November 18, 2014, Tuesday — “Tu es Petrus”
“The bishop is the center of unity, visible unity — the Holy Spirit is the center of invisible unity in the Church — so you try to keep people together for the sake of the mission. Whatever is necessary for that purpose is what I’ve tried to do. How you do it? Well, some of it presents itself. You have to make priest personnel changes. You have to take care of the financial situation. You have to manage the institutions in different ways. You’ve got to appear at certain events. You’ve got to be part of different meetings. All of that sets your schedule. It’s what you do. But in back of it is this purpose of how you can make all of that serve the unity of the Church for the sake of the mission. That’s the spiritual development of the people.” —Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, recent interview with Catholic New World, the Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago
This is not a time for too many words.
It is a time to recognize that there is a danger to the faith that is just as grave as the danger of modernism and relativism, and that is the danger of division and schism.
We must remain united.
In the present crisis of our world, with enormous efforts being devoted to transform and assimilate all traditional societies into a “new world order” with a “gender agenda” that is inimical to the traditional family, our lack of unity, our focus on what divides us rather than what unites us, is a clear and present danger.
Francis is Peter.
This does not mean that Francis must not be criticized. Catholics are not slaves of the Pope. Of course not. Catholics are not like courtiers, lying shamelessly, saying a naked Emperor is well-clothed. That would be servility. The Pope needs friends and colleagues and brothers, not slaves and courtiers.
But when we criticize Peter, when we “withstand him to his face,” as Paul did to Peter in Jerusalem, at the first Council of the Church, a Council that decided that non-Jews could become Christians (and therefore shattered the ethnic basis of the covenant with God, something extraordinarily difficult for the first Christians, all of whom were Jews, including Peter, to understand), we do so as his brothers and his sons in the family of the faith.
The Pope does know well the story-line of Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World. He knows that the proposal for a world without Christ is being made, with marvelous seductive power, by the present order of the world.
And no Catholics more so than “traditional” Catholics — I might call them “ordinary Catholics” because what traditional Catholics believe is ordinary Catholicism — know that remaining with Peter is an essential element of being Catholic.
We might compare these Catholics to the “elder bother” in the parable of the prodigal son, the one who stayed home while the “younger brother” went to Babylon, that is, strayed from traditional Church teaching.
They stayed home, close to their father, and close to their faith, while their “younger brothers” journeyed far and abandoned much.
Now that the “prodigal son” is being invited home, they are — perhaps — feeling taken for granted, overlooked, unjustly treated.
Not so. They have been close to the Church’s life all these years. They have avoided much confusion and misery. They have kept the faith, which is itself a profound joy.
So, if some who have been away can change course, and return, or even express a desire to return, they must be greeted with open arms — as Francis has said over and over and over again.
And this was the profound meaning of his “Who am I to judge?”
He was not speaking about someone still in Babylon, but about someone who had decided that he wished to return home.
We are in a strange age a confusing age. And woe to us if our confusion divides us from Peter.
We may criticize a prudential choice — and suggest a better course. But we must not break with Peter.
The bishop is the center of unity in his diocese, and the Bishop of Rome is the center of unity in the world.
The Church is characterized by four signs: she is one, she is holy, she is catholic, and she is apostolic. Unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam…
She cannot be the Church of the Creed is she is not one.
Today in Rome a remarkable 3-day conference on the family and the “complementarity” of men and women as an essential element of a human family ended.
The fundamental insight of the meeting — remarkable because it brought together representatives of many faiths, and of many Christian denominations (which means that Rome is attempting to build a global consensus against the secular “gender agenda”) — was that children have rights too.
No one doubts that individuals have rights, adults have rights, citizens have rights… but children have rights too.
And, among those rights, is the right to have a mother and a father, and, if possible, to know them, to be raised by them, to learn from them.
This may seem very simple, even self-evident. But there are powerful forces today which wish to overlook, deny, or even take away completely the right of a child to have a mother and father.
Outside of cloning — which would produce a child from a single person, but which I do not believe has yet occurred with any human being — each of us has had a mother and a father. We come from them. We grow from them. They are the sources of our being, and of our identity.
And they are of different genders, one male, and one female. Not to know both of them is to diminish our identity. Not to know them is to close off access to an aspect of identity, an aspect of self-knowledge, which has always been constitutive of huan being’s knowledge of themselves.
Nature itself gives us the right to have two parents of the opposite gender.
Modern science, and the modern “gender agenda,” seems intent on diminishing or eliminating that right.
The Church, with many non-Catholics from many faith traditions, wishes to protect this right: the right of every human child to have a father and a mother.
There was much else of value in this conference, but this focus on protecting this right of children was the fundamental insight.
Still, while the issues of marriage and family and divorce and remarriage remain a matter for serious discussion, the situation of the Christians disappearing the Middle East, and the situation in Ukraine, where many are still dying and a wider war is threatening, remain critically important, and I intend to write more about these issues in coming letters.
(to be continued)