Dr Scott Hahn was a leading Presbyterian theologian who became Catholic. He is today a leading Catholic Evangelist.
Dr Scott Hahn was a leading Presbyterian theologian who became Catholic. He is today a leading Catholic Evangelist.
For the past two weeks Legionaries from around the Dioceses of Cork and Ross have gathered each weekday to do house-to-house visitation in the Cathedral parish of Saint Mary and Saint Anne. The parish boundaries encompass some of the oldest and narrowest streets in the city of Cork. The initiative, organised by the priests of the parish, is in response to Pope (Emeritus) Benedict’s appeal, when he launched the ‘Year of Faith’, in 2012, that each parish community would reach out again to those who have lapsed or strayed away from the Catholic faith. The parish community has prayed earnestly and the Legionaries have done the hard slog – its now left to the Lord to touch each heart of those visited that they would see that life is diminished once we place ourselves outside our Father’s House.
BY TOM HOOPES
If people’s minds were blown when they found out that the Pope actually believes the Catechism, imagine how blown their minds are when they figure out that the Pope actually imitates Jesus Christ.
Minds are being blown even as we speak. A great new media fervor is starting about how Pope Francis is saying to back off from abortion and homosexual marriage and just talk about Jesus.
It’s important to read his actual words and try to understand where the Spirit is leading us in the Church of Pope Francis. His new interview with America magazine is available here: “A Big Heart Open to God.”
When Pope Francis said “who am I to judge?” with respect to homosexuals in his interview on the plane back from Brazil, headlines cried out that he was changing everything. “By saying this, I said what the catechism says,” he explains in his new interview. Indeed he did.
In his new interview, he suggests that we love people with same-sex attraction and not define them merely by that one characteristic. And he suggests we find an effective way to address abortion in context, which he points out is a cause of suffering for the women involved.
Here is how he put it:
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
To read that and say that the Pope wants to be accepting of abortion and contraception and gay marriage is like reading the story of Jesus and the Woman at the Well and say it shows how accepting Jesus is of adultery.
A key to his approach comes later in the interview:
“Because God is first; God is always first and makes the first move,” he said. “I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else — God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
Compare Francis’ approach with Christ’s meeting with The Samaritan Woman at the well. In it, Jesus masterfully takes a woman who has led a sinful life from a simple conversation about water to a self-examination of her life to a recognition that Jesus is the Messiah. He does it without ever voicing his clear objections to her sinful life.
First, Christ respects the woman’s freedom. When we say we want to “evangelize” someone, we often mean we want someone to stop being who they are and be who we want them to be. Christ doesn’t treat the woman at the well that way. He recognizes the woman for who she is, but offers her a positive way to become more.
Second, Christ speaks in the woman’s language about a real need the woman feels, in this case for water. Too often, our efforts to tell other people about Christ fail to recognize their interests, while making our interests (their joining our Church) very clear.
Third, Christ doesn’t condemn the woman — rather, he leads her to a place where she can see the error of her own ways. This is crucial. Not only do we frighten people away from us by being judgmental, we deny them the opportunity to truly repent.
The harder way, the respectful way, is the only way that works.
“I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost.”
Jesus did things the hard way. It is the hard way that Francis chooses. We should do the same.
What Pope Francis really said. George Weigel
The Christ-Centered Pope
National Review Online
By George Weigel. September 20, 2013
Perhaps the most revealing detail in Pope Francis’s lengthy interview, conducted by the Italian Jesuit Antonio Spadaro and published yesterday in English translation in the Jesuit journal America, is the pontiff’s reflection on one of his favorite Roman walks, prior to his election:
‘Whenever I had to come to Rome, I always stayed in [the neighborhood of the] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of “The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio. That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew. . . . This is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.’
‘The Calling of St. Matthew is an extraordinary painting in many ways, including Caravaggio’s signature use of light and darkness to heighten the spiritual tension of a scene. In this case, though, the chiaroscuro setting is further intensified by a profoundly theological artistic device: The finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew, seems deliberately to invoke the finger of God as rendered by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Thus Caravaggio, in depicting the summons of the tax collector, unites creation and redemption, God the Father and the incarnate Son, personal call and apostolic mission.’
‘That is who Jorge Mario Bergoglio is: a radically converted Christian disciple who has felt the mercy of God in his own life and who describes himself, without intending any dramatic effect, as “a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” Having heard the call to conversion and responded to it, Bergoglio wants to facilitate others’ hearing of that call, which never ceases to come from God through Christ and the Church.’
And that, Bergoglio insists, is what the Church is for: The Church is for evangelization and conversion. Those who have found the new pope’s criticism of a “self-referential Church” puzzling, and those who will find something shockingly new in his critical comments, in his recent interview, about a Church reduced “to a nest protecting our mediocrity,” haven’t been paying sufficient attention. Six years ago, when the Catholic bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean met at the Brazilian shrine of Aparecida to consider the future, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio, was one of the principal intellectual architects of the bishops’ call to put evangelization at the center of Catholic life, and to put Jesus Christ at the center of evangelization. The Latin American Church, long used to being “kept,” once by legal establishment and then by cultural tradition, had to rediscover missionary zeal by rediscovering the Lord Jesus Christ. And so the Latin American bishops, led by Bergoglio, made in their final report a dramatic proposal that amounted to a stinging challenge to decades, if not centuries, of ecclesiastical complacency:
The Church is called to a deep and profound rethinking of its mission. . . . It cannot retreat in response to those who see only confusion, dangers, and threats. . . . What is required is confirming, renewing, and revitalizing the newness of the Gospel . . . out of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ that raises up disciples and missionaries. . . .
A Catholic faith reduced to mere baggage, to a collection of rules and prohibitions, to fragmented devotional practices, to selective and partial adherence to the truths of faith, to occasional participation in some sacraments, to the repetition of doctrinal principles, to bland or nervous moralizing, that does not convert the life of the baptized would not withstand the trials of time. . . . We must all start again from Christ, recognizing [with Pope Benedict XVI] that “being Christian is . . . the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
The 21st-century proclamation of Christ must take place in a deeply wounded and not infrequently hostile world. In another revealing personal note, Francis spoke of his fondness for Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion, one of the most striking religious paintings of the 20th century. Chagall’s Jesus is unmistakably Jewish, the traditional blue and white tallis or prayer-shawl replacing the loincloth on the Crucified One. But Chagall’s Christ is also a very contemporary figure, for around the Cross swirl the death-dealing political madnesses and hatreds of the 20th century. And so the pope’s regard for Chagall’s work is of a piece with his description of the Catholic Church of the 21st century as a kind of field hospital on a battlefield strewn with the human wreckage caused by false ideas of the human person and false claims of what makes for happiness. Thus Francis in his interview on the nature of the Church:
I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.
And how are the wounds of late-modern and postmodern humanity to be healed? Through an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. “The most important thing, “ Francis insisted in his interview, “is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.” The Church of the 21st century must offer Jesus Christ as the answer to the question that is every human life (as John Paul II liked to put it). The moral law is important, and there should be no doubt that Francis believes and professes all that the Catholic Church believes and professes to be true about the moral life, the life that leads to happiness and beatitude. But he also understands that men and women are far more likely to embrace those moral truths — about the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death; about human sexuality and how it should be lived — when they have first embraced Jesus Christ as Lord. That, it seems to me, is what the pope was saying when he told Antonio Spadaro that “proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things.” These are what make “the heart burn: as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. . . . The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
Francis underscores that “the teaching of the Church is clear” on issues like abortion, euthanasia, the nature of marriage, and chastity and that he is “a son of the Church” who accepts those teachings as true. But he also knows that “when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.” That “context” is Jesus Christ and his revelation of the truth about the human person. For as the Second Vatican Council taught in Gaudium et Spes, its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, “It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly comes clear. For Adam, the first man, was the type of him who was to come. Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling.”
Thus Pope Francis, the pastor who is urging a new pastoral style on his fellow bishops and fellow priests, insists that every time the Church says “no,” it does so on the basis of a higher and more compelling “yes”: yes to the dignity and value of every human life, which the Church affirms because it has embraced Jesus as Lord and proclaims him to a world increasingly tempted to measure human beings by their utility rather than their dignity.
Francis’s radical Christocentricity — his insistence that everything in the Church begins with Jesus Christ and must lead men and women to Jesus Christ — also sheds light on his statement that there is a hierarchy of truths in Catholicism or, as he put it, that “the dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent.” That does not mean, of course, that some of those those teachings are not really, well, true; but it does mean that some truths help us make sense of other truths. The Second Vatican Council reclaimed this notion of a “hierarchy of truths” in Unitatis Redintegratio, its Decree on Ecumenism, and it’s an important idea, the pope understands, for the Church’s evangelical mission.
If you don’t believe in Jesus Christ as Lord — if you’ve never heard the Gospel — then you aren’t going to be very interested in what the Catholic Church has to say in Jesus’s name about what makes for human happiness and what makes for decadence and unhappiness; indeed, you’re quite likely to be hostile to what the Church says about how we ought to live. By redirecting the Church’s attention and pastoral action to the Church’s most basic responsibility — the proclamation of the Gospel and the invitation to friendship with Jesus Christ — Pope Francis is underscoring that a very badly disoriented 21st century will be more likely to pay attention to evangelists than to scolds: “We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. . . . The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.” The Church says “yes” before the Church says “no,” and there isn’t any “no” the Church pronounces that isn’t ultimately a reflection of the Church’s “yes” to Jesus Christ, to the Gospel, and to what Christ and the Gospel affirm about human dignity.
It’s going to take some time for both the Church and the world to grow accustomed to an evangelical papacy with distinctive priorities. Those who imagine the Catholic Church as an essentially political agency in which “policy” can change the way it changes when a new governor moves into an American statehouse will continue — as they did within minutes of the release of the America interview — to misrepresent Pope Francis as an advocate of doctrinal and moral change, of the sort that would be approved by the editorial board of the New York Times. This is nonsense. Perhaps more urgently, it is a distraction.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio is determined to redirect the Church’s attention, and the world’s attention, to Jesus Christ. In this, his papacy will be in continuity with those of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Francis is going to be radically Christ-centered in his own way, though, and some may find that way jarring. Those willing to take him in full, however, rather than excising 17 words from a 12,000-word interview, will find the context in which those 17 words make classic Catholic sense. “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods,” the pope told his interviewer. Why? Because it is by insisting on conversion to Jesus Christ, on lifelong deepening of the believer’s friendship with him, and on the Church’s ministry as an instrument of the divine mercy that the Church will help others make sense of its teaching on those matters — with which the New York Times, not the Catholic Church, is obsessed — and will begin to transform a deeply wounded culture.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.
Our retired Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, declared 2013 a ‘Year of Faith’. In his declaration he appealed particularly that priests would reach out from their parish churches and make contact again with those who, for different reasons, have lapsed or grown indifferent to the Catholic faith. He urged Priests, indeed all Christians, to make Christ’s love known again to the world. In response to Pope (Emeritus) Benedict’s appeal, the priests of the Cathedral parish, Fr Ted and Fr Tomás, have enlisted the help of the Legion of Mary in home-to-home visitation. Consequently, over the next two weeks members of the Legion will visit the roads of our parish with a personal invitation to those who have lapsed to return again to the Catholic faith. We ask God to bless this undertaking – that lapsed members will be touched by God’s grace and come to the realisation that away from God’s friendship they cannot find the happiness that they search for and desperately need. Also, we ask God’s blessings on members of the Legion of Mary who will give generously of time and energy to make this initiative a success.
DUBLIN, September 06, 2013 (Zenit.org) – Here is the statement released by Cardinal Sean Brady, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, on the situation in Syria.
The latest devastating images of death and destruction from the conflict in Syria powerfully illustrate the futility of what Pope Francis has described as ‘increasing violence in a war between brothers’. This violence offers no hope for the future. Its consequences are evident in the deserted streets lined with empty shells of buildings which should be full of human life.
The overwhelming suffering inflicted on families and communities in Syria cannot be allowed to continue. This is not only a tragedy for Syria, but for the whole world. The international community has a vital role to play in protecting innocent civilians from violent attacks, particularly those which involve the use of chemical weapons deemed wholly unethical and unacceptable.
Pope Francis has emphasised the need to raise our voices ‘so the sound of weapons stops’. The millions of Syrians who have been displaced from their homes, who grieve the loss of their loved ones and fear for their future desperately need our support and prayers at this time. I invite the Catholic faithful of Ireland to remember the suffering of Syrian children and their families at Masses this weekend, and I ask that we all fast and pray for a speedy end to this appalling conflict and that humanitarian aid may reach those in need as soon as possible.
RAISE A CRY FOR PEACE IN SYRIA
Vatican City, 4 September 2013 (VIS) – “This coming Saturday we will experience together a special day of fasting and prayer for pace in Syria, the Middle East”, said the Pope at the end of the catechesis of today’s general audience. “I renew my invitation to all the Church to live this day intensely, and from this moment on, express my gratitude to those brothers and sisters, Christians and of other religions, and to men and women of good will who wish to join, wherever they may be and in their own way, in this moment. I particularly urge the faithful and pilgrims in Rome to participate in the prayer vigil here in St. Peter’s Square at 7 p.m., to invoke from the Lord the gift of peace. Let us raise a cry for peace all over the world!”
The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, the spiritual leader of Sunni Islam in Syria, is deeply affected by the Pope’s appeal for peace in Syria. The Mufti has expressed the desire to be present in St Peter’s for the prayer vigil for peace in Syria, which was announced by Pope Francis for Saturday, September 7. As learned by Fides Agency, an exploratory request to that effect was sent by the Islamic leader to the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, Mgr. Mario Zenari, and in the coming days the feasibility of this desire will be evaluated on both sides. Although, for logistical reasons this event will not occur, the mufti told his community in Damascus to “welcome the appeal to pray for peace in Syria extended by the Pope to all religions”. The Syrian Muslims will be invited to pray for peace on September 7, simultaneously and in communion with the Pope, in mosques in Damascus and across the country.
According to the mufti, “everybody knows that the Pope is a father who cares about the future of the Syrian people and wants to protect the whole Syrian society, in its various components, so that it is not destroyed by religious divisions and radicalism”. The Syrian Muslims see the Pope as “true spiritual leader, free from political, individual or collective interests, as a leader who speaks for the true good of the Syrian people”. As Fides learns from local sources, Muslim groups, tribal communities, the Druze, the Ishmaelites and other components of Syrian society will join in the prayer.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 02/09/2013)