Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Pope is Catholic

(From CTV, used w/o permission.)
(Holy Mass for the Opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. (December 8, 2015))

There are reasons for my writing about science or technology most Fridays, and not declaring that you must worship exactly as the Apostles did: in 1962.

Briefly: I'm interested in science and technology, I know a little of what's happened over the last two millennia, and I'm a Catholic.

I'm not a traditional, vegetarian, gummy bear, or whatever, Catholic; just a Catholic.

History, Talking, and Being Catholic

(From sporki, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(World Youth Day 2000.)

I accept the bishop of Rome as the acting head1 of my church, so I could say I'm a Roman Catholic.

But I don't, usually, since it's a comparatively new term — it popped up in my language in the early 17th century — and it reflects what I'm sure is a temporary situation.

About a millenium back, disputes over technical issues led to what's called the East-West Schism. The last I heard, there's been significant progress in sorting it out. A millennium from now many Catholics may not be aware it ever existed.

Those who do will probably be in the habit of looking up documents like these:
I'm not upset that the Pope talks with folks from all over the world, and thanked the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Like I said, I'm not an [adjective] Catholic: I'm just plain Catholic, and like being part of an outfit that's catholic: καθολικός, universal, not tied to one era or one culture.

Here's part of what Pope Francis said at an ecumenical meeting back in 2013:
"...For my part, I wish to assure you that, in continuity with my predecessors, it is my firm intention to pursue the path of ecumenical dialogue, and I thank the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity for the help that it continues to provide, in my name, in the service of this most noble cause. I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to bring my cordial greetings and the assurance of my prayerful remembrance in the Lord Jesus to the Christian communities which you represent, and I beg of you the charity of a special prayer for me, that I may be a pastor according to the heart of Christ.

"And now I turn to you, the distinguished representatives of the Jewish people, to whom we are linked by a most special spiritual bond, since, as the Second Vatican Council stated 'the Church of Christ recognizes that in God's plan of salvation the beginnings of her faith and her election are to be found in the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets' (Nostra Aetate, 4)...."
(Pope Francis, in Meeting with Representatives of Churches and Ecclesial Communities and of Different Religions (March 20, 2013), quoted in N.141 (and see Nostra Aetate (October 28, 1965))
I've talked about what happened after the Golgotha incident, Matthew 28:18-20, and our marching orders, before. Fairly often. (January 3, 2016; November 22, 2015; October 5, 2014)

"Great Anxiety"

I sympathize, a little, with folks who get upset when the Pope talks with the 'wrong' people — or doesn't try forcing everyone to worship exactly the way folks did in their home parish, back in their childhood.

Screwball shenanigans committed "in the spirit of Vatican II" don't help their attitude, I suspect.

I'm a bit less patient when folks who yearn for the good old days go ballistic over imaginary events.

The latest nonsense is sound and fury over Pope Francis supposedly saying that Jesus sinned.

If he'd really said that, it would be an issue. The reality is substantially less dramatic.

Apparently this particular 'down with Francis' bandwagon started when the Pope discussed a facet of Luke 2:41-51. That's the account of our Lord's staying behind at the temple, causing Mary and Joseph "great anxiety."

Translated into English, the Pope called our Lord's decision to stay at the temple an "escapade."

It's not the usual stodgy term used to describe 'spiritual' events.

Let's see if it's improper, though.

An "escapade" is "an adventurous, unconventional act or undertaking."

A 12-year-old boy sticking around the temple, discussing theology with the professionals: and making sense?

Adventurous? Yes: arguably, at least. Unconventional? Definitely.

As described by Pope Francis, young Jesus in this account sounds like a 12-year-old boy. I don't have a problem with that, since I believe that our Lord really is human and God. (Catechism, 456-478)

That doesn't mean I understand operational details of the Trinity. God's God, I'm not, and I'm okay with that. (May 31, 2015)

I can almost see how someone who hasn't gotten over the Council of Trent, let alone the First and Second Vatican Councils, might assume that anything said since 1545 is suspect.

However, although speculating that "Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents" raises some interesting questions — in context, I think getting upset about the statement makes no sense.

Here's an excerpt from the homily:
"...At the end of that pilgrimage, Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents (cf. Lk 2:51). This image also contains a beautiful teaching about our families. A pilgrimage does not end when we arrive at our destination, but when we return home and resume our everyday lives, putting into practice the spiritual fruits of our experience. We know what Jesus did on that occasion. Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him. For this little 'escapade', Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents. The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it. Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt. Returning home, Jesus surely remained close to them, as a sign of his complete affection and obedience. Moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; the Lord transforms the moments into opportunities to grow, to ask for and to receive forgiveness, to show love and obedience...."
(Homily, Pope Francis (December 27, 2015)3)
I suspect that some of the alternatively-sane hubbub over Pope Francis comes from his taking our Catholic faith seriously, and that's as snarky as I'll get today.


Some of the world's billion or so living Catholics are probably upset that we've got options for Bible readings:
These aren't cases like Exodus 20:15, Leviticus 19:11, and Deuteronomy 5:19, which all say pretty much the same thing. The pair from Isaiah talk about justice and comfort; the two New Testament readings are a bit more similar to each other, now that I think about it:
"1 Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations,"
(Isaiah 42:1)

"Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God."
(Isaiah 40:1)

"12 Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, 13 'In truth, I see that God shows no partiality."
(Acts 10:34)

"2 For the grace of God has appeared, saving all"
(Titus 2:11)
My guess is that these options exist to accommodate regional customs. As I keep saying, the Catholic Church really is catholic, καθολικός, universal, united and diverse, for all times and all people. (January 3, 2016; December 13, 2015; July 19, 2015)

Where was I? Being Catholic, the Pope, options. Right.

Today's reading from Acts started me thinking about having reasonable standards.

"God shows no partiality"

(From John Martin, via WikiMedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
('Now that I have your attention....')
"12 Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, 13 'In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.

"Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him."
(Acts 10:34-35)
I've talked about fear of God, Jonathan Edwards, and getting a grip before. (March 15, 2015; July 20, 2014)

Basically, fear of God isn't being scared silly. It's more like respect. (Catechism, 2144)

I take Acts 10:35, and all Sacred Scripture, seriously. I have to: it's in the rules. (Catechism, 131-133)

But I won't claim that God wants you to do things my way: or the way I'd like to act. That's not what acting uprightly means.

As our Lord said, "the whole law and the prophets depend" on two commandments: love God, love my neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40)

He also said "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

That makes sense, at least to me. If I love God and my neighbor, I'll treat my neighbor the way I'd like to be treated.

Recapping, the rules are simple: love God, love my neighbor, see everyone as my neighbor, treat others as I want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 5:43-44; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-30; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1825)

These rules never change. (Catechism, 1956)

Loving our neighbors was a good idea when Osroes I ruled the Parthian Empire, it's a good idea now, and it'll be a good idea when the Third Dynasty of Ur, Han Dynasty, and Maratha Empire seem roughly contemporary.

How we apply these rules has changed since my youth, will continue to change — and that's okay. (Catechism, 1952, 1954-1960)

"The Words of Eternal Life"

We've had good popes recently: included two certified Saints; St. John XXIII; and St. John Paul II. (April 27, 2014)

Then there was the spectacularly unethical pope who was kicked out twice, and sold the papacy once. That was about a millennium back now. We hit another rough patch, a few centuries after that. (September 14, 2014)

I like what I've seen and read of Pope Francis: but even if I didn't, I'd stay with the Catholic Church. Like I've got a choice: I'm in the same boat as Peter, figuratively speaking, when he said "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life...." (John 6:68)

I follow Jesus of Nazareth: the man who is God, who died and then stopped being dead, who lives, and opened the gates of Heaven. Jesus gave Peter authority that's been passed along in unbroken succession to the current Pope.4

At the end of all things, I do not want to be explaining why I walked away from the authority our Lord left here. That kind of trouble I don't need.
"6 But a Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up, ordered the men to be put outside for a short time,

"and said to them, 'Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do to these men....

"...So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself.

"But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.' They were persuaded by him."
(Acts 5:34-35, 38-39)
And that's another topic.

More of my take on being Catholic:

1 Popes are vicars of Christ, deputies filling in while our Lord is away. More about that:
  • Code of Canon Law, Book II, Part II, Section I, Chapter I, Article 1, 331
  • Catechism, 882
  • "Lumen Gentium,"
    Chapter III
    Pope Blessed Paul VI (November 21, 1964)
2 Unity and diversity:
"The diverse liturgical traditions have arisen by very reason of the Church's mission. Churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the culture:..."
(Catechism, 1202)

"Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church's sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals,180 etc."
(Catechism, 1674)

"...Our Liturgies of the Eucharist are well attended and constitute a real feast and celebration with an active participation from the faithful expressed in joy, song and a dignified dance...."
("The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church," H.E. Most. Rev. Angel Floro Martínez, I.E.M.E., Bishop of Gokwe (Zimbabwe); Synodus Episcoporum Bulletin, XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (October 2-23, 2005))

"...Traditional stories and symbols, music and dance, rites and celebrations, all of which are expressions of human memory and imagination, are deeply part of the cultures of Oceania. Through a proper application of inculturation, the Church seeks to incorporate elements of a particular culture into Her liturgy, devotional practices, catechesis and sacred art. In this way, She expresses faith in God and communion among the faithful...."
("Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life Lineamenta," Synod of Bishops Special Assembly for Oceania, 11 (1997))
3 Full text of the Pope's homily:
4 As I said September 14, 2014 — We're guided by Sacred Scripture, Tradition (with a capital "T"), and the Magisterium. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 75-95)

Our Tradition is the apostolic teaching authority, a "living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit."3 (Catechism, 77-79)

For two milllenia we have persevered: through the rise and fall of kingdoms, empires, and civilizations; despite Manichaeism, Benedict IX (we've up to Benedict XVI now), and paparazzi. I expect 'more of the same' until our Lord returns: no matter how long "soon" is.
"Jesus said to him in reply, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood 12 has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

"And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, 13 and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

"I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. 14 Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' "
(Matthew 16:17-19)

"11 Then Jesus approached and said to them, 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

"Go, therefore, 12 and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,

"teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 13 And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.' "
(Matthew 28:18-20)

"And so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time...."
("Dei Verbum," 8)

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