Thursday, July 31, 2014


From a recent Q&A with the Pope:

Q: Allow me to call you Fr Francis because authentic paternity inevitably implies holiness. As a pupil of the Jesuits, to whom I owe my cultural and priestly formation, I will first share my impression and then ask a question that I will put to you in a special way. The identikit of the priest of the third millennium: human and spiritual balance; missionary consciousness; openness to dialogue with other faiths, religious and otherwise. Why is this? You certainly have brought about a Copernican revolution in terms of language, lifestyle, behaviour and witness on the most considerable issues at the global level, even with atheists and with those who are far from the Christian Catholic Church. The question I ask you: how is it possible in this society, with a Church that hopes for growth and development, in this society in an evolution that is dynamic and conflictual and very often distant from the values ​​of the Gospel of Christ, that we are a Church very often behind? Your linguistic, semantic, cultural revolution, your evangelical witness is stirring an existential crisis for us priests. What imaginative and creative ways do you suggest for us to overcome or at least to mitigate this crisis that we perceive? Thank you.

Pope Francis: Here you are. How is it possible, with the Church growing and developing, to move forward? You said a few things: balance, openness to dialogue ... But, how can you go forward? You said a word that I really like. It is a divine word. If it is human it is because it is a gift of God: creativity. And the commandment God gave to Adam, "Go and multiply. Be creative. "It is also the commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples, through the Holy Spirit, for example, the creativity of the early Church in its relations with Judaism: Paul was creative; Peter, that day when he went to Cornelius, was afraid of them, because he was doing something new, something creative. But he went there. Creativity is the word. And how can you find this creativity? First of all - and this is the condition if we want to be creative in the Spirit, that is in the Spirit of the Lord Jesus - there's no other way than prayer. A bishop who does not pray, a priest who does not pray has closed the door, closed the way of creativity. It is exactly in prayer, when the Spirit makes you feel something, the devil comes and makes you feel another; but prayer is the condition for moving forward. Even if prayer many times can seem boring. Prayer is so important. Not only the prayer of the Divine Office, but the liturgy of the Mass, quiet, celebrated well with devotion, personal prayer with the Lord.
If we do not pray, perhaps we will be good pastoral and spiritual entrepreneurs, but the Church without prayer becomes an NGO, it does not have that unctio Sancti Spiritu. Prayer is the first step, because it is opening oneself to the Lord to be able to open up to others. It is the Lord that says, “Go here, go there, do this ...”, you will be inspired by the creativity that cost many saints a lot. Think of Blessed Antonio Rosmini, who wrote The Five Wounds of the Church, he was a creative critic because he prayed. He wrote that which the Spirit made ​​him feel. For this, he entered into a spiritual prison, that is in his house: he could not speak, he could not teach, he could not write…. Today, he is Blessed! Many times creativity takes you to the cross. But when it comes from prayer, it bears fruit. Not creativity that is a little sans fa├žon and revolutionary, because today it is fashionable to be a revolutionary; no, this is not of the Spirit. But when creativity comes from the Spirit and is born in prayer. It can bring you problems. The creativity that comes from prayer has an anthropological dimension of transcendence, because through prayer you open yourself to the transcendent, to God.

But there is also another transcendence: opening oneself up to others, to one’s neighbour. We must not be a Church closed in on itself, which looks at its navel, a self-referential Church, who looks at itself and is not able to transcend. Twofold transcendence is important: toward God and toward one’s neighbour. Coming out of oneself is not an adventure; it is a journey, it is the path that God has indicated to men, to the people from the first moment when he said to Abraham, “Go from your country.” He had to go out of himself. And when I come out of myself, I meet God and I meet others. How do you meet others? From a distance or up close? You must meet them up close, closeness. Creativity, transcendence and closeness. Closeness is a key word: be near. Do not be afraid of anything. Being close. The man of God is not afraid. Paul himself, when he saw many idols in Athens, was not scared. He said to the people: "You are religious, many idols ... but, I'll speak to you about another." He did not get scared and he got close to them. He also cited poets: "As your poets say..." It’s about closeness to a culture, closeness to people, to their way of thinking, their sorrows, their resentments. Many times this closeness is just a penance, because we need to listen to boring things, to offensive things.

Two years ago, a priest went to Argentina as a missionary. He was from the Diocese of Buenos Aires and he went to a diocese in the south, to an area where for years they had no priest, and evangelicals had arrived. He told me that he went to a woman who had been the teacher of the people and then the principle of the village school. This lady sat him down and began to insult him, not with bad words, but to insult him forcefully: “You abandoned us, we left us alone, and I, who  need of God's Word, had to go to Protestant worship and I became Protestant”. This young priest, who is meek, who is one who prays, when the woman finished her discourse, said: "Madam, just one word: forgiveness. Forgive us, forgive us. We abandoned the flock." And the tone of the woman changed. However, she remained Protestant and the priest did not go into the argument of which was the true religion. In that moment, you could not do this. In the end, the lady began to smile and said: “Father, would you like some coffee?” – “Yes, let’s have a coffee.” And when the priest was about to leave, she said: “Stop here, Father. Come.” And she led him into the bedroom, opened the closet and there was the image of Our Lady: “You should know that I never abandoned her. I hid her because of the pastor, but she’s in the home.” It is a story which teaches how proximity, meekness brought about this woman’s reconciliation with the Church, because she felt abandoned by the Church. And I asked a question that you should never ask: “And then, how things turn out? How did things finish?”. But the priest corrected me: “Oh, no, I did not ask anything: she continues to go to Protestant worship, but you can see that she is a woman who prays. She faces the Lord Jesus.” And it did not go beyond that. He did not invite her to return to the Catholic Church. …

 But, closeness also means dialogue; you must read in Ecclesiam Suam, the doctrine on dialogue, then repeated by other Popes. Dialogue is so important, but to dialogue two things are necessary: one's identity as a starting point and empathy toward others. If I am not sure of my identity and I go to dialogue, I end up swapping my faith. You cannot dialogue without starting from your own identity, and empathy, that is not condemning a priori. Every man, every woman has something of their own to give us; every man, every woman has their own story, their own situation and we have to listen to it. Then the prudence of the Holy Spirit will tell us how to respond. Starting from one’s own identity for dialogue, but dialogue is not to do apologetics, although sometimes you have to do it, when we are asked questions that require explanation. Dialogue is a human thing. It is hearts and souls that dialogue, and this is so important! Do not be afraid to dialogue with anyone. It was said of a saint, joking somewhat – I do not remember, I think it was St. Philip Neri, but I'm not sure – that he was also able to dialogue even with the devil. Why? Because he had the freedom to listen all people, but starting from his own identity. He was so sure, but to be sure of one’s identity does not mean proselytizing. Proselytism is a trap, which even Jesus condemns a bit, en passant, when he speaks to the Pharisees and the Sadducees: “You who go around the world to find a proselyte and then you remember that ...” But, it's a trap. And Pope Benedict has a beautiful expression. He said it in Aparecida but I believe he repeated elsewhere: “The Church grows not by proselytism, but by attraction.” And what's the attraction? It is this human empathy, which is then guided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what will be the profile of the priest of this century, which is so secularized? A man of creativity, who follows the commandment of God – “create things”; a man of transcendence, both with God in prayer and with the others always; a man who is approachable and who is close to people. To distance people is not priestly and people are fed up of this attitude, and yet it happens all the same. But he who welcomes people and is close to them and dialogues with them does so because he feels certain of his identity, which leads him to have an heart open to empathy. This is what comes to me to say to you in response to your question.

 The third paragraph opens a door. Fascinating.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Blog News!

[Update, 8/4/14: I will not be writing for the venture after all. I told Steve that since he wanted Catholics writing for it, I really didn't qualify any more. I wish the site the very best, however.]

I have been invited by the founder of OnePeterFive to contribute some content to this interesting new venture. As the placeholder page states:

We thought it was time to bring something new to the discussion. Catholic content aimed at weathering the storm facing the Church, restoring our understanding and sense of tradition, and rebuilding Catholic culture.
Catholics these days are facing tough challenges. From religious liberty to contraception to liturgy, we're faced with a lot of competing voices telling us what we should and shouldn't believe; what we should and shouldn't do. It's harder and harder to know what someone means when they say, "I'm Catholic."
Bishop Athanasius Schneider recently said that we've entered the "fourth great crisis in the Church." We're not going to get through it alone. We need to work together.
That's why we're here. We're looking forward to bringing you the best Catholic content on the web from some of the best and brightest Catholics commentators in the world today.

I've decided to focus on book reviews--but there's going to be content that runs the gamut, including about pop culture.

For those unfamiliar with the scriptural reference, here is 1 Pet. 5:1-11:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed.  Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly,  not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock.  And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.  Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.  Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.  Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.  To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

See you there!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Let's see if I have this straight...

"Eugenio Scalfari is such an unreliable interviewer with bad practices that we are issuing yet another statement affirming his essential accuracy after yet another interview with the Pope. Any questions?"

"Oh, and we're putting his first inept-but-accurate interview back on the official website. So there!"

If you're not at least chuckling at Fr. Lombardi's endless games of rhetorical Twister--check your pulse.

Corporate transitions are always tricky to navigate.

[Bumped for extra joy.]

Still and all, it always takes the wind out of your sails when the boss says "You overdid!"

At lunch I asked Pope Francis what his heart was for evangelism. He smiled, knowing what was behind my question. His comment was, “I’m not interested in converting Evangelicals to Catholicism. I want people to find Jesus in their own community.  There are so many doctrines we will never agree on. Let’s not spend our time on those. Rather, let’s be about showing the love of Jesus."

Ah, well. It's a one-off, right? Not like it's a pattern or anything?


"When he speaks about evangelization, the idea is to evangelize Christians or Catholics," to reach "higher dimensions of faith" and a deepened commitment to social justice, Skorka said. "This is the idea of evangelization that Bergoglio is stressing — not to evangelize Jews. This he told me, on several opportunities."

"Ok, but that involves Jews, and that's a sore point, I think you'd have to--"

 Bp Venables added that in a conversation with Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, the latter made it clear that he values the place of Anglicans in the Church universal.

"He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the Church needs us as Anglicans."

I suppose one could resort to the old standbys--he's playing Jedi mind tricks/reverse psychology games to get them to convert. Or the ever-green translation error argument, or the equally-popular "perhaps Rabbi Skorka and the Rev. Venables are deficient in Spanish or missed a colloquial nuance!" If you're feeling particularly feisty, the allegation that those who heard the Pope are filthy liars or otherwise besmirching the Pope's orthodoxy is another legitimate talking point.

Or I suppose you could just attack me for bringing it to your attention--also a popular approach

Pour encourager les autres!

To say this one didn't sting would be a lie. The unspoken corollary is that converts to Catholicism themselves are unnecessary: "Sure, if you wanna, for some reason, I guess. But really, dude--you're overdoing it. Just praise Jesus with that group you were born into. Sheesh!"

I dunno about you, but I don't think I need any more pep talks from HQ.


A stop-motion look at too much of Detroit.

The Detroit News chronicles the death of Garland Street over the past decade.

The heart breaks:

Click to enlarge.

An out-of-state friend of mine saw Google Earth pictures of Detroit and couldn't believe how much of it had been reclaimed by nature.

"Is Detroit really that bad?" he asked.

Not all of it, of course. Unfortunately, too many parts of it truly are, most of it located in a wide belt astride the city's midsection. There are numerous Garland Streets across Motown's 142 square miles--and no prospect that they will be repopulated any time soon.

If you're in the area, take the Chalmers Street exit (No. 222) off of I-94. Then take Hayes Street directly north. There are blocks upon blocks like Garland, former residential neighborhoods now reverting to forest. With the exception of Outer Drive, there aren't any stable zones until you get to around five blocks south of Eight Mile Road. 

What Detroit needs more than anything is people. And that's what she is losing by the literal truckload.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Too early for optimism.

I respect Jeff Culbreath and his analytical abilities, but I don't see where he's right that communion for the civilly-divorced and remarried is off the table.

The Instrumentum itself merely describes a multitude of responses without passing judgment on any of them:

Concerning the Reception of the Sacraments

93. In the matter of access to the sacraments, the responses describe various reactions among the faithful who are divorced and remarried. In Europe (and also in some countries in Latin America and Asia) the prevailing tendency among some of the clergy is to resolve the issue by simply complying with the request for access to the sacraments. Other members of the clergy, particularly in Europe and Latin America, respond to the matter in a variety of ways. At times, the faithful distance themselves from the Church or go to other Christian denominations. In some countries of Europe and some countries on the other continents, this solution is not sufficient for many people; they wish to be publically readmitted to the Church. The problem is not so much not being able to receive Communion but that the Church publically does not permit them to receive Communion. As a result, these believers then simply refuse to consider themselves in an irregular situation.

94. Some Church members in canonically irregular situations express a desire to be received and guided by the Church, especially when they attempt to understand the rationale of the Church’s teaching. These people recognize the possibility of living in their situation, while relying on God’s mercy through the Church. Still others, as indicated in the responses from some Euro-Atlantic episcopal conferences, accept the duty to live in continence (cf. FC, 84).

95. A good number of responses speak of the very many cases, especially in Europe, America and some countries in Africa, where persons clearly ask to receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. This happens primarily when their children receive the sacraments. At times, they express a desire to receive Communion to feel “legitimized” by the Church and to eliminate the sense of exclusion or marginalization. In this regard, some recommend considering the practice of some Orthodox Churches, which, in their opinion, opens the way for a second or third marriage of a penitential character. In light of this suggestion, countries having a major number of Orthodox Christians noted that, from their experience, this practice does not reduce the number of divorces. Others request clarification as to whether this solution is based on doctrine or is merely a matter of discipline. 

The Instrumentum notes at the beginning that it is merely a summary of the survey responses, and will guide the discussions. Of itself, it settles nothing--note that it does not condemn the practice of European clergy who give communion upon request. It also explicitly notes that some are seeking to clarify whether the bar against second marriages is merely a matter of discipline. A document addressing marriage that does not so much as mention the term "adultery" would seem to be incomplete by its own terms. 

So, the triumphalist interpretation is contradicted by the document itself. Notably absent are howls of protest from the usual suspects--e.g., the German episcopate--which would have resulted if the working instrument was some kind of game changer. The dog that didn't bark, and all that.

Bottom line: we will still have to wait and see.

The GOP Garbage Squad.

Nine awful human beings whose views are unworthy of the slightest respect. Especially after caterwauling about spending money on Ukraine, no...