Category Archives: Catholic Church

The Pope’s Comments in the Field Hospital

Some reports are that Pope Francis is calling the church to “pull back” from talking on the abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. In case you haven’t read them, below are the Pope’s comments in context (full interview, link below, is longer). I don’t take it as that, only that he’s talking about the manner of ministering. As the subsection of the article says and as the Pope said, the church today is a “field hospital” and people are the wounded – in a way far too gone for the immediate focus on morality. He’s not talking about NOT talking about these issues, but how to – to proclaim the message of salvation first, and THEN to teach morality/catechism. I don’t think he’s talking about political strategies – i.e., how strongly the church will respond and comment on social issues, but about pastoral ministry to people who are suffering the consequence of sin or are seeking. Then you focus on what “fascinates and attracts” – the person of Jesus, the spirituality. I agree on all of that – as long we’re talking pastoral ministry – people need to be converted spiritually before they are going to accept the morality. Mainly because they are too blind to the message by clouds of sin and hurt. On the social front as a whole the Church needs to be, and I hope will continue to be, outspoken and strong and clear. Of course the media will ignore that distinction. And giving this message in a public interview to a Jesuit magazine is not in my opinion the most media savvy or politically wise thing to do and guaranties there will be all sorts of misunderstandings and opportunities for people to exploit the comments and use them to silence pro-lifers/pro-family advocates. NARAL apparently did just that on their facebook page thanking the Pope. The next day after these comments were published Pope Francis came out with very prolife comments (see link below). The important thing is the results – promoting a culture of life. And only time, a long time, will tell.

The Church as Field Hospital

Pope Benedict XVI, in announcing his resignation, said that the contemporary world is subject to rapid change and is grappling with issues of great importance for the life of faith. Dealing with these issues requires strength of body and soul, Pope Benedict said. I ask Pope Francis: “What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?”

Pope Francis begins by showing great affection and immense respect for his predecessor: “Pope Benedict has done an act of holiness, greatness, humility. He is a man of God.

.“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.

“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.

“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”

I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?

“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

“This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

Full America Magazine Interview

The next day after these comments were published:

Pope condemns abortion in strongest pro-life comments to date, day after controversial interview

The Depopulation Implosion

I recently came across a talk (mp3) given for the Long Now foundation by Philip Longman. The thesis can be described as a summation of his book which is described in his bio as follows:

His other books include The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity And What to Do About It, published by Basic Books in 2004 and reissued in paperback in 2006. It examines how the rapid yet uneven fall in birth rates around the globe is affecting the balance of power between nations and influencing the global economy and culture.

He points out that large portions of the world suffer from a non-replacement rate population growth, with the United States being one of the few countries that are reproducing at a 2.1 child per couple rate (replacement being 2.1, the .1 being the extra 1/10 needed to make up for early death). He says that even in Muslim Iran, the reproduction rate is less than replacement As the population ages, there will be fewer workers, and a larger older non-producing population. In short, a disaster for the whole human race, maybe a fatal one. He does an excellent job laying out the problem and there’s an interesting question and answer period with one questioner asking the obvious that doesn’t this inevitably lead to euthanasia as a solution? He decries the fact that the “fundamentalists” are the only ones bucking the trend (by which he means Mormons – he apparently (and rightly so given the widespread disregard for the teaching on contraception) doesn’t consider Catholics a group that poses a threat to the trend)

I’ve heard this argument before but this guy is no conservative – he’s a liberal who’s not afraid of saying the emporer has no clothes. Once again the truth and wisdom of Humanae Vitae is shown. Give Mr. Longman a listen.

Catholicvote.org speaks out against the POTUS at Notre Dame

Dear CatholicVote.org Member,

Like many of you, we received the news last Friday that President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame this May.

In addition to delivering the address, the President will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. In short, one of our nation’s premier Catholic institutions will honor the President, and hold out him as an example to its students as someone worthy of emulation!

Given President Obama’s utterly shameful record on life, how could a Catholic university honor him?

The University could have politely and quietly told the White House that their standing invitation to the President of the United States was not available this year. Better yet, they could have said that while they would welcome his contributions to the public debate over how to solve our economic crisis, his regrettable policies in favor of a culture of death make it impossible for them to welcome him.

Notre Dame has regrettably hosted pro-abortion speakers in the past, but President Obama is a champion of the abortion cause.

Sadly, it is now indisputable that our President has become the world’s leading promoter of abortion, embryo-killing cloning and research, taxpayer-funded abortion, and a vigorous opponent of conscience protections for medical professionals. His campaign promises to find ‘common ground’ have sadly been ignored, or perhaps were simply lies. And this Administration has only just begun.

Is there anything a president could do that would disqualify him or her from delivering such a prestigious address?

If there is such a threshold, Barack Obama has not disqualified himself with Notre Dame officials.

And so we must act.

We have spoken with professors, students, and leaders at Notre Dame over the past 48 hours and have concluded that a massive protest will be practically difficult, and even counterproductive. The University has a right as a private school to prevent all protestors from entering campus, and could legally arrest those who violate this rule. Secondly, a protest could create exactly the wrong impression.

Therefore, we are recommending four courses of action.

1) CatholicVote.org has partnered with the Cardinal Newman Society, a dynamic organization dedicated to the renewal of Catholic higher education in establishing www.NotreDameScandal.com. Together our aim is to collect thousands of signatures and present them to University officials. Sign the petition now.

2) Contact Notre Dame and charitably express your outrage. CatholicVote.org is large enough to have a major impact, and we urge you to contact Notre Dame President Father Jenkins at (574) 631-5000.

3) Join your fellow CatholicVote.org members in a prayer of reparation on May 17 from 2-4 PM. We encourage you to organize local groups to pray for mercy for the decision by Notre Dame, but also for our nation for continuing to permit the tragedy of abortion.

***If you live in the Midwest, or near Notre Dame University, we invite you to personally join us in prayer at the Grotto on the campus of Notre Dame from 2-4 PM on May 17, where we will be joined by several Notre Dame professors, alumni, and current students. The gathering will be a peaceful and prayerful.

4) Please forward this message to your family and friends. Let them know about Notre Dame’s decision to honor the most pro-abortion President in American history. We must not remain silent over this scandal!

Sincerely,

Brian Burch, President
CatholicVote.org