Search This Blog

Friday, March 22, 2013

Simplicity or Pauperism....

I was having a conversation recently with my friend, the most esteemed B. Allen Young, MC (Master of Ceremonies at St. Agnes Church, in St. Paul, MN) about the Holy Father's Maundy Thursday changes from the traditional schedule of celebrating the Mass of Holy Thursday to the prison in Rome.

A couple of things struck me in the conversation.  First,  Allen brought up the point that it is a good thing that the Holy Father is paying attention to the poor and being the "Everyman Pontiff."  That certainly has been the timbre of the pontificate since Paul VI famously (and rashly, in my opinion) laid aside the Triple Tiara, but I think that something is being missed, and Allen agrees.  The Holy Father cannot forgo the glory of Holy Mother Church in order to only minister to the poor.  While ministry to the poor is certainly important, it is not ALL there is to the Church.  And the Pope Francis should not forget that.  There is also a patrimony to the Church which does exist and that is a very important aspect to Catholic life.  We are not broad-church Protestants, but rather we are a high-church liturgical society.  To change that mentality is not his privy.  He is the Vicar of Christ.  The Church doesn't belong to Pope Francis, but rather it belongs to Christ.  Pope Francis is just the 266th steward of that Church waiting for the return of the King.

Second, if the Holy Father is going to celebrate Mass in a "more simple" style, which is his privy, he cannot forgo the nobility by which he does it.  Nobility shouldn't be confused with pious, by the way.  So, some will argue that the Holy Father is more noble, because he is soft spoken in his words as he prays the Canon or some friends, that is not the case.  Noble simplicity exists in the fact that the celebration of a Papal Mass is done with the ceremony in which it is due.  Pope Benedict celebrated a very simple Mass, but it was noble.  It paid homage to the role the Vicar plays in the Church, while still not enjoining a hundred attendants.  I think that as Pope Francis comes into his own, he MUST recognize that.

I said to Allen that by shedding the trappings of the pontificate, Pope Francis is shedding the importance of his calling.  It is true.  The ministry of Peter isn't his personal ministry, it is the ministry of the Church through him, who is called to be the Vicar of Christ.

So, the fact that Francis is a humble and meek Pope is fine.  But, he cannot lose the patrimony of the Church, it is just as much his responsibility to foster that aspect as it is to say Mass in a prison.  The concerns that people have about Pauperism are very real.  It is not in the best interest of the Church to shed the mozzetta and the red shoes and the particular way that the Pope blesses the faithful, because those actions and things don't belong to Pope Francis' personal style, they belong to the Papacy.  They belong to the Papacy as much as kissing the feet of an AIDS patient.

My prayer is that Jorge Bergoglio realizes that he is no longer just Jorge Bergoglio, but now he is also  Francis, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.  To just be the kind, Bishop of Rome isn't enough. The part can never exceed the whole!

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Initial Views of the New Pope

This is simply my own opinion and certainly not indicative of what to expect from the pontificate of Pope Francis.  That is a good place to start.

Jorge Maria Card. Bergoglio took the name Francis.  Not Francis I.  This is a new name entered into the lexicon of Papal regnal names.  To be honest, I like it.  Not because it is new, but because I have long though that St. Francis was a worthy reason to take the name Francis.  In Italian the name is Francesco.  In Latin the name is Francisci.

Papa Francesco, as I am wont to call him, it sounds better than Francis, is a very holy individual and I think that we need that right now.  In the first days of his pontificate, we can clearly see that he's a man of deep prayer and very humble.  But I think that he needs to guard against Pauperism.  When one is very humble and pious, the temptation is to forgo those things which embody noble simplicity for mere simplicity.  That isn't being authentic, but rather it is misunderstanding the mandate from Vatican Council II.  And we certainly don't want that.

This leads directly into the next part, the Mass.  While I think that Papa Francesco will be a more simple liturgical example than Pope Benedict, I do not think that it will serve him well to return to a "Piero" style of liturgy.  That ship sailed with the passing of Pope Bl. John Paul II.  We are clearly in a time of reform with regard to the Mass.  To simply ignore that is to miss the point of an entire pontificate.  Pope Benedict's legacy is one which will be far reaching and it's influence can be seen in men such as Fr. Christopher Smith, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, (Arch) Bishop Alex Sample, and Bishop Edward Slattery.  We must press the flesh when it comes to continuing the work of the hermeneutic of continuity.  Papa Francesco should not ignore that.  If he does, however, we go into a sort of holding pattern, where we (who are liturgically minded) wait. My friend Shawn Tribe made a very salient point the other day at his blog, The New Liturgical Movement, when he said;

In this regard I can only offer my encouragement that you forge on with the movement that was seeded and fathered by Pope Benedict XVI but which was always destined to have to outlive his own particular papacy, not to mention many others. Take courage in that reality and realize that we could never expect this to be simply handed to us from on high (a source of frustration for some even under the last pontificate). Tools were given as we still have those tools; now we need to utilize them and from them draw out further gains and progress. All of the tools and gains we have seen, from the new English translation of the modern Roman missal, to Summorum Pontificum and the Ordinariate, to all of the grassroots resources that have sprung up to help people learn to sing the propers again and so on, none of these things have ceased to exist; nor have they become redundant. Far from it. Our task is clear: like a gardener we must now tend to the garden, watering and fertilizing those those seeds and tending to the green shoots. Let's focus on the tasks at hand, for the success and future of the new liturgical movement is not opened for us solely by the keys of Peter (which have already opened much for us as I have already said), but also by the keys of every parish priest within his parish, every religious within their monastery or religious house, and every layman within their own domestic church.
I think that Shawn's words are very poignant, especially with the allusion to being gardeners.  This is going to be my view to take as well.  Shawn says a little earlier in that same post;
Benedict, while the "father of the new liturgical movement" (in my estimation at any rate), is not the new liturgical movement; as such the new liturgical movement does not die with the end of his papacy. No, the new liturgical movement is not based on a person or personality; the new liturgical movement set in motion by him is just that: it is a movement and one based on liturgical first principles.
 We must continue the work unceasingly.  With men like Mr. Tribe, Frs. Smith and Zuhlsdorf, as well as bishops like H.E. Sample and Slattery, we will find our way.  And it will be a liturgical first principle.

Somehow, I don't see this pontificate focusing on the liturgy.  I see it focusing on a call to holiness in a different sphere of focus.  The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith and the liturgical action is the vehicle to that, as my mentor Mons. Richard Schuler used to say.  My prayer is that as Papa Francesco's pontificate evolves, he will embrace the New Liturgical Movement fully and that he won't forgo anything.

Noble simplicity lies in the Mass, but simplicity for the sake of simplicity does not.  Viva il Papa!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Please join me in praying a Ave, Pater, Gloria for the Cardinal electors.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Catholics, Homosexuals, and the Priesthood

There is an ongoing debate within the Church today regarding homosexual priests and their fitness regarding their ministry.  What I am about to blog about is not "kosher."  What I am about to blog about is not easy and it is not for young children to read.  But it is a view which has some merit.

What is a priest's role?  How does a priest relate to the Church, to the parish and to the parishoners?  This is a question that for centuries was taken for granted.  However, since the middle 20th century it has become a much more difficult question to ask and it has become a much more difficult question to answer.

When we look at the priesthood, there are a couple of factors that we must take into account.  I will look at each of them individually, the first being the vocation itself.  When a man becomes a priest what does he become?  He becomes, before all other things an alter Christus.  He acts in persona Christi at several points in his priesthood and hopefully on a very regular basis.  How?  By marrying the Church.  If Christ is the bridegroom and the Church is His bride, then the priest takes on the role of groom and he marries the Church.  That is how the relationship between priest and Church must exist, that is Christological and it is also the reason why a priest is called Father.  For if the the Church is our Mother (ie. Holy Mother Church) and the priest acts "in persona Christi" then he is the Father and it makes perfect sense.  It is logical.

The second factor is celibacy.  What is celibacy for a priest?  It really isn't a very difficult concept, but it is made much moreso because of today's climate in society.  Celibacy is a sacrifice.  But a sacrifice of what?  It is the sacrifice of a man (the priest) marrying and having a family.  That is what celibacy is.  In that vein, it is governed by chastity.  Because in the legal sense a priest forgoes marriage and a family, he must not engage in sexual actions.  That is the chaste thing to do.  So they are intertwined, but they are very separate, at the same time.

The debate is now, does a homosexual have the right to be a priest.  I argue no, he does not.  Why?  Because as I have just laid out, the priesthood is designed (by God) for a heterosexual man.  Gays cannot enter into the Sacrament of Matrimony.  They cannot marry.  It is simple.  If a gay cannot marry, then he cannot rightly enter into the covenant which is formed through Holy Orders.

Secondly and much more importantly, a gay is not celibate.  For the gay man it is not a sacrifice to forgo a wife and family.  He is gay.  The gay man has no desire to have a wife.  If he has no desire to have a wife, then there is nothing given up.  It would be akin to me saying, "I'm giving up tomato soup for Lent."  I hate tomato soup.  I can't stand it.  For me to give up tomato soup for Lent is not a sacrifice and there is no merit in it.  For the gay man, he has an aversion to marrying a wife and having a family.  There is no merit in him being celibate.

The institution of the priesthood is not founded upon homosexuality.  It is founded upon heterosexuality.  When we speak of a married clergy or when we speak of a celibate clergy, we're not speaking about homosexual priests.  The Church has always taught that the priest will be a man.  The Church has always taught that the priest will be a heterosexual man, because certain parameters must be met in his vocation.  The gay man is incompatible with the priesthood, precisely because he is gay.  Bottom line.  The priesthood cannot be founded upon that inclination which is intrinsically evil.  If you look toward the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you'll see that between CCC 915; CCC 1544-1584; CCC 2349; CCC 2357-2379, the genesis of this post is founded.

There is a place for homosexuals in the Church, because there is room for all men in the Church, but there isn't room in the ministerial priesthood for a homosexual, because he is not rightly disposed to be a Catholic priest.  But then again, most Catholics are not called to be priests, so the gay man shouldn't feel slighted by that, but rather he should find what his right vocation is in the Church and give his greatest glory to God in that manner.