Archive for the ‘Roman Catholicism’ Category

Just a Reminder to Those Who Get a Bit Carried Away in Praise for the Present Pope

February 23rd, 2011 10 comments

Pope Benedict XVI, in today’s general audience, during his catechesis presentation, praises the nemesis of the Lutheran Reformation after the death of Luther, Robert Bellarmine. It was against Bellarmine that Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard directed much of their work in systematic theology.

This is just a reminder that some things have not changed.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

The Beatification of John Paul II: How It’s Done

February 19th, 2011 7 comments

If you, like me, are curious about the actual process of beatification and what is involved in the ritual, here is an interesting story.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

The Skeleton of Reconciliation: A Very Honest Roman Catholic Assessment of Rome and Wittenberg in Light of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

November 1st, 2010 Comments off

I rarely read a truly honest and forthcoming assessment of what the Joint Statement on the Doctrine of Justification actually means and what it actually accomplished and achieved. The liberal Lutheran elements continue to point to the JDDJ as a “great breakthrough” when in fact, what they should say is that the JDDJ was a “great betrayal” of the Lutheran Reformation and the very Gospel itself. Here, in this fascinating blog post I found today at the First Things blog, a Roman Catholic priest carefully articulates why the JDDJ was not, in fact, any sort of reconciliation between Rome and Wittenberg. The most thorough and complete response to the JDDJ that dealt very honestly with its theological weaknesses and errors, came from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. You can read all about that here, in this post. I put this post at the bottom of this post, so you would have this all together.

“You are heretics, but it might not be your fault.” In decades and centuries past, that posture of exculpatory condescension often represented the most we could achieve in ecumenical reconciliation. We may not be able to agree on anything else, but we might concede that Christians today are not fully responsible for the divisions of the sixteenth century.

The 1999 “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” issued by the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church—both later joined by the Methodist World Council—took us a step beyond that minimal exculpation. The Declaration describes itself as achieving “a consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification” and a demonstration “that the remaining differences . . . are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations.” Note the two principal achievements: a consensus, and the obviation of the Reformation-era condemnations.

I emphasize these two because the Catholic Church immediately in 1999 saw fit to qualify the Declaration’s self-understanding: The Church, represented by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, explained consensus as “a high degree of agreement,” but not the elimination of all divergences. The Church also reduced the obviation of the condemnations to a virtual tautology, saying that the condemnations no longer apply to matters of agreement, but they may yet “touch” points of divergence, especially the Lutheran formula simul iustus et peccator. If some Lutherans felt betrayed by the Church’s response to the Declaration, they may be forgiven.

But I do not want to engage in the treacherous ecumenism of those who denounce their own communions for the sake of dialogical agreement. The Church’s partial retraction is on its face true: We are not in full agreement, and disagreements over even tertiary elements of the doctrine of justification are at least potentially divisive.

It is said that no matter how many ecumenical documents we produce, if we lay them end to end, still they will never reach a conclusion, and the Catholic Church might seem to have confirmed this claim, but I’m optimistic: I think there is a way through the impasse—a way that does not require either communion to reject the virtues of its tradition. What we have here may be “a failure to communicate,” but it’s a failure that can be remedied.

The Declaration, perhaps succumbing to ecumenical dialogue’s characteristic vice of self-congratulation, credits its success to “our common way of listening to the word of God in Scripture,” and claims that such common listening led to new insights and developments that made the Declaration possible.

Maybe, but the reverse is equally plausible: that new insights and developments in our communions and among global cultures have led to a common appreciation for the meaning and import of Scripture, and therefore led also to the Declaration. Recent advances in hermeneutics, especially new insights into the way history and community shape our cognitive frameworks, helped both Lutherans and Catholics to approach their creedal and confessional trajectories with greater circumspection.

To put it crudely: The advent of postmodernism made this Declaration possible. Like a predator that consumes its own young, modernism—with its endless criticism upon criticism—has been cannibalizing the sophomoric rationalism of its own adherents.

In the English translation of his book on Christology, Cardinal Walter Kasper described historical-criticism, left to itself, as “an endless screw”—I imagine he was unaware of the double entendre in English—a endless screw that keeps threading deeper without changing anything, until the drillers recognize their futility. In just this way have many rationalists despaired of the Enlightenment. The decline of the modernist hegemony in academic and popular culture reduced the degree to which modernism threatened the Catholic Church, still somewhat shy about its pre-modern roots, and facilitated the Second Vatican Council’s new esteem for other expressions of the Christian faith.

At the same time, postmodern awareness of the limitations of reason have quieted the more virulent expressions of Lutheranism, born in a facile eagerness to overturn developed authority and discipline, and reaching pubescent frenzy in the wildly rationalistic biblical criticism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Christians of many communions manifest new interest in the pre-modern origins of the Christian faith, and we find new common ground in the tempered rationalism of the postmodern era. Postmodernism has sparked a new romance between estranged partners.

I’ve been painting with a very broad brush, so permit me to give two specific examples. One: In its response, the Catholic Church complained that the Declaration too easily conceded to the doctrine of justification a special status as the criterion of orthodoxy, whereas a genuinely Catholic approach requires integration of the doctrine of justification with the entire regula fidei—with Christology, Trinitarian theology, ecclesiology, and sacramental practice, among others.

While such a response served a purpose—it precluded certain misunderstandings within the Catholic communion—it missed the theological potential of the Declaration, which clearly sees all the truths of the faith as internally related to each other. All the divine mysteries implicitly embed each other—in fact, some representatives of the Eastern Churches rather frequently insist that all the faults of the Latin Church are easily attributable to the snowball effect of some small but ancient error in, say, Trinitarian theology.

If we Catholics recognize the circumincession of all the truths of faith, so that each one contains all the rest, we should warmly welcome those Lutherans who insist on the doctrine of justification as a synecdoche of the Gospel—for so it is, and to the extent we can reach agreement in matters of justification, we will also have reached agreement on the remainder of Christian doctrine. Thus an advance in epistemology—a recognition of the circumincession of divine truths—renders unnecessary any serious dispute about the doctrine of justification as the criterion for Christian teaching and practice.

Two: The Declaration takes up the question of human powerlessness, passivity, and cooperation in relation to justification, and observes that Catholics typically speak of graced co-operation with God’s grace, while Lutherans insist on human passivity and inability to merit justification. The Declaration invites speculation as to how Catholic and Lutheran anthropologies need not strictly contradict each other.

What Lutherans call “full personal involvement” in faith may perhaps embed what Catholics identify as active co-operation with grace—co-operation which is itself constituted by grace. When Catholics acknowledge that apart from grace, humans cannot move even ad iustitiam, which may be translated “toward justification,” they may concede that man, considered as an independent agent, is necessarily passive with respect to justification. These are not decisively reconciled teachings, but they may yet be reconcilable if we allow ourselves to think in terms of multiple layers of causality and effect. Once again, an allowance for nonparallel linguistic and philosophical frameworks may open up possibilities foreclosed by syllogistic, univocal readings of our theological formulae.

Those were my two examples, in evidence that the Declaration really did achieve a creditable degree of mutual recognition and agreement, aided by postmodern advances in epistemology. And therein lies the threat: If a new awareness of differentiated epistemologies makes it possible for us to accommodate serious differences between communions, that same awareness seems to invite all manner of dissent and relativism, in the name of postmodernism.

Because divisions internal to our communions are now as threatening as divisions between our communions, we dare not too glibly admit the legitimacy of other theological approaches. Such admissions may easily be exploited by relativists in a way that would further fragment our communions. I suspect that just such a fear lies behind many of the cautionary notes of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which does not want an accommodation of Lutheran doctrine to be invoked to justify a tidal wave of dissent within the Catholic Church. Yet, I think the skeleton of a genuine reconciliation has been assembled.

It remains to put flesh on that skeleton—to elaborate the implications of our “consensus” on the doctrine of justification for other elements of Christian faith and practice. I propose to you that the next logical step from justification is toward the atonement, a logical link between justification and the remaining elements of soteriology.

We share a common plight as Christians in a carelessly Pelagian world, where religion is routinely reduced to morality. Those of a secular mindset speak of the evolutionary utility of religion in taming man’s bestial appetites; those of a moralist bent telescope the Christian faith into the orthopraxis of social justice or sex. We desperately need to be reminded of the priority of grace offered through the Lord’s death and resurrection, and I hope that to cast ancient Christian doctrine of the atonement into contemporary and especially phenomenological terms may yet fuel just such a new evangelization.

Phenomenological considerations have shown potential to translate elements of pre-modern Christianity—such as metaphysical or natural law theory—into effective terms. In the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul’s Wednesday catecheses, from which what is now called the “Theology of the Body” emerged, achieved just such a translation. Our people and even our clergy might have much to gain from exploring our human experience of the proclamation of the Lord’s atoning death.

From my own stance as a Roman Catholic, I hope that ecumenical consensus on justification may lead to articulate agreement concerning the atonement, and hence also the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, and thus at last to what for Catholics is the Holy Grail of ecumenism—literally, the Holy Grail, the Eucharist—the fullest and most visible expression of the life and unity of the Church. Cardinal Walter Kasper, speaking on Christian unity, recently remarked that “our goal must be full communion within the communion of communions that is the Church.”

This requires shared Eucharist. May God bring to speedy fruition the good work he has begun in the Joint Declaration.

Rev. David Poecking is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. “The Skeleton of Genuine Reconciliation” was given as one of three papers delivered at a retrospective observance of the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification sponsored by Bishop Kurt Kusserow of the Lutheran Synod of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Bishop Lawrence Brandt of the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, held yesterday (Reformation Sunday). The Joint Declaration can be found here.

Continue reading for a thorough summary of the confessional Lutheran response to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

Read more…

A Fascinating Look into the Vatican’s “Department of Justice”

August 19th, 2010 3 comments

I ran across this link to a fascinating interview with the head of the Vatican’s “Department of Justice” [I'm using a term more easily understandable]. I think you will find this interview very interesting.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

The Cult of Mary: Aberration of the Christian Faith

June 7th, 2010 8 comments

“A devotion written by Professor A.C. Piepkorn of St Louis* is an especially disturbing indicator of the dangers of the ‘High Church’ tendency. It is entitled ‘Blessed Art Thou Among Women’**, and is an attempt to set forth the true Lutheran position on Mary in opposition to the extremes of Roman Catholic cult of Mary (Marienkult) on the one hand and modern Protestantism’s ‘excessive downgrading of the Mother of God’ (Piepkorn’s words) on the other. This is indeed a worthy task, and the three Marian festivals set down in the old Lutheran church calendar, which are simultaneously Christological celebrations, provide ample opportunity to do this. But in light of these celebrations we must note that the position taken on Mary will always be a reliable indicator of the presence of a true or false understanding of the Gospel. In modern Protestantism the Nestorian denial of the doctrine of the Theotokos reveals that this position, even if it bears the name ‘Lutheran’, no longer understands the doctrine of the person of the God-man. On the other hand, the confession that Mary is indeed the Theotokos isn’t yet solid evidence of a true understanding of Christ – for it can be combined with the veneration of Mary, which is always a sin against the 1st Commandment and a challenge to the unique mediatorship of Christ. The cult of Mary (which also took root and grew among the Nestorians), along with the Marian doctrines which have grown from it, is most definitely to be rejected as being in contradiction to the Gospel***. Piepkorn, at the beginning of his devotion, mentions the Roman Catholic excesses of the cult of Mary, which as they developed clearly began to parallel the Christological doctrines until finally arriving at the doctrine of Mary as the mediatrix of all graces and the co-redemptrix (and also we mention the cult of Mary’s heart.) These things not only perplex some pious Catholics, but even Rome looks askance at them!**** But this is all the necessary outworking of the cult of Mary in the ancient and medieval church, which many people regard as harmless. Indeed, the poetic, beautiful and highly religious spirit of the simple Marian piety of the past was the road to Christ for many who came out of paganism, just as, for example, Arianism was the road to the orthodox Christian faith for the Germanic peoples; but this does not justify the cult of Mary, which is an aberration of the Christian faith. Our Lord himself rightly limited the veneration of Mary, which was beginning already in his time, when he responded to the woman in the crowd who blessed his mother with the words, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:27-28, cf. 8:21 & 2:19).”

From Hermann Sasse, Liturgy and Confession: A Brotherly Warning Against the High Church Danger, first published in Lutherische Blaetter, Christmas 1959.

* Arthur Carl Piepkorn (1907-1973), a scholar and theologian of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, sometime professor of historical theology at the Concordia, St Louis seminary, translator of some of the Lutheran confessional documents for the Tappert English edition of the Book of Concord, and an official participant in the early rounds of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue in the US. Piepkorn was a man of prodigious learning who served as a mentor to a number of LC-MS pastors who later styled themselves ‘Evangelical Catholics’, some of whom would convert to Roman Catholicism, notably Richard John Neuhaus.

** This devotion is available in the compilation of Piepkorn’s essays, ‘The Church, Selected Essays By Arthur Carl Piepkorn’, edited by Plekon and Weicher and available from the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau.

*** Why, in Sasse’s opinion, is Mariology and Marian piety in contradiction to the Gospel? Elsewhere, Sasse links the Marian doctrines and piety directly with synergism, the view that man co-operates with God’s grace in obtaining salvation. Sasse believed that the Roman and Orthodox churches, along with some Anglicans, held Mary up as a model of such co-operation.

**** It is difficult to know exactly what Sasse means here, since it would seem that Rome has seldom officially sought to quell the excesses of Marian devotion; perhaps he is thinking of private conversations with Roman prelates or theologians. Only five years after Sasse wrote this, Rome officially acknowledged the place of Mary as Mediatrix of graces in Catholic devotion:

“This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” [Lumen Gentium (Nov 21, 1964), Ch 8, paras 61 & 62].

In this statement of Vatican II, one can clearly see the undertones of synergism that accompany the cult of Mary throughout history and which Sasse criticised elsewhere.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

A Reminder that the Pope is a Roman Catholic

May 12th, 2010 5 comments

Every once in a while, when I read Lutherans gushing on about how wonderful it is to have a “Lutheran” Pope, because, Pope Benedict XVI is unquestionably the most well informed Pope since the Reformation when it comes to Lutheranism, and dare I say it, the most “Lutheran sounding” at many points, and at many times. This I do not deny. When what he says is true, I appreciate it. And because it is true, I can not disagree. Nobody in their right mind can. One does not have to adopt the posture of rejecting, out of hand, every word out of a Pope’s mouth, to maintain the Lutheran assertion that the Papacy is truly the office of Antichrist in the Church. That I affirm as well. Read about that point here.

And as a sobering reminder that PBXVI is very much the Roman Catholic Pontiff, one need only point out this prayer to Mary he offered in Fatima recently. I’ve heard Lutherans, who should know much better, sputtering on about the possibility of prayers to Mary and other such utter nonsense. Here then is the evidence, in case anyone needed it. Source: The Vatican.




Church of the Most Holy Trinity – Fátima
Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Immaculate Mother,
in this place of grace,
called together by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, we,
sons in the Son and his priests,
consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s Will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus,
we can do nothing good (cf. Jn 15:5)
and that only through him, with him and in him,
will we be instruments of salvation
for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit,
obtain for us the inestimable gift
of transformation in Christ.
Through the same power of the Spirit that
overshadowed you,
making you the Mother of the Saviour,
help us to bring Christ your Son
to birth in ourselves too.
May the Church
be thus renewed by priests who are holy,
priests transfigured by the grace of him
who makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy,
it was your Son Jesus who called us
to become like him:
light of the world and salt of the earth
(cf. Mt 5:13-14).

Help us,
through your powerful intercession,
never to fall short of this sublime vocation,
nor to give way to our selfishness,
to the allurements of the world
and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve us with your purity,
guard us with your humility
and enfold us with your maternal love
that is reflected in so many souls
consecrated to you,
who have become for us
true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church,
we priests want to be pastors
who do not feed themselves
but rather give themselves to God for their brethren,
finding their happiness in this.
Not only with words, but with our lives,
we want to repeat humbly,
day after day,
Our “here I am”.

Guided by you,
we want to be Apostles
of Divine Mercy,
glad to celebrate every day
the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar
and to offer to those who request it
the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace,
you who are fully immersed
in the one universal mediation of Christ,
invoke upon us, from God,
a heart completely renewed
that loves God with all its strength
and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord
your efficacious word:
“They have no wine” (Jn 2:3),
so that the Father and the Son will send upon us
a new outpouring of
the Holy Spirit.
Full of wonder and gratitude
at your continuing presence in our midst,
in the name of all priests
I too want to cry out:
“Why is this granted me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43).

Our Mother for all time,
do not tire of “visiting us”,
consoling us, sustaining us.
Come to our aid
and deliver us from every danger
that threatens us.
With this act of entrustment and consecration,
we wish to welcome you
more deeply, more radically,
for ever and totally
into our human and priestly lives.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth
in the desert of our loneliness,
let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness,
let it restore calm after the tempest,
so that all mankind shall see the salvation
of the Lord,
who has the name and the face of Jesus,
who is reflected in our hearts,
for ever united to yours!


© Copyright 2010 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The Press has Been the Roman Catholic Church’s Best Friend in the Abuse Scandal

April 12th, 2010 3 comments

What to make of the horrible mess that continues to play out across the mass media? As I listen to reactions and read responses there is one response that I find particular and deeply troubling: attacking the liberal media, secularists, modernists, rationalists and any and all who are expressing outrage at the growing reports of the abuse of children across Roman Catholic institutions. I have read posts that are damning all such reactions as no more than an ongoing plot by anti-Christian forces to tear down the Church by going after the largest visible target available: the Pope in Rome and the Church He leads.

Now, is this happening? Of course it is! Are those opposed to Christianity using this as an occasion to attack the Christian Faith itself? Of course they are. Are they being unfair? Yes, of course. All the more reason not to give these people the very ammunition they are using to shoot the Church with!

The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church bears a large part of the blame for the media attacks. Through their systematic failure to deal adequately with the abuse of children and others in Roman Catholic institutions and parishes, and by offering “golden parachutes” to those who most directly covered up and denied justice for criminal activities, (I’m talking here about Bernard Law, for example), the Roman Catholic Church made itself a very easy target and is now paying the price for the mishandling of these cases. And let me be very quick to say that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has learned through hard and bitter experiences of our own not to pass men along who engage in these kinds of behavior.

Here’s the point: It is precisely the wrong response to go on the attack against the media. The only response that should be made is to express total and complete outrage and complete and very public remorse for the sexual abuse of children at the hands of priests. Period. And keep saying it. Over and over, ad naseum. Back the words up with actions and provide the proof of action. An absolute zero tolerance policy on these behaviors must be adopted everywhere and applied every time. The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church does not “get it” and continues to shoot itself in the foot with its reactions. For example, I’ve read Roman bishops comparing Benedict to Christ, unjustly being tormented, sharing in the sufferings of Christ, etc. The only message everyone, from the Pope on down to every parish priest should be sending is this: There has been across the Roman Catholic Church a widespread failure to deal with these situations, quickly and justly. The Church has preferred to harbor and protect child abusers rather than throw them out of office and turn them over to the local police for their crimes. Behind this is a good deal of false doctrine concerning the office of the priest, including the supposed “indelible mark” of ordination, and imposed celibacy on the clergy.

Here are some perceptive remarks I read elsewhere expressing concern about an impassioned Lutheran coming to Pope Benedict’s defense. These remarks were, and are, spot-on.

Who would have possibly imagined that the current crisis of systemic child rape and the responsive horror expressed by so many could be spun into yet another victim-status tome regarding the insular, malevolent and hyperbolic Modernist and Liberal forces. Meanwhile for 50 yrs we had the systemic rape of children in our hallowed institutions, a crime against humanity that should never been allowed to be perpetrated to even a fraction of the extent that it did. Does the NYT’s have anti-religion flavor? Sure. Is it hyperbolic? Yes, sometimes. But is also true that this insidious modernist religion-hating main-stream press (as well as plaintiff’s lawyers), led to less children being raped. Meanwhile the Church was dragged along and is still being dragged along. I hear the author’s frustration. But maybe it’s time to put down the sword, and take a step back for some serious self-reflection that just maybe this time there is more going on here. Or would such an honest accounting be considered too weak and too relativist……?

And, please take special note of this excellent summary of Peggy Noonan’s comments on this incident. Here’s a portion of Get Religion‘s coverage of Noonan’s remarks:

Noonan is the author of “John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father,” a tribute to the late pope that was as much a journal of her emotional responses to his papacy as a volume about his remarkable life. At one point, Noonan states simply, “”John Paul walked into my life and served, unknowingly, as my spiritual father. He had led me like a light in the dark. …”

With that in mind, it is best to look at the end of her column first — before we get to the material that I think is so relevant to journalists and other GetReligion readers who are trying to figure out a way to aim criticisms (positive and negative) at the Vatican and the New York Times at the same time. What are we to make of the papacy during these decades — repeat decades — of scandal in which so many bishops actively hid priests who abused young children and many, many teen-agers (the vast majority of the latter males)?

Some blame the scandals on Pope Benedict XVI. But Joseph Ratzinger is the man who, weeks before his accession to the papacy five years ago, spoke blisteringly on Good Friday of the “filth” in the church. … The most reliable commentary on Pope Benedict’s role in the scandals came from John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, who argues that once Benedict came to fully understand the scope of the crisis, in 2003, he made the church’s first real progress toward coming to grips with it.

As for his predecessor, John Paul the Great, about whom I wrote an admiring book which recounts some of the scandals — I spent a grim 2003 going through the depositions of Massachusetts clergy — one fact seems to me pre-eminent. For Pope John Paul II, the scandals would have been unimaginable — literally not imaginable. He had come of age in an era and place (Poland in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s) of heroic priests. They were great men; they suffered. He had seen how the Nazis and later the communists had attempted to undermine the church and tear people away from it, sometimes through slander. They did this because the great force arrayed against them was the Catholic Church. John Paul, his mind, psyche and soul having been forged in that world, might well have seen the church’s recent accusers as spreaders of slander. Because priests don’t act like that, it’s not imaginable. And he’d seen it before, only now it wasn’t Nazism or communism attempting to kill the church with lies, but modernity and its soulless media.

Only they weren’t lies.

Before readers get to that part of the column, Noonan has already written a statement that could only have been made by someone who genuinely loves journalism and its valid, protected role in public life — public life wherever free speech, freedom of the press and religious liberty truly coexist in painful, but necessary, tension.

Catholic leaders, she argues, are in attack mode at the moment because they believe that journalists are in attack mode. Many Catholics are simply blaming the current crisis on media bias.

Now, read very closely. This next passage contains a statement that I believe simply must be made. To make sure that readers get it, Noonan says it twice.

… (T)his is not true, or to the degree it is true, it is irrelevant. All sorts of people have all sorts of motives, but the fact is that the press — the journalistic establishment in the U.S. and Europe — has been the best friend of the Catholic Church on this issue. Let me repeat that: The press has been the best friend of the Catholic Church on the scandals because it exposed the story and made the church face it. The press forced the church to admit, confront and attempt to redress what had happened. The press forced them to confess. The press forced the church to change the old regime and begin to come to terms with the abusers. The church shouldn’t be saying j’accuse but thank you.

I hope that the blog’s many Catholic readers are still reading.

Noonan isn’t done yet. She argues that many mainstream journalists were actually reluctant to cover this story. Why spend years digging in this filth (the pope’s word), only to have thousands of Catholics accuse your paper of bias — no matter how accurate the coverage — and respond with protests or boycotts or both?

But, but ….

Without this pressure — without the famous 2002 Boston Globe Spotlight series with its monumental detailing of the sex abuse scandals in just one state, Massachusetts — the church would most likely have continued to do what it has done for half a century, which is look away, hush up, pay off and transfer. …

An irony: Non-Catholic members of the media were, in my observation, the least likely to want to go after the story, because they didn’t want to look like they were Catholic-bashing. An irony within the irony: some journalists didn’t think to go after the story because they really didn’t much like the Catholic Church. Because of this bias, they didn’t see the story as a story. They thought this was how the church always operated. It didn’t register with them that it was a scandal. They didn’t know it was news.

It was the Boston Globe that broke the dam, winning a justly deserved Pulitzer for public service.

Yes, that needed to be said.

It’s one thing to criticize some of the current coverage — which I think deserves criticism. It’s something else altogether to ignore the heroic efforts that many journalists have made, for whatever motives, to uncover the filth (there’s that word again) in the offices of far too many shepherds.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

Vatican Official Proposes Ecumenical Catechism

February 14th, 2010 10 comments

Cardinal asks dialogue partners if an ecumenical catechism might work

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A Vatican official has floated the idea of a shared “ecumenical catechism” as one of the potential fruits of 40 years of dialogue among Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and members of the Reformed churches.

“We have affirmed our common foundation in Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity as expressed in our common creed and in the doctrine of the first ecumenical councils,” Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told representatives of the churches.

Opening a three-day symposium at the Vatican to brainstorm on the future of ecumenism, Cardinal Kasper said it is essential “to keep alive the memory of our achievements” in dialogue, educate the faithful about how much has been accomplished and prepare a new generation to carry on the work.

He said the members of his council “proposed an ecumenical catechism that would be written in consultation with our partners,” but “we do not yet have any idea how such a catechism could be structured and written.”

One thing for sure, he said, is that there is a need for “an ecumenism of basics that identifies, reinforces and deepens the common foundation” of faith in Christ and belief in the tenets of the creed. The churches may hold those positions officially, but if their members do not hold firmly to the basics of Christian faith, the dialogue cannot move forward, the cardinal said.

Cardinal Kasper, a theologian who will be 77 in March and has led the council for nine years, also said that ecumenical dialogue “is perhaps in danger of becoming a matter for specialists and thus of moving away from the grassroots.”

He called for “a people-centered ecumenism” that would support and give new energy to the theological dialogues.

The symposium was a follow-up to the publication in October of “Harvesting the Fruits,” a book complied by Cardinal Kasper and his staff summarizing the results of 40 years of official Catholic dialogue with the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Methodist Council and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

As for questions that still must be tackled in order for Christians to reach full unity and be able to share the Eucharist, the cardinal identified two basic areas: a common understanding of the church and its structure; and a common approach to applying the Gospel to modern social and moral concerns without falling into relativism.

Ethical issues, such as homosexuality and women’s equality, not only divide churches, he said, they raise more fundamental questions for modern and post-modern society, such as, “What is man, and what does it mean to be a man or woman in God’s plan?”

In the area of church structure and ministry, he said, the dialogues have seen progress toward a common agreement on the sacramental nature of ordination and on apostolic succession in the ministry of bishops, and have taken initial steps toward discussing the primacy of the bishop of Rome, the pope.

But on a more basic level, the dialogues must get into “not only what is the church, but where is the church? Has God given his church a specific structure or has he left the church to find its own structure, in such a way that a pluralism of structures is possible?” Cardinal Kasper asked.

The cardinal said the Vatican needs to better explain to its dialogue partners the Catholic conviction that “the Catholic Church is the church of Christ and that the Catholic Church is the true church,” even while “there exist many and important elements of the church of Christ outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church.”

The Catholic Church does believe “there are deficits in the other churches,” he said. “Yet on another level there are deficits, or rather wounds stemming from division and wounds deriving from sin, also in the Catholic Church.”

Ecumenical dialogue is the place where all Christians “learn to grow and mature in their faithfulness to Christ,” he said, and as each moves closer to Christ, they naturally will move closer to each other.


Categories: Roman Catholicism

Vatican Issues Procedures for Anglicans to Enter Full, Corporate and Sacramental Union with the Roman Catholic Church

October 20th, 2009 33 comments

An interesting story “hot off the wires,” so to speak. One to watch. Will Rome extend the same invitation to Lutherans and make provisions similarly for them? And what will be the response and reaction if it does? From Scott Richert’s blog:

October 20, 2009, will go down in history as a turning point in Catholic-Anglican relations. This morning, at 11 A.M. Rome time (5 A.M. EDT), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced new procedures through which entire congregations of Anglicans can be reunited to the Catholic Church.

Late on Monday, October 19, after the CDF press conference was announced by the Vatican, rumors began to swirl. Most commentators thought that the announcement would involve the Traditional Anglican Communion, a group which represents 400,000 Anglicans in 40 countries worldwide, which had approached the CDF two years ago, requesting “full, corporate, and sacramental union” with the Catholic Church.

But today’s announcement goes well beyond the TAC.

William Cardinal Levada, the prefect of the CDF, and Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, announced that Pope Benedict has signed an Apostolic Constitution (which has not yet been released) that will allow the TAC and other disaffected Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church as discrete bodies:

In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.

As John Allen of the National Catholic Register explains, “personal ordinariates” are

similar to the structures created throughout the world to provide pastoral care for members of the military and their families. The structures are, in effect, non-territorial dioceses, provided over by a bishop and with their own priests and seminarians.

While the Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of Anglican Holy Orders, the new structure will allow married Anglican clergy to receive Holy Orders after formal conversion, and thus to serve as Roman Catholic priests. As John Allen notes, in keeping with both Catholic and Orthodox tradition, “they may not be ordained as bishops.”

This new canonical structure will be open to all in the Anglican Communion (currently 77 million strong), including the Episcopal Church in the United States (approximately 2.2 million). The TAC will likely be the first to take advantage of the Apostolic Constitution, but more will undoubtedly follow. The Anglican Communion has been increasingly divided since the consecration of Gene Robinson, a open and practicing homosexual, as bishop in 2003, not to mention early controversies over the priestly and episcopal ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex couples.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

A Copy of the Shroud of Turin Has Been Made, Using only Medieval Materials and Technology

October 6th, 2009 6 comments

This article puts a major dent in claims that the Shroud of Turin is the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ. A scientist claims to have reproduced it using only materials and techniques known in the Middle Ages. The original is on the left, the copy on the right. What do you think?


Categories: Roman Catholicism

The Catholic Church Would “Deal with such a provocation in a different and better way”

September 4th, 2009 1 comment

The Catholic Church would, however, “today deal with such a provocation in a different and a better way,” said the bishop. And so ends an interesting article on what a Roman Catholic bishop in Osnabrück, Germany had to say about Martin Luther.

Interesting comments indeed. I welcome them, as should all confessing Lutherans, but….I would find the kind words about Luther to be a tad more satisfying, to say the least, if the Vatican at some point would apologize for Luther’s excommunication and the Vatican’s role in having him declared a public criminal. But, for what it is worth, it’s nice to read these kinds of moderating remarks, and frankly, these comments are better than we hear most of the time from much of the leadership of the German state union churches, which are a mixtum compositum of truth, error, Lutheran, Reformed, and only God knows what else!

German Catholic bishop says Luther is a ‘fascinating personality’

Osnabrück, Germany, 4 September (ENI/epd)–The Roman Catholic bishop of Osnabrück in northern Germany has said that the 16th-century Protestant Reformer Martin Luther offers a “positive challenge” to Protestant and Catholic churches.

“It’s fascinating just how radically he puts God at the centre,” Bishop Franz-Josef Bode said in an interview with the German Protestant news agency epd, in advance of a 6 September service Osnabrück’s Lutherkirche at which the bishop will preach on Luther.

Luther, said Bode, had rightly denounced failures in the Church and he had recalled the roots of faith.

Bode described Luther as a “fascinating personality for both churches”, noting that the Reformer had not intended to divide the Church though the dissemination of his 95 Theses of 1517, but that his teaching had later been exploited by other people for their own purposes.

Luther had been more concerned in dealing with the fundamental question of how God turns towards human beings.

In the Church of that era there had been tendencies that contributed to “misunderstandings”, said Bode citing grace and forgiveness of sins as things that certainly can not be bought, in a reference to the practice in Luther’s time of the Catholic Church selling indulgences.

“The focus on Christ, the Bible and the authentic Word – are things that we as the Catholic Church today can only underline,” said Bode. He noted that especially with the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has been able to understand and address in a new way Luther’s thought and his esteem for the Word of God.

The Second Vatican Council met from 1962 to 1965 and it led to the Catholic Church accepting for the first time that there could be coexistence of different forms of faith in Christ, said the bishop.

The 50th anniversary of the council in 2015 takes place in the decade preparing for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017. Bode said he would work within the German (Catholic) Bishops’ Conference to ensure that the ecumenical aspects of the Second Vatican Council are underlined.

Still, said Bode, there remain elements of division between the Catholic Church and Luther. These divisions centre on the understanding that Luther developed from his own experience of the Church, the priesthood and the sacraments.

The Catholic Church would, however, “today deal with such a provocation in a different and a better way,” said the bishop. [408 words]
ENI News Headlines and Featured Articles are now available by RSS feed.
All articles (c) Ecumenical News International
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.

Ecumenical News International
PO Box 2100
CH – 1211 Geneva 2

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244

Categories: Roman Catholicism

And meanwhile, in Rome….what’s old is new again

August 22nd, 2009 14 comments

The Pope has released some new/old liturgical laws. Read it for yourself here.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

How Lutherans Fixed Roman Catholic Prayers to Mary

July 2nd, 2009 2 comments

Thanks to Pastor Weedon for this blog post, which I’m simply copying here. I should note that the book to which Pastor Weedon refers in his post prefaces the reworked prayer by noting that the Reginia Coeli, is an evil prayer in its original form.


That is, fixed, emended. Today I’ve had the joy [thanks to a heads up from Pr. Paul McCain and the kind sharing of Pr. Ben Mayes] of looking over two texts that were rewritten, apparently by Urbanus Rhegius (confessor of Smalcald and evangelical bishop of Lüneburg). The originals were very popular and beloved antiphons to the Blessed Virgin. In the Lutheran Reformation, they were transformed into hymns to Christ (and the original chant lines preserved). I’m no Latinist, so pardon any goof ups in the translations, but I think they’re mostly on target:

Here’s the Salve Regina:

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae,
Hail, Queen, Mother of mercy,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
our life, sweetness and hope, hail!
ad te clamamus
to you we cry
exsules filii Hevae,
exiled sons of Eve.
ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
to you we send up our sighs, groaning and moaning
in hac lacrimarum valle.
in this valley of tears
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
Turn, our advocate, upon us
misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
Your merciful eyes
et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
And Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
show to us after this exile,
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

What happens with the Lutherans got hold of it? Check it out:

SAlue Iesu Christe, Rex misericordiæ,
Hail, Jesus Christ, King of mercy,
vita dulcedo & spes nostra,salue,
Our life, sweetness, and hope, hail!
ad te clamamus exules filij Euæ,
To you we cry, exiled sons of Eve
ad te suspiramus gementes & flentes,
To you we send up our sighs and moanings
in hac lacrymarum valle,
in this valley of tears,
Eya ergo, aduocate noster, illos tuos
Turn, therefore, our Advocate upon us
misericordes oculos ad nos conuerte,
Your merciful eyes
O Iesu benedicte, faciem patris tui nobis
O blessed Jesus, show to us the face of your Father
post hoc exilium ostende,
after this exile.
O clemens, O pie, O dulcis Iesu Christe.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Jesus Christ.

Similarly, the Regina Coeli:

Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia:
Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia:
Quia quem meruisti portare. alleluia,
For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia,
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia,
Is risen, as He said, alleluia,
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, Virgin Mary, alleluia.
Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
Because the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.

is now sung with these words to the old chant:

LÆtemur in Christo redemptore Alleluia
Rejoice in Christ the Redeemer Alleluia
quia quem percussit pater ob scelus populi sui Alleluia.
For he was struck by the Father for the sins of his people Alleluia.
Resurrexit (Cœlos ascendit / Spirtum
misit) sicut dixit (sicut dixit / Vt promisit) Alleluia.
He is risen (to heaven ascended/ sent the Spirit) just as He said (as He said / as He promised) Alleluia
Ora pro nobis Christe, qui ad dexteram Dei Patris locatus es
Pray for us, Christ, who at the right hand of God the Father are located
victor peccati, mortis, inferni,
Victor over sin, death, hell,
vnus es nobis propitiator pontifex, ecclesiæ caput:
Our one propitator, high priest, the church’s head
O rex pie, Fac nos tecum resurgere (Fac nos tecum ascendere / Da nobis tuum
Spiritum) Alleluia.
O loving King, make us rise with you (make us ascend with you / give to us your Spirit). Alleluia.

If the medieval Marian cult had for all intents and purposes shoved our Lord off the center and placed His most holy Mother there, it only makes sense that in the Lutheran Reformation, the beauty of the chants would be retained, but the spotlight would shift from the the Most Blessed Virgin to Him who was born of her, and to the triumph of what He accomplished and His constant intercession for us before His Father.

[The emended texts, by the bye, came from this work that Pr. Mayes showed to Pr. McCain this a.m. - I'm jealous! I want a copy!!!]

They’re Back! Indulgences On the Rise

February 10th, 2009 4 comments

Just this week in the Treasury of Daily Prayer we are reading in the Smalcald Articles and tomorrow will come to Luther's comments about Repentance. The controversy over indulgences sparked the Reformation and this article demonstrates that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

A Grief Observed: Richard John Neuhaus, 1936-2009

January 8th, 2009 12 comments

Richard John Neuhaus died today. I feel a sadness of heart and an emptiness of spirit. A place at the table of enriching conversation that I enjoy with a number of people across Christendom is now empty, a very large empty place, indeed. Father Neuhaus, once LCMS Pastor Neuhaus, then ELCA Pastor Neuhaus, was, for me, a source of ongoing inspiration and encouragement.

Encouragement? Yes, encouragement to be and remain the very best Lutheran God allows me to be. Now why do I say this? I fervently differed with Father Neuhaus on several core issues of the confession of the Christian Gospel, and he knew that. Over the many long years I had struck up a very informal and not-frequent-enough conversation with him, as I'm sure thousands of other people. I know he kindly entertained my letters and thoughts because of our shared Lutheranism, a Lutheranism he believed fervently was realized fully in communion with Rome, a Lutheranism I believe must remain apart from Rome as long as Rome clings to its Gospel-obscuring errors.

Having said that, I am already cringing at the possibility that there will be featured in a certain newspaper from New Haven a graceless, ham-fisted tirade against Richard John Neuhaus the Catholic convert and more's the pity. But the Roman Church has its share of graceless, ham-fisted apologists and I suppose we must have our fair share too.

I always enjoyed my back-and-forths with Father Neuhaus. He opened several doors for me while I served The LCMS President, making it possible for LCMS leadership to make direct contact with the Vatican, when ELCA leaders were intent on cutting us out of formal conversation with Rome. Father Neuhaus was able to make direct personal appeal to Pope John Paul which led to direct contacts with Cardinal Ratzinger, with the result that the The LCMS was again given a place at the table of discussion and dialog with Rome, and most importantly, a point sadly lost on some, the chance in this formal context to make the good confession of faith. I learned from Father Neuhaus how the highest levels of the Vatican looked with considerable appreciation on the bold confession The Missouri Synod made at the time of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, and it was from Father Neuhaus that I learned that Cardinal Ratzinger had made the point, "If the Lutherans do not take their Confessions seriously, why should we?" But then he would always say, "But there is the Missouri Synod!"

Father Neuhaus kindly asked me to write a couple pieces for FIRST THINGS and he was always interested in what The LCMS was up to. He introduced me to George Weigel and others through the years. Like I said, these kindnesses were commonplace and I know many, many others shared my experiences with Father Neuhaus. 

As much as I disagreed with Father Neuhaus, I agreed with so much of what he wrote in RJN
First Things. Of course, he was a constant advocate for his "new" church, but he was fair and even-handed in his criticism, liberally applied, from a conservative point of view, of all trends and movements in Christendom. I admired his rhetorical and writing skills and the first section I always turned to in First Things was his column at the end. I suspect most First Things readers did! His wit, wisdom and breadth of engagement with contemporary trends in our culture was breathtaking. What a noble and bold spokesman for unborn human life he was!

I will miss Father Neuhaus. Through all the years he was a Roman Catholic priest there was no doubt that his Lutheran piety and catechesis was clearly a part of his very being. I felt Richard John brought to the Romanism he embraced a hearty and full measure of the joyful Gospel rediscovery of Martin Luther, for which I am grateful.

I will miss Father Neuhaus, and I join with many others in expressing my appreciation for his life and work, both for what he did that I fervently agreed with, which was much, and that which I had to disagree with, which was substantial. In both cases, he challenged me to think, to reflect, to grow and to strive for excellence in our common confession of Christ. Here is a nice reflection from a fellow Lutheran who worked with Father Neuhaus, Anthony Sacramone.

And here are comments from Fr. Neuhaus, reflecting on his own death, written a number of years ago:

“When I come before the judgment throne, I will plead the promise of
God in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I will not plead any work that I
have done, although I will thank God that he has enabled me to do some
good. I will plead no merits other than the merits of Christ, knowing
that the merits of Mary and the saints are all from him; and for their
company, their example, and their prayers throughout my earthly life I
will give everlasting thanks. I will not plead that I had faith, for
sometimes I was unsure of my faith, and in any event that would be to
turn faith into a meritorious work of my won. I will not plead that I
held the correct understanding of “justification by faith alone,”
although I will thank God that he led me to know ever more fully the
great truth that much misunderstood formulation was intended to
protect. Whatever little growth in holiness I have experienced,
whatever strength I have received from the company of the saints,
whatever understanding I have attained of God and his ways – these and
all other gifts received I will bring gratefully to the throne. But in
seeking entry to that heavenly kingdom, I will…look to Christ and
Christ alone.”

- Richard John Neuhaus.  Death on a Friday Afternoon.  New York:  Basic Books, 2000)  p. 70.

Requiescat in pace

Categories: Roman Catholicism