“Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”) – An Updated Call to Holiness

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 9, 2018 | Categories: Accountability, Arts & Letters, Faith, Politics, Popes

Ultra conservative Catholic Wall Street Journal readers choked on their toast and scrambled eggs this morning when they read the headline of an article by Francis X. Rocca: “Pope Says Fighting Poverty Is as Essential as Opposing Abortion.”

Here is the article in full –  

“Pope Francis criticized Christians who emphasize opposition to abortion above social causes such as poverty and migration, in his latest effort to readjust the priorities of Catholic moral teaching from what he has characterized as an overemphasis on sexual and medical ethics.

“Our defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate,” the pope wrote in a document released by the Vatican on Monday. “Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born,” including the neglected elderly and victims of human trafficking.

The pope’s words appeared in “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), a reflection on “holiness in today’s world” that includes advice on resisting the “verbal violence” of social media and achieving spiritual concentration amid a “culture of zapping.”

 Pope Francis has repeatedly called for reducing the emphasis on certain moral issues and increasing attention to social and economic justice.

That approach stands in contrast with that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who specified opposition to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage among a handful of “nonnegotiable” values for the church.

In terms of ethical priorities, Pope Francis wrote in the document released Monday that an exclusive focus on abortion reflects a “harmful ideological error” of those who play down the importance of social action or denigrate it as “superficial, worldly, materialist, communist or populist.”

“We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice” in the form of economic equality, the pope added.

The pope also criticized what he characterized as an exaggerated focus on moral relativism, a concept closely associated with the teaching of Pope Benedict, who famously denounced what he called a “dictatorship of relativism” in contemporary culture.

“We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the ‘grave’ bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian,” Pope Francis wrote.

He also warned against the danger of seeking social change while neglecting personal piety through prayer and Bible reading.

“Christianity thus becomes a sort of NGO stripped of the luminous mysticism” exemplified by St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa of Kolkata, the pope wrote.”

Catholics are now called to do more than be against a handful of sexual sins and sinners to declare themselves “Faithful Catholics.”

 

 

 

 

Catholic Values in Higher Education

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 24, 2017 | Categories: Accountability, Popes

In an October 17, 2017 audience with students from the “Institution des Chartreux” in Lyon, France Pope Francis reminds them of their need to keep their moral formation at the heart of their drive to professional success and fulfillment.

“You are engaged in a course of study that prepares you to enter the great schools of commerce that, when the moment comes, will enable you to exercise a profession in the world of international finance. I am glad to know that your academic formation includes a strong human, philosophical and spiritual dimension, and for this I thank God. Indeed, it is essential that, from now and in your future professional life, you learn to remain free from the allure of money, from the slavery in which money traps those who worship it. And it is also important that you are able to acquire today the strength and the courage not to obey blindly the invisible hand of the market. Therefore, I encourage you to draw benefits from your time studying to train yourselves to be promoters and defenders of a growth in equality, artisans of a just and fitting administration of our common home, namely the world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 204; 206).”

“Here in Rome you experience a form of immersion in the history that has so strongly marked the rise of the European nations. Admiring what the genius of men and the hopes they have cultivated have been capable of realising, you too must take care to leave your imprint on history. Indeed, you have the capacity of deciding your future! I wish to repeat it: you have the capacity of deciding your future. Therefore I urge you to become responsible for this world and the life of every man. Never forget that “every injustice against a poor person is an open wound, and diminishes your very dignity” (Catechesis, 20 September 2017). And, even though this world expects you to head towards success, give yourselves the means and the time to journey the paths of fraternity, to build bridges between men rather than walls, to add your stone to the edification of a more just and humane society.”

Every pope in the last century has touched on this ethic, including Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.  However, I don’t think has been stated as often, and as strongly, as Pope Francis.  Pope Leo XIII laid the foundation of modern Catholic social teaching with Rerum Novarum – an encyclical on capital and labor.  It was published on May 15, 1891.

Earlier this week, I had an exchange with a good friend about the values in my college formation:

“Mary, When I attended Trinity, the values were academic rigor, service to society and others, and our Catholic faith as the foundation for professional and community life. We were encouraged to make an impact, to contribute. I have lived Trinity’s values all my life. Are those the same values now at Trinity?” (Note – I entered Trinity College in Washington, DC in September 1970 and graduated in May 1974.) 

Trinity was founded in 1897, so I’m sure the teaching of Rerum Novarum had an impact on the new college’s moral and ethical mission.

Especially as a graduate of a Catholic college, I was dismayed to see niche morality on display in the National Catholic Register’s (a national newspaper) 2017 Catholic Identity College Guide.  The paper sent ten questions to the 197 U.S. Catholic colleges and universities to ostensibly verify Catholic identity.  Of that number, 34 returned the questionnaires with the correct answers.  You can get the flavor of the survey in a few of the questions:

  • “Did the president make the public “Profession of Faith” and take the “Oath of Fidelity”?
  • “Did all Catholic theology professors take the “Oath of Fidelity”
  • “Do you exclude advocates of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, cloning or advocates of the redefinition of marriage as commencement speakers and/or recipients of honorary degrees?”
  • “Do you exclude sponsoring campus groups and clubs that are not in line with Catholic teaching (examples: abortion and LGBT-related clubs)? If allowed, please explain.”
  • “Do you prohibit coed dorms?”

No mention of advocates of the death penalty? No mention of barring executives from companies who have endorsed or looked the other way on shoddy or criminal financial practices? Notorious polluters?  Why, I wonder?  Aren’t these “Life” issues?

I think it is good and needed to encourage Catholic identify in education and especially young people.  Young people want to talk about what’s important or troubling them, and they want other people to hear what they have to say.  We need to listen, and to encourage the exercise of their conscience, which will be their moral compass for the rest of their life–especially if they go into business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis is Changing the World and the Church

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 22, 2014 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Faith, History, Popes

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In the summer of 1206, St. Francis went into the small chapel of San Damiano near Assisi to pray.  As he knelt before the crucifix, he heard Jesus’ invitation: “Francis, go rebuild my Church, which you see is falling into ruins.” “Yes!” said Francis, “This is what I want; this is what I long for with all my heart.”

800 years later, the first Pope Francis took up the same challenge–to rebuild a Church that was in almost total disgrace, disarray, and irrelevant.  The message of the Gospels had become lost to dogmatic meanness and nit-picking.

Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis is Changing the World and the Church by noted journalist and former Jesuit Robert Blair Kaiser, offers insights on the pope’s “Jesuit DNA.”  It is this DNA that impels him with a “holy boldness” to push the boundaries to make the world a better place, and rebuild the Church to a house of mercy and humanity.

The Jesuit DNA includes several things: a striving for the greater glory of God (ad majorem Dei gloriam); but especially to go to the edges, the margins, to learn, understand and serve. After Vatican II, the author relates that most Jesuits call salvation “being all we can be in this life” and not simply to get to heaven, but to make a difference in the lives of other people.

Pope Francis’ emphasis on humanity vs. rules and regulations is changing the culture of judgement (abortion, same-sex marriage, doctrinaire fixation (“are you pure enough to call yourself ‘Catholic?’) to a culture of mercy and mission.  He wants to be fully engaged with people, and is leading the Church to do likewise.  He starts by calling himself a sinner who has made many mistakes (when was the last time we heard a cardinal, bishop, or priest do that?) and reminds us that Christ came to us so that we might know life more fully.

The author framed this motivation wonderfully by describing his own experience as a teacher and coach at Saint Ignatius Prep, a high school for boys in San Francisco, CA: “I was trying to show them that their religion, fully lived, was something that would make them more human, happier individuals, with a humanity and happiness that would bring joy to those around them.  I wanted to destroy the image of religion as something that made people less human, less joyful, less real.”

The author doesn’t back away from the warts.  He examines Pope Francis’ time as provincial of the Argentine Jesuits and as archbishop of Buenos Aires. He has come under criticism for both periods because of his lack of support for liberation theology, and for not standing up to the military junta that caused the death or disappearance  of over 20,000 people.

The pope did not shy away from his record, but doesn’t go into specifics. He explains the Lord leads to a growth of knowledge through his faults and sins, and also that he made decisions alone and in the midst of an interior crisis. If experience leads to a conversion of heart, who are we to judge?

Robert Kaiser also raises the pope’s, Church’s, and Jesuits’ poor records and lack of engagement with women–half the Church. My good friend, theologian Dr. Mary E. Hunt, challenges the pope on this issue:  “It is intellectually embarrassing to hear a man who is so conversant with music, literature and poetry have such a palty vocabulary when it comes to women. Thus far, Francis has not had any public conversation with a woman church leader of any sort.  The continued oppression of U.S. women religious, officially approved by him, is a negative sign as well.”

The author thinks Dr. Hunt is mistaken, but I agree with her. The pope needs to address the impact of our closed, male-oriented institution on the poorest of the poor–Catholic women. Women continue to wait for meaningful action from Pope Francis.  His Jesuit DNA won’t help us there–Jesuits have little to do with women’s issues or women as a group.

One surprise in the book for me was the suggestion that 46-year-old Jorge Bergoglio had been in love. In March 1986 he went to Frankfurt, Germany for two years to pursue a doctorate. In 1987 his provincial ordered him back to Argentina, his thesis only half finished. He was put on severe restrictions for correspondence and communication. This kind of discipline is only warranted if the man has told superiors he has fallen in love, or if a fellow Jesuit found out he is having a love affair.

Would love and separation make a person more emphathetic to its effects in other people’s lives? I think so. Perhaps this period in the pope’s life has led him to emphasize mercy, forgiveness and the human vs. ideological.  Pope Francis has described himself as a sinner who has made hundreds of mistakes. It sounds like it’s true–not some stock piety.

About half the book is devoted to Pope Francis, the remainder is parables about fellow Jesuits and former Jesuits who illustrate the best of “Jesuit DNA.”  Like Marines–once a Marine, always a Marine, Jesuits forever identify themselves as brothers, and retain their values, friendships and network for a lifetime.

The men profiled include Fr. Marie Joseph Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a scientist and humanist; Fr. George Dunne, writer and social justice crusader; Bill Cain, playwright and screen writer; Fr. John Baumann, co-founder of PICO (Pacific Institute of Community Organizing); Governor Jerry Brown of California, John Dear, peace activist; and, of course, Inigo Lopez de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.  There is a lot to inspire all of us in their generous lives.

When Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis people and pundits wondered what it would mean to have a Jesuit pope?  How does he think?  What is important to him? What can we expect?

On the way back to Rome from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro Pope Francis addressed this question by reporter Caroline Pigozzi from Paris Match:

“Good evening, Holy Father.  I would like to know if you, since you’ve been Pope, still feel yourself a Jesuit?”

Pope Francis:  “I feel myself a Jesuit in my spirituality, in the spirituality of the Exercises, spirituality, the one I have in my heart. But I feel so much like this that in three days I’ll go to celebrate with  Jesuits the feast of Saint Ignatius:  I will say the morning Mass. I haven’t changed my spirituality, no. Francis, Franciscan, no. I feel myself a Jesuit and I think like a Jesuit. Not hypocritically, but I think as a Jesuit.  Thank you.”

My Rating:  ***** Read this book if you are the type of person who likes to know the “why” behind people and events.

Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis is Changing the Church and the World.Published by Rowman and Littlefield, 2014. Available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and fine booksellers everywhere.

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Author:  Robert Blair Kaiser is an American author and journalist, best known for his writings on the Catholic Church. A former Jesuit, Kaiser left the Society of Jesus three years before his ordination to pursue a career in journalism. He served as an award-winning religion reporter for The New York Times,  CBS News, Newsweek and Time. Throughout the Second Vatican Council, Kaiser was Time magazine’s reporter in Rome and the preeminent reporter on the Council in the English-speaking world.  For his work on the Council, Kaiser won the Overseas Press Club Award for best foreign reporting on foreign affairs.  He is the author of sixteen other books, including A Church in Search of Itself.