April 12, 2013

"When the church is self-referential... inadvertently, she believes she has her own light..."

"...he ceases to be the mysterium lunae and gives way to that very serious evil, spiritual worldliness," said Cardinal Bergoglio in the 4-minute speech addressing the Cardinals and — as the WSJ reports — leading them to pick him as the new Pope.

The new pope "must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the church to go out to the existential peripheries, that helps her to be the fruitful mother, who gains life from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing."

The word he used, periferia in Italian, literally translates into "the periphery" or "the edge." But to Italian ears, periferia is also a term loaded with heavy socioeconomic connotations. It is on the periphery of Italian cities, and most European ones, that the working-class poor live, many of them immigrants. The core mission of the church wasn't self-examination, the cardinal said. It was getting in touch with the everyday problems of a global flock, most of whom were battling poverty and the indignities of socioeconomic injustice....

"He's not relating this to ideology, to let's say, rich against poor," Cardinal Cipriani Thorne said. "No, no, nothing like that. He's saying that Jesus himself brought us to this world to be poor — to not have this excessive consumerism, this great difference between rich and poor."

36 comments:

tiger said...

Interesting article. I take issue with the comments about Dolan; in 2-3 sentences the writer makes him seem like a grand-stander and he's far for that.

And I post that not as a Catholic.

Achilles said...

The Catholic Church has always been a centrally organized entity and favored governments with a tendency towards centralized control over peoples lives. Look for them to make moves that bolster progressive positions and continue to support centralization of power. Despite their loss of freedom as a result of Obamacare still look for catholic powers to continue to support the left.

It will all be couched in language about helping the poor of course. The church and the progressives both share a need for perpetually poor people. Watch for more policies that punish those uppity enough to try to rise from poverty.

Shouting Thomas said...

Way too much focus on who's Pope and what he does.

The Catholic Church functions mostly at the very humble level of the parish, and each parish is remarkably different, reflecting the personality and spiritual outlook of the parish priest.

People who obsess about the Church at the level of the Vatican really don't understand what daily life within the Church is all about.

It isn't about global politics.

SJ said...

Jesus did admonish his followers to pay attention to the poor.

He also warned that poverty would always be present, in one way or another, in the world.

And He hinted that any wealth that could be had in this world would not be of use to a person in the afterlife. (Along with a statement that fame in this world had little to do with fame in His Kingdom.)

It is good to be reminded of these things, while thinking about the words of Pope Francis.

Shouting Thomas said...

The work of caring for the poor also takes place at the parish level, not at some grand global level.

Every parish I know of operates a soup kitchen, delivers food to the poor, organizes clothing drives, etc.

The parish priest decides, in conjunction with lay volunteers what charitable direction his church will take.

SteveR said...

I'm always a bit confused at the enthusiasm among the leaders of chistian churches for taxing unbelievers so that Ceaser can do the work Jesus told his followers to do.

ricpic said...

Well, this is the NY Times version, so of course it's about how the Church should concern itself less with those silly religious matters and more with helping the poor. I mean why be concerned with souls anyway. What an outdated concept, souls. Get with it Church!

Chip Ahoy said...

My favorite part of that whole thing is where the cardinals took with them objects owned by previous popes and went out among the Catholics of the world, which in the languages of the world means universal but in the Catholic world means Catholic people of the world, and spread the objects before the children one-by-one household to household chosen semi-randomly much as sentences are chosen from novels for their unique and attractive qualities, and said the cardinals, "Which of these objects would you care to play with, little boy." Oh, I forgot, only boys. There are attractive shiny expensive objects with no spiritual value or connection and dull common spiritual-like objects, and the boy picked up the junk from the good stuff to play with and consider interesting, as proto-popes tend to do and the cardinals all went, "Ho! Here is our lad. Our new reincarnated pope who recognized the previously popely things." And that's how they found him in Argentina.

sydney said...

Compared to evangelical protestant churches, the Catholic Church does often seem a little stand offish and inward looking. At least in my community, the evangelicals are more likely to reach out and do things independently for the the poorest amongst us. Also, anyone can walk in and be saved and become a member at an evangelical church. The Catholic Church operates too much like a business when it comes to charity. Sure, they have their soup kitchens and food drives, missions to Central America, but out here in the suburbs, the local Catholic Churches are absent from the community when it comes to helping the down and out. And it's hard to feel welcome in a congregation if you don't already know the rules for participation. (Not to mention you have to go through an approval process to become a member.) I would like to see official Catholicdom encouraged to be more openly welcoming to other members of the community. I would like to never hear the phrase "I'm a cradle Catholic" again. (Ever heard a Baptist say something like that?)

Achilles said...

Catholics are too much like high overhead NGO's. Poor Catholics who get help from the church tend to stay poor Catholics who get help from the church. It is too much like government aid to the poor that perpetuates their status.

And the Vatican gets along far too well with the socialist movement in Central/South America.

Henry said...

It is on the periphery of Italian cities, and most European ones, that the working-class poor live, many of them immigrants.

You can blame Le Corbusier for that.

He's saying that Jesus himself brought us to this world to be poor — to not have this excessive consumerism, this great difference between rich and poor.

Where were these guys meeting again?

Shouting Thomas said...

Why do so many non-Catholics have so many opinions about what the Catholic church should do?

(God help me, I'm not sure I really want to read the answers!)

Black Baptist and Pentecostal churches are often far more conservative about the role of women and their outlook on homosexuality than the Catholic Church.

For some reason, that seems to go unnoticed.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why do so many non-Catholics have so many opinions about what the Catholic church should do?"

Part of it is the structure that creates a big, unique celebrity at the top.

Which other religions have that? There's the Dalai Lama. We keep track of his doings. Protestants, Jews, Muslims... they don't have one big man at the top. That makes a difference.

The Anglicans have the Queen, but does she ever even call attention to that role of hers?

Tim said...

Shouting Thomas said...

"Why do so many non-Catholics have so many opinions about what the Catholic church should do?"

Because, unlike the countless protestant sects unified by nothing but their non-Catholic identity, and like teenagers who rebel against their parents as part of defining their own identity, if one took the Catholic Church away from the protestants, the protestants might have to confront the endless permutations of their infinite theologies.

Shouting Thomas said...

The Dalai Lama is also remarkably conservative about the role of women and homosexuality.

Which somehow doesn't get noticed often either.

trumpetdaddy said...

People are exercised about the Catholic Church because in their heart of hearts they know that protestant denominations are at their core just endless variations on "Bob's church" in the storefront of the strip mall.

Further, all these "Martin's church" and "Jean's church" variations have only been around for the last 25% of the life of the Catholic Church, after she stopped crushing heresies with as much vigor as in the first 75% of her existence in this world.

edutcher said...

Sounds like the Andrew Greeleys of the American Church are in for a very rough time.

Achilles said...

Catholics are too much like high overhead NGO's. Poor Catholics who get help from the church tend to stay poor Catholics who get help from the church. It is too much like government aid to the poor that perpetuates their status.

I agree with Shout about people shooting off their mouths about a Church they know almost nothing.

The problem with the poor in various countries is government. The Church is no welfare organization.

PS FWIW, I saw somewhere, maybe the Anchoress, that Benedict is not expected to live much longer.

Lem said...

Chip..

sydney said...

For the record, I am a Catholic.

Shouting Thomas said...

sydney,

You do not have to be Catholic to attend services.

Yes, you are asked to not take communion unless you've gone through the ropes and been baptized as a Catholic.

But, there are no cops up there at the altar.

The request not to abuse the rights of membership is enforced only through voluntary compliance.

CWJ said...

This thread may be Shouting Thomas' finest hour. Of all of you, yes including dear hostess, he comes closest to capturing what my faith is all about.

Yes, we have a global leader at the apex, but at its best it has always been think globally (the pope) act locally. Ignorant people seemingly including our hostess cannot conceive of the Vatican and our Pope having a global role, our Bishops having a regional role, and our parishes having a communal role, while our families have a personal role. Each informs, instructs, and inspires the others.

How can people who nominally claim to embrace federalism not understand that?

And please spare me lectures about the church's failings. The Church understand's that it and we will fail. That is what attracted me to the faith. That hardly means that we should stop trying. The Catholic Church has taught me more about falling down and getting back up to try again, than any other institution of which I've been a part.

ken in sc said...

I have recently come to notice that people on this website do not know the many meanings of the word Catholic. Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox Christians consider themselves to be Catholic, just not Roman Catholic. Methodists and Presbyterians consider themselves to be part of the universal catholic church (small c) of all Christian believers. Baptists, sometimes yes and sometimes no.

I am a Scots-Irish Presbyterian.

SOJO said...

I love this new Pope. That is all.

Shana said...

Any critique I may have of the Roman church has nothing to do with how conservative it is, ST. I respect that aspect of it.

David Davenport said...

People are exercised about the Catholic Church because in their heart of hearts they know that protestant denominations are at their core just endless variations on "Bob's church" in the storefront of the strip mall.

The Pharisees and Saddeucees of Jerusalem probably said things like that about the new-fangled Jesus cult before they crucified Him.

Further, all these "Martin's church" and "Jean's church" variations have only been around for the last 25% of the life of the Catholic Church, after she stopped crushing heresies with as much vigor as in the first 75% of her existence in this world.

Good thing Elizabeth I's navy stopped the Spanish Armada, or else all the English speaking world would still be Papist.

creeley23 said...

Another reason that people focus on the pope is the stir Pope John XXIII created in the early sixties when he became a deeply loved figure on the world scene and initiated the historic wave of reform known as Vatican II.

Just as people keep looking for the next JFK, MLK, Beatles or Bob Dylan, they look for the next Pope John.

Pope Francis has a bit of that humble, earthy glow to him, so he is getting extra attention compared to Benedict.

Kirk Parker said...

Shouting: "Why do so many non-Catholics have so many opinions about what the Catholic church should do?"

Althouse: "Part of it is the structure that creates a big, unique celebrity at the top."

Me: Another part is that, like it or not, the Roman Catholic Church is the 800-pound gorilla of Christian churches. Just like Microsoft or the USA, people notice when you do things.

Balfegor said...

Re: trumpetdaddy

Impolitic-ly put, but as an atheist, that more or less encapsulates my gut reaction to the Protestant sects. They just don't offer anything like the depth or subtlety of thought one finds in the great Catholic thinkers. Instead it's just mad old Martin Luther foaming at the mouth about the Jews and their lies. Nothing against Protestants, mind -- I know many Protestants whom I like just fine. It's just at the level of my gut prejudices, I mildly dislike their religion. It's not a hate-Christianity thing either. Buddhism falls in the same bucket for me. And I have some respect and fondness for Catholicism and the Orthodox churches.

Mitch H. said...

Balfegor, I think that's viewpoint bias. Protestant theologians seem less profound to you because you're repelled by Protestantism and haven't read their work. Citing Luther as an exemplar suggests you haven't encountered a more recent theologian...

Francis's rather Franciscan emphasis on ministry to the poor is fine and all, but that trend in Catholicism, much like Third Great Awakening evangelicalism, has a certain nasty tendency to shade into Grand Inquisitoralism.

traditionalguy said...

The Reform-ation of the Christian Church was simply Paul's theology rediscovered once men were allowed to read the forbidden scriptures again, but the big deal was then and remains now the Roman Church's basic polity issue of top down governance.

As comforting and intelligent as the Roman Empire's Church has become in its later St Francis' approach to animals and a temporary Jesuit's cease fire, the message of top down authority remains the sticking point for free men and women.

creeley23 said...

There is an immense, coherent body of thought underlying Catholicism assembled by hundreds, if not thousands, of the best minds in Western civilization over the past twenty centuries. There is nothing that large and deep in Protestantism, or I daresay in any other religion.

Those who expect the Church to continue Vatican II-style modernization have no idea how inherently conservative the Church is. Nor do they realize how unusual Vatican II was. Much of the history of the Catholic Church over the past fifty years has involved various attempts to absorb and recover from the changes of Vatican II.

Bender said...

Sigh.

So much ignorance about the Catholic Church, and not a few knowing lies.

Bender said...

With respect to the Second Vatican Council and what Blessed Pope John XXIII hoped to accomplish, let's let his own words in the opening address to the Council speak for themselves --

The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be safeguarded and expounded more effectively. . . . What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith, without forfeiting that accuracy and precision in its presentation which characterized the proceedings of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council. What is needed, and what everyone imbued with a truly Christian, Catholic and apostolic spirit craves today, is that this doctrine shall be more widely known, more deeply understood, and more penetrating in its effects on men's moral lives. What is needed is that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms. For this deposit of faith, or truths which are contained in our time-honored teaching is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth with their meaning preserved intact is something else.

As Pope John reveals here, and as confirmed by Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis, the true meaning of the Council is one of continuity. To understand the Council, one must set aside this erroneous hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity which has been pushed by progressives and traditionalists alike and instead accept and believe the Church when she says that the Council did not -- and could not -- change any teaching or doctrine of the faith.

creeley23 said...

Bender: Obviously the intention of Vatican II was not to disrupt the Church. However, the reality is that Vatican II did change the Church, as I said, and many traditionalists and progressives attest to, however much you may disagree.

I am not saying that Vatican II changed the Church fundamentally, but change it did, and the jury is out on the effects of those changes.

BTW, calling people out for ignorance and lies because they see things differently than you is nasty.

trumpetdaddy said...

People who have an issue with "top-down authority" need to take it up with the Lord. He didn't give the keys to Bob at the storefront church, He gave them to St. Peter.

Secondly, the idea that all you need is to "read the Bible" is a similarly facile element of rebellion against Rome. Who put together that Bible in the first place? Oh, that's right, the RCC.

The great sin of Satan's rebellion was in refusing to submit to legitimate authority. Putting himself in the place of God, IOW.

This same sin of pride and arrogance rebellion is manifest in much of what constitutes "protestant theology." The only constant in all the myriad variations is a refusal to submit to legitimate authority. They all disagree on everything but hating Rome.

Let me know when any protestant "theologian" produces anything close to one-tenth the profundity of St. Augustine's rough drafts.

Henry Jordan said...

I'm not glad to say but Catholic Church is not known by many in our country.

Regards,
Henry
The Equation Game