Thursday, April 24, 2008

Benedict's Speech to Inter-religious Leaders

Pope Benedict, last week, addressed a group of inter religious leaders. Full text is here, but I came away with a few interesting thoughts.

First of all, the overarching theme of the first part of the talk was the value of interreligious dialog and cooperation, especially in the areas of religious freedom, and morality. But, yet, there is a critique.
There is a further point I wish to touch upon here. I have noticed a growing interest among governments to sponsor programs intended to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue. These are praiseworthy initiatives. At the same time, religious freedom, interreligious dialogue and faith-based education aim at something more than a consensus regarding ways to implement practical strategies for advancing peace. The broader purpose of dialogue is to discover the truth. What is the origin and destiny of mankind? What are good and evil? What awaits us at the end of our earthly existence? Only by addressing these deeper questions can we build a solid basis for the peace and security of the human family, for "wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace" (Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 3).
Dear friends, in our attempt to discover points of commonality, perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity. While always uniting our hearts and minds in the call for peace, we must also listen attentively to the voice of truth. In this way, our dialogue will not stop at identifying a common set of values, but go on to probe their ultimate foundation. We have no reason to fear, for the truth unveils for us the essential relationship between the world and God. We are able to perceive that peace is a "heavenly gift" that calls us to conform human history to the divine order. Herein lies the "truth of peace" (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace).
And that is the danger. The substance of this dialog cannot be "I'm okay, you're okay, we're all okay!" for that doesn't help advance mankind. Benedict/Ratzinger mentions in Jesus of Nazareth (Chapter 3) how some modern theologies have watered down the "Kingdom of God". In this view, we have gone from a Church-centered to a Christ-centered, to a God-centered, and finally to a Kingdom-centered view. In this way, it is claimed, everybody can be included. The problem, Benedict/Ratzinger points out, is that God has disappeared and man is the only actor on the stage (p. 54).

This address is a challenge to all men of good will, to be open to the Truth. Isn't it such a blessing that we have a Pope, infallible in matters of the Faith, to protect this Truth for us, though the intercession of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Benedict to Bishops, Pastors: Be Men of Prayer

Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent address to the Us Bishops assembled in Washington DC, emphasized the necessity of prayer, especially for those who lead the Church.
Indeed a clearer focus upon the imitation of Christ in holiness of life is exactly what is needed in order for us to move forward. We need to rediscover the joy of living a Christ-centred life, cultivating the virtues, and immersing ourselves in prayer. When the faithful know that their pastor is a man who prays and who dedicates his life to serving them, they respond with warmth and affection which nourishes and sustains the life of the whole community.

Time spent in prayer is never wasted, however urgent the duties that press upon us from every side. Adoration of Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament prolongs and intensifies the union with him that is established through the Eucharistic celebration (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 66). Contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary releases all their saving power and it conforms, unites and consecrates us to Jesus Christ (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11, 15). Fidelity to the Liturgy of the Hours ensures that the whole of our day is sanctified and it continually reminds us of the need to remain focused on doing God's work, however many pressures and distractions may arise from the task at hand. Thus our devotion helps us to speak and act in persona Christi, to teach, govern and sanctify the faithful in the name of Jesus, to bring his reconciliation, his healing and his love to all his beloved brothers and sisters. This radical configuration to Christ, the Good Shepherd, lies at the heart of our pastoral ministry, and if we open ourselves through prayer to the power of the Spirit, he will give us the gifts we need to carry out our daunting task, so that we need never "be anxious how to speak or what to say" (Mt 10:19).
The Catholic trifecta: Adoration, Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours. How important is this example of prayer, for those led? How much power a pastor of souls wields. With his example of prayer, prayerful devotion, a love of the Eucharist, he can develop a holiness of life will inspire those entrusted to his care. This is the role of the pastor. A pastor is responsible before God for the souls he has been entrusted.

This calls back to earlier in the speech when the Pope reminded us that we are really nothing without God, and he is the giver of all things. What can we be without prayer?

Benedict speaks out on Sex Abuse Scandal

Though I am surprised it is still such an issue, it really is important. The sex abuse scandal was a terrible chapter in the history of the Catholic Church in America. Benedict spoke on it, and on healing, noting, of course, that "Sometimes it was very badly handled." He goes on to discuss the ultimate problem:

What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike. All have a part to play in this task - not only parents, religious leaders, teachers and catechists, but the media and entertainment industries as well. Indeed, every member of society can contribute to this moral renewal and benefit from it. Truly caring about young people and the future of our civilization means recognizing our responsibility to promote and live by the authentic moral values which alone enable the human person to flourish. It falls to you, as pastors modelled upon Christ, the Good Shepherd, to proclaim this message loud and clear, and thus to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores.
There it is, the child sexual abuse scandal in context: society is messed up. We can talk all we want about things we can do to handle pedophile priests, but what a disservice we do to our children by bringing them up in this immoral day and age. We need to reign in our sexual immorality. Pornography is available to anyone, basically unimpeded, on the internet, and indecency is of course rampant everywhere. You can hardly turn on the TV or walk down the street in Summer without being exposed to this. This is an immeasurable harm that will be hurting us as a society for years to come.

Benedict to Bishops: Speak Out

In his address to the US Bishops yesterday, Pope Benedict exhorted them to be the moral voice of society, to speak out for what is right.
As preachers of the Gospel and leaders of the Catholic community, you are also called to participate in the exchange of ideas in the public square, helping to shape cultural attitudes. In a context where free speech is valued, and where vigorous and honest debate is encouraged, yours is a respected voice that has much to offer to the discussion of the pressing social and moral questions of the day. By ensuring that the Gospel is clearly heard, you not only form the people of your own community, but in view of the global reach of mass communication, you help to spread the message of Christian hope throughout the world.

Clearly, the Church's influence on public debate takes place on many different levels. In the United States, as elsewhere, there is much current and proposed legislation that gives cause for concern from the point of view of morality, and the Catholic community, under your guidance, needs to offer a clear and united witness on such matters. Even more important, though, is the gradual opening of the minds and hearts of the wider community to moral truth. Here much remains to be done. Crucial in this regard is the role of the lay faithful to act as a "leaven" in society. Yet it cannot be assumed that all Catholic citizens think in harmony with the Church's teaching on today's key ethical questions. Once again, it falls to you to ensure that the moral formation provided at every level of ecclesial life reflects the authentic teaching of the Gospel of life.
It bears repeating: "It cannot be assumed that all Catholic citizens think in harmony with the Church's teaching on today's key ethical questions." We can only hope people hear this message and at least reflect on the possibility that they need to amend their ways. The "Catholic" politicians and voters could have such influence if they all would "think in harmony" with the Church. If we could be united in the Faith, then so much more could likely be accomplished.

Benedict on Science

Again, from Benexict XVI's address to the Bishops, we have another gem.
It is easy to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot attain (cf. Spe Salvi, 31), our lives are ultimately empty.
And, this is the ultimate problem today. Science and medicine seem like they can, or soon will be able to, do anything. We control our environment to the point where doubting in the existence or necessity of God is almost a foregone conclusion.

Benedict to Bishops on Secularism

Taken from Wednesday's address to the Bishops:
While it is true that this country is marked by a genuinely religious spirit, the subtle influence of secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior. Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.
Just go for the throat, that seems to be the best policy here, no? In this election season, there is a lot of discussion about these issues. Many "Catholic" politicians try the "personally opposed" argument, or the "private beliefs" argument to justify their position on abortion or embryonic stem cell research, but this is clearly inconsistent.

Read that last line again. Wonderful. Thanks, Pope!

More to follow...

Papal Address to the US Bishops

As you are well aware, I am sure, the Pope is here in America. Everything he says, I am sure, is going to be useful to read, and as with all that Ratzinger/BXVI says and writes, we will be able to digest it over time.

The Pope addressed the US Bishops at the National Shrine to the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. You can read the text here, and also watch the speech on Youtube, with the first segment here.

I will follow up with comments on interesting parts.

Pope in America

The Pope is here!