"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Friday 31 October 2014


by Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict watching the conclave
electing his successor

In the first place I would like to express my most cordial thanks to the rector and the academic authorities of the Pontifical Urbaniana University, to the major officials and the student representatives, for their proposal of naming the renovated Aula Magna after me. I would like to thank in a special way the chancellor of the university, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, for having accepted this initiative. It is a source of great joy for me to be able in this way to be always present at the work of the Pontifical Urbaniana University.

In the course of the various visits that I was able to make as prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, I was always struck by the atmosphere of universality that is breathed in this university, in which young people from practically all the countries of the world are preparing for the service of the Gospel in today’s world. Even today, I see before me in my mind’s eye a community made up of so many young people who show us in a living way the stupendous reality of the Catholic Church.

“Catholic”: this definition of the Church, which belongs to the profession of the faith since the most ancient times, bears within itself something of Pentecost. It reminds us that the Church of Jesus Christ has never concerned a single people or a single culture, but that since the beginning it was destined for humanity. The last words that Jesus spoke to his disciples were: “Make disciples of all peoples” (Mt 28:19). And at the moment of Pentecost, the Apostles spoke in all languages, thus manifesting, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the full breadth of their faith.

Since then the Church has really grown in all continents. Your presence, dear students, reflects the universal face of the Church. The prophet Zechariah had proclaimed a messianic kingdom that would stretch from sea to sea and would be a kingdom of peace (Zc 9:9f.). And in fact, wherever the Eucharist is celebrated and through the Lord men become one body among themselves, there is present something of that peace which Jesus Christ had promised to give to his disciples. You, dear friends, should be cooperators with this peace that, in a tormented and violent world, it becomes ever more urgent to build and protect. This is why the work of your university is so important, in which you want to learn to know Jesus Christ more closely in order to become his witnesses.

The Risen Lord charged his Apostles, and through them the disciples of all times, to bear his word to the ends of the earth and to make men his disciples. Vatican Council II, revisiting a constant tradition in the decree “Ad Gentes,” brought to light the profound reasons for this missionary task and thus assigned it with renewed force to the Church of today.

But does it really still apply? many are asking today inside and outside of the Church. Is mission really still relevant? Would it not be more appropriate for the religions to encounter each other in dialogue and serve together the cause of peace in the world? The counter-question is: can dialogue replace mission? Today many, in effect, are of the opinion that the religions must respect each other and, in dialogue among themselves, become a common force for peace. In this way of thinking, most of the time there is a presupposition that the different religions are variations of a single and identical reality; that “religion” is a common genre that takes on different forms according to the different cultures but nonetheless expresses the same reality. The question of truth, which in the beginning moved Christians more than all the rest, is here put in parentheses. It is presupposed that the authentic truth about God, in the final analysis, is unattainable and that at most the ineffable can be made present with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of the truth seems realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world. 

And nonetheless this is lethal to faith. In fact, faith loses its binding character and its seriousness if everything is reduced to symbols that are ultimately interchangeable, capable of pointing only from far away to the inaccessible mystery of the divine.

Dear friends, you see that the question of mission places us not only in front of fundamental questions about faith, but also in front of that about what man is. Within the context of a brief address of greeting I evidently cannot attempt to analyze in an exhaustive way this problem that today profoundly concerns all of us. I would like, in any case, at least to point out the direction that our thought should take. I will do this by moving from two different points of departure.


1. The common opinion is that religions are so to speak one beside the other, like the continents and individual countries on a map of the world. But this is not precise. The religions are in movement at an historical level, just as peoples and cultures are in movement. There are religions in waiting. The tribal religions are of this kind: they have their historical moment and nonetheless they are waiting for a greater encounter to bring them to fulfillment.

As Christians, we are convinced that in silence these are waiting for the encounter with Jesus Christ, the light that comes from him, which alone can lead them completely to their truth. And Christ is waiting for them. The encounter with him is not the bursting in of something extraneous that destroys their culture and history. It is, instead, the entrance into something greater, toward which they are on a journey. This is why the encounter is always, at the same time, purification and maturation. Moreover, the encounter is always reciprocal. Christ is waiting for their history, their wisdom, their vision of things.

Today there is another aspect that we see ever more clearly: while in the countries of its grand history Christianity has in many ways grown weary and some branches of the great tree grown from the mustard seed of the Gospel have become dry and are falling to the ground, the encounter between Christ and the religions in waiting unleashes new life. Where before there was only weariness, new dimensions of the faith are manifesting themselves and bringing joy.

2. Religion in itself is not a unitary phenomenon. There are always multiple dimensions to be distinguished within it. On the one hand there is the greatness of reaching out, beyond the world, toward the eternal God. But on the other there are found in it elements unleashed by the history of men and by their practice of religion. In which beautiful and noble things can certainly be found, but also base and destructive ones, where the egoism of man has taken possession of religion and, instead of an opening, has transformed it into something closed off in its own space.

This is why religion is never simply a solely positive or solely negative phenomenon: both aspects are mixed in it. At its beginnings, Christian mission perceived in a very strong way above all the negative elements of the pagan religions that it encountered. For this reason, the Christian proclamation was at first extremely critical of religion. It was only by overcoming its traditions, which were in part considered even demonic, that the faith could develop its renewing power. On the basis of elements of this kind, the evangelical theologian Karl Barth put religion and faith in opposition, judging the former in an absolutely negative way as an arbitrary behavior of the man who tries to grasp God on his own account. Dietrich Bonhoeffer took up this outlook, proclaiming himself in favor of a Christianity “without religion.” This is undoubtedly a unilateral vision that cannot be accepted. And yet it is correct to affirm that every religion, in order to remain in the right, at the same time must also be always critical of religion. Clearly this applies, from its origin and on the basis of its nature, to the Christian faith, which on the one hand looks with great respect to the profound anticipation and profound richness of the religions, but on the other views in a critical way that which is negative. It naturally follows that the Christian faith must always develop anew this critical power with respect to its own religious history as well.

For us Christians, Jesus Christ is the Logos of God, the light that helps us to distinguish between the nature of religion and its distortion. 

3. In our time the voices of those who want to convince us that religion as such is outdated are growing ever louder. Only critical reason should guide the action of man. Behind such conceptions stands the conviction that with positivistic thought, reason in all its purity has definitively won dominion. In reality, this way of thinking and living is also historically influenced by and bound to specific historical cultures. Considering it as the only valid one would diminish man, depriving him of dimensions essential for his existence. Man becomes smaller, not greater, when there is no more room for an ethos that, on the basis of his authentic nature, goes beyond pragmatism, when there is no more room for the gaze directed to God. The proper place for positivistic reason is in the great fields of action of technology and economics, and even so it does not exhaust all that is human. So it is up to us who believe to fling open ever anew the doors that, beyond mere technology and pure pragmatism, lead to the full greatness of our existence, to the encounter with the living God.


1. These reflections, which are perhaps a bit difficult, should demonstrate that even today, in a profoundly changed way, the task of communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others remains reasonable.

And yet there is a simpler way to justify this task today. Joy demands to be communicated. Love demands to be communicated. The truth demands to be communicated. He who has received a great joy cannot simply keep it to himself, he must transmit it. The same applies to the gift of love, through the gift of recognition of the truth that manifests itself.

When Andrew met Christ, he could not help but say to his brother, “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41). And Phillip, to whom the gift of the same encounter was given, could not help but tell Nathanael that he had found him of whom Moses and the prophets had written (Jn 1:45).  We proclaim Jesus Christ not in order to procure as many members as possible for our community, and much less for the sake of power. We speak of him because we feel the need to transmit the joy that has been given to us.

We will be credible proclaimers of Jesus Christ when we have truly encountered him in the depths of our existence, when, through the encounter with him, we have been given the great experience of truth, love, and joy.

2. Part of the nature of religion is the profound tension between the mystical offering to God, in which we give ourselves completely to him, and responsibility for our neighbor and the created world. Martha and Mary are always inseparable, even if now and then the accent may fall on one or the other. The point of encounter between the two poles is the love in which we touch God and his creatures at the same time. “We have come to know and believe in love” (1 Jn 4:16): this phrase expresses the authentic nature of Christianity. Love, which is realized and reflected in a manifold way in the saints of all times, is the authentic proof of the truth of Christianity.

Benedict XVI

October 21, 2014

by Roberto de Mattei

Among the multiple and multifaceted statements of Pope Francis in recent days there is one that deserves to be evaluated in its entire scope.

During the press conference held on August 18, 2014 on board the plane that was bringing him back to Italy after his voyage to Korea, the pope said among other things:

"I think that a Pope emeritus should not be an exception; after so many centuries, this is our first Pope emeritus. […] Seventy years ago bishops emeritus were an exception; they didn’t exist. Today bishops emeritus are an institution. I think that a ‘Pope emeritus’ has already become an institution. Why? Because our span of life increases and at a certain age we no longer have the ability to govern well because our body is weary; our health may be good but we don’t have the ability to deal with all the problems of a government like that of the Church. I believe that Pope Benedict XVI took this step which de facto instituted Popes emeriti. I repeat, perhaps some theologian will tell you that it isn’t right, but that’s what I think. Time will tell if it is right or wrong, we shall see. You can ask me: ‘What if one day you don’t feel prepared to go on?'. I would do the same, I would do the same! I will pray hard over it, but I would do the same thing. [Benedict] opened a door which is institutional, not exceptional."

The institutionalization of the figure of pope emeritus would therefore seem to be a fait accompli.

Some Catholic writers, like Antonio Socci, Vittorio Messori, and Fr. Ariel Levi di Gualdo, have stressed the problem raised by this unprecedented situation, which seems to accredit the existence of a pontifical “diarchy.” A revolutionary break with the theological and juridical tradition of the Church paradoxically made precisely by the pope of the “hermeneutic of reform in continuity.”

It is no coincidence that the “school of Bologna,” which has always distinguished itself by its opposition to Benedict XVI, greeted with satisfaction his resignation from the pontificate, not only because it removed an unwelcome pope from the scene, but precisely because of that “reform of the papacy” which he is seen as having inaugurated with the decision to take the title of pope emeritus.

The “continuist” hermeneutic of Benedict XVI has thus been overturned with a gesture of strong discontinuity, historical and theological.

The historical discontinuity arises from the rarity of the abdication of a pope, in two thousand years of Church history. But the theological discontinuity consists precisely in the intention to institutionalize the figure of pope emeritus.


The first who hastened to provide a theoretical justification for the innovation were above all authors in the progressive vein. Like Fr. Stefano Violi, a professor of canon law at the theological faculty of Emilia Romagna, with the essay “The resignation of Benedict XVI between history, law, and conscience” (“Rivista teologica di Lugano”, XVIII, 2, 2013, pp. 155-166). And like Valerio Gigliotti, a professor of European law at the University of Torino, with the concluding chapter of his book “La tiara deposta. La rinuncia al papato nella storia del diritto e della Chiesa [Tiara down: The resignation of the papacy in the history of law and of the Church]” (Leo S. Olschki, Florence, 2013, pp. 387-432).

According to Violi, in the “Declaratio” with which he announced his abdication on February 11, 2013, Benedict XVI distinguishes the Petrine ministry, “munus,” with an eminently spiritual essence, from its administration or exercise.

“His powers,” Violi writes, “seem to him insufficient for the administration of the ‘munus,’ not for the ‘munus’ itself.” Proof of the spiritual essence of the “munus” is taken as having been expressed in the following words of the “Declaratio” of Benedict XVI:

“I am well aware that this ministry (munus), due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out (exequendum) not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.”

In this passage, according to Violi, Benedict XVI distinguishes not only between “munus” and “executio muneris,” but also between an administrative-ministerial “executio,” carried out in actions and words (“agendo et loquendo”), and an “executio” that is expressed with prayer and suffering (“orando et patiendo”). Benedict XVI is seen as having were announced the active exercise of the ministry, but not the office, the “munus” of the papacy: “The object of the irrevocable resignation is in fact the ‘executio muneris’ through action and word (‘agendo et loquendo’), not the ‘munus’ entrusted to him once and for all."

Gigliotti also maintains that Benedict XVI, in ceasing to be supreme pontiff, has taken on a new juridical and personal status.

The split between the traditional attribute of “potestas” and the new one of “servitium,” between the juridical and spiritual dimensions of the papacy, is claimed to have opened the way “to a new mystical dimension of service to the people of God in communion and charity.” The “plenitudo potestatis” would be left behind for a “plenitudo caritatis” of the pope emeritus: a third status “with respect both to the condition prior to elevation to the see of Peter and to that of the supreme leadership of the Church: it is the ‘third embodiment of the pope,’ that of operative continuity in the service of the Church through the contemplative way.”


In my judgment, the admirers of Benedict XVI must resist the temptation to endorse these ideas in order to turn them to their advantage.

Among Catholics of conservative orientation, in fact, some are already beginning to murmur that, in the case of a worsening of the religious crisis under way, the existence of two popes would make it possible to oppose pope emeritus Benedict XVI to pope in earnest Francis.

This is a position different from that of the sedevacantists, but it is characterized by the same theological weakness.

In times of crisis one must not look to men, who are frail and fleeting creatures, but to the unshakable institutions and principles of the Church. The papacy, in which the Catholic Church is concentrated in many ways, is founded on a theology whose pillars must be recovered. There is above all one point that must not be ignored. The common doctrine of the Church has always distinguished between the power of orders and the power of jurisdiction. The former is received through the sacraments, the latter by divine mission, in the case of the pope, or by canonical mission in the case of the bishops and priests. The power of jurisdiction stems directly from Peter, who received it immediately from Jesus Christ; all others in the Church receive it from Christ through his vicar, “ut sit unitas in corpore apostolico” (St. Thomas Aquinas, “Ad Gentes” IV c. 7). 

The pope is therefore not a superbishop, nor is he the endpoint of a sacramental line that goes from the ordinary priest, through the bishop, up to the supreme pontiff. The episcopate constitutes the sacramental fullness of orders, and therefore no higher character than that of bishop can be imparted. As bishop, the pope is equal to all the other bishops.

What sets the pope above every other bishop is the divine mission that has been handed down from Peter to each of his successors, not by heredity but through an election legitimately carried out and freely accepted. In fact, the one who rises to the pontifical see could be an ordinary priest, or even a layman, who would be consecrated bishop after his election but is pope not from the moment of episcopal consecration, but in the act in which he accepts the pontificate.

The primacy of the pope is not sacramental, but juridical. It consists in the full power to feed, support, and govern the whole Church, meaning the supreme, ordinary, immediate, universal jurisdiction independent of all other earthly authority (art. 3 of the dogmatic constitution of Vatican Council I “Pastor Aeternus").

In a word, the pope is the one who has the supreme power of jurisdiction, the “plenitudo potestatis,” because he governs the Church. And this is why the successor of Peter is first pope and then bishop of Rome. He is bishop of Rome in that he is pope, and not pope in that he is bishop of Rome.

The pope ordinarily leaves his office with death, but his power of jurisdiction is not indelible and inalienable. In the supreme governance of the Church there in fact exist the “exceptional cases” that theologians have studied, like heresy, physical and moral infirmity, resignation (cf. my article “Vicar of Christ. The primacy of Peter between normality and exception,” Fede e Cultura, Verona, 2013, pp. 106-138).


The case of resignation was examined above all after the abdication of the pontificate by Celestine V, pope from August 29 to December 13 of 1294. On that occasion a theological debate was opened between those who maintained that the resignation was invalid and those who upheld its juridical and theological foundation.

Among the many voices that were raised to reiterate the common doctrine of the Church must be remembered those of Giles of Viterbo (1243-1316), author of the concise treatise “De renunciatione papae,” and of his disciple Augustine Trionfi of Viterbo, who left us an imposing “Summa de potestate ecclesiastica,” which deals with the problem of the resignation (q. IV) and removal of the pope (q. V). Both Augustinians, but pupils of Thomas Aquinas, they are remembered as fully orthodox authors, among the most fervent supporters of the pontiff's primacy of jurisdiction against the claims of the king of France and of the emperor of Germany at the time.

In the footsteps of the Angelic Doctor (Summa Theologica, 2-2ae, q. 39, a. 3), they illustrate the distinction between “potestas ordinis” and “potestas iurisdictionis.” The first, which stems from the sacrament of orders, presents an indelible character and is not subject to resignation. The second has a juridical nature and, not bearing the imprint of the indelible character proper to sacred orders, is subject to loss in the case of heresy, resignation, or removal. Giles reiterates the difference between “cessio” and “depositio,” the supreme pontiff not being subject to the second of these except in the case of grave and persistent heresy. The decisive proof of the fact that the “potestas papalis” does not impart an indelible character is the fact that “if this were not so, there could be no apostolic succession as long as a heretical pope remained alive” (Gigliotti, p. 250).

This doctrine, which has also been the common practice of the Church for twenty centuries, can be considered one of divine law, and as such unchangeable.

 Vatican Council II did not explicitly reject the concept of “potestas,” but set it aside, replacing it with an equivocal new concept, that of “munus.” Art. 21 of “Lumen Gentium” then seems to teach that episcopal consecration confers not only the fullness of orders, but also the office of teaching and governing, whereas in the whole history of the Church the act of episcopal consecration has been distinguished from that of appointment, or of the conferral of the canonical mission.

This ambiguity is consistent with the ecclesiology of the theologians of the Council and postcouncil (Congar, Ratzinger, de Lubac, Balthasar, Rahner, Schillebeeckx…) who presumed to reduce the mission of the Church to a sacramental function, scaling down his juridical aspects.

The theologian Joseph Ratzinger, for example, although not sharing Hans Küng's conception of a charismatic and de-institutionalized Church, distanced himself from tradition when he saw in the primacy of Peter the fullness of the apostolic ministry, linking the ministerial character to the sacramental (J.Auer-J. Ratzinger, “La Chiesa universale sacramento di salvezza", Cittadella, Assisi, 1988).

This sacramental and non-juridical conception of the Church is emerging today in the figure of pope emeritus.

If the pope who resigns from the pontificate retains the title of emeritus, that means that to some extent he remains pope. It is clear, in fact, that in the definition the noun prevails over the adjective. But why is he still pope after the abdication? The only explanation possible is that the pontifical election has imparted an indelible character, which he does not lose with the resignation. The abdication would presuppose in this case the cessation of the exercise of power, but not the disappearance of the pontifical character. This indelible character attributed the pope could be explained in its turn only by an ecclesiological vision that would subordinate the juridical dimension of the pontificate to the sacramental.

It is possible that Benedict XVI shares this position, presented by Violi and Gigliotti in their essays, but the eventuality that he may have made the notion of the sacramental nature of the papacy his own does not mean that it is true. There does not exist, except in the imagination of some theologians, a spiritual papacy distinct from the juridical papacy. If the pope is, by definition, the one who governs the Church, in resigning governance he resigns from the papacy. The papacy is not a spiritual or sacramental condition, but an “office,” or indeed an institution.

The tradition and practice of the Church clearly affirm that there is one and only one pope, and his power is indivisible in its unity. Bringing into doubt the monarchical principle that rules the Church would mean subjecting the Mystical Body to an intolerable laceration. What distinguishes the Catholic Church from every other church or religion is precisely the existence of a unifying principle embodied in a person and directly instituted by God.

The distinction between governance and the exercise of governance, inapplicable to the pontifical office, could if anything be applied to understand the difference between Jesus Christ, who governs the Church invisibly, and his vicar, who exercises visible governance by divine delegation.

The Church has only one head and founder, Jesus Christ. The pope is the vicar of Jesus Christ, Man-God, but unlike the founder of the Church, who is perfect in his two human and divine natures, the Roman pontiff is a solely human person, devoid of the characteristics of the divinity.

Today we tend to divinize, to absolutize, what is human in the Church, ecclesiastical persons, and instead to humanize, to relativize, what is divine in the Church: its faith, its sacraments, its tradition. This error gives rise to grave consequences also on the psychological and spiritual level.

The pope is a human creature, although he is imbued with a divine mission. Impeccability has not been attributed to him, and infallibility is a charism that can be exercised only under precise conditions. He can err from the political point of view, from the pastoral point of view, and even from the doctrinal point of view, when he does not express himself “ex cathedra” and when he does not present the perennial and unchangeable magisterium of the Church. This does not change the fact that the pope must be given the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a man, and that one should nurture an authentic devotion to his person, as the saints have always done.

One may debate the intentions of Benedict XVI and his ecclesiology, but what is certain is that there can be only one pope at a time and that this pope, in the absence of proof to the contrary, is Francis, legitimately elected on March 13, 2013.

Pope Francis can be criticized, even severely, with due respect, but he must be considered the supreme pontiff until his death or until his eventual loss of the pontificate.

Benedict XVI has renounced not a part of the pontificate, but the whole papacy, and Francis is not a part-time pope, but entirely the pope.

How he exercises his power is, naturally, another discussion. But even in this case theology and the “sensus fidei” offer us instruments for resolving all the theological and canonical problems that may arise in the future.


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

A Commentary
by me

If you have read the previous article, you will have learnt how much Pope Francis is influenced by Pope Benedict. I believe that he is even more influenced by Father Joseph Ratzinger.   Pope Francis and I are of the same age; and for both of us, the biggest event of our younger selves is the 2nd Vatican Council.  I was already a priest because Jesuits take a longer road to the priesthood, but we were both studying.

   At Fribourg University in Switzerland, we English Benedictines published a theological journal called "Trident" just so that we could receive all the press  releases from the Council, and we read them avidly. A number of the Council fathers passed through on their way to or from the sessions, and we used to invite them to tea and pick their brains. During the holidays, as our abbots allowed us to visit other monasteries, we went where we could learn more.  I remember one Ampleforth monk visited Father Henri de Lubac.   I went to Chevetogne for two weeks, and I spent a week in a monastery in Paris, attending a "semaine liturgique", going there each day on the "Metro" with Dom Botte, the liturgist, who, together with Father Louis Bouyer, later wrote Eucharistic Prayer II. There we discussed, among other things, the implications of eucharistic ecclesiology and we mixed with theologians like Nicolas Afanassiev who actually first proposed it.   Among our heroes were the theologie nouvelle theologians like de Lubac, Danielou, Bouyer, Teilhard de Chardin and others, as well as Ratzinger and Rahner.   They were savoured all the more for not being among our own professor of dogmatic theology's favourite people!  

I can imagine that the student, Bergoglio, was just as enthusiastic and followed every move made by the Council.  If he wasn't fired with enthusiasm by the young Joseph Ratzinger, then his behaviour since he became Pope is nothing short of a miraculous coincidence.

Father Joseph Ratzinger and Pope Benedict

When Joseph Ratzinger wrote of his experiences during the first session of the Council, he spoke with great approval of the decision to put off choosing the members of the various commissions dedicated to different aspects of renewal until the bishops had got to know each other.   This was due to an intervention of Cardinal Frings.  It took the management of the Council out of the hands of the Curia and made Vatican II, as we know it, possible.  Joseph Ratzinger was the Cardinal's private secretary and probably wrote it. He later spoke of the healthy tension between the living diversity of the Church represented by the bishops and the unity of the Church represented by the Pope.   To be healthy, the Church needs both.   It is a relationship that is not easy, so that there are times when the temptation exists to do without one or other of these two poles; but, given in to, the result is something less than Catholic.   

Vatican II stood for a Church that is, of its very nature, a diversity in unity; and Father Joseph Ratzinger was a hundred per cent in favour, but Pope Benedict lost his enthusiasm for this and opposed growing diversity in the Roman Rite and largely ruled by motu propio.  He feared that the growing diversity was threatening the authority of the magisterium.  A healthy situation would have been a situation of tension between diversity, represented by the bishops, and unity represented by the pope; but Humanae Vitae had simply been ignored, and liturgical discipline had broken down, and all kinds of questions raised, and conservatives and liberals at loggerheads: diversity without unity would be a disaster. This led to a few inconsistencies of which I am pretty sure he was well aware because he was and is a great theologian in his own right.  He still spoke the language of eucharistic ecclesiology, but did not follow it to its logical conclusion by embracing diversity.   Instead, he acted as a Vatican I pope, even when he was pursuing Vatican II objectives.   Both allowing the Tridentine Mass and starting the Anglican Ordinariates were  actions in favour of diversity, a Vatican II objective, but in neither case did he consult the bishops most involved, who learned about them from the newspapers.   I think the worst thing he did was to impose a new version of the English Mass.   I know that the older version was in uninspired, committee English, (eggs and also chips English), and there are some improvements in the new; but we now have whole passages which do not respect the English rythmn, being too close to the Latin, and a few passages are simply nonsense. However, he is still a great theologian!

The Synod on the Family

 Pope Francis organised his Synod on the Family just as Father Joseph Ratzinger would have wanted it, and when he explained what was going on, he did so in words that could have come from the young theologian himself. It is an exercise of diversity in unity.   He made no effort to hide, control or suppress the diversity, confident that a common mind would eventually emerge because it all took place with and under Peter, undertaken by bishops whose essential identity is forged in the Eucharist.  His vision is very different from that of the "world" as told in the newspapers.   It is a temptation for "liberals" to ignore "traditionalists" and vice versa, to become opposing parties as in worldly politics rather than discovering the common identity and hence a common mind that comes from sharing in the same Spirit who manifests his Presence only in the charity of those who are in communion with one another.   In his final words to this year's Synod, Pope Francis said:
Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.
And, as I have dared to tell you, [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.
We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.
His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”
By this synod, Pope Francis has created a situation in which the tension between the centre and the periphery has been restored, allowing a diversity in unity that does not threaten to get out of hand because it is "con Petro and sub Petro".   I am sure he has done what Pope Benedict wanted but did not know how.

Vatican I & II on the Church 

Vatican II has left us with two descriptions of the Church, one implied by the definitions on papal power from Vatican I, and the other its own.   They are left side by side, leaving to future generations the task of forming them into a consistent whole.

Firstly, we have the definition of papal jurisdiction in Vatican I:
Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. 
Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the church throughout the world.

In this way, by unity with the Roman pontiff in communion and in profession of the same faith , the church of Christ becomes one flock under one supreme shepherd [50]

Here is Vatican I's definition of papal infallibility: 
we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when,in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses,by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.

Now look at these statements about the Church and the liturgy, the first from the Vatican II constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium": 
10. Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.
This excerpt from "Lumen Gentium" on the Church also reveals the difference between the Vatican I vision and that of Vatican II: 
[47] 26. The bishop, invested with the fullness of the sacrament of Orders, is "the steward of the grace of the supreme priesthood,"[48] above all in the Eucharist, which he himself offers, or ensures that it is offered,[49] from which the Church ever derives its life and on which it thrives. This Church of Christ is really present in all legitimately organized local groups of the faithful, which, in so far as they are united to their pastors, are also quite appropriately called Churches in the New Testament.[50] For these are in fact, in their own localities, the new people called by God, in the power of the Holy Spirit and as the result of full conviction (cf. 1 Thess. 1:5). In them the faithful are gathered together through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord's Supper is celebrated "so that, by means of the flesh and blood of the Lord the whole brotherhood of the Body may be welded together."[51] In each altar community, under the sacred ministry of the bishop,[52] a manifest symbol is to be seen of that charity and "unity of the mystical body, without which there can be no salvation."[53] In these communities, though they may often be small and poor, or existing in the Diaspora, Christ is present through whose power and influence the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is constituted.[54] For "the sharing in the body and blood of Christ has no other effect than to accomplish our transformation into that which we receive."[55] Moreover, every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is regulated by the bishop, to whom is confided the duty of presenting to the divine majesty the cult of the Christian religion and of ordering it in accordance with the Lord's injunctions and the Church's regulations, as further defined for the diocese by his particular decision. Thus the bishops, by praying and toiling for the people, apportion in many different forms and without stint that which flows from the abundance of Christ's holiness.   
 And again, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church we have this brief summary: 

1324 The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life."136 "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."137

1325 "The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."138

1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.139

1327 In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."140
How different are the two ways of looking at the Church!   The first is centred on the papacy and the second on the Eucharist and the liturgy.   In the first, the Church is an institution bound together by papal jurisdiction; and in the second, the Church is bound together by what Pope Benedict calls "objective charity" which is the Holy Spirit whose presence in the Church is manifested in "ecclesial love", at once human and divine, which we share by our participation in Eucharistic Communion with Christ.   In the first, there seems no limit to what Popes can do because they have supreme legal power; but in the second, their role has to fit into the Church's constitution which is not legal but sacramental where love is supreme.  The same can be said for his authority to speak infallibly.   There may be no other legal procedure necessary before his decree is accepted by the Church; but, to be infallible, he can only treat of something already believed by the Church: he cannot impose something from outside. Each local church, being identical to all the others in things pertaining to Christ, like hosts in a ciborium, can recognise itself in the church of Rome.  There is no need for another procedure when the pope teaches infallibly.  

Vatican II discovered for modern Catholicism the importance of the local church.   For instance, Tradition is embedded in the local Church, springing out of the liturgical and communely shared life of eucharistic communities. The extraordinary magisterium may well standardise different expressions of it in dogmas to foster universal unity, but the local liturgy is both the source and the goal of such universally proclaimed dogmas, and the local churches tend to diversify as the Catholic truth they celebrate comes into dialogue with the culture, problems and circumstances of their localities. Thus each church is identical to all others in its eucharistic reality, but has its own way of grasping and understanding and using what it has in common with the others.   The differences come about because grace becomes incarnate in each local church, and this is an enrichment to itself and to the other churches.   That there are differences belongs to the very nature of the Church on earth, as much as the unity in the Truth to which they also bear witness because they belong to a church that transcends all kinds of division.   Unity too, our oneness in Christ, is an essential element.  It depends on our ability to see through the differences to the underlying identity, and this is only possible by practising ecclesial love, which is the visible sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit.   Sometimes we fail: sometimes we cannot transcend our differences, and they become a source of division.  We remain essentially one, even though we are unable to recognise this, and we begin to live apart, even though, every time we celebrate the Eucharist, it is an act of the whole Church across the divide because both sides are united by the Holy Spirit to Christ in his sacrifice to the Father, whether we realise it or not.   Our division becomes a tragedy and a lie, and we are only redeemed by the constant activity of the Holy Spirit.  All we can do is be faithful to the Tradition we have received, knowing that our division does not reach heaven and waiting for the Holy Spirit to show us the way forward.

If we want to prove Tradition is embedded in the local church, then we can look at the case of the Assyrian Church of the East which has been separated from both Catholic and Orthodox churches since the Council of Ephesus (  ).   It is a church that still celebrates its liturgy, which has its roots in Apostolic times, in Aramaic, the language of Our Lord.   It has no legal connection with the Pope, nor has it had a connection since the fifth century. Yet, according to Pope St John Paul II and the then Cardinal Ratzinger, and I quote an official document,:
 the Catholic Church recognises the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession.
This means that, in spite of the lack of any connection with or recognition of the Pope, this church remains "a true particular Church of orthodox faith and apostolic succession". This is not saying that the Assyrian Church of the East should not be in communion with Rome.  Indeed, its position as a true and particular church requires it to be in communion with Rome, but what makes it a "true and particular church" isn't Rome but its fidelity to the Apostolic tradition that it received.   Tradition is embedded in the local Church.   

While I agree with the basic conclusion about there only being one pope at a time with the second article, I think the continued existence of a "true and particular church of orthodox faith" outside legal ties with Rome disproves the basic position of ther second article.
 The second article, "One and One Alone is Pope", supports the legalistic view of Vatican I against the  sacramental view of Vatican II. Here  it says:
Vatican Council II did not explicitly reject the concept of “potestas,” but set it aside, replacing it with an equivocal new concept, that of “munus.” Art. 21 of “Lumen Gentium” then seems to teach that episcopal consecration confers not only the fullness of orders, but also the office of teaching and governing, whereas in the whole history of the Church the act of episcopal consecration has been distinguished from that of appointment, or of the conferral of the canonical mission.
This ambiguity is consistent with the ecclesiology of the theologians of the Council and postcouncil (Congar, Ratzinger, de Lubac, Balthasar, Rahner, Schillebeeckx…) who presumed to reduce the mission of the Church to a sacramental function, scaling down his juridical aspects.
It is simply a false claim that the mediaeval theology in the Latin West  on the Papacy , or on anything else for that matter, can be simply identified with the universal Tradition of the Church.  The same can be said for the mediaeval Byzantine tradition.  The Latin West and Byzantium were very different worlds. Both traditions are versions of the Common Tradition that were moulded to answer the questions and to solve the distinct problems posed to each in its own distinct context   This mediaeval emphasis which received its classic definitions in Vatican I is not simply the universal Tradition, but the universal Tradition seen through Latin spectacles.   The claim that a pope can become pope even before his consecration is all about the western Church's stability of governance at a particular time in history, and there is nothing traditional about it.

How does the teaching of VaticanII relate to the teaching of Vatican I?

Vatican II and the theologians mentioned in the above article, Congar, Ratzinger, de Lubac, Balthasar, Rahner, Schillebeeckx…etc dug deeper to find in Eucharistic Ecclesiology the Truth behind the truth, the deeper truth behind the theology of Vatican I,  basic to the understanding of the Christian Mystery in both East and West.  The teachings on the Church of Vatican I and Vatican II are not alternative doctrines: Vatican II puts Vatican I in a wider and deeper context which will transform our understanding of the latter.

 Of course, Vatican II believes in the universal Church.  Ratzinger's starting point was St Augustine whose universal Church was united by charity which is the synergy between the Divine Love of the Holy Spirit and the human love of the Church which is achieved through participation in the Eucharist.   Donatists etc were "outside the charity", the equivalent of being outside Communion.  St Augustine stressed communion with Rome, but he lived before the time when later theologians translated our doctrine of the Church into Canon Law, and God became the great Canon Lawyer in the sky.

In fact, the mediaeval understanding of the Church did not distinguish enough the difference between church law and civil law.   The latter, even in the most civilised countries, is based either on agreement or on force, the ability to enforce it.   The former is based on love: it is a consequence of our common participation in Christ through the Eucharist by the power of the Spirit and our need to make love work in a large and complicated communion: caritas urget nos.  Church law is based on the "objective love", with its source in the celebration of the liturgy that really binds the Church together, and must be exercised, even by the pope, according to the exigencies of Christian love.   

Can a pope depose a patriarch?  Yes, says Vatican I theology.  But Vatican II theology says this can't be done for an insufficient reason, because he must respect the position that the patriarch holds in God's providence and must love him and be prepared to serve him.   Vatican II fills in the gaps left by Vatican I that strove only to describe the Church at a  legal level.

The Pope and the Bishops from the perspective of Eucharistic Ecclesiology.

Let us look at the papacy from the point of view of eucharistic ecclesiology. Each
local church receives its structure from the liturgy.   Whenever a local Church celebrates the Eucharist, it enjoys the fullness of Catholicism because Christ in the Christian Mystery is the fullness of Catholicism.   Everyone who receives Christ in communion receives the fullness of Catholicism, and each community is the body of Christ, as are all of them together.  The Catholic Church is rather like a ciborium full of hosts: each is Christ, and all of them together are Christ.  The Church has been likened to a hologram: however much you divide it, all the resulting holograms portray the same picture as when they all formed one hologram.   Hence we can describe the universal Church as a world-wide communion in which each of its parts contains the fullness of the whole.   In their relationship to Christ in word and sacrament, each church is identical to each and all of the others.

Of course, that is very idealistic, and a brief look at history shows that things can go wrong.   In a mobile and tense situation, heresy can creep in, and the devil can sow his tares.   St Irenaeus (+ c170ad) gives us his solution: if there is any doubt about the way to proceed, then the church of Rome has the role of being the model church with which all must agree, as the place where saints Peter and Paul died and which is a meeting place for Christians everywhere.  This is not Rome imposing doctrines on other churches from outside: if all churches are identical with one another, then any teaching proposed by Rome, they will recognise as the faith of their own church.

If the churches are identical in that each and all are body of Christ, then this is also true of the bishops, they are identical in the role they play in presiding over their communities, each and all being instruments of Christ who is the shepherd and bishop of our souls.  St Cyprian teaches that, while they are bound to their local churches by the Holy Spirit, so that the church is in the bishop and the bishop is in the church, the Spirit binds them to Christ who works through them, making them a single organism to such an extent that each and all share the same identity in Christ, sitting on the chair of Peter.   Unless this teaching is going to remain pure theory, without any real substance or practical use, they must be able function as an organism, and this demands a primate.   Again, if they share the same identity, then he is not imposing on them from the outside, but unifying them from within.   In this task, I find nothing wrong with calling him "First among Equals".   From a sacramental point of view they are equals, and because of their mystical union with Christ there is nothing wrong with one bishop being made capable by the Holy Spirit to speak for all, and it could be argued that the sacramental seal by which they hold the episcopate in common requires such a focus of unity on earth so that they can speak the truth with one voice in love.

As each church in its concrete celebration of the Eucharist is united by the Holy Spirit to the whole, world-wide Church, as well as to the Church of both living and dead, each Eucharist is an act of the whole Church across time and place, as well as of heaven, and each bishop and every priest as his helper, presides over the universal Church at every Eucharist.   It follows that the Pope does not need extra sacramental powers to fulfill his function as "servant of the servants of God", nor do we need to posit a completely distinct canonical, legalistic, or sacramental position for the Pope as successor of St Peter.   It is enough that Pope exercises his function within the context of his communion with the universal episcopate, and that every bishop, episcopal conference, whether national or regional, exercises its functions in communion with him.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Using the Shepherd’s Crook: Pope Francis Schools Evangelicals, the Media, and the Entire Catholic Church in One Sermon by Jonathan Ryan

Pope Francis: No Commendatore, No Michael Corleone
October 20, 2014 by Elizabeth Scalia
It may have gotten a four minute standing ovation from his Bishops, but Pope Francis’ closing remarks to the synod, which I thought were pretty beautifully wrought, are being praised-but-quietly by others, at least as I am surveying today.
It seems to me people aren’t really appreciating what Francis said there — how capably and clearly he let both the “left” and the “right”, the progressives and the traditionalists, know that neither side has a corner on the fullness of the faith or the whole of wisdom, and that his intention (regardless of how anyone in the secular or religious media would like it spun) is to pursue virtue via media; church-wide holiness by the middle road.

I get a sense, instead, of there being a “let down” that seems almost anti-climatic. After all the drama and hyperbole following the release of the first relatio there was an almost palpable sense that when the final document was presented, Pope Francis would end his silence, rise up, and perform a transformative soliloquy fit for opera, or at least worthy of an Oscar.

Some perhaps expected to see the Holy Father become Don Giovanni’s Commendatore, slapping an Ecclesiastical Ban Hammer on the radical traditionalists; others, no doubt, anticipated seeing a Pontiff as Michael Corleone, assenting to doctrine while systematically wiping out any perceived threats to his ambitions.

Yes, I am exaggerating. A little
Confounding those expectations, Francis dared to close things by saying, essentially, there will be no “winners” until we all get up on the cross with Christ and, from His perspective, take note of where justice and mercy are failing to meet and therefore flourish together. He warned against

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfill the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.
– The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing!

Going mostly unmentioned in most commentaries I’ve read is how fully Pope Francis relied on Pope Benedict XVI to relay the urgent need to help Catholic Christians understand their lives as not simply as a series of choices or accidents but as true vocations — and therefore, yes, crosses — to which they have been personally called by Christ:
[quoting Benedict] . . .it is [Jesus Christ] who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. presbyterorum ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them.
It is true, and taught rather badly, that the state in which every human being lives his or her life is, in fact, a kind of office, through which we are meant to learn how to serve others and reach our fullest potential — within marriage, or single-parenthood, or the solitary life or the consecrated one — in the specific crucible of agape-infused sacrificial love to which we all must submit.

Because every office is a gift and a crucible; every offering of ourselves to God, in any capacity, is an offering of ourselves to the whole world, and each other, and a burner-off-of our dross.

Again and again, it seems to me, this is all going to come down to understanding agape as more than a word we throw around, but as a lived experience.

The most interesting take I’ve seen on Francis’ speech — and it is interesting precisely because it takes him at his words, without attaching any strings or a personal agenda upon them, comes from Evangelical-turned-Catholic, “Rogue”, Jonathan Ryan, who writes:
The Gospel scorns the distinction of liberal and conservative. It laughs at those pathetic, naked rulers and pushes the church to a higher understanding of Christ’s love. The church will not be a slave to conservatives, who want to use it for a political power base, nor will Christ’s body be bossed around by liberals who think they know best because they are“modern” (whatever the hell that means).Pope Francis showed us this fact in a profound way.
Read the whole thing:
Using the Shepherd’s Crook: Pope Francis Schools Evangelicals, the Media, and the Entire Catholic Church in One Sermon
October 20, 2014 by Jonathan Ryan

As a person going through a divorce, I took a deep, personal interest in the Synod on the Family. I was thrilled that my beloved church wanted to take a pastoral interest in the needs of its sheep.  I wanted to see good, sound and practical steps from the assembled church leaders on how to navigate the troubled waters of modern family life.

Sadly, the whole thing almost got derailed by the so-called “mid-synod” report. Conservatives screamed bloody murder at some of the released remarks (I’ve yet to understand their objections) and liberals danced a silly, “we won” dance across the pages of the media. Both sides showed a distinct lack of Gospel leadership and decorum.

The whole thing made me ill, especially as the Mark Driscoll saga reached its pinnacle last week. The controversial pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle stepped down in the midst of accusations of pastoral bullying, possible financial impropriety, and generally being a nasty person who should never have been a leader of a church.

In truth, his worst crime was his failure to be like Jesus and love his sheep.

I watched as this controversy split the Evangelical world. Conservatives screamed about all the Driscoll hate, while liberals like Stephanie Drury (Stuff Christian Culture Likes) crowed that “God’s work had been done”. Their greatest demon, Mark Driscoll, had fallen, brought down through his own arrogance and their unrelenting efforts.

One wonders what they’re gonna do since they don’t have Mark Driscoll to kick around anymore. I sometimes think that “pastor hunting” is the evangelical “blood sport”.

As I watched both controversies swirl, I felt sick to my stomach. The Catholic Church seemed in serious danger of following the shattered paths of evangelicalism. Conservatives screamed about liberal power plays, while liberals waved a condescending finger at those “African Bishops” who don’t know any better.

Please, dear Lord Jesus, I thought, don’t let it happen again. Please don’t let us forget that you told us that all men will know we are your disciples by the love we have for one another.

Pope Francis stepped in and showed what a True Shepherd of the Church  should do. He brought in his shepherd’s crook and corralled all the bleating (and biting) sheep. Papa Frank laid his pastoral hands on the church and calmed us all.

How? By simply preaching the Gospel.

Allow me to quote my favorite section of his sermon:
Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parrhesia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life.

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

How did the synod respond?  A four minute standing ovation with smiles of relief on everyone’s faces.  All the hurt feelings, false statements, and back biting washed away in the Gospel truths of Papa Frank’s message. This was the Gospel in action. This was Gospel of Jesus that the church guards. This was why I came home to the Catholic Church.

I have to confess, I cried a little and felt a huge sense of relief.

No matter where you stand on the issues presented at the Synod, Christ was glorified. No, not many issues were solved and probably won’t be for a long time. As a divorcing person, this is a bit hard to handle, but I will be patient.  My pastor, Pope Francis, has comforted me with Christ and I’m content with that. Let’s hope everyone else can be too.

The Gospel scorns the distinction of liberal and conservative. It laughs at those pathetic, naked rulers and pushes the church to a higher understanding of Christ’s love. The church will not be a slave to conservatives, who want to use it for a political power base, nor will Christ’s body be bossed around by liberals who think they know best because they are“modern” (whatever the hell that means).

Pope Francis showed us this fact in a profound way. Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

and for absolutely no reason except that it is worth watching:

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