It will be a Church with two thirds of the faithful in the southern hemisphere. With more Catholics in Manila than in Holland. With the West in a decline of faith. And with the United States at the center of the new geography by Sandro Magister Catholics were and remain one sixth of the global population. They were and remain half of all Christians. But in absolute numbers they have quadrupled. In 1910 they were 291 million. In 2010 1.1 billion. What is most arresting, however, is the geographical revolution. This has been presented by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in a recent survey:
The Global Catholic Population A century ago, 70 percent of Catholics lived in Europe and North America. Today just 32 percent, less than one third of the total. More than two thirds of Catholics today therefore live in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia and Oceania. In Latin America, they have grown in one century from 70 million to 425 million. In Asia and Oceania from 14 million to 131 million. The most astonishing increase has been in sub-Saharan Africa. Catholics were just 1 million in 1910. A hundred years later 171 million. In one century they have gone from less than one percent to 16 percent of the population.
The ranking of the countries with the largest number of Catholics has also been revolutionized. In 1910 the leaders of the pack were France and Italy, with 40 and 35 million Catholics respectively. Brazil followed with 21 million. There were more Catholics in Germany than in Mexico: 16 million versus 14 million. In 2010 Brazil jumped into the lead with 126 million Catholics, followed by Mexico with 96 million and the Philippines with 75 million. And for the first time one of the top ten was an African country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 31 million Catholics. Among the countries of Europe and North America, only the United States has seen over the past century a clear percentage increase of Catholics in the overall population. They were 14% in 1910, now they are 24%. In absolute numbers, with 75 million Catholics, the United States today is tied with the Philippines for third place in the general ranking.
In various countries of ancient Christian tradition, including those high in the rankings, Catholics no longer make up almost the whole of the population, as was the case a century ago. For example, in Brazil in 1910 Catholics were 95 percent of the population. Today 65 percent. This reduction has taken place above all in recent decades. In the United States as well, where changing from one religion to another is very common, Catholics have undergone an erosion over the past century. Those who have left the Church turn out to be more numerous than those who have entered. In compensation, however, a great number of immigrants to the United States, especially from Latin America, have come to increase the overall presence of Catholics. “Latinos” are today almost one third of Catholics in the United States and half of those under the age of 40. The United States is in short a focal point of the new dislocation of Catholics in the world. The cardinals who will enter into conclave tomorrow are aware of this.
In the new century - if not already - an “American” pope will no longer be a surprise.
Veni Creator Spiritus
It may seem astonishing that such a strong expansion of the Catholic Church should have taken place in a century like the twentieth, marked by anti-Christian persecutions and invaded by the secularist onslaught. But this paradox is not new. In the nineteenth century as well, the Catholic Church experienced formidable growth in mission territory, precisely while in Europe it was harshly opposed by the liberal and anti-clerical revolutions.
WHAT THE POPE CAN AND CANNOT DO.
Doctrine limits what the new pope can change.
As the world awaits a new pope, polls are taken, essays written and hopes expressed for what he might change. Priestly celibacy? Contraception? The working language of the Vatican Press Office?
The latter would be most feasible, but probably would likely involve a tough internal political battle for the new pontiff and his aides. There are theological and logistical limits on the changes he can make. He can't create new doctrine out of thin air.
"Popes are servants of the church's settled tradition, not the tradition's masters," said papal biographer George Weigel, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
Conclave: The making of a pope
This Catholic News Service video has cardinals explaining the conclave.
While the pope has authority to govern the church, he must answer to its doctrine as a president answers to the Constitution, said Edward Peters, canon law professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
"There are an awful lot of things he's in charge of, but he's not free to change a doctrine of the church or to alter the fundamental structure of things like the papacy," he said.
Some changes that laity say they want from a new pope may involve media-based misconceptions. A 2012 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found that 60 percent of American Catholics want the church's public policy statements to focus more on the obligation to help the poor, even if that means speaking less about abortion.
However, regular reading of the Vatican's daily bulletin shows a church that cumulatively speaks far more often on hunger, poverty, violence, human rights, immigration, the environment and even traffic safety than it does against abortion. But usually only the statements on abortion grab headlines.
The easiest things for a pope to change involve how the Vatican gets its work done. Theologians from the left and the right, along with many bishops, have called for a bureaucratic overhaul.
"Conservatives ... want an efficient Curia that speaks with one voice in implementing their policies," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit political scientist from Georgetown University who studies the hierarchy. "Liberals want more decentralization. One liberal said to me, 'The last thing we want is an efficient Vatican bureaucracy. An efficient Inquisition?' "
Father Reese and Mr. Weigel, who have clashing hopes for the church's future, both want to see heads of Vatican offices chosen for their expertise and removed for ineptitude. Father Reese, who wants local bishops to have more freedom, argues that top Vatican administrators should no longer be made bishops or cardinals, so they can be removed more easily if they do a bad job.
Mr. Weigel, a conservative on matters of economics and foreign policy, takes issue with some statements on social policy that have issued from Vatican offices. He wants the lower level offices, such as the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to cease making public statements and serve only as advisory think tanks.
But both want the Vatican to issue statements in English and Spanish as soon as they are available in Italian, and to vastly improve its crisis response. Some high-ranking Vatican officials allowed devastating sex scandals to fester.
"Nothing happened when these crises broke, thus underscoring the importance of a deep reform of the culture of the Roman curia and its habits of work," Mr. Weigel wrote in his latest book, "Evangelical Catholicism."
Limited authority on theology
But to most Catholics, administrative concerns are inside baseball. Their focus is on theological issues, which the pope has limited authority to change.
Contrary to popular opinion, infallible statements by popes are extremely rare, but many that carry lesser authority still can't be easily revised. Most doctrines that the church deems infallible, such as physical resurrection of Jesus, are rooted in Scripture and the creeds -- and don't need a pope to declare them infallible. Those can't be tampered with either.
"There are limits to the papacy. He's not God, after all," said the Rev. Francis Sullivan, 90, a Jesuit who taught theology for 36 years at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. As Pope Benedict told some priests in 2008, "The pope is not an oracle; he is infallible in very rare situations."
There have been only two papal declarations that everyone agrees are officially infallible. Both concerned the Virgin Mary. The first, in 1854, was the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the belief that she was conceived free from original sin. The second, in 1950, was the dogma of her Assumption, the belief that her body was drawn up into heaven rather than decaying in the grave.
In order to make an infallible declaration, a pope must clearly address the worldwide church from the throne of Peter, saying that he is defining a matter of faith or morals that every Catholic is required to assent to. The doctrine at stake must already have strong roots in tradition, have wide support from bishops and the faithful, and be compatible with Scripture. A declaration of infallibility is called a "solemn definition."
"He can't just define anything he wants," Father Sullivan said.
When it comes to doctrines that aren't infallible, theologians speaks of "development" rather than change.
Although the pope can't violate the teachings of the Bible, "church teaching can evolve just as our interpretation of Scripture evolves," Father Reese said. "Catholics no longer believe that the world was created in seven days, but they do recognize the role of God in creation and understand that the creation story is not just teaching scientific truth, but a truth about our relationship with God. Before a teaching can change, it must be studied carefully."
A recent example concerns purgatory. The Catholic Church has long taught that it is a state in which souls that are ultimately bound for heaven are purified of the effects of living a sinful life. Images of purgatory were shaped by the medieval poet Dante, who wrote of a place in which souls might spend centuries doing difficult penance. Dante wasn't doctrine, but he fueled centuries of sermons.
But in his 2007 encyclical on hope, "Spe Salvi," Pope Benedict proposed purgatory as an encounter with Christ, whose divine love burns away all the effects of the sins that his death has already atoned for. This was an understanding, originally put forth by others, that he had endorsed since he was a university professor and had included in one of his textbooks, Father Sullivan said.
It's not infallible but must be taken seriously by all Catholics, Father Sullivan said.
"He is saying 'I think this is the way it takes place and I'm telling you about it.' This is somewhat unheard of, to have such a sequence where something he put forth as a new idea when he was a theologian then appears in his papal encyclical."
Endorsing religious freedom
Important modifications to popular or long-standing Catholic belief were made 50 years ago at Vatican II. There the world's bishops denounced a belief that had been preached for centuries, though it was never doctrine, that all Jews for all time were guilty of the crucifixion of Jesus. They also rejected a teaching that "error has no rights" in civil society, endorsing the right to religious freedom.
On two of the most contentious issues for American and European Catholics -- contraception and women's ordination -- experts disagree over whether church teaching can change.
The ban on artificial contraception is different from the ban on abortion, because it's based on the spirituality of sex and marriage rather than on a belief that the sperm and unfertilized ovum are human beings. The idea is that God calls married couples to be open to participating with him in the creation of new life, and that using chemicals or barriers to prevent conception shuts God out.
Some theologians argue that artificial contraception has been so consistently condemned over the centuries that it meets an infallibility standard without a papal definition. It's "a settled matter," said Mr. Weigel, who believes the church must do a better job of explaining it.
Father Sullivan believes that it would be difficult but not impossible to modify church teaching against artificial contraception, perhaps reviving an idea that a papal commission proposed to Pope Paul VI before he issued his encyclical on contraception in 1968. The majority on the commission reportedly supported the idea that each sexual act didn't have to be open to procreation as long as the marriage as a whole was. A minority on the commission, including one of Father Sullivan's former professors, persuaded Pope Paul to reject that proposal. They argued at least in part, that it would be a devastating blow to papal authority if he reversed what Pope Pius XI had said about contraceptives, Father Sullivan said.
A pope would have far more leeway to remove the celibacy requirement that was imposed on Western diocesan priests in the 11th century. The Eastern Catholic Churches in Europe, the Middle East and Asia have always had married priests. In the West, married Protestant clergy who convert to Catholicism have been accepted into the priesthood for more than 30 years.
Although the church cites biblical support for celibacy in the examples of Jesus and the Apostle Paul, it is considered a rule, not a doctrine.
Mr. Weigel's view on whether a new pope could lift the celibacy requirement is, "He could, but he won't. And, in my view he shouldn't. In a culture choking to death on eroticism ... the witness of celibacy as a gift of self to God and the people of God is even more important."
Eventually, "the church will allow married male priests, and following that they will allow women to be priests," said Joan Houk of McCandless, a bishop in Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which claims that its clergy are validly ordained Catholics. The Vatican doesn't recognize them and says they have excommunicated themselves.
"What it would take is action by the Holy Spirit," she said. "Whether that could happen this time around, I don't know."
Father Sullivan is doubtful, saying that the issue of whether church teaching on women in the priesthood is infallible is "complicated." Others are absolutely certain that Pope John Paul's 1994 apostolic letter on the matter was definitive.
Pope John Paul's letter didn't use words such as "infallible" or "dogma."
"Normally, if he intended to issue a solemn definition, he would have done so more clearly than that," Father Sullivan said.
"So I think yes, a future pope could reverse that. He could say that he does not agree now with the judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
Mr. Peters, the canon law professor, believes that if a pope announced that women could be ordained as priests, the bishops and faithful of the world would realize he had fallen into heresy and disregard him. On the other hand, polls show that about 60 percent of American Catholics favor ordaining women as priests.
While he acknowledged that the issue of whether women can be ordained as deacons hasn't been settled, Mr. Peters said, "I think a crisis would erupt even if women were ordained to the diaconate. People would say, 'I'm sorry. I think the pope has completely lost his reason. It may look like [the ordination] happened, but it didn't. Nothing sacramental occurred in the ceremony.' "
If most bishops concluded that a pope had committed heresy, he said, it's unclear how they would proceed. He wouldn't expect a trial to remove the pope.
"I think what you'd have would be a large number of bishops saying, 'I observe this behavior in the Holy Father and I think it's time for Catholics to pray for him. Church teaching hasn't changed ... and we trust the Holy Spirit will resolve this situation for us.' "
Ann Rodgers: email@example.com or 412-263-1416.
First Published March 10, 2013 12:00 am
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/world/what-a-pope-can-and-cannot-do-doctrine-limits-new-pope-on-changes-678697/#ixzz2NEy0KVIM
BBC INTERACTIVE VIDEO ON THE CONCLAVE
my source: Sandro Magister
ROME, March 12, 2013 – This afternoon, the 115 cardinals who will elect the pope will make their solemn entrance into the Sistine Chapel.
The place in which the conclave will be carried out is unique in the world. And the frescoes upon which the eyes of the cardinal electors will fall will have an effect on them that is also unique.
As Joseph Ratzinger recognized in recalling the conclaves in which he participated:
"I know well how we were exposed to those images in the hours of the great decision, how they called us to task, how they insinuated into our souls a sense of the greatness of the responsibility. The word "con-clave" brings forward the thought of the keys, of the heritage of the keys left to Peter. To place these keys in the right hands: this is the immense responsibility in those days.”
In effect, as soon as the 115 cardinals enter in procession into the Sistine from the Sala Regia, their first glance will fall upon the famous fresco by Perugino with Jesus handing the keys to Peter.
But immediately afterward they will have before their eyes, on the back wall, the Universal Judgment painted by Michelangelo.
And above that the imposing figure of the prophet Jonah, in his turn facing God who is separating the light from the darkness, the first act of creation.
Then the cardinals will take an oath of silence with their hands on the Gospel, with Jonah and the judgment still before them.
Then they will listen to the meditation read by the octogenarian Prosper Grech, a great master of patristics and disciple and scholar of Augustine, the author of that masterpiece of theology which is the “De Civitate Dei."
Then they will pray, and finally they will prepare to vote. Still enveloped in the frescoed walls and vaults of the Sistine Chapel.
In the Sistine the ensemble of images - including those before the frescoes of Michelangelo - speak of the divine origin of the power of the keys given to Peter and to his successors. Keys that open the Kingdom of Heaven.
But the figure in the dominant position, Jonah, entrusted by Pope Julius II to the genius of Michelangelo, says much more.
Jonah is the prophet sent by God to preach conversion to the pagans. He goes, reluctantly, but rebels against the idea that God should use mercy with the repentant city of Nineveh. In the vault of the Sistine he sees that sin accompanies the history of man ever since the flood, and even before, from the days of Adam and Eve. As an upright man he wants the sinner to be punished. But then his glance is fixed on the very first act of God who is creating light. And he understands that God cannot bear that all that he has made from the beginning of the world should be lost, but only wants to save it.
That “sign of Jonah” which Jesus applies to himself in Matthew 12:40 will therefore weigh upon the cardinals gathered to elect the successor of Peter.
Like John, Peter as well and the popes after him are sent by Jesus to preach conversion to men, because “the Kingdom of God is near.” These are the keys of Peter, this is the power of the Church. A power that stems from the creative act of God and will reveal itself fully in the end, in the Judgment of Christ upon men and upon the world.
“To place these keys in the right hands: this is the immense responsibility.” Looking at the paintings of the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals will be aware that their choice does not concern only the Church, but all of creation present and future.
The cardinals who will close themselves up in this space to elect the new pope cannot help but receive the imprint of the art that surrounds them. They cannot help but be overwhelmed by its extraordinary communicative power.
Of this as well is made the microculture that makes a conclave unique event.
From this as well will be born the selection of the successor of Benedict XVI.