By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Obstacles to the Renewal

I was reading an email the other day written by a very orthodox, religious order priest who recounted how, at one time, he used to be very, very strongly opposed to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. He has since come to understand and embrace the Renewal. Yet, it is interesting to dwell on the two factors that he self-identified as creating the initial barriers that he faced in welcoming the Renewal: 1.) his awareness of abuses by charismatics; and 2.) an over intellectual emphasis in his own spiritual life. He went on to note that he eventually realized that abuses do not destroy the value of something good, just as the religious life is not worthless simply because of real abuses in certain religious orders.

But, of most interest to me, was the admission that one barrier was an over intellectual emphasis in his own spiritual life. I think he put his finger on a real problem for many conservative, orthodox Catholics. Because of so much confusion and abuse in the past decades spawned by theological liberals, we naturally tended to focus excessively on a legalistic, abstract, doctrinal view of the faith so we could determine if we or others fit into the "obedient" or "faithful" category. Yes, such boundary issues are necessary and at times unavoidable in a very theologically illiterate world. Yet, the core of our faith is not a series of abstract doctrinal, intellectual propositions to which we give a mere intellectual assent. Rather, the core of our faith, as constantly reiterated in innumerable statements by Pope Benedict XVI, is the personal encounter with the love of Jesus. That personal encounter leads to personal (and even personality!) transformation. That personal encounter makes sense of all the doctrinal propositions in a way that mere intellectual brooding and analysis cannot. That personal encounter is the core of the Christian faith and is the key to understanding what the Renewal is all about: deepening and empowering through the Holy Spirit that continuing encounter with Jesus Christ, who is the measure of all things.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Historical Sense of Words

That sense is obviously very important in biblical interpretation, as noted by Oxford professor John Barton in his fine book The Nature of Biblical Criticism (WJK, 2007). He gives this amusing illustration from the novels of Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) to make his point concerning the importance of the historical sense of words:

Words are not constant in their meaning across time. To take a simple example, in the novels of Trollope we often find a female character saying that a male friend "made love to her the whole evening." It is crucial in understanding Trollope to realize that in his day this expression meant showing a romantic or sexual interest in someone, not having sexual intercourse with them. Otherwise we shall get a very distorted idea of what happened in Victorian drawing rooms.

Barton, p. 80.

What happened over time to the phrase "making love''? It seems to have been reduced to the merely physical; and there lies a tale of great woe, as we all know to some degree or another.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Article in Charismatic Catholic Answers

That's the associated web site where I keep my responses to anti-charismatic articles that people email me about from time to time. The new response is to an outdated 1971 article by the late Fr. John Hardon. Here is the link. Although very outdated, people apparently like to circulate this type of stuff on the web. Hence, a response was necessary.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Earnestly Desire the Spiritual Gifts

Here is divine revelation:

1 Corinthians 14:1 RSV (emphasis added): "Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy."

Yet, one of the most common hesitations of some Catholics toward the Catholic Charismatic Renewal--in spite of outrageously strong endorsements by Popes Paul VI, John Paul the Great, and now Benedict XVI (Benedict is breaking new ground in this area as shown by his recent letter to all priests unequivocally emphasizing the charismatic dimension)--is that to seek the gifts or charisms is to somehow act out of pride. Yet, how can that be a proper reaction given the divinely revealed injunction quoted above?

Vatican II teaches in Lumen Gentium 12 that we should not "rashly" seek extraordinary gifts (beware of bad translations that leave out the word "rashly" which is in the official Latin text; unfortunately, there is a bad English translation on the Vatican website, which some of us have sought to correct). So, of course, do not seek anything, much less the charisms, rashly or blindly or recklessly. And certainly do not seek them out of a desire to become the center of attention or to gain power or control over others or to revel in sensationalism for the sake of sensationalism. The purpose of the charisms is to build up the Church, a task accomplished solely out of agape or love. Paul makes that abundantly clear in his famous hymn to love or agape in 1 Corinthians 13, whose purpose is to teach us the way to exercise the charisms. How ironic that many who run away from the charisms also love to make use of 1 Corinthians 13. Well, that chapter was written to teach us how to exercise the charisms and thus assumes that we will seek them in the first place. Otherwise, Paul's chapter 13 makes no sense in the epistle.

Yet, some still persist in a fear of seeking the charisms as if, somehow, "seeking" is something that is a bit tawdry or intrinsically bad. This vague hesitation seems to persist in spite of Jesus' commanding and teaching us to seek so that we shall find (see Matt. 7:7; Luke 11:19).

Maybe, an analogy will help get our bearings straight. Since St. Pius X, Catholics have been encouraged to seek frequent Holy Communion. There is no greater gift to us than Jesus in the Eucharist. Yet, we are encouraged to seek this greatest of gifts frequently. If we can seek the greatest gift frequently, perfectly consistent with the best piety and devotion, why can we not also seek, consistent with the best piety and devotion, the lesser gifts called charisms?

Some will rightly point out that some have abused the charisms. But, as Catholic speaker Matthew Kelly says (my paraphrase), the abuse of a good does not diminish the good of a good. Likewise, the Eucharist is frequently abused in sacrilegious communions--do we then discourage all with a blanket appeal to avoid the Eucharist? Certainly not, because such a blanket call to avoid the Eucharist would simply play into the hands of Screwtape. Similarly, a blanket call to not seek the charisms would play into the hands of Screwtape by denying to the Church precisely the gifts that build her up. Instead, we should encourage proper and discerning preparation for the Eucharist and for the charisms. Ironically, the charism of discernment of spirits will aid us in such preparation of ourselves and of others for receiving these Catholic gifts.

In Catholic spiritual writings, we see the warning not to seek out the extraordinary, such as visions. But charisms are not visions per se, although the exercise of charisms may be accompanied by visions. As Catholic moralists do, let us define specifically the object of our intentional seeking before rendering a premature judgment on a specific activity. The object is to seek, in obedience to Scripture, the gifts that build up the Church, with or without the accompaniment of visions. It is up to the Lord to choose if such visions will be part of the exercise of a charism. Frankly, I can very well identify with the desire not to pursue or seek visions per se--I think I would find them a bit frightening, to say the least.

It makes no sense to refuse to seek the gifts that build up the Church out of a misplaced fear that we would thereby be acting pridefully. The very definition of a charism as a service to the Church objectively dispels the element of pride. If any pride is involved, then we have inserted it; such pride is not at all a necessary part of the seeking of the gifts commanded by Scripture. Recently, I heard Catholic evangelist Damian Stayne from England note that we should earnestly desire the spiritual gifts because the Lord earnestly desires to bestow them. That earnest desire to bestow them is abundantly clear in the Scriptures and in the history of the Church. The modern Catholic Charismatic Renewal since Vatican II confirms that desire to bestow them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The All Vernacular Mass is Licit and Fine

Recently, a reader was concerned that the Mass (Roman Rite) that he regularly attends in another country does not have any Latin in it. The question raises the issue of how to interpret the 1963 Vatican II document on the liturgy (named "Sacrosanctum Concilium"/"[This] Sacred Council"). The document is well worth writing a lengthy book about its contents, but that is not what I am going to do here in a blog post. I will go directly to the jugular: how do we interpret and apply the following often quoted section of the document? I have highlighted important parts of the documented quoted below, which comes from Chapter 1 of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.

4. Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned above.

Source link (all subsequent quotations from this Vatican II document are from this same source link).

Now, the document has many parts, and its many parts are written in different styles (or, to use the fancier word, "genres"). I submit that section 36 is written in a legal style or genre. In contrast, the first chapter of the document is written in an exhortatory style, more in keeping with the genre we all know as a sermon or homily (biblical scholars like to refer to this style as "paraclesis" from a Greek word meaning "encouragement''). We need to establish the genre of the passage we are seeking to understand before we begin quoting sentences out of context.

The structure and language of section 36 quoted above are, I submit, in a legal style or genre. This fact means that we must be very careful in understanding the structure of the passage and not just quote an isolated fragment. The structure of this typical legal passage is that of a general principle or rule followed by exceptions. It makes no sense at all to quote the general rule without considering the immediately following exceptions. In the legal genre, what is given in a general rule is often taken back in the exceptions. So, for example, it is misleading for someone to simply quote the phrase "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" in order to attack Masses which are celebrated entirely in the vernacular, without considering the immediately following exceptions. Yet, I think that in the past few decades, such quoting out of context without regard to genre has been quite frequent when this particular issue is discussed.

Take a close look at the exceptions after the general rule that the "use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites." The exceptions make clear that, in spite of the general rule, the appropriate church authorities, with approval of the Vatican, can extend the use of the vernacular. The document then cross-references section 22. 2 to identify the competent ecclesiastical authorities that can extend the use of the vernacular: "2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established."

Section 36 also cross-references "subsequent chapters" of the document as guides in extending the vernacular in the Mass. For example, in section 54 (from Chapter 2), we read:

54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.

[End of quotation]

As is typical of legal documents, we have cross-references to other sections. In Section 54, we see again that the extent of the use of the vernacular is not clearly demarcated or defined but is left to the competent ecclesiastical authorities. Some will quote the sentence reading "Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them," as defining or limiting the extent of the use of the vernacular in the Mass. That interpretation is not clear to me at all. I read the sentence about the faithful's being able to say or sing parts of the Ordinary in Latin as indicating that, where Latin is retained in the Ordinary, the people must be able to say or sing it. It is not enough to just introduce some vernacular while leaving the people uninstructed in the parts that may remain in Latin. My interpretation coincides with the overarching theme of the document, which is to encourage full and active participation of the laity in the liturgy (see Section 11, which I quote in part, which requires pastors "to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects."). I do not see any limit being placed here on the competent church authorities' ability to extend the vernacular to the entire Mass, but simply an emphasis on full and active participation by the people by means of instruction where Latin is used. In support of this interpretation, I direct your attention to the explicit contemplation of "a more extended use" of the vernacular in the last sentence of Section 54 quoted above.

Finally, in further confirmation of the legal genre with which we are dealing in these sections , we have another cross-reference--this time to Section 40 which contemplates "even more radical adaptation" of the liturgy "to the cultures and traditions of peoples" (for the sake of brevity, I will not quote all of Section 40; you can easily read it yourself by following the source link at the beginning of this post). (Alas, the cross-referencing reminds us of the ordeal of having to fill out our annual tax returns--tax returns and tax return instructions are also in the legal style or genre.)

In sum, the parts of Sacrosanctum Concilium dealing with the extent of the use of the vernacular in the Mass are written in a decidedly legal style or genre which requires reading the sections together and understanding that in the legal style of writing the exceptions that follow a general rule do matter greatly. Those exceptions to the initial general principle of preserving Latin have given us licit Masses entirely in the vernacular as authorized by the competent ecclesiastical authorities with the approval of the Vatican. There is thus nothing illicit at all about celebrating Mass in the Roman Rite entirely in the vernacular. Such flexibility and discretion in extending the vernacular is, in my opinion, clearly contemplated by the legal language, genre, and cross-references in the text of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

Now, you and I normally do not write that way; but, understandably, a Church council legislating for the universal Church did. It is a serious mistake to miss the difference that the legal genre makes in quoting pieces of legislation out of their legal context. Let me end with a quotation from the much more recent General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002), which comments on the use of the vernacular in the Mass in Section 12:

Since no Catholic would now deny the lawfulness and efficacy of a sacred rite celebrated in Latin, the [Second Vatican] Council was also able to grant that “the use of the vernacular language may frequently be of great advantage to the people” [quoting Section 36 of Sacrosanctum Concilium] and gave the faculty for its use. The enthusiasm in response to this measure has been so great everywhere that it has led, under the leadership of the Bishops and the Apostolic See itself, to permission for all liturgical celebrations in which the people participate to be in the vernacular, for the sake of a better comprehension of the mystery being celebrated.

Source link (Section 12; PDF document; emphasis added).

Some will still opine that the exceptions should not swallow the initial general rule because they favor the initial general rule of preserving Latin in the Roman Rite. My response is that the exceptions granted a wide discretion, subject to Vatican approval, and did not obligate anyone to make the vernacular so extensive. The argument about the extent of the vernacular in the Mass has to take place at another level--the level of friendly persuasion as to how to best exercise the licit discretion granted by Rome, not at the level of denying the legal reality of that extensive licit discretion. No one defied the Council Fathers in extending the vernacular to the entire Mass; the discretion granted by the Council Fathers was licitly used. Personally, I favor some Latin in the ordinary parts of the renewed post-Vatican II liturgy, as done in my charismatic parish; but I am also fully comfortable attending Masses in which there is no Latin at all. We have bigger fish to fry.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jesus Is Alive

Over the weekend, I attended a conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville, the Catholic charismatic university that, in my opinion and in the opinion of many others, is the leading orthodox Catholic university in North America, a university that has been and continues to be an engine for the authentic and profound renewal in the power of the Holy Spirit of the Catholic Church in the United States. The conference was a ''charisms school" in which well over 1,000 people from all over the United States, Canada, and even someone from Ireland attended, many of whom learned to exercise and did exercise the charism of word of knowledge (defined as communicating a meaningful word from the Lord addressing the factual situation of another person without prior, personal knowledge of that situation) and even the charism of healing.

At one point, the entire group renounced the capital sins and other vices (after renewing our Baptismal vows). Apparently, some in the group were released from demonic influence (we were instructed to close our eyes during the prayer of deliverance and renunciation of sins to respect the privacy, reputation, and dignity of others during this time of spiritual liberation). On Saturday night, there was a healing service in which many reported restoration of their hearing and of movement in their hands. I saw the lame run, walk, and even dance. It was an event full of joy and power and gratitude.

Yes, it was an extraordinary weekend. All of the talks and the prayers for deliverance and healing were led by an Englishman, Damian Stayne, who, in 1990, founded the Catholic charismatic community called Cor et Lumen Christi ("The Heart and Light of Christ"). Examine their website at this link. They also recently held the same "charisms school" in the Baltimore area and are now on their way to hold a similar one in the Phoenix/Tempe, Arizona, area and also in San Diego in the coming weeks. Here is the link for information on these upcoming events (scroll down to the lower right hand side of the website). Based on my firsthand experience, I highly recommend any of my readers near or even distant from Phoenix and San Diego to attend in the coming weeks. The dates and details for the Phoenix and San Diego events are at the above link. In addition to the great manifestation of the power of the living Jesus, which is what is absolutely central and most significant, the speaker, Damian Stayne, also happens to be an intelligent, insightful, likeable, and witty speaker of great spiritual depth with his own powerful story of conversion. (Here is the link to a very recent article by Mr. Stayne in a Catholic charismatic website from Britain; the link was sent to me by a friend.) Yes, Jesus is alive!

P.S. At Steubenville, the healing service during the conference was an open, public event which anyone in the area was able to attend, free of charge. I assume the same situation will prevail for the healing services in Phoenix and San Diego. There is also prayer for healing during the service for your friends and relatives who are geographically distant from the conference sites.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Parish Cell System: Evangelize the "Oikos"

I attended last night for the first time a meeting of a local "parish cell." The parish cell system is a system for reevangelizing Catholic parishes in which Catholics gather in small groups in private homes to praise God in music, to thank God for favors and blessings, to intercede in prayer for each other, and to engage in lectio divina, in which the very same Scripture passage is read aloud several times. The Scripture readings are interspersed with times of silence that allow people to listen to the message that the Lord is giving them. People then volunteer to share any insights that struck them while listening to the same short Scripture passage. In this particular group, the group also listened to an insightful and encouraging recorded message from one of the parish priests.

The cell system not only reevangelizes those who participate but is geared to encouraging the participants to evangelize the people with whom they have contact and relationships in daily life. The circle of people or social network that we all have with family, friends, and, yes, strangers in our daily routines is termed the "oikos," a Greek word meaning household. The idea is to evangelize those already in our own personal "oikos," a social network that many of us forget to evangelize and may tend to overlook altogether.

For more information on this intriguing system of parish renewal and evangelization, see this prior Catholic Analysis post.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Anglican Bishop Tom Wright: It's Schism

The highly regarded biblical scholar (who is also an Anglican Bishop in England) has taken a firm stand in which he labels the latest action by the U.S. Episcopal Church as plain schism from the worldwide Anglican Communion over the issue of ordaining "gay" bishops. Here is an excerpt:

Many in TEC ["The Episcopal Church"] have long embraced a theology in which chastity, as universally understood by the wider Christian tradition, has been optional.

That wider tradition always was counter-cultural as well as counter-intuitive. Our supposedly selfish genes crave a variety of sexual possibilities. But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse. This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).

Paganism ancient and modern has always found this ethic, and this belief, ridiculous and incredible. But the biblical witness is scarcely confined, as the shrill leader in yesterday’s Times suggests, to a few verses in St Paul. Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy. This isn’t a matter of “private response to Scripture” but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition.

Source link.

Thanks for this link goes to our Rhode Island friend.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Take A Virtual Tour of Peter's Burial Place

Here is this gem of a virtual tour from the Vatican website at this link. Enjoy. The more I talk to people I see again the divine wisdom in providing the Petrine ministry of unity in teaching so that we are not carried away by every trend or fad that strikes a bored, restless, and often obtuse world.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Eucharistic Offering to the Father

(If your browser does not display the graphic that should be visible above, please go to this link to see the illustration that accompanies this post.)

The above illustrates (pardon some of the shaky lines!) the offering of the Eucharist by the ordained priest at the sacrifice of the Mass. In the Ad orientem posture (usually, but not exclusively, seen in the Extraordinary Form/"Tridentine" Mass), we see the priest offering the Eucharistic Jesus toward the Crucifix. In the Christus Versus Populum ("Christ toward the people") posture, we see the crucifix looming behind the priest who stand in the place of Christ ( in persona Christi) as the priest offers the Eucharist to the Father.

In my view, the Christus Versus Populum posture seems to capture better the drama of the ordained priest standing in the place of Christ and offering to the Father. In constrast, the Ad orientem view seems to signify that the offering is being made to Christ on the crucifix. Judge for yourself. If you imagine the corpus (the representation of the body of Christ) on the crucifix, I submit that one notes how powerful the Christus Versus Populum posture is: Jesus on the crucifix with outstretched arms looms behind the ordained priest standing in the place of Jesus as the ordained priest offers the Eucharist to the Father. In my personal opinion, this symbolic richness is a plus in favor of the Christus Versus Populum posture, especially if a large crucifix looms behind the priest or hangs above the priest (as you will see in some churches).

Friday, July 10, 2009

Section by Section: The New Social Encyclical

I will calmly examine the Pope's new social encyclical Caritas in veritate ("Love or charity in truth"), section by section. In this way, we can focus on a slow reading of the text itself instead of getting caught up precipitously in comparing punditry from various sources. The text of the encyclical's introduction follows with my own bold textual emphases and comments in black:


1. Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity. Love — caritas — is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth. Each person finds his good by adherence to God's plan for him, in order to realize it fully: in this plan, he finds his truth, and through adherence to this truth he becomes free (cf. Jn 8:22). To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity. Charity, in fact, “rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). All people feel the interior impulse to love authentically: love and truth never abandon them completely, because these are the vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person. The search for love and truth is purified and liberated by Jesus Christ from the impoverishment that our humanity brings to it, and he reveals to us in all its fullness the initiative of love and the plan for true life that God has prepared for us. In Christ, charity in truth becomes the Face of his Person, a vocation for us to love our brothers and sisters in the truth of his plan. Indeed, he himself is the Truth (cf. Jn 14:6).

2. Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine. Every responsibility and every commitment spelt out by that doctrine is derived from charity which, according to the teaching of Jesus, is the synthesis of the entire Law (cf. Mt 22:36- 40). It gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbour; it is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones). For the Church, instructed by the Gospel, charity is everything because, as Saint John teaches (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16) and as I recalled in my first Encyclical Letter, “God is love” (Deus Caritas Est): everything has its origin in God's love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is God's greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope.

I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued. In the social, juridical, cultural, political and economic fields — the contexts, in other words, that are most exposed to this danger — it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility. Hence the need to link charity with truth not only in the sequence, pointed out by Saint Paul, of veritas in caritate (Eph 4:15), but also in the inverse and complementary sequence of caritas in veritate. Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practised in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living. This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence.

3. Through this close link with truth, charity can be recognized as an authentic expression of humanity and as an element of fundamental importance in human relations, including those of a public nature. Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. 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. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite. Truth frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content, and of a fideism that deprives it of human and universal breathing-space. In the truth, charity reflects the personal yet public dimension of faith in the God of the Bible, who is both Agápe and Lógos: Charity and Truth, Love and Word.

4. Because it is filled with truth, charity can be understood in the abundance of its values, it can be shared and communicated. Truth, in fact, is lógos which creates diá-logos, and hence communication and communion. Truth, by enabling men and women to let go of their subjective opinions and impressions, allows them to move beyond cultural and historical limitations and to come together in the assessment of the value and substance of things. Truth opens and unites our minds in the lógos of love: this is the Christian proclamation and testimony of charity. In the present social and cultural context, where there is a widespread tendency to relativize truth, practising charity in truth helps people to understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development. A Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance. [I like to call this phenonomenon the reduction of Christianity to just another "Peace Corps."] In other words, there would no longer be any real place for God in the world. Without truth, charity is confined to a narrow field devoid of relations. It is excluded from the plans and processes of promoting human development of universal range, in dialogue between knowledge and praxis.

5. Charity is love received and given. It is “grace” (cháris). Its source is the wellspring of the Father's love for the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Love comes down to us from the Son. It is creative love, through which we have our being; it is redemptive love, through which we are recreated. Love is revealed and made present by Christ (cf. Jn 13:1) and “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5). [Here is the charismatic dimension that is unavoidable in all complete Christian proclamation.] As the objects of God's love, men and women become subjects of charity, they are called to make themselves instruments of grace, so as to pour forth God's charity and to weave networks of charity.

This dynamic of charity received and given is what gives rise to the Church's social teaching, which is caritas in veritate in re sociali: the proclamation of the truth of Christ's love in society. This doctrine is a service to charity, but its locus is truth. Truth preserves and expresses charity's power to liberate in the ever-changing events of history. It is at the same time the truth of faith and of reason, both in the distinction and also in the convergence of those two cognitive fields. Development, social well-being, the search for a satisfactory solution to the grave socio-economic problems besetting humanity, all need this truth. What they need even more is that this truth should be loved and demonstrated. Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalized society at difficult times like the present.

6.Caritas in veritate” is the principle around which the Church's social doctrine turns, a principle that takes on practical form in the criteria that govern moral action. I would like to consider two of these in particular, of special relevance to the commitment to development in an increasingly globalized society: justice and the common good.

First of all, justice. Ubi societas, ibi ius: every society draws up its own system of justice. Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is “mine” to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is “his”, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them. Not only is justice not extraneous to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel path to charity: justice is inseparable from charity[1], and intrinsic to it. Justice is the primary way of charity or, in Paul VI's words, “the minimum measure” of it[2], an integral part of the love “in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18), to which Saint John exhorts us. On the one hand, charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples. It strives to build the earthly city according to law and justice. On the other hand, charity transcends justice and completes it in the logic of giving and forgiving[3]. The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God's love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world.

7. Another important consideration is the common good. To love someone is to desire that person's good and to take effective steps to secure it. Besides the good of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good. It is the good of “all of us”, made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society[4]. It is a good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it. To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity. To take a stand for the common good is on the one hand to be solicitous for, and on the other hand to avail oneself of, that complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally, making it the pólis, or “city”. The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practise this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis. This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbour directly, outside the institutional mediation of the pólis. When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have. Like all commitment to justice, it has a place within the testimony of divine charity that paves the way for eternity through temporal action. Man's earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family. In an increasingly globalized society, the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations[5], in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God.

8. In 1967, when he issued the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, my venerable predecessor Pope Paul VI illuminated the great theme of the development of peoples with the splendour of truth and the gentle light of Christ's charity. He taught that life in Christ is the first and principal factor of development[6] and he entrusted us with the task of travelling the path of development with all our heart and all our intelligence[7], that is to say with the ardour of charity and the wisdom of truth. It is the primordial truth of God's love, grace bestowed upon us, that opens our lives to gift and makes it possible to hope for a “development of the whole man and of all men”[8], to hope for progress “from less human conditions to those which are more human”[9], obtained by overcoming the difficulties that are inevitably encountered along the way.

At a distance of over forty years from the Encyclical's publication, I intend to pay tribute and to honour the memory of the great Pope Paul VI, revisiting his teachings on integral human development and taking my place within the path that they marked out, so as to apply them to the present moment. This continual application to contemporary circumstances began with the Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, with which the Servant of God Pope John Paul II chose to mark the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Populorum Progressio. Until that time, only Rerum Novarum had been commemorated in this way. Now that a further twenty years have passed, I express my conviction that Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered “the Rerum Novarum of the present age”, shedding light upon humanity's journey towards unity.

[These words are an enthusiastic tribute to Pope Paul VI. How ironic that you sometimes hear those who consider themselves quite orthodox take potshots at Paul VI.]

9. Love in truth — caritas in veritate — is a great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized. The risk for our time is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development. Only in charity, illumined by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value. The sharing of goods and resources, from which authentic development proceeds, is not guaranteed by merely technical progress and relationships of utility, but by the potential of love that overcomes evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), opening up the path towards reciprocity of consciences and liberties.

The Church does not have technical solutions to offer[10] and does not claim “to interfere in any way in the politics of States.”[11] She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation. Without truth, it is easy to fall into an empiricist and sceptical view of life, incapable of rising to the level of praxis because of a lack of interest in grasping the values — sometimes even the meanings — with which to judge and direct it. Fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom (cf. Jn 8:32) and of the possibility of integral human development. For this reason the Church searches for truth, proclaims it tirelessly and recognizes it wherever it is manifested. This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce. Her social doctrine is a particular dimension of this proclamation: it is a service to the truth which sets us free. Open to the truth, from whichever branch of knowledge it comes, the Church's social doctrine receives it, assembles into a unity the fragments in which it is often found, and mediates it within the constantly changing life-patterns of the society of peoples and nations[12].

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pope Cleans Up After Bishop Williamson Fiasco

Here is the link to analysis by John Allen. If you care to painfully recall the matter, the "Bishop Williamson Fiasco" involved the strange schismatic bishop who denied the obvious, murderous extent of the Holocaust (and apparently still denies the plain facts since he seems to still be trying to figure it all out to his personal satisfaction) . Benedict XVI has moved beyond all of that to ensure no repetition of that painfully low moment in Vatican affairs.

New Social Encyclical


VATICAN CITY, 7 JUL 2009 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present Benedict XVI's new Encyclical "Caritas in veritate". Participating in the event were Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"; Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, recently appointed as bishop of Trieste, Italy, and Stefano Zamagni, professor of political economy at the University of Bologna, Italy and consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

In his remarks Cardinal Martini spoke of the need for a new social Encyclical twenty years after John Paul II's "Centesimus Annus" of 1991, and dedicated some attention to changes that have taken place over the last two decades.

"The political ideologies that characterised the period prior to 1989 seem to have lost their virulence, but have been replaced by the new ideology of technology", he said. "Various aspects of globalisation have been accentuated, due on the one hand to the fact that there are no longer two opposing power blocs and, on the other, to the worldwide computer network. ... Religions have returned to the centre of the world stage. ... Certain large countries have emerged from a situation of backwardness, notably changing the world geopolitical balance. ... The problem of international governance remains vital".

These "great novelties ... would be enough by themselves to motivate the writing of a new social Encyclical", said the cardinal, "yet there is another reason: ... 'Caritas in veritate' was conceived by the Holy Father as a commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of Paul VI's 'Populorum Progressio'" although the theme of this new Encyclical "is not the 'development of peoples', but 'integral human development'. ... We could say, then, that the perspective of 'Populorum Progressio' has been broadened".

"'Caritas in veritate' clearly shows not only that the pontificate of Paul VI was no 'backward step' for Church social doctrine, as has unfortunately often been said, but that that Pope made a significant contribution to forming a view of the social doctrine of the Church in the wake of 'Gaudium et spes' and earlier tradition, and provided the foundation upon which John Paul II could then build".

For his part, Archbishop Crepaldi spoke of various new topics dealt with in this Encyclical. "For the first time the two fundamental rights: to life and to religious freedom", he said, "are given explicit and extensive space in a social Encyclical. ... They are", he went on, "organically linked to the question of development. ... In 'Caritas in veritate' the so-called 'anthropological question' becomes to all intents and purposes a 'social question'".

Another two themes contained in the Encyclical are: the environment - in which nature is seen not as a "deposit of natural resources" but as "created word" entrusted to the human beings "for the good of everyone" - and technology - "the first time an Encyclical deals with this theme so fully". And the archbishop went on: "The continuous reference to Truth and Love infuses 'Caritas in veritate' with great freedom of thought which cuts through all the ideologies that unfortunately still weigh upon the question of development".

Cardinal Cordes explained how, "if the Pope's first Encyclical 'Deus caritas est' on the theology of charity contained certain indications on social doctrine, we now find ourselves with a text entirely dedicate to this subject".

After highlighting how "the social doctrine of the Church is an element of evangelisation", the cardinal warned against reading it "outside the context of the Gospel and its announcement", because doctrine "is born and must be interpreted in the light of the revelation".

The president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" explained that "the heart of social doctrine is always mankind", and he went on: "The anthropological question requires us to respond to a central question: what kind of man do we wish to promote?. ... Can a civilisation survive without fundamental points of reference, without looking to eternity, denying mankind an answer to his most profound questions? Can there be true development without God?"

Referring finally to the concept of progress, the cardinal highlighted the fact that the Encyclical, "apart from unifying the two dimensions [of human promotion and announcement of the faith], introduces a further element into the concept of progress, that of hope", to which the Pope dedicated his second Encyclical "Spe salvi".

Professor Zamagni pointed out that the Encyclical is favourable "to the concept of the market typical of the civil economy, according to which it possible to experience human coexistence within a normal economic framework, and not outside or on the margins thereof".

"There are", he explained, "three structural factors to the current crisis. The first concerns the radical change in the relationship between finance and the production of goods and services that has become consolidated over the last thirty years. ... The second factor is the spread, at the level of popular culture, of the ethos of efficiency as the ultimate criterion with which to judge and justify economic matters. ... The third cause is connected to the specificity of the cultural environment that has become consolidated over recent decades on the crest, on the one hand, of globalisation and, on the other, of the advent of the third industrial revolution, that of information technology".



VATICAN CITY, 7 JUL 2009 (VIS) - Given below is a summary of Benedict XVI's new Encyclical "Caritas in veritate" (Charity in Truth) on integral human development in charity and truth.

The Encyclical published today - which comprehends an introduction, six chapters and a conclusion - is dated 29 June 2009, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles.

A summary of the Encyclical released by the Holy See Press Office explains that in his introduction the Pope recalls how "charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine". Yet, given the risk of its being "misinterpreted and detached from ethical living", he warns how "a Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance".

The Holy Father makes it clear that development has need of truth. In this context he dwells on two "criteria that govern moral action": justice and the common good. All Christians are called to charity, also by the "institutional path" which affects the life of the "polis", that is, of social coexistence.

The first chapter of the Encyclical focuses on the message of Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio" which "underlined the indispensable importance of the Gospel for building a society according to freedom and justice. ... The Christian faith does not rely on privilege or positions of power, ... but only on Christ". Paul VI "pointed out that the causes of underdevelopment are not primarily of the material order". They lie above all in the will, in the mind and, even more so, in "the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples".

"Human Development in Our Time" is the theme of the second chapter. If profit, the Pope writes, "becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty". In this context he enumerates certain "malfunctions" of development: financial dealings that are "largely speculative", migratory flows "often provoked by some particular circumstance and then given insufficient attention", and "the unregulated exploitation of the earth's resources". In the face of these interconnected problems, the Pope calls for "a new humanistic synthesis", noting how "development today has many overlapping layers: ... The world's wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase", and new forms of poverty are coming into being.

At a cultural level, the Encyclical proceeds, the possibilities for interaction open new prospects for dialogue, but a twofold danger exists: a "cultural eclecticism" in which cultures are viewed as "substantially equivalent", and the opposing danger of "cultural levelling and indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and lifestyles". In this context Pope Benedict also mentions the scandal of hunger and express his hope for "equitable agrarian reform in developing countries".

The Pontiff also dwells on the question of respect for life, "which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples", affirming that "when a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good".

Another question associated with development is that of the right to religious freedom. "Violence", writes the Pope, "puts the brakes on authentic development", and "this applies especially to terrorism motivated by fundamentalism".

Chapter three of the Encyclical - "Fraternity, Economic Development and Civil Society" - opens with a passage praising the "experience of gift", often insufficiently recognised "because of a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life". Yet development, "if it is to be authentically human, needs to make room for the principle of gratuitousness". As for the logic of the market, it "needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility".

Referring to "Centesimus Annus", this Encyclical highlights the "need for a system with three subjects: the market, the State and civil society" and encourages a "civilising of the economy". It highlights the importance of "economic forms based on solidarity" and indicates how "both market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift".

The chapter closes with a fresh evaluation of the phenomenon of globalisation, which must not be seen just as a "socio-economic process". Globalisation needs "to promote a person-based and community-oriented cultural process of world-wide integration that is open to transcendence" and able to correct its own malfunctions.

The fourth chapter of the Encyclical focuses on the theme: "The Development of People. Rights and Duties. The Environment". Governments and international organisations, says the Pope, cannot "lose sight of the objectivity and 'inviolability' of rights". In this context he also dedicates attention to "the problems associated with population growth".

He reaffirms that sexuality "cannot be reduced merely to pleasure or entertainment". States, he says, "are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family".

"The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly", the Holy Father goes on, and "not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred". This centrality of the human person must also be the guiding principle in "development programmes" and in international co-operation. "International organisations", he suggests, "might question the actual effectiveness of their bureaucratic and administrative machinery, which is often excessively costly".

The Holy Father also turns his attention to the energy problem, noting how "the fact that some States, power groups and companies hoard non-renewable energy resources represents a grave obstacle to development in poor countries. ... Technologically advanced societies can and must lower their domestic energy consumption", he says, at the same time encouraging "research into alternative forms of energy".

"The Co-operation of the Human Family" is the title and focus of chapter five, in which Pope Benedict highlights how "the development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family". Hence Christianity and other religions "can offer their contribution to development only if God has a place in the public realm".

The Pope also makes reference to the principle of subsidiarity, which assists the human person "via the autonomy of intermediate bodies". Subsidiarity, he explains, "is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state" and is "particularly well-suited to managing globalisation and directing it towards authentic human development".

Benedict XVI calls upon rich States "to allocate larger portions of their gross domestic product to development aid", thus respecting their obligations. He also express a hope for wider access to education and, even more so, for "complete formation of the person", affirming that yielding to relativism makes everyone poorer. One example of this, he writes, is that of the perverse phenomenon of sexual tourism. "It is sad to note that this activity often takes place with the support of local governments", he says.

The Pope then goes on to consider the "epoch-making" question of migration. "Every migrant", he says, "is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance".

The Pontiff dedicates the final paragraph of this chapter to the "strongly felt need" for a reform of the United Nations and of "economic institutions and international finance. ... There is", he says, "urgent need of a true world political authority" with "effective power".

The sixth and final chapter is entitled "The Development of Peoples and Technology". In it the Holy Father warns against the "Promethean presumption" of humanity thinking "it can re-create itself through the 'wonders' of technology". Technology, he says, cannot have "absolute freedom".

"A particularly crucial battleground in today's cultural struggle between the supremacy of technology and human moral responsibility is the field of bioethics", says Benedict XVI, and he adds: "Reason without faith is doomed to flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence". The social question has, he says, become an anthropological question. Research on embryos and cloning is "being promoted in today's highly disillusioned culture which believes it has mastered every mystery". The Pope likewise expresses his concern over a possible "systematic eugenic programming of births".

In the conclusion to his Encyclical Benedict XVI highlights how "development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer", just as it needs "love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace".

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pope's New Social Encyclical is Out

Here is the N.Y. Times link (thanks to the Rhode Island reader for a reminder about this story). Here is the text link from the Vatican website.

Some Interesting Words from the Holy Language

Sorry, the holy language referred to in this post is not Latin, but rather Hebrew. Even a simple review of some Hebrew vocabulary cannot help but light up connections for a Christian and especially a Catholic. Here are some examples.

The Hebrew word for "affliction" is "ani" (pronounced with the stress on the last syllable). When that same word is slightly changed, it can become an adjective that also means "humble." How interesting that the afflicted are in fact the humble. Think of the Magnificat and the Beatitudes. In the Magnificat, the afflicted or the hungry are the ones filled with good things--as many have pointed out, those who are empty are the ones ready to receive. Those who are full of things and of themselves have rendered themselves incapable of receiving; they have posted a "no vacancy" sign. Here are Mary's words from Luke 1:53 (RSV): "he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away." So, if He sends the rich away empty, why is most of the world obsessed with becoming rich? In our American culture, parents look on, for example, with utter indifference as their daughters lose their virginity and virtue well before marriage is even a viable alternative, but "freak out" if those same daughters damage their future career success in any way. And we wonder why so many of us, both male and female, end up so empty. At several points, the Beatitudes certainly point to the humble afflicted who will be satisfied. Here is one such example: Matthew 5:4 (RSV) "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. " Luke adds a bit more force to the same beatitude in Luke 6:21b (RSV) "Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh " (emphasis added). Adonai (Hebrew for "Lord" or, more precisely, "my Lord") promises that we will not just be comforted but that we will even laugh.

The Hebrew word "mishkan" meaning "tabernacle" is especially resonant for Catholics. A variation on the same root gives us the word for "neighbor." The Eucharistic Jesus in the tabernacle in your local church has become your "neighbor." The verb form of the same root means "to dwell." Your neighbor is one who dwells near you. For Catholics, Jesus dwells very near to us as a neighbor in the tabernacle that is found in every Catholic Church. So, when we say "love your neighbor," don't exclude Jesus himself.

These are echoes and resonances in words from the holy language. There are many more to discover and savor.

Back to Regular Blogging

The way has become clear to return to my usual pace of blogging, beginning today.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Last Minute Appeal for Funds for Mendicant Group


I received a telephone request today from Domus Rosa Mystica (that's a Catholic religious group in the Detroit area headed by Alejandro Torres) notifying me that they are in need of funds to take a group of about 7 people to the Vita Consecrata ("Consecrated Life") Institute at Christendom College in Virginia. It's a last minute appeal because the institute (apparently a series of courses on the religious life) begins on July 13th. Domus Rosa Mystica is a developing religious community in formation in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Further background information is available at their excellent website: .

If you feel so led and are able to contribute any amount, however small, the mailing address is:

Domus Rosa Mystica
2684 W. Newburg Rd.
Carleton, MI 48117.

Checks can be made out to "Domus Rosa Mystica." They are a mendicant group under the authority of the Archdiocese of Detroit and depending on God's providence for any funds.

(Carelton is about 40 minutes southeast of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, near the town of Flat Rock, Michigan.)

If you are in the area and ever wish to get in touch with them or visit them, contact them directly through the information on their website at this link. I understand that they are open to praying with people who so request if notified beforehand for an appointment. They are also open to invitations to speak to Catholic groups in the area. Their charism is especially focused on the deliverance of hardened sinners. They are also called to serve the spiritual needs of clergy and of people in religious life. They are also open to helping people in other situations.