishops, for your sound liturgical guidance.