Catholic clerics in Europe have been reporting that more Catholics have been attending Mass since Pope Francis became Pope. According to one survey, this has not been the case in America:
According to the survey, 22 percent of Americans identify themselves as Catholic — virtually unchanged from 2007 and the same as when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected the successor to the ailing Pope Benedict XVI in March. Similarly, weekly Mass attendance levels in the eight months of Francis’ young papacy have remained stable at 39 percent — a slight statistical decline from the 40 percent reported 2012, the last full year of Benedict’s papacy.
Francis’ global popularity and favorable media coverage have led some to search for the “Francis Effect,” with Catholic clergy members having noticed an increase in church attendance in Italy, Britain and other countries.
“So many are returning to the sacraments, in some cases after decades,” observed Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, the archbishop of Florence, Italy, in an interview with The London Guardian.
Pope Francis has thrilled some and unnerved others inside the church with his forthright statements on issues such as social justice for the poor, fair treatment of the disabled and personal humility, while downplaying many of the social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In a marked contrast with his predecessor, Francis has eschewed the luxurious papal residence, shown a popular touch while wading into large crowds and washed the feet of prisoners.
Sandro Magister has an interesting look at a theological paper that has been released by the Vatican, which was initiated at the request of Pope Benedict in 2008:
“Heresy” and “dogma.” The two words in the Church that almost no one dares to say anymore – all the more so in this season of “mercy” – suddenly came back to the forefront on January 16, in their full meaning and in the most official form, on the front page of “L’Osservatore Romano.”
“As far as the Christian faith is concerned, violence in the name of God is a heresy pure and simple”: this is what the editorial in the pope’s newspaper calls the “unmistakable thesis” of the document of the international theological commission made public that same day.
And vice versa: “Scrupulous respect for religious freedom stems from that which is most dogmatic in the idea of God that the Christian faith has to offer.”
The international theological commission, instituted after Vatican Council II, is an arm of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, is headed by its prefect, and is made up of thirty theologians of various nations, appointed by the pope “ad quinquennium.”
The document made public on January 16 was ordered by Benedict XVI in 2008, in the context of his dialogue with contemporary culture, in order to reopen within it a pathway toward God, the true God. It was crafted over five years by 10 members of the commission, including the Chinese Salesian Savio Tai Fai Hon, today the secretary of “Propaganda fide,” the Swiss Dominican Charles Morerod, today the bishop of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg, and the Italian Pierangelo Sequeri, a leading representative of the theological school of Milan.
For now the complete text of the document is available only in its Italian version – elegant and incisive as rarely happens with theological texts, thanks to the pen and the mind of Sequeri, even if here and there it is not easy to read – while in eight more languages an introductory summary is ready, with the complete translation still to come:
The title provides a glimpse of the document’s motivation: to fight the widespread idea that monotheism, faith in the one God, is synonymous with obscurantism and intolerance, is an indestructible seed of violence . And therefore is to be banned from civil society.
Jews, Muslims, Christians are the target of this typically relativistic theorem, which demonstrates that it intends to replace monotheism with a moderate “polytheism” deceptively presented as peaceful and tolerant.
Jews are charged with having faith in a vindictive God “of wrath and war,” that of the Old Testament, and this is imputed to them with a preconceived hostility that the document says is present “even in sophisticated culture” (one recent example of this theological anti-Judaism is provided in Italy by Eugenio Scalfari, the ultra-secularist “interviewer” of Pope Francis.
Held against the Muslims – with the reinforcement of the facts – is “the order of Muhammad to defend the faith by means of the sword,” as Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos had denounced in his dialogue with the Persian sage made known around the world by Benedict XVI in the Regensburg lecture of September 12, 2006. And it is curious that, on the same day as the release of the document of the thirty theologians, a 36-page document appeared on the Huffington Post written by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the destruction of the Twin Towers and a detainee at Guantanamo, which cites Benedict XVI in order to refute the idea that the Quran legitimizes the use of force as a means for religious conversion, and justifies the attack of September 11, 2001 as an exclusively political revolt of the oppressed against the oppressor:
But Christians are the main enemy to be overthrown, in present-day anti-religious polemics. And it is here that the document brings into play the concepts of heresy and dogma.
The mere thought – it affirms – that the Christian vision associates faith with violence is consummate heresy. While it is an irrevocable dogma that “the Son, in his love for the Father, draws violence upon himself, sparing friends and enemies, or rather all men,” and therefore, with his ignominious death confronted and overcome, “he annihilates in a single act the power of sin and the justification of violence.”
The document is rich with argumentation and effective both in its “pars destruens,” where it unveils the flimsiness of the modern condemnation of monotheism, and in its “pars construens,” where it highlights the Trinitarian nature of Christianity, which distinguishes it from the other forms of monotheism and is the basis of “the irrevocable seriousness of the Gospel interdict with regard to all contamination between religion and violence.”
The document is not silent about Christian concession to religious violence in history. But it urges the recognition of the present time as the “kairòs,” the decisive moment, of an “irreversible departure” of Christianity from such violence.
Fernando Sebastián Aguilar the archbishop emeritus of Pamplona y Tudela was recently named a cardinal by Pope Francis. He is now facing possible criminal prosecution for remarks that ran afoul of the gay thought police in Spain.
A Spanish prosecutor has agreed to investigate Cardinal-elect Fernando Sebastian Aguilar after a national homosexualist group launched a legal action against him last month, accusing him of hate speech for calling homosexuality a “defective way of expressing sexuality.”
Aguilar, recently named as a cardinal-elect by Pope Francis, told the Spanish newspaper Diario Sur January 20 that sex “has a structure and a purpose, which is procreation.”
“A homosexual who can’t achieve procreation is failing,” he said. “Our bodies have many defects. I have high blood pressure, a defect I have to try and correct in whatever way I can.”
Members of Colegas, the homosexual group behind the complaint, say that the Cardinal-elect’s words “clearly incit[e] hate and discrimination,” a crime that they say violates constitutional guarantees.
“Spain is a modern country and a secular one, and these types of declarations from the church have to be punished because [members of the church] are the least qualified to talk about sexual deficiencies, above all because they have hidden cases of child abuse and paedophilia,” Colegas president Antonio Ferre said after filing the complaint.
From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:
Geneva, Switzerland–New guidelines set down by the international community during the fifth Geneva Convention this week has extensively defined the basic, spiritual wartime rights of the Church Militant by outlawing all Marty Haugen music used in and around war-zones. What is officially being called The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Parishioners in Times of Spiritual War has become the fifth convention establishing the standards on international law for the humanitarian treatment of spiritual war. “Our new resolution states that all Catholics who are in the process of spiritual warfare are to be treated humanely,” Said General of the Counsel Robert Durant at a press conference earlier this morning. “The following acts are to be henceforth prohibited: Violence to life and person, in particular, cruel treatment and torture by means of being made to listen to Gather Us In. Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment such as asking parishioners to sing along to We Remember. And finally, all acts requiring parishioners to listen to said music during the reception of communion.”
The Vatican has indicated that Pope Francis will not view the film Philomena, which is a good thing because it is a lying, manipulative piece of anti-Catholic propaganda. Too harsh? Let Kyle Smith, the atheist ex-Catholic film reviewer for the New York Post, do the honors:
Pope Francis has declared that a world without nuns is unimaginable. Father Z supplies the commentary:
Pope Francis: a Church without nuns is “unimaginable”! [I think it is “imaginable”. We don’t see many recognizable sisters around. How long has it been since they have been present in significant numbers in our schools, hospitals, missions. No wait! They’re on buses! Platforms of the DNC!]
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday highlighted the great value that nuns bring to the Church. “What would happen” – the Pope said – “if there were no nuns? [Here we go!] No nuns in hospitals, in missions, in charitable institutions, in schools… Can you even imagine a Church without nuns…? No it is unthinkable!”. [What’s missing? Hierarchy. Holy Orders. Nope. Not there. Won’t be there… ehvurrrr.]
And speaking on the day in which we celebrate the World Day for Consecrated Life, the Pope said that nuns are great women. He said “they are a gift, the leaven that carries the message of Christ”. “These women – he said – are great!”
The Pope’s words came before the Sunday recitation of the Angelus in St Peter’s Square, after having presided over Mass in the Basilica on the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, a Feast which is traditionally dedicated to Consecrated Life.
To those gathered in the Square Pope Francis said that consecrated persons in different sectors are “the leaven of a more just and fraternal society”. [Nice phrase. I wonder if he has been reading materials from Acton Institute?] He said that “Consecrated Life is a gift of God to the Church and to His people”.
The Pope said that the Church and the world needs the witness of religious and consecrated lay people to the love and the mercy of God, and he asked for prayers so that many young people may say “yes” to God who calls them “to consecrate their lives to Him and to be of service to their brothers and sisters”.
Pope Francis recalled that the year 2015 will be dedicated to Consecrated Life and asked for prayers for this initiative. After the recitation of the Angelus Prayer, Pope Francis reminded those present that in Italy “The Day for Life” is celebrated today with the theme “Generating the Future”. He sent his greetings and encouragement to those committed to the defence of life from its conception to its natural end.
At this point I can’t help but think of one of the darlings of the LCWR type nuns in these USA, Sr. Donna Quinn, who was featured in my post Nuns Gone Wild!
Donna Quinn an advocate for legalized abortion. As late as 2009 she was engaged in escorting women to abortion clinics in the Chicago area so they could abort their babies safe from pro-life protesters. She is now a coordinator of the radically liberal National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN), which stands in opposition against the Catholic Church’s position on abortion, homosexuality, contraception, and the exclusively male priesthood. In a 2002 address to the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School, Quinn described how she came to view the teachings of her Church as “immoral”: “I used to say: ‘This is my Church, and I will work to change it, because I love it,’” she said. “Then later I said, ‘This church is immoral, and if I am to identify with it I’d better work to change it.’ More recently, I am saying, ‘All organized religions are immoral in their gender discriminations.’” Quinn called gender discrimination “the root cause of evil in the Church, and thus in the world,” and said she remained in the Dominican community simply for “the sisterhood.”
The Pope doesn’t want nuns as escorts at abortion clinics. He doesn’t want them in radical feminist causes. He doesn’t want them in the hierarchy.
Meanwhile, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the help of Archbps. Sartain and Blair, is still watching the LCWR.
PopeWatch finds the near universal applause that Pope Francis is currently receiving somewhat disturbing. If a Catholic cleric is doing his job, he is likely to receive just as many boos as cheers, if not more so. Case in point, the first Archbishop of New York, John Hughes, known universally to friend and foe alike as “Dagger John”. Go here, here, here and here to read prior posts about him. Dagger John was ever a champion of the Faith and his beloved Irish, both held in low esteem by many non-Catholic and non-Irish Americans. One story about Dagger John gives the essence of the man: After the anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia in 1844 he called on the mayor of New York, an anti-Catholic bigot, and informed him that if a single Catholic church were touched in New York, New York would be a second Moscow. (The reference was to the burning of Moscow in 1812 during Napoleon’s occupation of the city.) Not a Catholic church was touched. Russell Shaw at Our Sunday Visitor has a story in which he recalls an incident fifteen years after the death of Hughes:
But the thrill we’ve never known Is the thrill that’ll getcha when you get your picture On the cover of the Rollin’ Stone
Dr. Hook, The Cover of the Rollin’ Stone
Although it is only a pale shadow of the former influence it had in our culture, the fact that Pope Francis is on the cover of Rolling Stone does signify that he has become a hero for much of the cultural left. The story itself by Mark Binelli in the magazine is astonishingly wrong headed, even by the standard of the raw ignorance which most of the denizens of the media reveal whenever they seek to discuss Catholicism. A sample will suffice:
Matt Archbold at National Catholic Register, go here to read it, has a post where he imagines ten things that Obama might say to the Pope. Here is ten things that PopeWatch thinks the Pope might say to Obama:
10. Joe Biden, is he like that in private?
9. No, it is true, Buenos Aires is windier than Chicago.
8. Yes, I can perform an exorcism but I do not think it would help Nancy Pelosi.
7. Yes, I used to smoke also. No I did not have to hide it from my wife as I have never been married.
6. Yes, not being married is a job requirement.
5. Freedom of worship is not the same thing as freedom of religion.