Sunday, 4 October 2015

Pope Francis at the start of the Synod

English texts of Pope Francis' address at the Vigil of prayer in St Peter's Square in preparation for the Synod on the Family, and his homily at the opening Mass for the Synod, are not yet at the Vatican website. I expect they will be posted there in due course: with links respectively from this page and this page.

I link to texts published at the website of the Catholic Herald - I'd rather not, given their indulgence in a "Synod of the media" (see here), and suspect they may be publishing the texts with a certain mischief, but at the moment I can't find the English texts elsewhere.  [UPDATE: links now to texts at the Vatican website].

Pope Francis’ address at family synod prayer vigil: full text

A snippet:
In the “Galilee of the nations” of our own time, we will rediscover the richness and strength of a Church which is a mother, ever capable of giving and nourishing life, accompanying it with devotion, tenderness, and moral strength. For unless we can unite compassion with justice, we will end up being needlessly severe and deeply unjust.
A Church which is family is also able to show the closeness and love of a father, a responsible guardian who protects without confining, who corrects without demeaning, who trains by example and patience, sometimes simply by a silence which bespeaks prayerful and trusting expectation.
Above all, a Church of children who see themselves as brothers and sisters, will never end up considering anyone simply as a burden, a problem, an expense, a concern or a risk.  Other persons are essentially a gift, and always remain so, even when they walk different paths.
Pope Francis’ homily at the family synod’s opening Mass: full text

Another snippet:
....the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love. To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.
To carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 3).
To carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.
I do think Pope Francis has understood very well the challenge to which the Synod is intended to respond.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Synod blog-out

I don't want to know about the Synod. The Synod being run by the media, that is. Didn't someone once refer to a "Council of the media" that wasn't the same as the "Council of the aula"? Aren't those treating us to a repeat of this doing the Church the same disservice that was done at the time of the Council?

I don't want to know about those who are predicting disaster for the Church as it gives up on teaching anything worthwhile about marriage.

I don't want to know about those who have convinced themselves that they can cite Pope Francis as being in favour of "all change" when he talks of charity and mercy; or of those who believe that "all change" is for the good, and that Pope Francis can be canonised in the cause.

I don't want to know about those who have organised themselves into lobby groups, of the left or of the right ("liberal" or "traditional" in ecclesial terminology though the political terminology seems to me more appropriate), some claiming their particular cardinalatial or episcopal heroes in support, but nevertheless operating in a most secularised manner in order to apply as much pressure to the Synod Fathers as they can. I don't want to know about their attempts to manipulate the "Synod of the media" so that it presents their point of view.

I don't want to know about the results of surveys, or about their publication to the media as if they are the magisterial teaching of the Church in England and Wales.

I don't want to know about whatever muddled procedure may operate during the Synod deliberations, since there isn't actually anything I can do about it!

And I don't want to read the water fall of verbiage from commentators earning their crust by feeding the media frenzy. It is all so ..... 1960's.

I will dedicate my daily use of Pope John XXIII's prayer written to commemorate the opening of the Council for the success of the Synod:
Holy Spirit, who are sent by the Father in the name of Jesus to be with the Church by your presence and sure guidance,we pray,show once more your wonders in our day as on the day of Pentecost.Grant to your Church that, constant and united in prayer with Mary the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of Blessed Peter, the reign of our divine Saviour may be advanced, a reign of truth, of justice, love and peace.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Pope Francis: Vigil with families at World Meeting of Families

In February 2014, speaking to a meeting with engaged couples, Pope Francis, very much in the spirit of a pastor, suggested three words that might characterise the relationships in a marriage. He repeated them during a General Audience address, one of his series on the family in preparation for the forthcoming Synod. The words were please, thank you, and sorry, and if you read the text of the two addresses linked above you will see how he unpacks the meaning of those words for married and family life. Very practical, and surprisingly comprehensive. I try to live them in my own friendship, but perhaps not very well. I think they do make a difference.

Pope Francis didn't use these words in his spontaneous address with families in Philadelphia, but at the end of his talk he did repeat something else that he said during the same General Audience address referred to above, though with a certain vigour in his wording:
 I advise one thing: Never end the day without making peace in the family. In a family, a day cannot end at war.
The evening vigil at the World Meeting of Families, with its testimonies and sense of celebration of family life, is always one of the most moving parts of the World Meeting.

Pope Francis talk yesterday lived up to everything that one might expect of this occasion.

A transcription and translation is at ZENIT: Pope’s Off-the-Cuff Address to Families.

Take and read, for both its intense practicality and for its theological substance.

Isn't Pope Francis to love!

Love or approval?

A while ago now, I received a comment on the post The Family: what is the real question for the Synod that I have not yet published. In its most substantial part that comment read as follows:
On the question of how we treat people whose behaviour is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ may I refer to something said by one of the two Scottish midwives whose case went to the Supreme Court. She is totally opposed to abortion but she said that she does not let that influence her behaviour towards the women in her hospital who have abortions. (Or something like that.) That must be very difficult to do but how do we show disapproval of the behaviour whilst showing love towards the person? Today, the world insists that we cannot show love without approving of the behaviour.
I would respond by suggesting that there are two distinct "moments" that can be seen in the difficulty articulated in this comment. The first moment arises from the obligation to show disapproval of an immoral action of another person. I would recast that obligation as one, on our part, of not letting ourselves become party to the immoral action, and that primarily from the point of view of a form of implicit internal consent. We need at the most fundamental level to say an internal "no" to that action. This appears to me to be what is meant by a prompting of conscience. But conscience prompts us to make that internal "no" manifest in an external way - it prompts us to give witness or to give testimony to our internal "no". The point, though, is that there can be other ways of externally manifesting that internal "no" than doing it by an expression of disapproval of the action of an individual who we encounter.

The second "moment" arises from wishing to act in love towards a person without approving, or rather, without being perceived by others as approving, a behaviour that we believe to be morally wrong. Here, where the demand of charity comes to the fore, I think we have to have the courage to act in charity, with a full consciousness of our internal "no", even though that acting in charity may be misunderstood by others as approval. It does require a particular style of courage to do this, but I believe that we are called to that courage.

I suspect that many Catholics, pastors and lay faithful, have, in the past and do in our own times, lived this second moment as a matter or ordinary common sense - "it just wasn't the right time and place".

Perhaps we need to be reminded of, and strengthened in, the internal "no" that accompanies such an act of charity, to avoid the situation where the act of charity slips imperceptibly into an indifference towards a behaviour that we believe to be contrary to the moral good.

And at the same time, pastors and those Catholics in public view might speak about the fact that an act of charity in a particular situation is about bringing Christ's presence to that situation and not about indicating approval of a behaviour contrary to Christian teaching.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Pope Francis to the US Congress and to the United Nations

I think Abbey Roads is right - stay away from the "the naysayers, the doomsayers, the schism-mongers, the negative-mean-spirited people who seem to be so convinced of their own righteousness and despise everyone else.  Those who bind up heavy burdens too heavy to carry without lifting a finger to help..... We know who we are."

Go straight to the source.

Pope Francis to the United States Congress.

Pope Francis to the United Nations.

Pope Francis visit to the United States Congress has a parallel to the visit of Pope Benedict to the Palace of Westminster during the visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. The warmth of the reception given to the visiting Pope on both occasions is remarkable. Where Pope Benedict's audience was very strictly non-partisan in responding to his words, it would appear that the members of Congress were very obviously partisan as sections of the audience applauded different parts of the address. I have printed off both addresses to study side by side.
I have just read the address to the United Nations. I loved it. I don't think anyone can read that text and not recognise that Pope Francis' teaching on ecological questions is firmly integrated with a teaching on the dignity and rights of each and every human person - the "integral ecology" of Laudato si  - and clearly distinct from any merely ideological or political motivation. The sense of the Holy See's engagement with the Agenda for Sustainable Development has, I think, a clear outline in this address.
Viva Papa Franceso!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Pope Francis to the US bishops

The full text of Pope Francis' address to the bishops of the United States can be found here.

It is resplendent with the beauty of a universal pastor who genuinely desires to "confirm his brethren" - and, as Pope Francis himself notes - it is in continuity with the teaching offered by his predecessors during their visits to the same country. You do need to read the whole to appreciate its beauty... especially the passage about dialogue which follows on from the excerpt below:
And yet we are promoters of the culture of encounter. We are living sacraments of the embrace between God’s riches and our poverty. We are witnesses of the abasement and the condescension of God who anticipates in love our every response.
Dialogue is our method, not as a shrewd strategy but out of fidelity to the One who never wearies of visiting the marketplace, even at the eleventh hour, to propose his offer of love (Mt 20:1-16).
 And note among Pope Francis' references to the challenges faced by the American bishops:
I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit.
I have not been able to follow Pope Francis apostolic journey closely - but please do look out for the texts of his addresses which I am sure are very worthwhile. And for the lovely photos with the President of the United States during the Holy Father's visit to the White House!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

St Robert Bellarmine on faith and reason

Nearly 20 years ago now I encountered the text of a letter written by St Robert Bellarmine at the time of the Galileo controversy. I am reminded by his feast day of the passage in that letter which demonstrates his faith in human reason in relation to his faith in the texts of Sacred Scriptures. The passage follows a previous section in which Bellarmine has insisted on the need to respect the sense in which Sacred Scripture has been understood by the previous tradition of the Fathers of the Church.
“..If there were a real proof that the Sun is in the centre of the universe, that the earth is in the third heaven, and that the Sun does not go round the Earth but the Earth round the Sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining the passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and we should rather have to say that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true..”
Bellarmine indicates that (at the time at which he was writing) it was not definitively proven by science that the Earth rotated round the Sun, and that therefore the previous interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures on the matter should still be maintained. If he were alive today, and familiar with the evidence of science as we now have it, he would undoubtedly change his mind.

But it is interesting to note the comfortable existence of both a profound trust in human reason and a strong faith in Sacred Scripture.