Tina Beattie has a piece over at The Conversation, on ‘Pope Francis: people’s pope or sharp politician?’
The following are a series of reflections prompted by our recent Symposium on the Role of Lay Catholic Theologians. They are offered by John Sullivan, Professor of Christian Education at Liverpool Hope University.
Here are a few thoughts I had about how I saw the relationship between faith and scholarship in my own case, in the hope they will be of interest.
- My Catholicism is integral to my scholarship, feeding into (a) its motivation, (b) the sources I turn to, (c) the nourishment I seek, (d) as a principal point of reference, (e) the topics I attend to, (f) and a key audience I want to reach.
- My Catholicism is informed by my scholarship – philosophical, historical, theological and educational.
- My scholarship is guided by but not limited to my Catholic faith; it draws on work (and methods) from outside that faith (as well as from within it).
- My scholarship seeks to serve the world beyond the Church, both the academy and society.
- There can be a mutually beneficial relationship between the church and the academy. I wrote about this in an article in Journal of Beliefs & Values, published in August 2012 entitled ‘Religious faith in education: enemy or asset?’ (subscription required).
- The academic disciplines have a derived or relative autonomy from theological/religious authority/concerns, as do their practitioners/exponents.
- There is a need for balance between the institutional, the intellectual and the spiritual (Friedrich von Hugel and John Henry Newman).
- There is a need for balance between the multiple organs of the magisterium in the church (parents, pastors, scholars/theologians, bishops, papacy).
- In recent years there has been a serious (and damaging) dysfunction in the ecclesial community regarding communication between these magisteria and a disconnect between the hierarchy and the sensus fidelium.
The election of Pope Francis has shocked the world and the Church. From the moment of his election not only the media, but the faithful and the Church have been shocked to see, one by one, the gestures that the new Pastor of the Church has made from the chair of St Peter. We see it confirmed that ‘a gesture is worth a thousand words.’
However, I’m not going to analyze the communicative significance of his gestures, because this is a matter for specialists. Instead, let me share a brief sketch of the man, the Father Jorge, who I met in Buenos Aires for the first time when I was only 24. The man today discovered by the media (also the local ones), but discovered by the people of God for a long time ago.
1. The Bishop as Disciple
May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us (Homily for Chrism Mass 2013, Pope Francis)
Monsignor Jorge M. Bergoglio was appointed Bishop of Flores district in Buenos Aires, in May 1992. He usually visited a prayer group of men, encouraged by the diocesan priest Father Telmo Juan de Laurenti, of whom Monsignor Bergoglio was a friend and disciple. That prayer group, which continues today (and in which I have the privilege of participating) was founded in the distant year of 1973 by Father Telmo Juan de Laurenti. The group began meeting in a humble house that had been acquired by the Archdiocese in 1972, where masses were held in a room of 3m x 3m.
That house soon became – through the initiative of Father Telmo Juan de Laurenti – the Pure Heart of Mary Parish. “Father Juan”, as he was known in the neighborhood of Villa Pueyrredón, was an exemplary priest, always having words of comfort and assistance to the many needy. Father Juan went to his Father’s house with Holiness at 64 years old, on May 26th, year 2000.
2. Go to the suffering
Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness (Homily for Chrism Mass 2013, Pope Francis)
There was a night when the group visited Monsignor Bergoglio. At 11 pm, Bergoglio invited everybody to withdraw to their homes, which we all thought seemed logical after a hard day’s activity. To everyone’s surprise Monsignor Bergoglio apologized and explained that he must go to the “Plaza de Flores” (Flores Square) to confess “the girls” who worked there.
The Plaza Flores is in front of the Basilica of the same name, and is a very busy and dangerous place, especially at night. Bergoglio usually sat on a park bench in the middle of the night, spiritually accompanying prostitutes working there, even hearing their confessions. Jokingly, he used to say “someday you will figure out what I do, when I appear on the newspapers.”
3. Go to the Edges
A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart (Homily for Chrism Mass 2013, Pope Francis)
Upon the death of Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Monsignor Bergoglio succeeded him in the post of Archbishop of Buenos Aires on 1 March 1998. At the same time, Father Juan was encouraging a civil association dedicated to children at risk, which he founded under the name “Jesus Amigo”. That year they inaugurated a convivial home for girls. Called the “Mother of Hope”, it was on the outskirts of the city of Buenos Aires, in a lower middle class neighborhood near a highway. Monsignor Bergoglio was invited to celebrate mass during the opening of the home. No one knew for sure if Bergoglio in his new commitments to the Church of Buenos Aires would attend. Bergoglio pledged his presence and asked to preside mass in the same street where the home was. On two sawhorses and a plank of wood, an improvised altar was erected on the side of the street. The whole neighborhood attended mass. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, in his homily, said that “the Church should go and meet people, and not expect people to come to meet the Church”.
4. The Beauty of Signs
From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn to a consideration of activity, action (Homily for Chrism Mass 2013, Pope Francis).
Eleven years after his death, and according to his last wish, the remains of “Father Juan” were finally deposited in the churchyard of his beloved Parish, the “Pure Heart of Mary”. A mass was celebrated by then Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio, on 17 December 2011. This mass coincided with the birthday of the Cardinal himself and the 50th anniversary of the priestly ordination of “Father Juan”.
Near the end of mass, Cardinal Bergoglio removed his stole and to the surprise of all present, laid it on the urn containing the remains of the “Father Juan”. He said that the stole, which was from his Cardinal’s ordination and blessed by John Paul II, should belong, from now on, to “his friend Juan”. We all knew by press reports that in 2005, Bergoglio had the chance to become Pope and had waived that honor. The Cardinal had stripped off one of his last attribute of temporary “power”. People who attended the mass could not hold back the tears. A man, who was beside me, could only say: “This man belongs is from another planet”.
5. Pray for Me
We need constantly to stir up God’s grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal – but only apparently so – the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it (Homily for Chrism Mass 2013, Pope Francis)
My wife and I went to the Via Crucis one Easter, travelling on the subway (the Metro of Buenos Aires). Suddenly the Cardinal appeared, clad in black as usual. I raised my hand and said “Hello Father Jorge!”
“Very well, and you Father?”
“Send my regards to the prayer group, please!”, he replied.
“Sure Father Jorge, as always!”
“Thanks guys, please pray for me.” He gave us his blessing and a kiss on the cheek. We descended into the station and we walked to the Cathedral, where we said goodbye.
6. He Looked at Him with Mercy and Chose Him
The day Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio was elected Bishop of Rome, I could not stop crying. Many began to describe stories perhaps even more poignant than mine. That’s because Bergoglio lived among people, not among sextons. He is one like you and me. So, that night of his election, we all got together to celebrate that Pope Francis was now the Father of all humanity! Finally, I remembered that when Francis appeared at the balcony, my wife with typical intuition and sensitivity said to me “in his smile it looks God has transfigured him.” I replied, “I’m sure many have returned today to be Catholics…”, then she answered “Pope Benedict XVI was right when he stated that this was the Year of Faith”.
The following is a reflection on the significance of the Pope’s resignation written by Augusto Zampini, a Catholic priest and a PhD student at the University of Roehampton.
Pope Benedict XVI has resigned as Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church! This is an unprecedented event in the modern Church and worth commenting upon. What follows is not a deep theological analysis, but rather a casual sharing of my first impressions on the breaking news about the resignation which, I argue, is timely and coherent.
The decision is coherent with Benedict’s experience. Indeed, when John Paul II’s health was gradually deteriorating, Cardinal Ratzinger had a privileged position, right in the centre of Rome. He was the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), a powerful institution inside the Church, once known as the Inquisition. From that position, Ratzinger was able to witness how the vacuum of power generated by John Paul II’s Parkinson’s disease was promptly filled by other people. In this particular case, these were not people designated by the universal Church as its leaders, meaning that they were not elected by a Conclave (the body in charge of electing the Pope), nor necessarily guided by the Holy Spirit through episcopal mission (the Bishops in charge of Dioceses all around the world).
As a hierarchical structure, the Church has on its vertex of power the figures of Saint Peter and the Twelve Apostles, whose successors are the Pope and the Bishops. In other words, the Church, as was clarified by the most authoritative constitution concerning the organisation of the Church so far, Lumen Gentium (a constitution issued by an Ecumenical Council, Vatican II, in the 1960s), is governed by a college of Bishops whose head or principal is the Pope. Following the teachings of the Council, the new Code of Canon Law confirmed, in the 1980s, this collegial power. Cannon 330 states that ‘just as by the Lord’s decision Saint Peter and the other Apostles constitute one college, so in a like manner the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, are united among themselves’. When the head of the collegial government is temporarily unwell, the organised structure usually takes over, as in any other large institution. The structure is, in this case, the Vatican Dicasteries (offices) or Roman Curia, whose officers work at the Pope’s headquarters in Rome. However, when the head of the collegial body who governs an organisation is not temporarily but permanently ill, then the leader needs to be replaced, as also happens with other global institutions. While this process is being completed, the collegial body that rules the institution normally appoints somebody in charge. For example, the board of directors of an international company will take over when the CEO has resigned, and if they need more time to find a replacement, the same board will have the imprimatur on the decisions taken by those temporarily in charge. If for some reason this does not happen, and the collegial body remains passive, a fierce struggle for power is likely to be triggered. Consequently, the vacuum of power is filled by those who are more successful at this intense fight for power and control, which is at odds with the Gospel understanding of power as humble service.
Unfortunately, Prof Gerard Loughlin’s DSRC research seminar on ‘Catholic Hate Speech’ has been cancelled. Those interested in his work might want to read his 2006 essay at The Other Journal, ‘Gathered at the Altar: Homosexuality and Human Rights’ and discuss its implications.
If same-sex marriage can be natural can it also be doctrinal?
Through this forum Jean Porter has helpfully illuminated some of the principles of a scholastic understanding of marriage. She concludes ‘[i]n my view, a natural law analysis of the purposes of sex and marriage does not foreclose the possibility of recognizing unions which are by their nature non-reproductive, but which allow for the expression of the mutual fidelity and interpersonal love of the partners – indeed, we have good theological as well as natural law reasons for doing just that.’ This conclusion raises a number of interesting questions.
The natural law is not the eternal law of God. Instead, it is participation in the eternal law. Furthermore, it is a participation which must be responsive to the ‘various conditions of life according to places, times, and circumstances.’ The natural law is not understood by all with perfect clarity both as a consequence of the fact that as participation in the eternal law it has the divine intellect as its object and also because of the effects of human sin. Hence there is a need for perspicacity when establishing the natural law. Aquinas maintains that the virtue required to oversee the discernment of natural law is justice because he understands that all law ‘is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.’ Given the above background, the magisterium, as the teaching office of the church, and doctrine, as the reflective conceptualisation of faith, have a key role to play in ascertaining the natural law. Hence one important question that Jean Porter’s essay raises is: since church teaching as expressed in formal doctrine contains an exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage is there any possibility for development on this issue? Or to express myself more directly: if Jean Porter has made the case for construing same-sex marriage as natural can a similar case be made for construing it as doctrinal?
Starting off our discussions for 2013 is an excerpt from Jean Porter’s essay ‘The Natural Law and Innovative Forms of Marriage: A Reconsideration’ originally published in The Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics in December 2010. Those interested in this theme may also be interested in two of the Digby Stuart Research Centre’s research seminars later this term. Details are available here.
Like the scholastics, we are living through a period of rapid social change and corresponding institutional breakdown and reformation, including extensive and far-reaching changes in the practice of marriage. Like them, again, we are confronted with the twofold need to understand these changes and to direct and regulate them through social and legal mechanisms. How might the scholastics’ complex account of the purposes of sex and marriage serve to illuminate our own efforts to address these issues? Let me try to answer this question by setting out, in what will admittedly be a brief and preliminary way, what a natural law analysis of marriage might look like today.
This analysis begins at the same point as the scholastics did – namely, that whatever else we may want to say, we should recognize that both the sexual function and the conventions of marriage serve the purpose of procreation, broadly construed to include the education and socialization of children as well as their physical reproduction. Admittedly, this kind of appeal raises a host of philosophical issues that would need to be addressed in more detail than I can attempt here. Nonetheless, unless we discount the fact that we are mammals and complex social primates, it is difficult to see how a plausible analysis of sexuality and marriage could fail to take account of the role that these play in the human reproductive process. What is more, I would argue that a theological commitment to the goodness of creation implies that we as Christians have a particular stake in affirming the value of procreation and giving this value a central place in the interpretations and practices surrounding sex and marriage.
At the same time, however, this line of analysis leaves open the possibility that the institution of marriage can also serve other purposes, legitimate and worthy of promotion so long as they do not undermine the orientation of the institution towards procreation, comprehensively considered to include the extended processes of education and socialization. Indeed, it would be surprising if such a centrally important institution, shaped by a complex history and responsive to diverse social exigencies, did not serve a wide range of purposes both for individual participants and for the community as a whole. To a very considerable extent, these purposes will be recognizably analogous to those informing medieval marriage – to provide for the decent regulation and expression of sexual desire and to sustain a network of social relations. In addition, and as one expression of the latter purpose, marriage provides a framework for establishing claims for mutual support, personal and financial, and for securing society’s recognition of these claims – by enforcing demands for care and sustenance, recognizing that each spouse has a primary right to make health-care decisions for the other, and the like. Finally, marriage serves what many today would regard as a centrally important function of providing a framework for the public expression and support of interpersonal love. Continue reading
We have two new articles by Joe Selling which he has kindly agreed to make available here:
Joseph A. Selling – ‘The Authority of Church Teaching on Matters of Morality’
Joseph A. Selling – ‘Authority and Moral Teaching in a Catholic Christian Context’