Category : Other Denominations

(PD) Can We Still Reason Together? A Conversation with Robert P. George

SS: In a discussion about advocacy for traditional marriage, one Princeton graduate student told me that she was uncomfortable with the idea of trying to convince others to oppose same-sex marriage by appealing to social science or the kind of arguments you have articulated in What Is Marriage. Although she herself is Catholic, to this student, such an approach felt deceptive—like smuggling in religious precepts under the guise of neutrality and disinterested intellectual inquiry.

How would you respond to her? Is it intellectually honest to make arguments based on natural law or social science for positions you only hold because of your own religious faith?

RG: From your description of her, it sounds like the graduate student you were talking to doesn’t understand the teachings of her own Catholic faith when it comes to the nature of morality, moral questions, and moral judgments, including those concerning marriage. Catholicism self-consciously embraces and proposes a certain understanding of marriage and the norms shaping and protecting it for reasons—reasons that are in principle accessible to anyone, Catholic or not. The point of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense was to articulate, explain, and defend those reasons.

Catholicism is not a fideistic religion. Quite the opposite. Its basic view of marriage as conjugal union (and not a mere form of sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership), for example, is not a matter of “religious precepts” that we (or the pope, or the Church) know because God has communicated them to us only by special revelation. Your friend may happen to believe what she believes about marriage because that is what the Church believes and teaches; but the Church herself believes and teaches what she believes and teaches on the subject for reasons that by the Church’s own lights—and her teachings—are available to be understood by “disinterested intellectual inquiry.” These reasons are matters of natural law.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

A look Back to Benedict XVI’s 2013 Ash Wednesday Homily

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends over forty days and leads us towards the joy of Easter, to victory of Life over death. Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stations, we are gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio took place in the Basilica of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Circumstances suggested we gather in St. Peter’s Basilica. Tonight there are many of us gathered around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to also ask him to pray for the path of the Church going forward at this particular moment in time, to renew our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer.

The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behaviour during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (2.12). Please note the phrase “with all your heart,” which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: “return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment” (v. 13). It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a ‘grace’, because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that “rends the heart”.

Read it all.

Posted in Lent, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

(CNS) Sacred Scripture needs to be respected, valued, Vatican says

In preparation for the Sunday of the Word of God Jan. 24, the Vatican issued recommendations for the day as well as reminders on respecting the sacred Scriptures.

For example, liturgical books should be high-quality texts and not photocopies, and the ambo is reserved for specific moments in the liturgy and prayer, and should not be used for making commentaries or announcements, said a note from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

The note, released Dec. 19, was signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, congregation prefect, and Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary.

The note was a reminder that the Sunday of the Word of God, instituted by Pope Francis in 2019, is meant to reawaken in the clergy and the faithful “the importance and value of sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy,” it said.

Read it all.

Posted in Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

Epiphany awakens the question in the hearts of all people–who is this Jesus?

Dear friends, this is the question that the Church wishes to awaken in the hearts of all men: who is Jesus? This is the spiritual longing that drives the mission of the Church: to make Jesus known, his Gospel, so that every man can discover in his human face the face of God, and be illumined by his mystery of love. Epiphany pre-announces the universal opening of the Church, her call to evangelize all peoples. But Epiphany also tells us in what way the Church carries out this mission: reflecting the light of Christ and proclaiming his Word. Christians are called to imitate the service that the star gave the Magi. We must shine as children of the light, to attract all to the beauty of the Kingdom of god. And to all those who seek truth, we must offer the Word of God, which leads to recognizing in Jesus “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

Benedict XVI.

Posted in Epiphany, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

Pope Francis at Urbi et Orbi for 2020: Christmas reminds us we are all united as brothers and sisters

Pope Francis gave his traditional Christmas message and Blessing Urbi et Orbi (“To the City [of Rome] and the World”), offering words of hope and consolation, saying a birth is always a source of hope, and “this Child, Jesus, was born ‘to us’ … without any borders, privileges or exclusions.”

He pronounced his message in the Hall of Benediction of St. Peter’s Basilica, the upper area just behind the central loggia where he would usually have delivered his message. The pandemic and safety measures in place led to a decision to avoid the risk of large public gatherings in St. Peter’s Square and hence to broadcast live his message from inside the Basilica.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Pope Francis

(RNS) After Nice attacks, Pope Francis and French Catholics call for peace with Muslims

After a man killed three people Thursday (Oct. 29) at the Catholic cathedral in Nice, France, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the French Catholic community, offering prayers for the victims as well as wishes that “the beloved French people may respond united for good against evil.”

The attack, one of three on Thursday attributed to Muslim extremists, took place in the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice as a man reportedly yelling “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” stabbed the cathedral’s custodian and two women, one of whom was taken to a nearby café but later died, according to The Associated Press.

“It’s a moment of pain, in a time of confusion,” said Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni in a statement to reporters. “Terrorism and violence must never be tolerated. Today’s attack sowed death in a place of love and consolations, such as the house of the Lord.

“The pope is informed of the situation and is close to the grieving Catholic community,” the Vatican statement continued. “He prays for the victims and their loved ones, so that the violence will cease, and they may return to see each other as brothers and sisters and not enemies so that the beloved French people may respond united for good against evil.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(Sky News) Three die in France in ‘suspected terror incident’

A woman has been decapitated in a suspected terror attack in Nice, French police say.

Three people have died and several others are injured after a knife attack took place near the Notre Dame church.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(PD) Ryan T. Anderson And Robert P. George–Pope Francis, Civil Unions, and Moral Truth

In What Is Marriage, we opposed a “consent-based” view of marriage that saw marriage as being primarily about companionship, establishing a companionate relationship with what one scholar called “your number one person.” We argued that a faulty understanding of marriage actually makes it harder for people to find happiness, both inside and outside of marriage. That a vision of marriage that sees it as just about whatever ordinary friendships and relationships have, but taken to the nth degree—that marriage is simply the best, most important of whatever makes human sociality good to begin with—gets marriage wrong in ways that can harm both married and unmarried people.

For married people it can make them presume that their marriage is to be their primary means of fulfillment in all the areas of their life, that they should be able to say of their spouse “you fulfill me.” But no one human being and relationship totally fulfills any of us. And no one should seek total fulfillment from their spouses or their marriage.

For unmarried people, it can make them feel—and the rest of society view them—as not only lacking one aspect of fulfillment, marriage itself, but as lacking the pinnacle of human fulfillment, and thus as not flourishing at all. A vision of marriage that sees the relationship between spouses as the peak of human sociality in turn renders the unmarried as second-class flourishers.

Instead, we should view marriage correctly, as a distinctive good with a distinctive nature: a conjugal union of husband and wife ordered to, and thus normatively shaped by its unique aptness for, the bearing and rearing of children. Doing so not only allows us to see family as involving much more than just the spouses themselves—to include extended family and friends grafted into the family—but also allows us to appreciate the unique and irreducible goodness of non-marital forms of human sociality.

A sound vision of marriage thus offers wide vistas of human fulfillment to people who may never marry, for whatever reason. It offers hope of meaningful non-sexual relationships to people who experience same-sex attraction in a way that makes forming a truly marital partnership impossible.

More deeply understanding the truth about marriage and human sexuality will help all of us flourish. And that, of course, is what a pastor like Pope Francis desires. We can understand—indeed we share—the frustration of our fellow Catholics with the ways in which the Holy Father conducts interviews and the ways in which the media distorts them, but we must not do anything to undermine the truth that sets us free.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Pedro Gabriel–Those Pope Francis quotes: Video editing and media controversy

I find it interesting how the Pope spoke here about the media taking his words out of context. I also find it interesting that the Pope specifically said that none of this means approving homosexual acts. This completely alters the implication of the quote that was presented to us. Of course, if you read the entire interview, you will see the Pope railing against abortion and saying, explicitly, “I am a conservative.”

What is even more interesting is that the quotes that appear in the clip from the documentary are scrambled. Additionally, there is absolutely no mention of homosexual unions in the interview—or at least in the official transcript. When I have time, I will watch the full interview, but there is no reference to it in the Vatican News transcript.

If we watch the clip from the documentary, we can see that during the part where the Pope speaks about civil unions, the background is the same as that of the 2019 interview. It appears that the part where Francis talks about approving civil unions must have been edited out of the final product. (Although, again, this is a provisional conclusion on my part, it may change after I watch the full interview).

How did Evgeny Afineevsky, the director of the documentary, get his hands on footage that was apparently edited out of the interview? CNA reports that “the documentarian … was given unprecedented access to Pope Francis until filming completed in June.” Perhaps this explains how he obtained this previously unaired snippet.

Still, the way the video preview rearranges the order in which his words actually appear in the interview should give us pause. Maybe after we see the interview in its full context, we will have a different impression of his words altogether, especially since the Holy Father uses the Spanish term “convivencia civil,” which can be either “civil union” or “civil coexistence.” If he means the latter, he may simply be referring to laws that protect the human rights of homosexuals. Note that he mentions that “this way, they can be legally covered.”

This is just my theory, but I think it’s quite possible that the snippet about civil unions came from a different part of the interview than the discussion of the family. Maybe Francis was discussing his political role in Argentina during an attempt to legalize civil marriage there. This is plausible, because in the interview they do discuss his time as an archbishop in Argentina.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CNA) Pope Francis Calls for Civil Union Law for Same-Sex Couples, in Shift From Vatican Stance

In a documentary that premiered Wednesday in Rome, Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples, departing from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and the pope’s predecessors on the issue.

The remarks came amid a portion of the documentary that reflected on pastoral care for those who identify as LGBT.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,” Pope Francis said in the film, of his approach to pastoral care.

After those remarks, and in comments likely to spark controversy among Catholics, Pope Francis weighed in directly on the issue of civil unions for same-sex couples.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope said. “I stood up for that.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(JE) United Methodist Split Update–An interview with Keith Boyette

Mark Tooley: And if you had to predict, to the best of your ability, what will unfold assuming the General Conference next year does approve the Protocol as written? How quickly would the new denominations emerge?

Keith Boyette: Well, the new denomination composed of theologically conservative Methodists or traditional Methodists will be ready to be launched upon the adjournment of the General Conference in September of 2021. We have a group that came out of a dialogue in Atlanta in March of 2020, which you Mark were a part of. That is the transitional leadership council that is doing the work to have everything in readiness for that launch to occur. And we were fully confident that all of that work will have been completed and so the new denomination will be operational upon the adjournment of General Conference and under the Protocol legislation. Central conferences, annual conferences and local churches can begin making decisions almost immediately. Now obviously church central conferences and annual conferences will likely wait until a scheduled conference to do that, whether it be there regularly scheduled or a special session, but local churches could begin the process almost immediately to withdraw, and we will be fully operational ready to receive churches and clergy who would want to align. They will align in a transitional period under the leadership of the transitional leadership council, and we will be moving toward a convening conference for the new denomination that would occur in I believe the fall of 2022, which would allow time for these central conferences, annual conferences to make decisions and then have meaningful participation in the convening Conference, which is something we think is important for them to do.

Mark Tooley: So the new traditional Methodist Church would emerge immediately, but its founding General Conference likely would not be until a year afterwards.

Keith Boyette: That’s correct, it would it would begin to function and it would be in transition, basically, but its founding or convening conference would be that next year, essentially.

Mark Tooley: And the old United Methodist Church, presumably its leaders would want to reconvene fairly quickly to liberalize the teachings about which we’ve been fighting for the last almost 50 years. How fast you think that would unfold?…

Read it all.

Posted in Methodist, Parish Ministry, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(WSJ) A Former Catholic Dances With the Torah

Given the social distancing mandated by the current pandemic, this will be a Simchat Torah unlike any other. In Israel, currently mired in an intense lockdown, many synagogues will be closed. Around this side of the world, whatever dancing takes place will be muted. Nevertheless, the fragility of life we’ve experienced in the past months allows us to appreciate better what the Torah means to us. The pandemic has made us understand what we often took for granted: how the ability to gather weekly in synagogue and study the Torah together is one of our greatest gifts. And we better appreciate how, in the face of life’s trials, it is the Book of Books that sustains us.

Strikingly, this point about Jewish learning was made by one of America’s most insightful Catholic thinkers, who experienced a moment that mirrors Mr. Dubner’s revelation in a synagogue. A decade ago, Charles Chaput, then archbishop of Philadelphia, visited the study hall of New York’s Yeshiva University, where hundreds of students spend much of their day learning Torah. Archbishop Chaput returned to church to deliver a homily about what he saw. He said he realized how “the Jewish people continue to exist because their covenant . . . is the foundation and glue of their relationship with one another, with their past, and with their future. And the more faithful they are to God’s Word, the more certain they can be of their survival.”

Mr. Dubner and Archbishop Chaput, former and current Catholic alike, discovered the heart of our faith. When all else fails, it is the Torah that sustains us. We know that now more than ever. This year, what is usually a jubilant song on our lips will become a clarion call in our hearts.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Vatican Pushes Against Growing Acceptance of Euthanasia

The Vatican condemned the spreading international acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide, including in some traditionally Catholic countries in Europe, in a strongly worded document that reasserts traditional teaching.

“Euthanasia is an act of homicide that no end can justify and that does not tolerate any form of complicity or active or passive collaboration,” the Vatican’s doctrinal office said in a document published Tuesday and expressly approved by Pope Francis. “It is gravely unjust to enact laws that legalize euthanasia or justify and support suicide, invoking a false right to choose a death improperly characterized as respectable only because it is chosen,” the document says.

Spain’s Parliament is considering a law that would make the country the fourth in Europe to legalize euthanasia, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Legislators in neighboring Portugal are considering similar proposals. In February, Germany’s highest court overturned a law banning assisted suicide.

Euthanasia is the painless killing of a patient suffering from a physical or mental disease. In assisted suicide, patients administer lethal drugs to themselves under medical supervision.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology

Thursday food for Thought from Pope Benedict XVI

Posted in Eschatology, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

(Tablet) Pope hopes pandemic will teach care for environment

Speaking after the Angelus in Rome, the pope said the pandemic had made people reflect on the relationship between humankind and the environment.

“The lockdown has reduced pollution,” he said. It had enabled people to rediscover the beauty of many places free from traffic and noise.

“Now, with the resumption of activities, we should all be more responsible for the care of the common home,” he continued. Mentioning the many emerging grass-roots environmental movements, he called for citizens to be “increasingly aware of this essential common good”.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CLJ) Walker Percy, A Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World Asks: Has It Happened at Last?

In Percy’s novels, the heroes do not change the world, and they minimally change their lives and behaviors. What changes is their vision and their motivation. On the outside, Binx Bolling seems to alter very little from the beginning of The Moviegoer to the end: yet, he has opened himself up to the possibility that “God himself is present here.” He is attentive to the possibilities of God’s presence, and thus, not in despair. Barrett goes a step farther by answering his own question, moving from potential to acceptance. In his conversation with Father Weatherbee about marrying Allison, he wonders, “Is she a gift and therefore a sign of a giver? Could it be that the Lord is here, masquerading behind this simple silly holy face? Am I crazy to want both her and Him? No, not want, must have. And will have.”

What changes when we look for God in our daily activities or when we seek his face in those around us? Does it not make a great deal of difference to how you treat your child? For instance, if you see her as participating in God’s incarnation, a fellow pilgrim on the road to paradise, versus your property, your image, and thus your charge to form into a success story? And, when we consider the day before us not as an empty schedule to be filled, but God’s gracious and gratuitous gift of time, how then might we live differently?

With a true vision, we may offer back to the Giver our minutes in gratitude, thankful for what we have been given to love and enjoy. Just as I, in my quiet office alone behind bars of yellow tape, hear the cathedral bells ring, so too, if we all attend more to the bounty than to the deprivation, then, in this season of uncertainty and potential desperation, perhaps it will be possible, even here, to find God?

Read it all from March.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Roman Catholic

(NYT) The Last Anointing

Beyond the glass lay a man, unconscious in the electric blue light, shrouded in tubes. His family was not allowed to visit. His body could not be touched.

Father Ryan Connors stood at the door watching, his Roman collar barely visible beneath his face shield.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, he had gone to the bedsides of Covid-19 patients across the Boston area to perform one of the oldest religious rituals for the dying: the Roman Catholic practice commonly called last rites.

For centuries, priests have physically anointed the dying with oil to heal body and soul, if not in this life, in the next. Many Catholics have spent their entire lives trusting that in their most difficult hours a priest, and through him God, would come to their aid.

On this Tuesday morning, in the intensive care unit at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, west of the city, all that Father Connors knew about the patient was his name, and that his family had called for a priest.

He had a clear plastic bag with a cotton ball containing a few drops of holy oil. He carried a photocopy of pages from a liturgical book.

At 10:18 a.m., he slid open the door. He walked over to the bed, careful to avoid the tubes on the ground.

He stretched out his hand, and began to pray….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Spirituality/Prayer

(PA) On Pentecost, Pope to take part in online service with UK church leaders for first time

Pope Francis is to take part in an online service alongside senior UK church leaders, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, for the first time.

He is set to call on people to turn away from the “selfish pursuit of success without caring for those left behind” and to be united in facing the “pandemics of the virus and of hunger, war, contempt for life and indifference to others”.

His special message is to mark Pentecost Sunday, the day Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

The virtual service is the finale of this year’s global prayer movement, called Thy Kingdom Come, which is usually filled with mass gatherings and outdoor celebrations involving 65 different denominations and traditions.

It has had to be adapted due to the pandemic so people can take part in their homes.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Pentecost, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

(Atlantic) Nuns vs. the Coronavirus

In her room on Saint Joseph’s, Flo would often stay up until 2 a.m. trying to finish her prayers. For a while, she had run a fever, suffered from diarrhea, and kept coughing, but her symptoms didn’t last long. Surrounded by statues of Jesus and Mary, beneath pictures of her six kids, 23 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren, Flo prayed for courage, for the health of the staff, for everybody who was sick in the home. She especially prayed for Karen, her friend from the dining hall. “I was really worried about her. We have different things wrong with us,” Flo told me this week, her voice quiet over the phone. For weeks, she didn’t have much information about how her neighbors were doing, even those who lived just feet away. After a month of separation, toward the end of April, Flo finally left a couple of messages on Karen’s phone.

Since then, the two women have spoken just once, mostly about nothing. They aren’t afraid of death, but they don’t want to talk much about it. Karen told me that she didn’t ask Flo about the coronavirus outbreak, because she was scared she’d start crying. Flo didn’t ask Karen about it either. “Maybe a part of me didn’t want to know,” Flo said.

Karen constantly imagines what it will be like to return to the dining hall when the outbreak is over. Her table, like so many others, will be a little emptier: Pat, who was 87, is among the residents who have died. There was no memorial service where the women could say goodbye to their friend. Pat’s son, a priest in a Delaware beach town, was not even able to celebrate Mass at her funeral.

Both Flo and Karen are lifelong Catholics, and they believe firmly in the promise of Christianity. “When you’re people of faith, heaven is not a scary place,” Karen said. “It’s a place you’re looking forward to, that you’ve been working for all your life.” The residents encourage one another. They’re ready to go home, she said. “Just maybe not today.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(NC Register) Archbishops on England+Wales Acknowledge Pain of Catholics Who Cannot Receive Sacraments

The metropolitan archbishops of England and Wales acknowledged the pain of Catholics who cannot receive the Sacraments because of the coronavirus lockdown in a message issued Friday.

In the message, entitled “A People who Hope in Christ”, published May 1, the archbishops said that while livestreamed Masses nourished faith, they were no substitute for public liturgies.

“None of us would want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves,” they wrote. “While the livestreaming of the Mass and other devotions is playing an important part in maintaining the life of faith, there is no substitute for Catholics being able to physically attend and participate in the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments.”

Writing on behalf of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, the five archbishops continued: “Our faith is expressed powerfully and beautifully though ‘seeing, touching, and tasting.’ We know that every bishop and every priest recognizes the pain of Catholics who, at present, cannot pray in church or receive the sacraments. This weighs heavily on our hearts.”

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology

‘Holy Saturday is the “no man’s land” between death and resurrection, but into this “no man’s land” has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man’

Holy Saturday is the day of God’s concealment, as one reads in an ancient homily: “What happened? Today there is great silence upon the earth, great silence and solitude. Great silence because the King sleeps … God died in the flesh and descended to make the kingdom of hell (‘gli inferi’) tremble” (“Homily on Holy Saturday,” PG 43, 439). In the Creed we confess that Jesus Christ “was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried; he descended into hell (‘negli inferi’), and the third day he rose again from the dead.”

Dear brothers and sisters, in our time, especially after having passed through the last century, humanity has become especially sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. God’s concealment is part of the spirituality of contemporary man, in an existential manner, almost unconscious, as an emptiness that continues to expand in the heart. At the end of the 18th century, Nietzsche wrote: “God is dead! And we have killed him!” This celebrated expression, if we consider it carefully, is taken almost word for word from the Christian tradition, we often repeat it in the Via Crucis, perhaps not fully realizing what we are saying. After the two World Wars, the concentration camps, the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our epoch has become in ever great measure a Holy Saturday: the darkness of this day questions all those who ask about life, it questions us believers in a special way. We too have something to do with this darkness.

And nevertheless, the death of the Son of God, of Jesus of Nazareth, has an opposite aspect, totally positive; it is a font of consolation and hope. And this makes me think that the sacred Shroud acts as a “photographic” document, with a “positive” and a “negative.” And in effect, this is exactly how it is: The most obscure mystery of faith is at the same time the most luminous sign of a hope without limits. Holy Saturday is the “no man’s land” between death and resurrection, but into this “no man’s land” has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man: “Passio Christi. Passio hominis.”

Read it all from Benedict XVI.

Posted in Christology, Eschatology, Holy Week, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic

(CNS) Pope Francis attacks ‘evil’ of ‘gender theory’

Father Epicoco also noted how often Pope Francis speaks of evil, and he asked Pope Francis where he sees evil at work today.

“One place is ‘gender theory,'” the pope said. “Right away I want to clarify that I am not referring to people with a homosexual orientation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church invites us to accompany them and provide pastoral care to these brothers and sisters of ours.”

Gender theory, he said, has a “dangerous” cultural aim of erasing all distinctions between men and women, male and female, which would “destroy at its roots” God’s most basic plan for human beings: “diversity, distinction. It would make everything homogenous, neutral. It is an attack on difference, on the creativity of God and on men and women.”

Pope Francis said he did not want “to discriminate against anyone”, but was convinced that human peace and well-being had to be based on the reality that God created people with differences and that accepting – not ignoring – those differences is what brings people together.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology

(1st things) Dale Coulter–A Failed Experiment In Methodist Unity

To some UMC constituencies, particularly those in Africa, the Protocol looks like traditionalists raising a white flag on the verge of victory. With their emphasis on parachurch organizations and networks, the traditionalists seem to have the spirit of the “come-outism” that formed holiness denominations like the Church of the Nazarene in the late 19th century. As Chris Ritter has noted, the rapid growth of Methodism in Africa means that UMC African delegates will soon outnumber all other parties at the General Convention—in which case, they could orchestrate a massive takeover of UMC structures. If only it were that easy.

First, when the UMC was originally formed it had a massive bureaucracy that ultimately morphed into the major agencies currently promoting the national and international mission of the church. Progressives largely occupy the positions within these agencies. This means that any traditionalist victory at a General Conference would be resisted in the official agencies (setting aside the issue of progressives in the Council of Bishops). When you add in the centrists who prefer the status quo of institutional unity driven by theological pluralism, the obstacles become clear. Viewed from this angle, one can understand why traditionalists negotiating the Protocol opted for an exit that would allow them to build a new organizational structure and staff it immediately with like-minded persons.

Second, traditionalists are betting that many local churches will leave to form a new traditionalist denomination. How many, of course, remains to be seen, but the Protocol does not allow local churches or conferences to remain neutral any longer. In its current configuration, the Protocol requires that a choice be made—even if that choice is not to vote and thus remain in the post-separation UMC after the dust settles. The fight will now be taken to the local level.

Finally, there is the question of whether traditionalists want to be stuck with such a heavy bureaucracy even if they could clean house. One consequence of any separation will be dismantling agencies that simply are no longer financially viable. Any churches and conferences left in the post-separation UMC will have to engage in that task quickly if they are to survive.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(GR) Terry Mattingly–After decades of fighting, United Methodists avoid a visit from Ghost of the Episcopal Future?

Wait a minute. The crucial language that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” was just approved this past February? That hasn’t been the language in church discipline documents for many years before 2019 and affirmed in multiple votes?

But here is the most crucial point. What, precisely, are the “fundamental differences” that the United Methodists involved in these negotiations — leaders from left and right — cited as the cause of the upcoming ecclesiastical divorce? Was it really LGBTQ issues, period?

Consider this commentary from David French (an evangelical Presbyterian) of The Dispatch:

The secular media will cast the divide primarily in the terms it understands — as focused on “LGBT issues” — but that’s incomplete. The true fracturing point between Mainline and Evangelical churches is over the authority and interpretation of scripture. The debate over LGBT issues is a consequence of the underlying dispute, not its primary cause. …

Thus, at heart, the disagreement between the Evangelical and Mainline branches of Christianity isn’t over issues — even hot-button cultural and political issues — but rather over theology. Indeed, the very first clause of the United Methodist Church’s nine-page separation plan states that church members “have fundamental differences regarding their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, theology and practice.”

Ah, there’s the rub. Who wants to put “Scripture, theology and practice” in a news report — especially at NBC Out and similar structures in other newsrooms — when you can blame the whole denominational war over conservatives refusing to evolve on LGBTQ issues?

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Media, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Stewardship, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Central Florida, TEC Conflicts: Central New York, TEC Conflicts: Colorado, TEC Conflicts: Connecticut, TEC Conflicts: Florida, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: Georgia, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles, TEC Conflicts: Milwaukee, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan, TEC Conflicts: Ohio, TEC Conflicts: Pennsylvania, TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh, TEC Conflicts: Quincy, TEC Conflicts: Rio Grande, TEC Conflicts: San Diego, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, TEC Conflicts: Tennessee, TEC Conflicts: Virginia, TEC Departing Parishes, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A CT Article on the Proposal for the Methodist Split

The eight-page statement details the terms of the split for the nation’s largest mainline denomination:

The undersigned propose restructuring The United Methodist Church by separation as the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person.

The protocol will still need to be approved by the UMC’s legislative body, but has unanimous support from a diverse 16-member mediation team, including representatives from “UMCNext; Mainstream UMC; Uniting Methodists; The Confessing Movement; Good News; The Institute on Religion & Democracy; the Wesleyan Covenant Association; Affirmation; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Reconciling Ministries Network; and the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus; as well as bishops from the United States and across the world.”

“This is very likely to bring to an end this dysfunction that we have suffered through for the past 47 years,” said Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News and pastor of adult discipleship at The Woodlands UMC outside of Houston. “We were never going to find a way to move forward together. Our ultimate goal of setting each other free to do ministry as we believe God would have us do has come to fruition.”

The 12.5-million-member UMC has been in a standoff over LGBT issues for decades, culminating in a vote in favor of its traditional position against same-sex marriage and gay clergy during a special session last year. As a result, some left the UMC, some continued to defy the UMC positions outright, and some challenged the legality of the vote in the denomination’s court—ultimately putting the question of how to move forward before the delegation once again in 2020.

The result of months of negotiation, the new protocol creates a quick, “clean break” for a new, traditionalist denomination that has yet to be created but will receive a $25 million sum at its inception.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Epiphany awakens the question in the hearts of all people–who is this Jesus?

Dear friends, this is the question that the Church wishes to awaken in the hearts of all men: who is Jesus? This is the spiritual longing that drives the mission of the Church: to make Jesus known, his Gospel, so that every man can discover in his human face the face of God, and be illumined by his mystery of love. Epiphany pre-announces the universal opening of the Church, her call to evangelize all peoples. But Epiphany also tells us in what way the Church carries out this mission: reflecting the light of Christ and proclaiming his Word. Christians are called to imitate the service that the star gave the Magi. We must shine as children of the light, to attract all to the beauty of the Kingdom of god. And to all those who seek truth, we must offer the Word of God, which leads to recognizing in Jesus “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

Benedict XVI.

Posted in Epiphany, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Theology

(America) Remembering Johann Baptist Metz

Like so many of his generation, he took as his theological labor interpreting and promoting the theological riches of Vatican II. Along with Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx, O. P., and others, he was a cofounder of the journal, Concilium, which had this purpose.

For him, in particular, this work meant helping the Catholic Church make the transition from the seamlessly Catholic world of Auerbach to the techno-scientific, multicultural, religiously pluralistic and often secularized world of today. In the 1960’s he became one of the founders, along with Jürgen Moltmann and Dorothee Sölle, of a theological approach called “political theology,” which he himself named the new political theology, in order to distinguish it from the work of Nazi legal theorist, Carl Schmitt.

Political theology was a prophetic protest against the privatization of Christian faith: the reduction of its scope to one’s relationship to God and one-on-one ethical behavior towards others. For Metz, religion in general and Christianity in particular, is inherently political.

So too is Christian theology. Christianity’s privatization, Metz warned, is a principal way that it has been domesticated in the modern world, with the church too often going along, explicitly or tacitly. Yet Christian faith was not for him simply a source of meaning or a social glue in society; it was not a kind of sacred canopy, as sociologist Peter Berger once put it, a religious authorization or echo of what is going on in society anyway.

Religion is, rather, for Metz, provocative and interruptive. It breaks through our self-reliance and self-satisfaction, attitudes often purchased at the cost of ignoring the suffering of those put on the margins of society or who had been left beaten on the side of the road in its march of progress.

Remembering them is dangerous, but these dangerous memories are liberating. And they are ultimately sustained by the dangerous memory of Jesus Christ, who died and was raised by the God of the living and of the dead. It is a memory that can give rise to great hope, but only if it is put into practice, a “combative hope,” as Pope Francis puts it.

Metz followed these insights with thoroughness and integrity, realizing that for a German the dangerous memory above all others had to be the memory of the Jews and the fate they suffered under the Third Reich. He will be remembered for insisting that Christian identity, “after Auschwitz,” can only be reconstructed and saved together with the Jews and by retrieving the lost or suppressed roots of Christian faith in Judaism.

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Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Roman Catholic, Theology

(VN) Pope Francis receives Archbishop Welby at Casa Santa Marta

[Yesterday]…afternoon, 13th November 2019, Pope Francis received in audience His Grace Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, accompanied by His Grace Archbishop Ian Ernest, Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome and Representative of the Anglican Communion to the Holy See.

During the friendly discussions, the condition of Christians in the world was mentioned, as well as certain situations of international crisis, particularly the sorrowful situation in South Sudan.

At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that if the political situation in the Country permits the creation of a transitional government of national unity in the coming 100 days, according to the timing set by the recent agreement signed in Entebbe, in Uganda, it is their intention to visit South Sudan together.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecumenical Relations, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic

(NPR) U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops Elect Their First Latino President: Archbishop José Gomez

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops selected Archbishop José Gomez as their next president Tuesday, making him the first Latino leader of a group whose roots stretch back more than 100 years.

“I promise to serve with dedication and love, and to always try to follow Jesus Christ and seek his will for his Church here in the U.S.,” Gomez said, calling his election an honor.

Gomez, 67, has been the archbishop of Los Angeles, the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the U.S., for most of the past decade. His previous posts include stints in Denver and San Antonio, Texas.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(JE) Chinese-American United Methodist Leaders Celebrate Traditional Plan, Reject “Resistance” Movement

At its recent biannual meeting, the General Assembly of the National Chinese Caucus of The United Methodist Church almost unanimously approved a resolution declaring support for the February 2019 UMC General Conference’s adoption of the Traditional Plan. The resolution also very broadly rejects actions of “resistance” to the decision that have been promoted by liberal white American caucus leaders and bishops in recent months.

The full text of this brief resolution, entitled “A Statement On Faithful Forward,” is as follows: “In light of the resistance to the decision of the 2019 Special General Conference in favor of the Traditional Plan, the National Chinese Caucus of The United Methodist Church makes this open statement: We support the decision of the 2019 Special General Conference and disagree with all actions contrary to the 2019 decision.”

This was approved on October 19 with 41 votes in favor, not one opposing vote, and just three abstentions.

The resolution was presented by the caucus’s Immediate Past Chair, the Rev. Dr. Peter Lau. Despite the same last name, he is no relation to the caucus’s current chair, Pastor Puong Ong Lau.

The National Chinese Caucus includes all of the Chinese-speaking United Methodist congregations scattered around the United States (mainly serving immigrant populations), as well as a number of Chinese American clergy and laity from other congregations. It convenes a General Meeting and Leadership Training Event for dozens of Chinese-American United Methodist leaders every other year.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Methodist, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)