Thursday, April 28, 2005

Voice of the Faithful's Prayers Answered

This nice prayer for the Voice of the Faithful seems to have been answered. That was a quick election in which a pope was elected with what reports to be 80% of the Cardinal's votes. The Holy Spirit gave the church the leader we need to bring us all closer to Christ. Thank You VOTF

A Litany for the Faithful
At the time of the Conclave

R: God of Wisdom, God of Mercy, God of Justice, hear our prayer.

Lead us, as the Body of Christ, to raise our “voices” in prayer, helping us to be active participants in the selection of the successor to the chair of St. Peter.

R: God of Wisdom, God of Mercy, God of Justice, hear our prayer.

Let the hearts and minds of the Cardinal/Bishops gathered be truly open to the work of your Holy Spirit in their midst as they accept the important work of choosing new leadership for your Church, your people.

R: God of Wisdom, God of Mercy, God of Justice, hear our prayer. Let the Spirit of Wis

dom, Compassion and Openness dwell among all your bishops as they contemplate the needs of your Church; help them be responsive to the prayers of the People of God.

R: God of Wisdom, God of Mercy, God of Justice, hear our prayer.

May the “Sensum Fidelium” inform the deliberations of the leaders of our church in conclave, may the “faithful’s voice” be heard and the genuine needs of the People of God be at the center of all deliberations.

R: God of Wisdom, God of Mercy, God of Justice, hear our prayer.

May the Gospel values of love, justice, inclusion, mercy, reconciliation and communion guide the collaboration and vision of those who are called to elect a new Pontiff.

R: God of Wisdom, God of Mercy, God of Justice, hear our prayer

Instill in the People of God a genuine sense of hope as they look to the future; hope in the Risen Christ who we meet along our own road to Emmaus this Easter season; hope in the Spirit of the Risen Christ that dwells in and among us and is with us all ways, until the end of time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI - Ideas on Liturgy when Cardinal Ratzinger

This is a review Cardinal Ratzinger wrote Versus Deum per Iesum Christum.

Versus Deum per Iesum Christum

“The latest direction of liturgical action, never expressed to such an extent in the outer forms, is the same for the priest and for the people: towards the Lord”. The introduction of the dean of the Sacred College to the book of Uwe Michael Lang

by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Now Pope Benedict XVI)

To the ordinary churchgoer, the two most obvious effects of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council seem to be the disappearance of Latin and the turning of the altars towards the people. Those who read the relevant texts will be astonished to learn that neither is in fact found in the decrees of the Council. The use of the vernacular is certainly permitted, especially for the Liturgy of the Word; but the preceding general rule of the Council text says, ‘Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36.1). There is nothing in the Council text about turning altars towards the people; that point is raised only in post-conciliar instructions. The most important directive is found in paragraph 262 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, the General Instruction of the new Roman Missal, issued in 1969. That says, ‘It is better for the main altar to be constructed away from the wall so that one can easily walk around the altar and celebrate facing the people (versus populum).’ The General Instruction of the Missal issued in 2002 retained this text unaltered except for the addition of the subordinate clause, ‘which is desirable wherever possible’. This was taken in many quarters as hardening the 1969 text to mean that there was now a general obligation to set up altars facing the people ‘wherever possible’. This interpretation, however, was rejected by the Congregation for Divine Worship on 25 September 2000, when it declared that the word ‘expedit’ (‘is desirable’) did not imply an obligation but only made a suggestion. The physical orientation, the Congregation says, must be distinguished from the spiritual. Even if a priest celebrates versus populum, he should always be oriented versus Deum per Iesum Christum (towards God through Jesus Christ). Rites, signs, symbols and words can never exhaust the inner reality of the mystery of salvation. For this reason the Congregation warns against one-sided and rigid positions in this debate.

This is an important clarification. It sheds light on what is relative in the external symbolic forms of the liturgy and resists the fanaticisms that, unfortunately, have not been uncommon in the controversies of the last forty years. At the same time it highlights the internal direction of liturgical action, which can never be expressed in its totality by external forms. This internal direction is the same for priest and people, towards the Lord – towards the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. The Congregation’s response should thus make for a new, more relaxed discussion, in which we can search for the best ways of putting into practice the mystery of salvation. The quest is to be achieved not by condemning one another, but by carefully listening to each other and, even more importantly, listening to the internal guidance of the liturgy itself. The labelling of positions as ‘preconciliar’, ‘reactionary’ and ‘conservative’ or as ‘progressive’ and ‘alien to the faith’ achieves nothing; what is needed is a new mutual openness in the search for the best realisation of the memorial of Christ.

This small book by Uwe Michael Lang, a member of the London Oratory, studies the direction of liturgical prayer from a historical, theological and pastoral point of view. At a propitious moment, as it seems to me, this book resumes a debate that, despite appearances to the contrary, has never really gone away, not even after the Second Vatican Council. The Innsbruck liturgist Josef Andreas Jungmann, one of the architects of the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was from the very beginning resolutely opposed to the polemical catchphrase that previously the priest celebrated ‘with his back to the people’; he emphasised that what was at issue was not the priest turning away from the people, but, on the contrary, his facing the same direction as the people. The Liturgy of the Word has the character of proclamation and dialogue, to which address and response can rightly belong. But in the Liturgy of the Eucharist the priest leads the people in prayer and is turned, together with the people, towards the Lord. For this reason, Jungmann argued, the common direction of priest and people is intrinsically fitting and proper to the liturgical action. Louis Bouyer (like Jungmann, one of the Council’s leading liturgists) and Klaus Gamber have each in his own way taken up the same question. Despite their great reputation, they were unable to make their voices heard at first, so strong was the tendency to stress the communality of the liturgical celebration and to regard therefore the face-to-face position of priest and people as absolutely necessary.

More recently the atmosphere has become more relaxed so that it is possible to raise the kind of questions asked by Jungmann, Bouyer and Gamber without at once being suspected of anti-conciliar sentiments. Historical research has made the controversy less partisan, and among the faithful there is an increasing sense of the problems inherent in an arrangement that hardly shows the liturgy to be open to the things that are above and to the world to come. In this situation, Uwe Michael Lang’s delightfully objective and wholly unpolemical book is a valuable guide. Without claiming to offer major new insights, he carefully presents the results of recent research and provides the material necessary for making an informed judgment. The book is especially valuable in showing the contribution made by the Church of England to this question and in giving, also, due consideration to the part played by the Oxford Movement in the nineteenth century (in which the conversion of John Henry Newman matured). It is from such historical evidence that the author elicits the theological answers that he proposes, and I hope that the book, the work of a young scholar, will help the struggle – necessary in every generation – for the right understanding and worthy celebration of the sacred liturgy. I wish the book a wide and attentive readership.

The text of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger printed in these pages, unpublished in Italy, is the preface which the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote for Uwe Michael Lang’s book Conversi ad Dominum. Zu Gechichte und Theologie der christlichen Gebetsrichtung, published last year in Switzerland by Johannes Verlag in Einsiedeln. The English version of the book (Turning towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer) is coming out with the Ignatius Press publishing house of San Francisco (USA), which holds the copyright of the book.

Uwe Michael Lang is a member of the Oratory of Saint Filippo Neri in London, studied theology in Vienna and Oxford, and has published numerous texts on patristic subjects.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Benedict election as Pope seen as "coup, by an all-male, patriarchal, clerical church"

I think it is generally unfair to characterize opposing viewpoints by their most extreme adherents or the most absurd end of their spectrum. Therefore, the following should be read in jest, even though the authors are quite serious.

This is from the "Open Conclave" movement of feminists called Woman Church Convergence


Press Release of Women-Church Convergence
April 19, 2005

Women-Church Announces Cyberspace Forum on Women’s Equality; Challenges Pope Benedict XVI to Join the Discussion

Bridget Mary Meehan 703-671-1972 703-283-2929
Mary E. Hunt 301-589-2509 240-472-4587

Women-Church Convergence announces a cyberspace forum for a global conversation on issues, reforms and actions needed to shape the Catholic Church into a “discipleship of equals” in the twenty-first century

Women-Church co-coordinator Bridget Mary Meehan asserted, “We are providing a forum for feminist voices around the world to join together in the work for Gospel equality and justice in our church and world. Women-Church Convergence invites Pope Benedict XVI to join in this dialogue.” Spurred by the success of the Women-Church on-line “Open Conclave” that facilitated the exchange of opinions among thousands of people while the cardinals sat in a locked room, feminist theologian Mary E. Hunt noted, “The Convergence sees this next step as modeling a new, 21st century way to be church where all are welcome.”

Women-Church Convergence is alarmed at the election of Pope Benedict XVI. We believe that the Spirit of God acts through the people of God and this selection reflects a reactionary-right-wing succession plan, perhaps a coup, by an all-male, patriarchal, clerical church.

As prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger released a letter on July 31, 2004, condemning feminism. As the enforcer of orthodoxy, he forbade the discussion of women-priests. We reject both the substance and the process of such teaching and assure concerned people of good will that such authoritarianism has no place in the Catholic community.

Women-Church Convergence calls on Pope Benedict XVI to distance himself from his former role as the arbiter of doctrine and to take on the mantle of a pastoral listener. Women-Church invites the new pope, whose role is to be a symbol of unity, to join in the dialogue and actions to bring about equality and partnership for women in all aspects of church life, including ordination to a renewed priestly ministry. Instead of condemning feminism, we expect Pope Benedict XVI to affirm the important values that Catholic feminists bring to the table and to recognize our leadership. A first step would be to invite Catholic feminists to fill fifty percent of the leadership roles in all Catholic institutions, beginning with the Curia.

Women-Church Convergence is a coalition of autonomous Catholic-rooted organizations/groups working for the empowerment of women in church and society.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Clinton on Pope JPII's Mixed Legacy

See original article

"En route to Rome, Clinton told reporters the pope “centralized authority in the papacy again and enforced a very conservative theological doctrine. There will be debates about that. The number of Catholics increased by 250 million on his watch. But the numbers of priests didn't. He's like all of us - he may have a mixed legacy.”

I wonder if Clinton realizes that the growth in the number of priests is most affected from below not above. Parish priests inspire young men and the bishop's set up a process whereby these young men are prepared and made priests. Look at Bishop Carlson, now of Saginaw, and other bishops who have ordained many men in small diocese. See Detroit Times

According to the Dodge Study on the ordained class of 2004, 70%-75% percent of the men ordained had been altar boys and 70%-80% of the men said that a priest initiated the discussion regarding becoming a priest. see pdf of report

This also ignores the many men who have approached diocese in the past but lacked the will to play by certain rules in order to become priests, as Michael Rose points out in his NY Times Best Seller Goodbye Good Men.

Add to that the general confusion after the Second Vatican Council and the ongoing debates in the church over the identity of the Priest before and after the Council. I remember when I first told my parish priest that I wanted to become a priest he told me that I should become a counselor instead. He told me I would be helping people more. He left the priesthood within a month of that conversation. Most of the parish priests I had as a child left the priesthood in the 70's.

What John Paul II did was reverse the identity crisis that he referred to in his first encyclical letter Redempto Hominis

"... in spite of the various internal weaknesses that affected her in the postconciliar period. ...At times this awareness has proved stronger than the various critical attitudes attacking ab intra, internally, the Church, her institutions and structures, and ecclesiastics and their activities. This growing criticism was certainly due to various causes and we are furthermore sure that it was not always without sincere love for the Church. Undoubtedly one of the tendencies it displayed was to overcome what has been called triumphalism, about which there was frequent discussion during the Council. While it is right that, in accordance with the example of her Master, who is "humble in heart"13, the Church also should have humility as her foundation, that she should have a critical sense with regard to all that goes to make up her human character and activity, and that she should always be very demanding on herself, nevertheless criticism too should have its just limits. Otherwise it ceases to be constructive and does not reveal truth, love and thankfulness for the grace in which we become sharers principally and fully in and through the Church. Furthermore such criticism does not express an attitude of service but rather a wish to direct the opinion of others in accordance with one's own, which is at times spread abroad in too thoughtless a manner."

Through is strong example and voluminous writings he taught us to be firm in our faith and our fidelity to the tradition of the church without the triumphalism of those who look at the church in an us vs. them mentality.

Who knows how many priests there would be without him. But we are sure that Our Lord, "would not leave us orphans," and still "the harvest is many but the laborers are few." We must "pray to the Lord of the Harvest" to send generous souls to be priests and religious. For the Lord is doing the planting, we just have to harvest.

The Pope and the Nobel Prize

Looking at the news and the millions of people around the globe mourning the Pope and the encomiums filing in from everyone, I can't help but to think that maybe the Nobel Prize committee made a mistake when they did not give the Holy Father the Nobel Peace Prize this past time. See story

What struck me was Senator Dodd's statement that he met the Pope in 1983 and gave him a message from Lech Walesa:(See Story)

"Lech Walesa wanted to know if his solidarity movement was overusing the church," said Dodd. He said the pope's answer was no, he was not concerned that the churches -- often meeting places for the solidarity movement -- were being misused.

"He was already sowing the seeds for the critical role he played in that," recalled Dodd, who still carries rosary beads that the pontiff gave him. "No one deserves more credit than the pope for bringing to an end the cold war."

Not that he brought down the Iron Curtain but his support for Solidarity certainly made the Soviet's keep from sending troops there, hastening the demise of Poland's communist government and from there the rest of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself. see story

It was most certainly the fatigue of a unworkable system that eventually make the communist governments collapse but the actual events were spurred by international figures like Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II.

That is not the whole story. John Paul inspired so many people to heights of devotion and heroism from his example, teaching and leading that lit so many lights around the globe. These bishops, priests, religious and lay people are the true story of JPII's influence for peace in the world. In his role of "confirming his brethren" he strengthened the message and focus of the Church toward "a preferential option for the poor" while at the same time defending life from conception to natural death.

His reaching out to other religions and spiritual leaders, despite real differences of opinion should be seen as an example that people who fundamentally disagree can work and pray together for peace in the world.

Why should Arafat receive the Nobel Peace Prize for socking away billions in Swiss bank accounts while fomenting hatred in the middle east by paying suicide bombers and encouraging war to keep his own position of power. There are countless people around the globe like Iranian Human Rights crusader, Shirin Ebadi (2003 recipient)and Professor Wangari Maathai, of Kenya. And it is god that the Nobel Committee named them, but there was only one Pope John Paul II and he was clearly and publicly near the end of his life over the last couple of years. So if Ebadi or Maathai had to wait one year, what was the difference.

I assume that he did not get the prize because of his stand on contraception, defense of the unborn and a more conservative moral philosophy with regards to sex outside of a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman.

The great outpouring of grief and support for the Holy Father should give the Nobel Committee cause to pause and reflect that maybe they put themselves onto the margins of the 20th Centuries great currents and missed one of its greatest leaders.

After all, if he wanted to plant 10 million trees he would have just had to get 1% of the Catholics to plant a tree. Maybe then he would have gotten the prize. Instead he planted the seed of hope and peace in the hearts of millions of people around the globe that will replicate for generations.