by Clyde Christofferson (pictured with his grandchildren)
Francis was speaking to an Italian family association (at Forum delle famiglie, on June 16, 2018) and interrupted his remarks to give an off-the-cuff condemnation of “eugenic” abortion and “fake marriage”. The editor of The Catholic Thing, a conservative publication, took heart in this and wrote an article that expressed concern rather than hope that Francis would now more fully back traditional Catholic doctrine.
Pope Francis continues to speak from the heart, with a serenity that doesn't fit neatly into either traditional or progressive categories.
Maybe that's the point. The idea is to be more loving. It was the shift from law to "loving one another" that was Christ's "new covenant".
As the article notes, Francis has criticized "Catholics who are constantly 'insisting' and 'obsessing' on life issues and marriage." Maybe there is some balance here, the same kind of balance that Christ preached by shifting from law to love in the "new covenant". There was something different in what Christ did. It wasn't a doubling down on the law.
Perhaps Francis is criticizing both traditionalists and progressives, because both these groups of Catholics seem overly focused on Church doctrine, either to keep it or to change it, to the point of distracting from the sole purpose of doctrine, which is to direct our attention (Francis uses the term "gaze") to God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit (see Dei Verbum #2).
There is something significant about discernment, about getting in touch with the Spirit of Christ "written on our hearts". Francis keeps emphasizing the importance of having more discernment in our Church, as he did last January with the Jesuits in Chile. We can cope with our sinful nature -- our more primitive inclinations -- the easier way or the harder way. The easier way is with the law, which is clear and requires interpretation and resolve. The harder way is discernment, which requires building a relationship with the living presence of God in our hearts.
These are both good and helpful ways. But Jesus saw an imbalance in Jewish preoccupation with the law and preached the "new covenant" -- the harder way -- in response. Francis is following in the footsteps of Jesus and is risking a sort of "virtual Crucifixion" from those -- both traditionalists who want to keep the law as it is and progressives who want to change it -- who are preoccupied with doctrine.
I think Francis gets it. The reign of God which Jesus preached is not about law. It's about shifting our attention toward loving one another, not some "lovey dovey" kind of love but the harder way of building a relationship with Christ, by the power of the Spirit. It's that kind of relationship through which we can experience the priority of love that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 22:40 and the freedom from the law that Paul spoke of in his Letter to the Galatians. The law remains useful in pointing toward Christ, but not if we use the law as a substitute for discernment.
So I disagree with the article to the extent that it expresses some measure of concern over the direction that Francis is leading us. There is no doubt about his direction. He has been perfectly clear. But his clarity in Christ remains an anxiety for those who are preoccupied with Church doctrine, whether to preserve doctrine or to change it. It is noteworthy that Francis has left doctrine alone. He clearly hopes that we will shift our gaze to Christ.
Vatican II began this shift, but these things take time. We are just human beings. The serenity of Francis in the face of all this is a comfort, at least to me.
In L’Osservatore Romano on 29 May 2018, Cardinal-designate Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote an article in which he said,
Christ wanted to give this sacrament to the twelve apostles, all men, who, in turn, communicated it to other men. The Church has always recognized herself bound by this decision of the Lord, which excludes that the ministerial priesthood can be validly conferred on women. ... All (Episcopal Conferences), without exception, have declared, with full conviction, for the obedience of the Church to the Lord, that she does not possess the faculty of conferring priestly ordination on women.
Clyde Christofferson responded on CCRI's Face Book Group saying:
This is an embarrassment to the People of God. On the one hand, it is clear as a bell that this treatment of women by the institutional Church is not "part of the deposit of faith". As Vatican II asserted in Dei Verbum, the deposit of faith is defined by God's self‐revelation in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a significant shift from the pre‐Vatican II habit of
equating revelation with a series of propositional statements, some drawn from scripture and some drawn from tradition. The question is not "what does a long accepted propositional statement say about an all male priesthood?" To take that answer at face value is to risk (if not outright commit) idolatry.
The better question is "what does God's self‐revelation in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit say about calls to priestly ministry?" This requires the same kind of discernment that Francis describes in Amoris Laetitia. It is plain that the Spirit continues to call people to priestly ministry without regard to gender. When Paul VI in 1975 rejected the offer of the Archbishop of Canterbury to join the Anglicans in considering the issue of women's ordination, an opportunity was missed. The Church was on doctrinal autopilot set in place before Vatican II. It's a very human mistake. The Church has dug itself a deeper hole.
Clyde recommended two actions:
- The injustice must be called out. People must speak from their own hearts. There will be those who defer to the magisterium, but that deference has a long history and is part of the messiness of life.
- We must work toward recovering the foundations for a "sense of the faithful" that was so rudely stifled at the time of the Gregorian reforms. This is more than calling out injustice. We need to enable and promote an examination of conscience by the institutional Church on this matter. And this will be futile unless we also find a way of conceptualizing Church history so that such an injustice can be admitted without compromising the integrity of the institution.
Organisations around the world have joined in:
It is worth reflecting on Bishop Michael Curry's address at the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on 19 May 2018. Bishop Michael is the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA.
"And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
From the Song of Solomon, in the Bible: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.
The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: 'We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.'
There's power in love. Don't underestimate it. Don't even over-sentimentalise it. There's power, power in love.
If you don't believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to centre around you and your beloved. Oh there's power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There's a certain sense in which when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you, and you know it, when you love and you show it - it actually feels right. There is something right about it. And there's a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love, and our lives were meant - and are meant - to be lived in that love. That's why we are here. Ultimately, the source of love is God himself: the source of all of our lives. There's an old medieval poem that says: 'Where true love is found, God himself is there'. The New Testament says it this way: 'Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God, and those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love do not know God.' Why? 'For God is love.'
- There's power in love.
- There's power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.
- There's power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.
- There's power in love to show us the way to live.
Set me as a seal on your heart... a seal on your arm, for love is as strong as death.
But love is not only about a young couple. Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we're all here. Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up. But it's not just for and about a young couple, who we rejoice with. It's more than that.
Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses, and he went back and he reached back into the Hebrew scriptures, to Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and Jesus said: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.'
And then in Matthew's version, he added, he said: 'On these two, love of God and love of neighbour, hang all the law, all the prophets, everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world... love God, love your neighbours, and while you're at it, love yourself.' Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history.
A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world - and a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself. I'm talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world.
If you don't believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America's Antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform. They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It's one that says 'There is a balm in Gilead...' a healing balm, something that can make things right. 'There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.' And one of the stanzas actually explains why. They said: 'If you cannot preach like Peter, and you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all.' Oh, that's the balm in Gilead! This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it. He died to save us all.
He didn't die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn't... he wasn't getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world... for us. That's what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world. If you don't believe me, just stop and imagine.
- Think and imagine a world where love is the way.
- Imagine our homes and families where love is the way.
- Imagine neighbourhoods and communities where love is the way.
- Imagine governments and nations where love is the way.
- Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.
- Imagine this tired old world where love is the way.
When love is the way - unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
- When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
- When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
- When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
- When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.
- When love is the way, there's plenty good room - plenty good room - for all of God's children.
Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well... like we are actually family.
- When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.
My brothers and sisters, that's a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family.
And let me tell you something, old Solomon was right in the Old Testament: that's fire. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - and with this I will sit down, we gotta get you all married - French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was arguably one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century. Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest, scientist, a scholar, a mystic. In some of his writings, he said, from his scientific background as well as his theological one, in some of his writings he said - as others have - that the discovery, or invention, or harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history.
- Fire to a great extent made human civilisation possible.
- Fire made it possible to cook food and to provide sanitary ways of eating which reduced the spread of disease in its time.
- Fire made it possible to heat warm environments and thereby made human migration around the world a possibility, even into colder climates.
- Fire made it possible - there was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, no Industrial Revolution without fire.
- The advances of fire and technology are greatly dependent on the human ability and capacity to take fire and use it for human good. Anybody get here in a car today? An automobile? Nod your heads if you did - I know there were some carriages. But those of us who came in cars, fire - the controlled, harnessed fire - made that possible. I know that the Bible says, and I believe it, that Jesus walked on the water. But I have to tell you, I did not walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here. Controlled fire in that plane got me here.
- Fire makes it possible for us to text and tweet and email and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other.
Fire makes all of that possible, and de Chardin said fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history. And he then went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love - it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.
Dr King was right: we must discover love - the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world, a new world.
My brothers, my sisters, God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love."
March 28, 2018
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S.A. have begun a global revolution.
Pictured is just the gathering in Washington D.C. alone. There were "March for our Lives" rallies in 800 cities around the world from London to Berlin to Sydney. Young people are behaving like adults and too many adults are behaving like children. Martin Luther King's nine-year-old granddaughter led the crowd in cheering : "I have a dream: enough is enough!"
In the wake of this global movement, and coming on the heels of a meeting of 300 young people from various religions and cultural backgrounds who met with the pope, in his Palm Sunday message in St. Peter's Square, Francis urged young people to keep shouting and not allow the older generations to silence their voices or anesthetize their idealism.
This summary of the pre-synod meeting with young people was written by a team based on the input of all the participants from 20 different language groups and 6 from social media. They told the Vatican that they want a more transparent and authentic church. Their message will be delivered to the Bishops who gather for the Synod on Youth scheduled to be held in October later this year.
Future of the Church Depends on All of Us
So much of our Christian social justice values overlap with our political values today. Young people are standing up and speaking out. All of us need to listen to these vibrant and deeply committed voices and give them a platform to join all people of goodwill towards building a more just and caring society. The future of our families, our communities, our nations, and our world depends on all of us. Together we must change the way we govern ourselves. Together we can bring peace to our war-torn world. Together we can create a Church that is truly open, inclusive, and welcoming to all. We join with Pope Francis in asking you, young people, to inspire us saying: ""It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?"
We invite you to "cry out" and make your voices heard on our Facebook page . Go there now and let tell us what is on your mind.
We acknowledge that our organization is mostly comprised of older members of the Catholic community. But we assure you, our younger sisters and brothers, that we want to hear your voices. Please share with us your thoughts, your perspectives, your ideas and your aspirations for our Church and our world.