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Sodomy Synod: One of the Pope Francis' Effect?
‘Who am I to judge?’
The Pope Francis' Effect
Pope Francis’ vision of a simple and accommodating Church and the method he has adopted in his effort to achieve this is returning a deeply wounded Church with a battered image and under pressure to quit the center-stage it occupies in human history back to the acceptance and embrace of its many adherents.
Faith (that is, faith that is practical, or put in another way, faith that is translated into action (work), or if you like, faith that is “exercised” and to which all peoples, tribes, races and nations are called), Hope (that is, the act of growing and walking in total and evergreen consciousness of the divine reality that is our own but which for now is out of touch yet never beyond our reach but is ours to possess and own forever in joy and to which every believer in Christ is called), Love (that is, love that knows no bounds, takes no particulars of offense and counts no cost - the type that caused the Son of God to be rejected and had him, to use a word that is grossly inadequate and almost defamatory – reduced to a curse and a contradiction and, then finally, to a mere “bread” and “wine” so much so that the Eucharist, in my own definition, “is the final condition of Divine Love at work in the world in and through the Church”) are themes that are being revolutionized by the pontificate of Pope Francis.
The people’s Pope is not talking doctrine for now. He is excavating and emphasizing the fundamental principles of our faith as believers in God and calling everyone’s attention to them because the Gospel, or rather, the Church stands or falls by the measure of her commitments to these ideals. Without such practical commitment to these ideals, our most cherished traditions and sacraments lose their appeals and become threatening, if not enslaving.
Jesus Christ is not a mere idea, neither is he a doctrine/dogma to be flamboyantly advertised, assimilated intellectually and finally locked away and preserved in the arcane Vatican archives that have been built and equipped, consciously or unconsciously, in the hearts of Catholics through propaganda with the intention to subvert God’s salvific work in human history and take over the place originally occupied by responsible action in the lives of Christians. Jesus Christ is a person to be encountered; a force of change in a world held hostage by sin and death; the Supreme Judge who discharged an acquitted the woman caught in the very act of committing adultery; the doctor who cleansed the ten lepers and healed the lunatic possessed by a demon whose name is “Legion”; and a law abiding citizen.
In a homily at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C. Wednesday, 23 September 2015 during the Holy Mass and canonization of Blessed Fr. Junípero Serra, Pope Francis insisted that the Church must “go forth”. Quoting from his encyclical “Evangelii Gaudium”, he said:
So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). The People of God can embrace everyone because we are the disciples of the One who knelt before his own to wash their feet (ibid., 24)
Going forth - in humility and holiness - after the example of Jesus is the only way of being Church and a missionary in the 21st century.
While Pope Francis is answering this question with a resolve, and has shown commitment that has left many speechless about the urgency of reforms in the Roman Curia and in general Church life, there is a trans-load of skepticism from some quarters in official Catholicism who are concerned that short changing Church doctrines and lowering the standard of holiness arbitrarily do not reflect the needs of the Church at the moment, and that the power to do this goes beyond the opinion of every individual person – whether such a person is a Pope or not.
The Eucharist (together with the other Sacraments of the Church), they contend, is the most tangible reality the Church received from the Lord. And the process of its re-enactments, together with the conditions for admission into and reception of the Sacraments are clearly defined and solemnly ordained in a very mystical way by the founding fathers of our Christian, nay Catholic faith. What is important is that all who are qualified to participate in this Divine Mystery of Love is given access to it and that it is always available and at the believer’s reach.
If, therefore, lesbians, homosexuals, people in same-sex relationships claim and manufacture evidence of this claim for admission into and reception of the Sacraments as it is the case now, then the “who am I to judge” of Pope Francis carries with it a doctrinal question.
Pope Francis has gone out in search of the “other sheep” and he deserves every support and encouragement. But the danger of being too involved and over sympathetic to the point of short changing doctrines and lowering the standard of holiness constitute the fear of many, including non-Catholics who often take cover under Rome’s canopy when doctrinal thunderstorms tend to overtake them and drown their voices. The debate gets messier when one casts one’s mind back to the root causes of the two great schisms – unnecessary controversy over “filioque” in the first instance and the one over faith and work by Luther.
Remarkably, the precipitate shortfalls of Benedict XVI’s papacy narrow down to over preoccupation with the Church of the elect so much so that the “other sheep” was almost totally forgotten. This too, also seems to be the major shortfall of Augustine’s theology - over preoccupation with the Immanent Trinity and his negligence to explore the significance of the Economic Trinity Christian living where he and those in his “old rank” found grace and mercy to come to the Church of the elect.
For quite awhile, I have battled with the difficulty of reconciling two Ratzingers – the first is that most towering theological figure whose works span two event-laden centuries and still counting, and who, few years back, remarked that he was still in the Church because that’s the only way of being a Christian. The second is the die-hard but straight forward doctrinal chief enforcer of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
And to know that Fr. Hans Kuhn was a colleague and a fellow collaborator with Joseph Ratzinger as well as one of the most visible faces during the Second Vatican Council whose works have come under the Ratzinger harmer elicits consternation and at a second thought, an embarrassment to many on what actually the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger evokes as the spirit of and the truth about the Second Vatican Council.
Along this line, some great theological minds do not find it amusing that their commitment to the faith is also, paradoxically, their handicap and their greatest undoing especially in their efforts to assert and confirm that faith.
But if, in accord with the Epistle of James Vs.3 , the Holy Office is real and has a significance for the Faith of the Universal Church especially the kind of Church which alone confers the kind of Christian identity that is, strictly speaking, “Catholic”, and again, if theology has a method – one which commands a universal acceptance – then the Ratzinger who is, by providence, the die-hard doctrinal enforcer of the Holy Roman Catholic Church does not contradict and need not be confused with the other who today is the greatest theological force in the 21st Century Church. This understanding and reconciliation were an inescapable need which Kuhn consistently neglected to pay attention to in his life-long career as a priest and a theologian in the Catholic tradition.
Simply put, Benedict XVI is the greatest doctrinal force in and the most successful theologian of the 21st Century Church.
However, I am strongly being persuaded to believe - and this belief is laced with conviction - that had Joseph Ratzinger not made an early foray into the episcopacy, he would have had spent the whole of his theological career in the Rahnerian neighborhood and would have been contented enough to remain there.
As a matter of fact, some Vatican observers have come to the conclusion that Benedict XVI’s resignation and the Vatileaks are two different sides of the same coin, and are hard in their conviction that, in as much as this resignation is a function of the Holy Spirit, the Vatileaks is not. It is instead a function of the conspirators, and that these detractors are comfortably housed and fully protected inside the Vatican – precisely behind the thick Vatican blinds - at an ugly price.
One or two names that made the list of the official delegates to the Synod on Family have fueled the suspicion that the conspirators are feeding fat on their loot.
The admission by Brussels’ archbishop emeritus Cardinal Godfried Danneels to being part of a “Mafia” club (a.k.a the Gallen) opposed to Benedict XVI has returned the conspiracy theory to the center of debate, not with reference to the cause of Benedict XVI’s resignation, but on the real way forward for the 1.2 billion Catholics, both individually and collectively, that are looking up to Rome for divine direction and guidance. And the situation is not at all funny giving the fact of a Roman Curia that has become more fractured and sagging when it comes to taking decisions on issues and events that touch directly at the heart of the Church’s faith.
And the assumption (or presumption?) that former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio is the inevitable beneficiary of a Judas’ recondite espionage in the Vatican has created for the Holy See a situation that may re-play the U.S. House Speaker John Boehner drama – one of the many of the Pope Francis’ effects.
Therefore, Pope Francis visit to the U.S has the inherent capacity to create an aperture through which one can grasp the real situation that confronts the church presently, but this requires going beyond the powerful papal addresses (to the U.S Congress, the U.N General Assembly and the Bishops of the United States) and the magnetic effects these have had on the audience to gauging the heartbeat of other influential and refined churchmen like the former head of the Tribunal of Apostolic Signatura, the American born Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke (who, prior to his exist from the Tribunal’s Chair had remarked that the Church must go forth and reach out to the periphery where the gospel has not made the required impact. Cardinal Burke however went on to add that “the Church must go with something… with her faith…” in a manifest response to Pope Francis’ missionary focus) and, Kim Davis, a clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, who was jailed for five days over the summer for refusing out of conscience to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June legalized same-sex 'marriage' in all 50 states in its decision, Obergefell v. Hodges.
But imperialism, fascism, irredentism and bigotry cannot be employed as tools to explain what the Bishops are doing at the Synod in Rome and cannot exhaustively describe the activities of the Roman Curia - the highest decision making body of the Holy See.
Instructively, Pope Francis is not a false prophet and nothing about this simple and edifying personality is pointed in this direction. Instead, he is busy bringing Jesus Christ closer to the people, and the world is taking notice.
But if the Holy Spirit is and still remains the only agent of reform in the Church, and if the intervention and intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary is still inescapable in a Church in which She occupies a place as a Mother and a Model, then Benedict XVI is right in denying that the conspiracy theory is the chief sponsor of his resignation. And if any prediction along this line is anything to go by, then the 2016 Year of Mercy may also, at the same time, be a Year of Three Popes.