Tuesday, April 23, 2019
“In his letter, (Emeritus Pope) Benedict has pierced the boil… his text is more intelligent than all the contributions at the Roman ‘Abuse Summit’ and the know-it-all moral experts at the German Bishops’ Conference.” —Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, former head of the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the general editor of Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI’s collected writings (link)
Benedict and Sarah: “Focus on Jesus”
Below is the text of my Editorial in the April issue of Inside the Vatican magazine, entitled “Benedict and Sarah: Focus on Jesus.” It focuses on the recent important publications of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and of Cardinal Robert Sarah.
(Note: The issue is just out today. To obtain a copy, call toll-free to 1-800-789-9494, or write to me by email: we will send a free copy to anyone who would like to see the issue, in the hope that you might consider taking out a subscription!)
Tragically, since the Editorial was written, the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris has burned, and terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka have taken hundreds of lives. I wrote without knowing of these events.
And now comes word, in Rome, that Pope Francis — according to published reports — in addition to naming new cardinals in the near future (voters in a future conclave) — may also soon make dramatic changes in the Roman Curia.
These changes will, evidently, constitute the “reform of the Roman Curia” that Francis was elected to carry out in the wake of the confusion, even chaos, at the end of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013).
Among the reforms, Francis is said to be ready (the proposals have recently been “leaked”) to diminish the authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (up until now the central and most authoritative of all the Roman dicasteries, as orthodoxy in doctrine, in adhering to the true teaching of Christ and of His Church, has been considered more crucial and important than anything else) and at the same time to raise to pre-eminent authority in the Curia a new composite dicastery for Evangelization (combining, it is said, Propaganda Fide — now called the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples — with the Council for the New Evangelization).
(See below for an article by Carol Glatz of Catholic News Service on these proposed reforms.)
So, in a word (putting it too simplistically, perhaps)… privileging “evangelization,” the proclamation of the “good news” of Jesus Christ, above everything else, even above… “doctrine.”(!)
This proposal — and we are not yet sure of the precise nature of the changes — will have to be studied, interpreted.
But questions arise spontaneously. Can doctrine, teaching (“Go and teach all nations,” Christ’s final command to his disciples) be in any way opposed to, or subordinate to, evangelization (preaching the “good news” of the life, deeds, sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and explaining what that means for human beings, for the world, indeed, for the universe, subject to frustration without the coming into time and space of the Logos)?
If there is any opposition, how? In what way?
We are all familiar with the contending currents of thought in theology (doctrine) and in Catholic moral teaching (Christian behavior and action in life) which have contended for pre-eminence in these decades, since the Council (but also in the decades immediately prior to the Council, and, in a certain real sense, in every age, right back to the very beginning.)
A first, preliminary thought: Yes, it is always right to place Christ at the center, as both the source and the goal of all of our thinking and reflection, to make Him the supreme criterion of all of our analysis and judgment.
His person, his words, his example, his sacrifice, his teaching, his love, must renew our minds and hearts, and this can, or should, make each of us an “evangelizer.”
Still, these matters have a certain intellectual content, they “make sense” and become “reasonable” through an effort of the mind, of the intellect. We are rational beings. This is what being a human being means. “Homo sapiens.” “Man knowing.”
This is the meaning of St. Anselm’s famous motto for the way he walked in faith: Fides quaerens intellectum — “Faith seeking understanding.” (link)
In this light, the entire Catholic tradition shows a mutually fruitful interelationship between “faith” and “reason” — between the proclamation about who Jesus is and what he said and did, and the explanation of what that means, and why it means what it means…
Clearly, as we tremble at the terrible fire that raged in Paris, and the horrific bombs that shattered the prayerful peace of churches in Sri Lanka, and as we suffer in confusion as we listen to the varying agendas in diverse places which are attempting to alter or revise the teachings of our forefathers, our task must be to hold fast to Christ, to remain entirely “Christo-centric,” centered on Christ, reaching out despite and in the midst of our sorrow and confusion for the hem of his garment.
But reaching out in this way may be challenging.
We may hesitate.
We may fall short.
And it may make all letter-writing in the time ahead more difficult than it has been up to now.
The essential vision of these letters — and of the magazine Inside the Vatican — was to present, if possible, the beauty, truth and goodness of the Christian faith, that is, of the faith in the Incarnate and Risen Jesus, at this time, in this moment of history, in this sadly fallen world.
To be, if possible, the chronicler and narrator of events, struggles, martyrdoms, acts of heroism and charity, and clarity, and in this way to make a small contribution to the transmission of the faith from all who came before us to those who will come after us.
To be one more link in a long chain, so that the chain may go on — focusing on Jesus, proclaiming Jesus, reaching out toward Jesus, remembering Jesus, and returning to Him even when the right path has seemed to have been lost…
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the Vatican Gardens praying the rosary with his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein. Benedict turned 92 on April 16
Editorial, Inside the Vatican, April 2019
Benedict and Sarah: “Focus on Jesus”
By Robert Moynihan
“I live in a house, in a small community of people who discover such witnesses of the living God again and again in everyday life and who joyfully point this out to me as well. To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again.” —Emeritus Pope Benedict, in a new text he released on April 10. He called on all believers to hold fast to the faith and find joy in it, even in the face of so many disappoints and betrayals in our time
As this April issue of the magazine was going to press, on April 10, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI — who wrote it just before his 92nd birthday, which fell on April 16 — with the prior approval of Pope Francis, published a 3,000-word reflection on the current crisis of sexual abuse in the Church. We held the issue in order to prepare the entire text for publication, and we include it in this issue.
It is the most important text Benedict has published since his resignation of the papacy in February 2013, more than six years ago.
Here are two essential passages from the text.
(1) The first is a defense of the eternal presence of the Church in the affairs of humanity. Despite all appearances, despite all the sins of Christians, the Church bears God’s saving message, and we must realize this, and become aware of the many “witnesses” who make this truth visible.
Benedict writes: “It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible.”
(2) The second is the centrality of Christ. We must not focus on the sins of persons, Benedict stresses, but on the reality of Christ, who came among us, in the flesh, stayed among us, is among us, and will always be among us. So there is no need for despair, no need to abandon our faith, only a need to reach out to touch the hem of His robe, to remain in contact with Him, in His presence.
Benedict writes: “When thinking about what action is required first and foremost, it is rather obvious that we do not need another Church of our own design. Rather, what is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.”
The sacramental life of the Church may seem to some an archaic, outmoded way of living the reality of this fallen world, where there is “so much to be done” to comfort the suffering and heal the wounded. But the sacramental life of the Church is a spiritual fountain which offers to men and women true life, true healing, since it offers communion with Christ himself. Emeritus Pope Benedict is reminding us to turn toward Christ where He may be found — in the Eucharist, in the sacramental life of His Church.
These are the two great messages of this astonishing, unexpected, profoundly important document.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Robert Sarah, who is from Guinea in West Africa and currently heads the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome, called for unity among Catholics in the face of Church scandals and the moral crisis in the Western world during an interview published March 27.
“Today everything is dark, difficult, but whatever the difficulties we are going through, there is only one Person who can come to our rescue,” Sarah said in a lengthy interview with the secular French weekly Valeurs Actuelles. “It is the resurrection of the Son of God that gives hope in the darkness,” he said.
While articulating the moral confusion that plagues Western societies, Sarah also pointed to God’s providence in providing Popes to lead the Church in difficult times. “God saw that the world was sinking into a fatal confusion … To prepare ourselves for this situation, God has given us solid Popes,” Sarah explained. He then listed the particular gifts that the four most recent Popes gave to the Church and the world.
God “gave us Paul VI, who defended the life and true love, despite very strong opposition, with the encyclical Humanae vitae,” he said.
God gave us John Paul II, whose life itself “was a living Gospel,” and taught that the union of faith and reason together is “a light that guides the world towards a true vision of man,” he said.
While Benedict XVI gifted the world by teaching with “unparalleled clarity, depth and precision.”
“Today, He gives us Francis, who literally wants to save Christian humanism,” Sarah explained, adding, “God never abandons His Church.”
Sarah said that a primary responsibility for the collapse of faith in the West “must be assumed by the priests.”
He pointed to decades when, he said, confessionals were empty, liturgy desacralized, and doctrine was not taught in Catholic universities and seminaries.
“Clearly, there is a strong majority of priests who remain faithful to their mission of teaching, sanctification and government. But there is also a small number that yields to the morbid and villainous temptation to align the Church with the values of today’s Western societies,” Sarah said. “They want above all to say that the Church is open, welcoming, attentive, modern. But the Church is not made to listen, she is made to teach: she is Mater and magistra, mother and educator,” he added.
The cardinal also emphasized the importance of a united community in facing the challenges of the secularized world, which often opposes “the road of Christ.”
“In Hemingway’s novel The Old Man and the Sea, we see the hero attempting to tow a large fish he has fished to the port. But he can not hoist him alone out of the water; by the time it arrives at the port, the sharks have devoured the fish,” he explained. “Today, if you are alone, there are many sharks that will devour your faith, your Christian values, your hope. Jesus created a community of 12 apostles and when it was necessary to send them on mission, he sent them two by two,” he continued. “From now on, to defend our belief, to be solid, we must support each other in faith, walk as a united community around Christ,” he said.
Curia reforms put priority on evangelization, synodality, cardinals say
Apr 23, 2019
by Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service Vatican link
ROME — The proposed apostolic constitution for reforming and governing the Roman Curia is expected to emphasize the church’s missionary mandate with the creation of a “super-dicastery” merging two offices dedicated to evangelization.
“The main point of the new apostolic constitution is that the church’s mission is evangelization. It puts it at the center of the church and of everything the Curia does,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, told Vida Nueva, a Spanish weekly publication dedicated to news about the Catholic Church.
Gracias and Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, both members of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, spoke to the Spanish weekly about the final draft of reforms the council approved at its previous meeting in early April. Vida Nueva provided Catholic News Service with an advance copy of the Spanish-language article, which was to be published April 27.
The provisional title of the new constitution, “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”), “shows that evangelization is the number one goal, ahead of anything else,” Gracias told Vida Nueva.
“Pope Francis always emphasizes that the church is missionary,” Rodríguez Maradiaga said, which is why the new dicastery will supersede the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in importance.
The new Dicastery of Evangelization will be a consolidation of the current Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which coordinates the church’s missionary activities, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, which aims to promote a renewal of the faith in countries where Christian vitality has been waning.
Other major changes expected, the cardinals said, include: merging the Pontifical Council for Culture with the Congregation for Catholic Education; transforming the current Papal Almoner’s office, which is charged with coordinating Pope Francis’ acts of charity, into a Dicastery for Charity; and granting greater authority to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Gracias said it was important the papal commission remain independent from the Roman Curia in order to maintain its credibility; however, “if you are not part of the Curia, you have no power over it.”
He said, “It’s necessary to strike a balance between credibility and effectiveness” for the commission, whose mandate has been advising the pope and helping local churches understand and utilize best practices when it comes to safeguarding minors from abuse.
A major focus of the constitution is to create a change in mentality and in the relationship between the Holy See and the local churches, represented by the world’s bishops, Rodríguez Maradiaga said.
The constitution places the Vatican dicasteries at the service of both the pope and the bishops, who are “successors of the apostles” and “are not in an ecclesiological position below those who work in the Roman Curia,” the Honduran cardinal said.
Gracias said, “The pope wanted a mindset of service to prevail and that the Curia also be directly available to the bishops” in order to help them. The various Vatican offices, therefore, are not meant to be something placed between the bishops and the pope nor are they to be just an “instrument” the pope uses to “supervise” the bishops; the curia is meant to be at the service of both the bishops and the pope, the Indian cardinal said.
The constitution also will include reforms that have already gone into effect, such as the creation of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Dicastery for Communication.
Rodríguez Maradiaga said the new offices and upcoming reforms not only streamline the Curia, but also “emphasize the importance of the laity in the church and for the church” by allowing the possibility for a layperson to head a dicastery. Traditionally, congregations have a cardinal as prefect and pontifical councils have had either a cardinal or an archbishop as president.
The constitution’s prologue will emphasize the missionary role of all baptized men and women, not just those who have been ordained or consecrated, the Honduran cardinal added.
The draft has been sent to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the leaders of world’s bishops’ conferences, the synods of the Eastern Catholic churches, the conferences of major superiors of men and women religious and some pontifical universities for their observations and suggested improvements.
The two cardinals said they do not expect major changes to come out of the consultative phase since the five-year process of drafting the constitution involved gathering the ideas and concerns of the local churches and the various Vatican offices.
It is hoped each “overall assessment” will be handed in before the end of May — in time for the six-member Council of Cardinals to study the suggestions and have an amended draft to give to the pope to sign June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. If the suggestions do not come in time, the constitution’s publication would most likely be delayed until after the summer, the cardinals said.
The apostolic constitution will replace “Pastor Bonus,” St. John Paul II’s 1988 constitution reforming the Curia.
The new constitution was not going to be a mere “cosmetic change but will promote the change in mentality that has already started,” Gracias said.
“The Roman Curia will never be the same anymore,” Rodríguez Maradiaga added.
The Council of Cardinals has been advising the pope on the reform of the Curia and church governance in general since Pope Francis created the body soon after his election in 2013.
The council currently has six members: Cardinals Rodríguez Maradiaga; Gracias; Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Sean O’Malley of Boston; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.
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