Former papal master of ceremonies (Archbishop Piero Marini, NOT to be confuses with current MC Monsignor Guido Marini) made a bold statement in the press. "It is necessary to recognize the union of persons of the same sex, because there are many couples that suffer because their civil rights aren’t recognized. What can’t be recognized is that this union is equivalent to marriage."
I respectfully but vigorously DISAGREE with his excellency. It is true that ALL human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation/inclination have by virtue of their HUMAN PERSONHOOD basic human rights. These rights come from their human nature and are not given or bestowed by any state or government. The right to life, the most basic and foundational of all, begins at the moment of conception. From that right comes our other human rights, such as the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom to address wrongs, and the right to access of basic human necessities (food, clothing, shelter, employment, education, medical treatment).
All individual PERSONS have rights but not all ideologies, agendas, platforms, philosophies, policies, etc. have equal rights or equal veracity. Some are based on reality and truth, others are based on false, erroneous assumptions, wrong conclusions and distorted perspectives. A racist has human rights but racism has no rights whatsoever. No individual and no society is obliged to recognize let alone condone or tolerate ideologies which contradict truth, threaten the common good or violate the Natural Moral Law. Hence, an abortionist has human rights but abortion itself and the idea that abortion is a viable option enjoys no protection and has no right to be treated as equal with the position of the right to life of the unborn.
There are no black rights and white rights; men's rights and women's rights; gay rights and straight rights. There are just HUMAN RIGHTS. Marriage is a natural institution which existed BEFORE the church and before the state. It is the foundation and cornerstone of the FAMILY which is in turn the keystone of both church and state. Society and civilization depend on the family and de facto depend on marriage.
Recognizing civil unions is wrong not just for moral reasons but for metaphysical ones as well. If the secular legal authorities can recognize and treat as equal both traditional marriage and gay civil unions, then that same authority can and must by logic and reason recognize polygamous and incestuous unions as well. If the natural estate of marriage can be redefined and reinvented in one aspect (to move from the restriction of only opposite gender unions to include same gender unions), it opens the door and even mandates that the other restrictions be eliminated as well. So, from one man + one woman = marriage moves to include two men or two women, then there is nothing stopping multiple spouses so that it becomes one man + many wives or one woman and many husbands. It also means that the state cannot outlaw a brother from marrying his sister, a parent marrying their child, and so forth.
Then what about couples who live together who are not married? Why should they be penalized for not having a civil license? Why not have a license for concubinage and cohabitation? Don't couples who live and sleep together have rights? YES, as persons, they have rights but cohabitation and concubinage has no rights. Likewise, persons with a homosexual orientation or inclination has the same human rights as all human beings, but they do not have a right to reinvent marriage anymore than a polygamist does.
Rights are not the same as privileges, however. Married couples have certain privileges, as do parents, since society benefits and depends on marriage and the family. Individuals retain their inalienable rights but these two estates, marriage and family, must be protected and supported with some reasonable privileges and benefits to encourage individual persons to consider both.
No human being should ever be treated disrespectfully nor with hostility, ever. Unjust discrimination is a sin and is a crime because it is evil. At the same time, not all human activity or ideas are of equal value. Not all promote the common good and some, in fact, threaten it. If two unmarried heterosexual or two homosexuals persons live together, there is little the law can do and no one should threaten their lives or safety. They should be treated with respect but living in sin does not. Sex outside of marriage is fornication. It is immoral and sinful. Neither should society reward sinful behavior by granting privileges but treat them like all individuals. Two individuals living together are as much human as a married man living with his wife but the former is not a protected estate while the latter is. Human rights cannot be denied but not all human relationships or living arrangements have equal protection. We must separate PERSON from IDEOLOGY. That is not being mean, nasty, bigoted or prejudiced. It is being natural and traditional. What if a group of persons living in the same neighborhood just declared to everyone else: 'we are a separate state' or 'we are a separate nation.' Would the US government, the commonwealth (or state) or the world have to recognize it? Just saying something is does not make it so. Calling a relationship marriage does not make it a marriage.
"But they just want to be happy." or "they're good people." Both can be very true statements, but individual happiness and personal goodness do not define reality. We must conform to reality, reality does not conform to us (solipsism). It is like a man declaring he is now a woman. Biologically you are either male or female, but some in society want to allow people to redefine themselves, even their gender. I cannot change my human nature so that now I am an animal or a plant. We call some people vegetables but that is an oxymoron. Human beings are a physical body and an immaterial soul (which is a rational intellect united with a free will). We cannot remake ourselves into angels and angels cannot become men. Marriage cannot be reinvented or redefined, either. Society has a vested interest, not just the Church and religion, but the state and civil government as well, in protecting and promoting traditional marriage. Obviously, there will be people who freely choose to live together without being married. Some freely choose to have children outside of marriage as well. That is their choice but we must reward, defend, protect and promote traditional marriage and traditional family, not just as another option but as the norm and ideal. It will not be 100% but the common good warrants that we honor and cherish it as a goal to aspire and not just a simple choice. Children deserve to born and raised in a loving family where mom and dad are husband and wife so that BOTH genders positively influence and educate and form them. Exceptions should be just that, exceptions and not mere alternatives.
I think we can and must have a civil, polite, respectful and rational debate and discussion. Not a diatribe and nothing with anger, hostility or animosity. Those who disagree with us are not monsters nor are we. I just fear that compromise is not always the best solution. If we keep to the one basic truth that all human being have basic human rights, we can differentiate rights from privileges. Unfortunately, the pro-abortion supporters content they have reproductive rights. No, there are human rights, period, and the right to life is not subservient to any other right, privilege or alternate lifestyle. Likewise, marriage is a natural institution which is not open for redesign or being cloned.
Reports abound about Pope Francis performing small acts of kindness, whether to a Swiss Guard, a hotel clerk or a newspaper salesman. Saint Therese of the Little Flower said that "small acts of kindness, done well and done often, mean more to God than anything else." BOTH Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis are men who show kindness because they RESPECT others. When Father Brighenti and I presented a special hard-bound copy of John Paul II for Dummies to B16, he treated us with KINDNESS. That is the sign of a true gentleman and a real Christian. He opened the book and actually read a page before spending another five whole minutes conversing with us. He looked you in the eye and spoke to you with respect even though he was light years ahead of us intellectually and spiritually. Two simple diocesan priests having a conversation with the Supreme Roman Pontiff. He even remembered our first book (Catholicism for Dummies) which we sent him when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. Pope Francis is likewise showing DELIBERATE (not random) acts of kindness. He treats people as PERSONS (as did B16 and JP2 before him). All too often, clergy, especially those who are prelates, ACT as if they are better than others and patronize and denigrate others, particularly their ecclesiastical subordinates. Rudeness is always a sign of insecurity. Graciousness, when genuine, comes from a loving heart.
All too often people misjudge others by how they dress, whether it is the clothing of a poor man or the traditional vestments of a priest. What matters is what is in the heart. I have seen and heard about too many who say they love the poor or say they love the Church and then treat people as though they were expendable and incidental. I personally met Pope B16 and he is a true gentleman, scholar and a very holy man, yet many attacked him for wearing old fashioned attire. His kindness to others transcended style as it always does in all holy people. True clericalism is when an ordained minister thinks he is better than others and expects preferential treatment. It has nothing to do with ones attire or personal taste. What I find most repugnant about real clericalism is when some clerics act as if they are above the laws of God and His Holy Church. I have seen many good, holy, talented, honest and hard-working priests get overlooked or persecuted for their loyalty to the Magisterium while other bureaucrats, politicians and sycophants get promoted and end up abusing their power. Papal honors, like knighthood and monsignors, are supposed to be given to priests who have gone over and above the normal duties and served selflessly. Often, that is the case, but sadly, there are other instances where old-style cronyism merely rewards buddies, placates the ambitious and promotes the incompetent so as to only have 'yes men' in the court.
One can show loving respect without the recipient allowing it to go to his head. I would never dare call my dad by his first name. Yet, I loved and respected him more than any other man I have ever had the privilege and honor to know. He always sat at the head of our table, whether in the kitchen or the dining room. He also was fair, just, patient, forgiving, merciful, honest and a very devout and staunch Catholic. THAT is what I want to be and what I think all clergy should emulate as spiritual fathers. We clergy are not better than the laity. I know of far more many laypersons who are much closer to sainthood than anyone else I know. The laity want to be treated with respect and so does the clergy. Kindness can be expressed by merely listening even if one disagrees. Kindness is showing civility and good manners at all times to all persons. Kindness is treating others with respect especially when you have authority over them. I found out very soon as a new pastor (11 years ago) that parishioners respect you respecting them. In other words, when making executive decisions, if done abruptly, with no explanation, they can be misinterpreted as clericalism. When people are treated as intelligent adults and given a rationale, they may not always agree but a majority will always appreciate and respect the authoritative decisions when implemented in such a way. What works in a parish, works in a diocese. Trouble begins when laity and clergy alike are treated like ignorant imbeciles who are not sophisticated enough to understand the wisdom of the shepherd. The church is hierarchical by divine choice and institution. Exercising authority with kindness and respect is the hallmark of a GREAT leader. Strength is not found in being rude or obnoxious. Real strength is being firm with compassion and being consistent with reason.
In light of the recent story (click here) about a Christian florist who faces significant fines for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, I asked Father John Trigilio Jr., author, theologian and president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, to comment on the moral difference between unjust and just discrimination against homosexual persons.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches (no. 2358):
The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
Father Trigilio's response is as follows (slightly edited):
Never deny, seldom affirm, always distinguish. This mediaeval axiom was well known and employed by the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. We need to use that same sound reasoning today. The natural moral law, as well as civil law (human positive law), makes a distinction in qualifying unjust discrimination from discrimination in general. Discriminate is defined in the dictionary as a verb from the Latin word discriminare, to differentiate; to make a distinction; to discern differences.
Unjust discrimination is the denial of fair treatment in a situation where a decision should be based on personal merit or need, or is a denial of a human right. Hence, as a consumer, I can go to any merchant of my choice and either pay the price they request, or I'm free to not buy from them. I discriminate between stores and merchants. It is neither unfair nor unjust to avoid certain stores since it is my right to shop where I want. I may like the prices or the location or the customer service of one store over another. That is making a discriminating choice. It is neither immoral nor unjust, and it is not illegal.
When I'm in a store and choose to go to one sales clerk over another, it may be based on the number of people in the clerk's line, the clerk's efficiency or even just his or her smile or professional look. If someone avoids a clerk or store owner purely based on his or her race – thatwould be unjust discrimination. It is immoral and sinful. If, however, I refuse to patronize a store or business that supports abortion by contributing to Planned Parenthood, that is considered moral discrimination. I choose not to do business with someone who openly subsidizes or supports something evil or immoral.
Marriage is a natural institution. It predates the church and the state. Neither one can redefine it. It is therefore not unjust discrimination to boycott or refuse commercial business in a situation that openly defies my moral and religious principles. Marriage is between one man and one woman. The florist, caterer, wedding coordinator and photographer have no moral obligation to participate in a ceremony or occasion that openly and publicly contradicts their religious and moral values.
If a customer purchases flowers, it is irrelevant if he or she has a homosexual or heterosexual orientation. Providing flowers for a gay wedding, however, is a public statement. Likewise, a merchant would be in his or her right to refuse to be a part of a polygamous or incestuous marriage even if either were allowed by civil law. Morally speaking, the state cannot change the essence or substance of marriage and allow same-sex weddings any more than it can allow multiple spouses or a brother and sister or parent and child to marry. If any government would allow such, merchants would have the moral right to refuse service and thus avoid violating their conscience. Unjust discrimination is when a merchant refuses to do business with a customer because of his or her race, gender or religion.
The context is as important as the subjects involved. There are neither homosexual nor heterosexual human beings. There are human beings. Human beings are persons and persons have human and civil rights. Some human beings have a homosexual orientation or inclination [due to the effects of original sin], while most human beings have a heterosexual orientation. Any and all sexual activity outside of marriage is immoral and sinful. Hence, fornication is the sin of unmarried people of any orientation having sex with each other. It used to be that hotel and motel owners could and were expected to refuse to rent a single room to an unmarried couple. They could not refuse a couple because they were African-American or Latino, but if the couple were not husband and wife, they were allowed to demand separate accommodations. That was ethical and permissible discrimination.
The church has no authority to redefine matrimony or holy orders – or any sacrament, for that matter. It does discriminate by divine law that only one man and one woman may marry, and only baptized males can be ordained. In neither case is it unjust discrimination. Laity do not lose their religious liberty or freedom in the market place, either. Anyone opposed to same-sex marriages is not being unjust or immoral, for they are merely following their religious and moral conscience. Is not a dress code in a restaurant and other public places a form of discrimination? Yes, but it is fair and just.
If the state does as it has in the past with legalizing abortion, there will be those who wish to do what the law allows. Any and all citizens are free to refuse to do what is legal if it simultaneously violates the natural moral law and/or the divine positive law of God. That elderly florist may be obliged to sell a bouquet of flowers to any customer, gay or straight, but she is not obliged to give public approval and support to gay weddings if it violates her moral and religious values/principles.
What needs to be avoided are the hateful, nasty, and pejorative epithets on either side of the issue. Denial can be done with respect and discretion, and must be done with charity. Obviously, some businesses have no option. Medical treatment, food, clothing and shelter are basic human needs, and every human being, regardless of sexual orientation, must be given access to what is needed.
We are not discussing pharmacies, hospitals and restaurants, but a purely discretional expense: flowers. Non-essential businesses have a right to abstain from certain transactions that would violate the moral and religious tenets of the owner. This can be done properly, politely and prudently.
Nothing more cowardly and unmanly than to make fun of an elderly man. Only someone who is insecure in their own masculinity has the audacity to launch verbal attacks on a true gentleman and scholar. It is pathetic when a person is reduced to making petty insults and puerile epithets just to mask their own theological inadequacies. Any moron can resort to ad hominem attacks but an intellectual person seeks and respects the truth. Sadly, a cardinal, a prince of the church, recently made schoolyard-bully insults via twitter the very day Pope Francis was elected:
"So long, Papal ermine and fancy lace! Welcome, simple cassock, and hopefully, ordinary black shoes!"
"Moving from HIGH Church to LOW and humble Church! What a blessing that we are encountering Jesus without trappings!"
You do not have to be an astrophysicist to figure out who was being implied in His Eminence's remarks. Trashing a former pope while he is still alive (albeit abdicated) is not just bad manners, it is like dissing your elderly grandfather after he goes to the retirement home. Disrespectful and DISTASTEFUL. Shameful, not to mention embarrassing that the non-Catholic world has to see a Cardinal show such disdain for a Vicar of Christ and Successor of Saint Peter.
DE GUSTIBUS NON DISPUTANDUM EST. Pope Francis has a different style than his predecessor. So did Pope Benedict XVI to a smaller degree. It is UNJUST and dare I say, it is SLANDEROUS to accuse, allege or imply that B16 was in any a proud pontiff. It took great humility to resign from the most powerful office on earth. Pope Benedict abdicated for the sake of the common good of Holy Mother Church. She needed a shepherd who was healthier and more vibrant. BOTH popes, however, are HUMBLE. Humility can be expressed in different ways.
Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Francis of Assisi are perfect examples. One was a brilliant theologian and intellectual giant while the other was a pioneering spiritual reformer. While there may be some friendly competition between the Dominicans and the Franciscans, neither Aquinas nor Francis were in any way, shape or form bitter rivals or enemies.
The secular press, however, and some in the Catholic media (and one notorious and infamous Cardinal) make it sound as if only Pope Francis showed humility. They imply and infer that Pope Benedict was a proud aristocratic who veiled himself with trappings of imperialism.
Pope Benedict merely showed the Church and the world that CATHOLIC means UNIVERSAL. Just as we have both an Eastern and Western (Latin) Church in Catholicism, we also have in the Roman Rite the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. We have traditional and contemporary taste in ART, MUSIC and LITURGICAL ATTIRE. If Pope Benedict wore a lace alb it was merely a matter of personal TASTE, not a political statement. If someone is looking for hidden agendas and latent messages, I would not look at the old fashioned vestments, rather, peek into the moral activity of those who cast the first and largest stones. Before the sex scandals broke in the press, many a seminarian was persecuted for wearing a little lace in his alb or surplice while a classmate who frequented gay bars or who preached dissident theology in his homilies got sterling evaluations.
It is not the liturgical lace that church bureaucrats need worry about. Instead, they should be concerned about the women's lingerie some deviant clergy were wearing as has been reported in newspaper articles a few months ago. We do not need the Dark Ages of the Witch Hunt for conservative and traditional seminarians and priests as we had in the '60's, '70's and early '80's. Almost like Elizabethan England when finding a rosary got you drawn and quartered, many of us remember the intimidation, ridicule and often offensive persecution for practicing private devotions and personal piety.
Some people like formality not because they consider themselves better than others, rather, they want to HONOR someone or some event by making an extra effort to dress up. Casual has become the icon of our modern age. When I was growing up, everyone, be they poor, rich or middle-class, had 'church clothes' that you wore every Sunday. Jeans were for manual labor, not for office or school, nor dining in restaurants and NEVER in church. Wearing the proper wedding garment had nothing to do with the cost of it. Attention to small details is not always a sign of obsessive compulsive behavior. It can also be a sign of RESPECT. When good china and real silverware are brought out, along with the linen napkins and tablecloth, it is the OCCASION and/or the GUEST who is being honored. Paper plates and plasticware are inexpensive and convenient but they do not bespeak anything SPECIAL. Some people or some events are special. Some places are special (like Church).
Pope Benedict XVI had CLASS. He is a true gentleman and a man of polite manners. He would never make the disparaging remarks like the ones made by an American cardinal calumniously attacking him just for his choice (and it is an option) of liturgical attire. If more attention had been spent on cracking down on BAD THEOLOGY (dissent) and BAD MORALITY (sexual misconduct) as well as BAD LITURGY (rubrical abuses), many scandals could have been avoided and prevented.
I am sick of those who keep trashing and bashing B16 as if he were some snobby Czar or glib monarch who dines on caviar while the poor masses eat stale bread. What Pope Benedict did was to show us that SACRED WORSHIP (Divine Liturgy) is about God and it comes from God. Man did not invent divine worship. God created and ordained HOW and WHERE He was to be adored and worshipped as we see Moses being told by God to tell Pharaoh, 'let my people go so that they may worship me in the wilderness.'
It was JUDAS who reprimanded the woman that anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive aromatic nard. Christ did not stop nor did He chastise her. He instead thanked and blessed her. Cain made a sloppy second, convenient sacrifice whereas his brother Abel offered the best sheep of the flock. Whose offering was accepted and whose was rejected?
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta INSISTED that silver or gold vessels be used at Mass in all her chapels where the Missionaries of Charity worshipped God around the world. She said the worship of God deserved only the best and the poor should not be deprived of offering the best to God merely because they themselves cannot afford it.
I find it is clerical men who are more like girly-men and nancy-boys (i.e., those insecure in their own masculinity) and who launch vicious attacks on their peers and colleagues for wearing more elaborate, formal and more traditional vestments. Real men do not bully the perceived 'nerds' or 'geeks' who dress less casually than the jocks. Real men are secure in manly VIRTUES and have no need for histrionics and melodrama. HUMILITY is not what you wear, but how you ACT and how you TREAT others. One can be CHEAP and have nothing to do with saving money. Being CHEAP is not about spending less, rather, it is about being too lazy or too conceited to do what might be inconvenient but what is expected by convention to show RESPECT and APPRECIATION to someone else. Cheap Catholicism is like cheap grace; neither is efficacious. REVERENCE is not a matter of price-tag but it is a matter of deliberate effort to show respect.
Pope Francis is entitled to his personal taste, opinion and prudential judgments. We are not in any position to render any comment as he is the supreme shepherd of the universal church. That being said, those of us who APPRECIATE and LIKE the former style of Pope Benedict are FREE to continue his example just as those who wish to imitate and emulate Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI or even Pope Pius XII. In matters of faith (doctrine) and morals, we must all be on the same page with the Vicar of Christ. In matters of taste (DE GUSTIBUS) there is no argument or debate (NON DISPUTANDUM EST). When will some people finally figure that out?
Marriage is not an issue of equality. The Church and State (civil government) have the right and the obligation to protect and support both marriage and the family. Both depend on each other and both serve the common good of the Church and the State. Society is best served by marriage and family.
Equality is not absolute. While we are all equal in the eyes of God regardless of our age, gender, intelligence, economic status, etc., we are not all the same in terms of the gifts, talents, blessings, experiences, etc., that we have been given. Saint Augustine taught that EVERYONE (all men & women) are given SUFFICIENT GRACE to be saved, but it only becomes EFFICACIOUS to those who ACCEPT and COOPERATE with it. Human nature (body & soul; rational intellect & free will) is the same for everyone. All human beings enjoy the right to life and the right to access to necessary goods. We are endowed by our Creator inalienable rights, like the Right to Religious Liberty (Freedom of Religion) and the Right to Free Speech, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom to Defend oneself, one's family & possessions, and one's country.
If marriage is redefined and reinterpreted to allow same-sex unions to become recognized as marriages, it is not a matter of civil or human rights. Marriage is a special bond between one man and one woman. As a sacrament, it requires that both bride and groom intend to enter a FAITHFUL, PERMANENT and God-Willing FRUITFUL union. Since we live in a pluralistic society where no one religion has governmental priority, many claim that civil marriages should in no way be influence by Judaeo-Christian values and beliefs. Unfortunately, this is not true. Pagan Greece and Rome, Egypt and all ancient and modern cultures and civilizations realized the importance and the necessity of preserving marriage. While polygamy had been tolerated long, long ago, it soon was abandoned and condemned as being detrimental to the family. One man and one woman covenanted for life.
If same-sex marriages are universally allowed across America and across the world, then the family will be at higher risk of disintegration. If two men or two women are allowed to marry each other, there is no legal or logical rationale to prevent multiple spouses (polygamous marriages) or even incestuous unions from occurring. For if the natural law no longer applies that marriage is between one man and one woman, then it must be open to several men and/or several women and of any age as well. Why restrict marriage between adults if the requirement of opposite gender no longer applies? What about consanguinity? What is there to stop or prevent someone from marrying a sibling, first cousin or even parent-child relationship? If the natural law is not respected in one area and dimension, it can redefine and recreate a new reality not confined by tradition or reason.
To deny polygamous or incestuous marriages violates no rights and neither does the restriction of same-sex marriages. Morally and spiritually speaking, the Catechism makes the distinction that same sex orientation/inclination is disordered but only sex activity outside of marriage is sinful and immoral. Sadly, many heterosexual couples co-habitate and live in sinful concubinage. There are others who are civilly married but not validly in the sacrament of Matrimony due to prior bond or some other significant impediment. That these relationships exist does not justify them. Discrimination is when people are mistreated and denied basic human rights. Not everyone is meant to be married but everyone has a right to live, a right to self-preservation, a right to access to food, clothing, shelter, employment and education. Marriage is natural estate upon which the family is built. Like the Church and the State, the Family is built on individuals and on the holy estate of marriage.
Tax exemptions, insurance benefits, etc., are prudential judgments which can be discussed and debated as to whether or not they apply to traditional marriages and families only or if they can be extended or amended for same-sex relationships. The institution itself, however, of MARRIAGE, is not a man-made entity. Even the Church and the State cannot redefine or recreate it.
Why is there even such a thing as a marriage LICENSE? Like a driver's license, it is not automatically given to anyone and everyone. One must request it and one must present documentation showing their eligibility. That means the Church and the State have the authority to govern and administer this vital estate for the common good of society at large and for the common good. Likewise, there are licenses for physicians, ministers, et al. Some authority must oversee and evaluate the candidates and judge their suitability and then authorize them. The same applies for marriage. Meanwhile, there is no reason and no room for nasty epithets, insults, or hateful remarks on either side of the public debate. Vilifying those who uphold and defend traditional marriage as if they were bigots is not justified. Privileges are not the same as rights. Every human being enjoys human rights by virtue of their human nature, from the unborn in the womb to the sick and dying. Privileges, like marriage, however, are under the care and protection of Church and State for the sake of the common good.
Ever have the urge to just scream when you hear something totally stupid being offered as if words of wisdom? Bad enough many in the secular media are clueless about papal conclaves but worse yet is when Catholic journalists, priests especially, babble pablum and proliferate pedestrian nonsense.
Recently, since the election and installation of His Holiness, Pope Francis, I have heard several Catholic commentators say on television and radio that finally we have a pope we can be excited about. Some have said that while JP2 and B16 were good philosophers and theologians, now we have a pope (Francis) who actually DOES something. They give a backhanded compliment to Pope John Paul II and say he made the papacy more visible from all his papal trips and that Pope Benedict XVI was the friendly professor who taught us so much about the faith. But in their estimation, DEEDS speak louder than SYMBOLS or WORDS. I have heard more than I care to count about how JP2 was an excellent communicator and B16 was an excellent teacher, however, it is now F1 who is actually SHOWING us how to live the Catholic faith and not just know it.
This oversimplified perspective is dangerous. First of all, there is no competition between all three popes. Each one had his own gifts he brought to the papacy. Pope JP2 restored HOPE after a cynical world just got over Watergate, Viet Nam and the sexual revolution. Pope Benedict continued with reigniting FAITH which is an act of the intellect whereby divinely revealed truths are known and accepted. Pope Francis is now helping us rediscover LOVE, also known as CHARITY (faith in action).
Give credit where credit is due. That is only just. Pope John Paul II did not only make papal visits, he also canonized a LOT of saints; he established World Youth Day; he was pivotal in the demise of the evil empire (alias the Soviet Union) and the end of the Cold War and Iron Curtain. He revised the Code of Canon Law in 1983 and promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992. No small feats, any of them.
Pope Benedict also did more than merely speak words. His sharp theological mind was in the same league as the bright philosophical intellect of JP2. B16 may not have written as many papal documents as his predecessor, but he DID a lot in addition to his words of wisdom. Pope Benedict SHOWED us how to be REVERENT once again, especially at Sacred Worship. LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI. What we believe and how we worship are organically integrated. It was Pope Benedict who restored the Extraordinary Form as a viable option in the Western (Latin or Roman Rite) Church AND he is the one who officially promulgated the 3rd Edition of the English translation of the Roman Missal. Words do mean something. Acts are important but so are words. Ideas must inspire acts. Many of us remember our Baltimore Catechism instruction from the Nuns in parochial school: "Why did God make me? God made me to KNOW, LOVE and SERVE Him in this world so as to be happy in the next"
Before any Christian can truly SERVE his or her neighbor, he or she must first KNOW the Lord and grow in LOVE of Him. It is from the love of God and the love of neighbor that we are impelled and motivated (by God's grace) to then SERVE God and serve our neighbor. We serve God, as Pope Benedict XVI aptly tells us by giving Him proper and reverent WORSHIP. In Spirit of the Liturgy, B16 tells us that Moses was sent by God in Exodus to tell Pharaoh: "Let my people go so that they may worship Me in the desert."Sacred Liturgy is the worship of God by man. Yet, true divine worship is a gift from God. He tells us HOW to do it and WHERE to do it. The Temple of Jerusalem was the place par excellence in the Old Testament. In the Christian era, it is the church where the Holy Mass is offered and where the Real Presence (Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity of Christ) remains in the Tabernacle 24/7.
So, how can these ecclesiastical and journalistic nincompoops honestly tell us that Pope Francis is the first pope to SHOW us how to BE Catholic whereas Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul merely TOLD us what we should BELIEVE as Catholics? NO. All three pontiffs TEACH and give EXAMPLE. John Paul II witnessed and demonstrated faith in practice when he went to the prison to forgive his would-be assassin and when he suffered the ignominy of a long and devastating illness that robbed him of his vim and vigor. Nevertheless, he kept going despite the mumbling and drooling toward the end. He showed us what everyone knows already. Old age and illness often go hand in hand and the elderly and the infirm deserve our attention. Their suffering is holy and sacred.
Pope Benedict demonstrated great humility when he chose to abdicate and step down so someone younger and healthier than he can shepherd the universal church with greater efficiency and effort. His ego did not prevent him from leaving the limelight to spend his final years in solitude and prayer. He also showed that despite his shyness and reserved manner, he did the best he could do and he gave his best. I was in High School seminary when Pope Paul VI was dying. I remember the election of Pope John Paul I and then Pope John Paul II. I went to Philadelphia to see JP2 visit the USA. I met him in person at a friend's ordination in 1985. He inspired many young people to discern a vocation to priesthood and religious life who may never have considered it otherwise. He made the papacy accessible and the esteem of the world was evident at his funeral. Not just popular, JP2 made a difference in his 26 year pontificate. Likewise, B16 had to follow in the fisherman's shoes of a truly Great and future Saint. No easy task, but he was the best choice. Pope Benedict renewed REVERENCE where Pope John Paul renewed hope, wonder and awe at being Catholic. Pope Benedict reminded us it is IMPORTANT to KNOW the faith since you cannot love what (or whom) you do not know. Now, Pope Francis is continuing the program by showing us different ways to express and live the faith in charity and in love.
I am proud and am grateful for all three popes. Even JP1 was an enormous blessing even though he only reigned one month as Vicar of Christ. The Smiling Pope, as he was called, brought joy into many hearts that had grown cold with indifference. Pope Paul VI was brave and courageous in defending Humanae Vitae but he was also very saddened and disheartened by the many priests and nuns who abandoned their vocation and even the Church during the late '60's and early 70's. In his last years some bureaucrats and ecclesiastics took advantage of his ill health and just made things worse. Liturgical abuses and sexual misconduct were at an all time high. BAD liturgy + BAD theology go hand in hand and they promote BAD morality as well. Dissent from Humanae Vitae in terms of contraception and abortion were kindled in so-called Catholic colleges, universities and seminaries. Simultaneously, pedestrian and banal liturgies no longer worshipped God but exalted man and his concupiscence. Hence, God sent us JP2, B16 and now F1.
So, my brother priests in the media, WAKE UP and smell the espresso. Stop dissing Pope Benedict as if he were some eccentric old uncle who is now in the nursing home and a new relative has joined the family. Stop comparing and evaluating recent pontiffs as if they were presidents or prime ministers. They are not. Popes are SHEPHERDS of the universal church. They are the Vicars of Christ in earth. REMIND people and the world what gifts were given by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis is not going to undo what good has been done, philosophically or theologically by his immediate predecessors. He will be like his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, just as Pope John Paul II was a lot like Saint Paul the Apostle and Pope Benedict XVI was a lot like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure combined. Every time I celebrate Mass, I thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict and his insights and influence on Sacred Worship. Every time I teach a religion class or preach a sermon, I thank God for the wisdom of both B16 and JP2. Were it not for Pope John Paul II being elected in 1978, I may not have endured and survived 12 years of seminary.
Now that we have Pope Francis, I hope to learn from him and imitate him as well since he continues the good work begun by his predecessors.
Lumen Gentium (chapter three) and the Catechism (#779) teach that the Catholic Church is Hierarchical. Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, wrote about the Church as Institution in his "Models of the Church." This makes sense since the Mystical Body of Christ is both human and divine; visible and invisible; temporal and spiritual. Any human activity requires order for it to achieve its goals and be successful. Hence, the Catholic Church has a formal Magisterium to teach and defend the Deposit of Faith; a formal system of Sacraments to organize public worship; a formal organized Hierarchy to govern the external elements of an global group of more than one billion members.
That being said, the Church as a Hierarchical Institution is always the Bride of Christ and His Mystical Body. The business of the Church is stated in the last canon of the Code of Canon Law (#1752) SALUS ANIMARUM SUPREMA LEX (the salvation of souls is the supreme law [of the Church]). In other words, the business of the Church is the salvation of souls.
As the College of Cardinals prepare for the Conclave to elect a Successor of Saint Peter, the press and media have been frenzied with diatribes on what the modern media see as papal necessities. Vati-leaks and other embarrassing scandals from the Curia make it seem as if the Vatican needs some good old fashioned American organizational skills. GOD HELP US. I would love to see an American Pope someday, don't get me wrong. Personally, I think Cardinal Burke is what we need. What I am afraid of is the phony panacea of BUSINESS MODEL of running the Church. The Catholic Church in the United States is one of the most efficient and organized in the world when compared to other nations and countries on the globe. Our parishes and dioceses are run like corporate America. Parishes are like branch offices and the dioceses are regional offices with Rome as the home office.
The danger with the business or corporate model is that one can be tempted to see religion as a business and then make decisions based on the business model. Pastors can be tempted to see their weekly collection as a ballot box in that parishioners vote with their donations. Keep the congregation happy and they will be generous in the collection plate but risk their ire and fear unpaid bills. Likewise, pastors who makes their annual assessments are esteemed by their bishops but those who do not are seen as incompetent. All too often are reports of heretical sermons and/or liturgical abuses ignored by Chancery offices while unpaid diocesan assessments get swift reaction (and transfer).
Teaching orthodox doctrine, celebrating licit, valid and reverent Sacraments and living a prayerful and pious life are what every deacon, priest and bishop should do. These are the non-negotiable necessities of pastors and bishops. Administrative skills are helpful but the People of God NEED shepherds and not managers. Good pastors know how to delegate and know how to get good advice. The best administrator does not do it all himself nor does he erroneously think he alone has all the answers. A good administrator surrounds himself with excellent advisors to give solid counsel. He may not be the sharpest pencil in the pack but a wise administrator finds other sharp pencils to advise him. The fool thinks he knows it all and needs no one.
The Hierarchy is beautiful for it resembles the organization of the human body. The brain governs the body but is also integrally connected with the whole. The circulatory, respiratory, digestive and muscular systems work together and are organized by the brain. Likewise, the Pope and the Bishops govern the Church as Successors of Saint Peter and the Apostles. Pastors represent the local bishop in the local parish. Micromanaging every nickel and dime or controlling every single decision from the purchase of paper clips to the choice of altar wine is not a charism of the Good Shepherd.
Recent scandals in the Church are only rivaled by recent scandals in the corporate business world. When powerful men allow power to go to their head, they make decisions not based on the common good but on their own wants and desires. Sycophants can be found in every board room and Chancery office. There are people who filter what the CEO knows. Middle management bureaucracy can help but also destroy an institution (or at least seriously wound or cripple it). Decisions on closing parishes, priest transfers, second collections, annual assessments, et al., are important but they must take second place to the primary business of the Church: saving souls. Parishioners deserve nothing less than the TRUTH of sound doctrine and the GRACE of valid and reverent sacraments.
All too often we pastors feel more like managers who run a plant as opposed to a shepherd tending to the spiritual needs of his flock. Bills must be paid which means that funds need to be raised. Income and expenditures are part of life, parish or home life. Stewardship is responsible caring for the external and physical elements of a parish or diocese just as maintaining the home is for the head of a family. What can never be forgotten, however, is that the PRIME DIRECTIVE is the salvation of souls. Feeding the soul with grace and truth are why we have Holy Orders.
Problems occur when clergy are treated and feel like employees. Bishops are shepherds and pastors, not corporate vice presidents. The deacons and priests of their diocese are their spiritual SONS. Bishops must see themselves and act as spiritual fathers to their clergy and to their people. When the business or corporation paradigm is used, then bureaucracy becomes an end in itself. Middle management make themselves indispensable. When a parish priest or deacon is in the hospital, the local bishop should make a personal visit rather than send his vicar or emissary. Business executives send their representatives but spiritual fathers visit their spiritual sons IN PERSON. Likewise, all clergy funerals should be presided by the local bishop. This is a death in the FAMILY.
When the family model is used rather than the corporate/business model, both parish and clergy FEEL like family members. When it is vice versa, then parishioners feel like customers and clergy feel like employees. It filters un up as well. National conference committees are meant to HELP the local bishop, not manage or control him. Dicastries and Curial offices are there to HELP the Roman Pontiff. When national or international entities see themselves as being on par with bishops or popes, they cease being pastoral and become bureaucratic.
Vati-leaks was only the tip of the iceberg. Stove-piping was not just the problem before 9/11 between the CIA, FBI and the NSA. It also occurs in ecclesiastical levels of authority and administration. Turf wars, reluctance to share information and access and the worst of all, FILTERING information. The overwhelming majority of Bishops around the world and most of the Popes in church history have been good, reliable and competent men. Problem has been that some office personnel decide WHO gets access to the Bishop or Holy Father and they decide WHAT information he receives. They become a middle man that filters people and become a BUFFER between clergy/laity and the hierarchy. Families do not operate that way. If there needs to be a father-son talk, then the father and son speak man to man, face to face. Opinions and suggestions are not treated as threats to one's authority. Fatherly advice is welcome but corporate micromanagement is unwelcome.
The substance of the Church can never change. She is the spotless Bride of Christ, the Mystical Body of Christ. She is our Holy Mother and she is a hierarchical institution. Period. The business model as well as an economic or political or sociological models are incomplete and insufficient. Intrigue, subterfuge, misdirection, coverups, incompetency and all other ills can infect chanceries as well as curia offices. Those who work under the Pope and the Bishop are there to SERVE not just maintain employment. Senior officials must remind themselves they are there to ASSIST their superior rather than make themselves mini-popes or mini-bishops.
The sacred rituals unfolding in the papal conclave remind the Cardinals and the Church that this is about the WORK OF GOD, not the work of man. Saving souls is the supreme law of the Church. Policies, directives, etc., are helpful but the bottom line is the transmission of TRUTH (via doctrine) and GRACE (via sacraments). Of course, even in the Gospel we read about the professional envy experienced between James & John and the other Ten Apostles when it appeared as if their mother was trying to get her boys a good assignment (one on the right and one on the left). The others in fact became indignant, we are told. Clerical indignation has continued ever since. Cronies and sycophants are promoted, rewarded and honored while those loyal sons faithful to Holy Mother Church are often overlooked, ignored, ridiculed, or rebuked.
A new Pope will soon be here. Let us pray that he will have the strength and courage to clean house in Rome and will DEMAND that his brother bishops do likewise in their respective dioceses. Sound doctrine, reverent sacraments and pastoral style is what the people need and deserve. Administration is important but our leaders must be reminded and must remember that they are FIRST and FOREMOST spiritual leaders who have moral and spiritual obligations and responsibilities as spiritual fathers who shepherd a spiritual FAMILY rather than manage an ecclesiastical business.
Rather than opining on WHO should be elected the next Supreme Roman Pontiff (in terms of which person), it is more beneficial for us to ask the College of Cardinals to consider certain QUALITIES when they deliberate on their choice. Obviously, a practical concern should be the general health of the individual. It would be prudent to elect a pope who is in good health (whether young or old). Stress of the job can exacerbate already present health issues. Even more crucial, however, is CONTINUITY. We had wonderful continuity between JP2 and B16 in their theology. Holy Mother Church needs that stability. Hence, a Pope who will CONTINUE the work, direction and spirit of these giants will be of enormous importance. Pope Benedict has done tremendous good in restoring the sense of the sacred to Catholic worship. It would be catastrophic if we go backward to the days of liturgical innovation, abuse, and pedestrian if not banal liturgies. LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI. We need orthodox doctrine and reverent worship. I know there will be a push for someone appealing to the youth. Ironically, the secular press was convinced that B16 would never rival JP2 for WYD. Nevertheless, MILLIONS attended World Youth Day presided over by an octogenarian celibate. Different personas yet similar philosophy. Young people do not want to be pandered, they want and deserve AUTHENTICITY. They got both from JP2 and B16. Lastly, it would be nice to have someone who had pastoral experience (actual parish ministry) as well as administrative experience. Popes are shepherd and pastors. They govern and they care for the flock. WHO best fills these requirements? Only the College of Cardinals know or have a clue. But we need to pray that they choose WISELY and PRUDENTLY.
repudiating conspiracy theories, these Catholic priests & deacons take Pope B16's reasons for hisresignation at face value, i.e., he is doing it FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH and because of ill health. PERIOD.
The more than 500 priests and deacons of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy express our profound respect, admiration and filial love for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI as with great sadness we learn of his abdication from the Chair of Saint Peter at the end of this month. Father John Trigilio, President of the Confraternity, said: “Pope Benedict has been a bridge of continuity after the long and wonderful papacy of Pope John Paul the Great. He has also been a beacon of hope for orthodoxy of thought and for reverence in divine worship. We clergy are particularly grateful for his paternal love, example and piety as pope, bishop and priest. Viva il Papa” The CCC rejects any and all claims or allegations that there are ulterior motives for the Holy Father's decision.
A national association of priests and deacons dedicated to promoting ongoing spiritual, theological and pastoral formation in a fraternal setting, the CCC in the United States has fellow Confraternities of Catholic Clergy in Australia, Ireland and in Great Britain. There was an international gathering of all three in Rome in 2010 where priests and deacons of this association attended the papal Mass on Epiphany. Another gathering is planned every five years with the next one taking place in 2015.
Mr. Thomas J. McKenna, Executive Director of the CCC, expressed his thoughts on the Pope’s
resignation. “We are all painfully aware of His Holiness’ declining health and while his resignation
saddens us, his brave decision to surrender the keys of St. Peter for the good of Holy Mother Church is further witness of this great man’s wisdom and humility. As a true father, the Holy Father places the needs of his spiritual children first. That is why he feels his physical limitations prevent him from fully providing what his sons and daughters need.”
Fr. Trigilio is asking all the members of the CCC to offer special prayers of support for Pope Benedict as he prepares for his official relinquishment of papal authority on February 28th.