Sunday 27 July 2014

War crimes in Gaza

According to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, in its Constitution Gaudium et Spes n.80:
The horror and perversity of war is immensely magnified by the addition of scientific weapons. For acts of war involving these weapons can inflict massive and indiscriminate destruction, thus going far beyond the bounds of legitimate defense....
With these truths in mind, this most holy synod makes its own the condemnations of total war already pronounced by recent popes, and issues the following declaration.
Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.
The images of destruction currently coming from Gaza surely lie within the scope of this condemnation, even before consideration is given to the high level of casualties, the majority of whom are civilians. 

The Statement by H.E. Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva at the 21st Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem (Geneva, 23 July 2014), reported by Catholic Voices here, is worth reading.
The perpetration of injustices and the violation of human rights, especially the right to life and to live in peace and security, sow fresh seeds of hatred and resentment. A culture of violence is being consolidated, the fruits of which are destruction and death.

Saturday 12 July 2014


My two-penny worth on why people aren't blogging any more .... cf Fr Ray here, and indirectly, here; and tigerish waters here.

The practicality is that the day job in all probability achieves far more than a blog post .... and it certainly represents my prime responsibilities in life. [And perhaps we have now come to realise that not everyone thinks what we write is as important as we do ourselves.]

I would agree with tigerish waters that the Trads have lost the plot. I might add that I actually think they lost the plot as far as Pope Benedict XVI was concerned and rather co-opted him to their cause in a way that was not justified (his "mutual enrichment", for example, seems a far cry from the "restoration" of the EF that featured as a Catholic Herald headline, and there seems to have been a complete failure to recognise that Traditional Catholicism can no longer simply define itself in a relation to the Liturgy). That, of course, set them up for an intrinsic problem with whoever was going to succeed him in the See of Peter. And understanding many of the most "controversial" (for the Trads) acts of Pope Francis requires an understanding of the charisms of a number of the new ecclesial movements, and Traditionalists are not terribly strong on that. The "ideology" remark and, more recently, the shared blessings with the Archbishop of Canterbury simply do not have the implications read into them by Traditionalists if you have a familiarity with the charisms and writings of Communion and Liberation and the Charismatic Renewal.

Perhaps the Trads have missed the significance of Pope Benedict's meeting with the new movements in St Peter's Square on the eve of Pentecost in 2006 - where both Communion and Liberation and Charismatic Renewal were represented - Pope Francis is in absolute continuity with Pope Benedict in his regard for the gift of the new movements.
In his gifts, the Spirit is multifaceted - we see it here. If we look at history, if we look at this assembly here in St Peter's Square, then we realize that he inspires ever new gifts; we see how different are the bodies that he creates and how he works bodily ever anew.
But in him multiplicity and unity go hand in hand. He breathes where he wills. He does so unexpectedly, in unexpected places and in ways previously unheard of. And with what diversity and corporality does he do so! And it is precisely here that diversity and unity are inseparable.
He wants your diversity and he wants you for the one body, in union with the permanent orders - the joints - of the Church, with the successors of the Apostles and with the Successor of St Peter.
I would perhaps disagree a little with tigerish waters over the question of an intellectual lack in Pope Francis compared to Pope Benedict. Pope Francis certainly is not a professional academic - and Pope Benedict clearly showed such a background in his exercise of the office of St Peter - but he does have a different style of intellectual background, drawn from his encounter with Communion and Liberation and the Charismatic Renewal. Both of these movements do have an intellectual, though not formally academic, expression of their charisms and this can be perceived in the words and acts of Pope Francis. It is not perceived by the Traditionalist, though.

Just as Pope Benedict, and indeed Pope John Paul II before him, continued to manifest the gifts of academics (theologian and philosopher respectively) during their Papal ministries, so does Pope Francis continue to manifest in his Papal ministry the life of a priest and bishop that was his experience before his election to the See of St Peter. That is another key, I believe, to understanding Pope Francis.

And the kite flying about Pope Francis being against orthodoxy.... My italics added to the passage below, taken from Pope Francis' address to the Congregation of Bishops. Orthodoxy isn't something we shout about .... we just get on with it amongst the range of other gifts that represent life in the Church. Pope Francis sets an example in this regard .... and the Trads don't get it.
Therefore, to identify a bishop, a list of human, intellectual, cultural and even pastoral qualities are not useful. The profile of a bishop is not the algebraic sum of his virtues. Certainly he must be outstanding (CIC, can. 378 § 1): his human integrity ensures his capacity for healthy, balanced relationships, so as not to project his own shortcomings onto others and become an element of instability; his Christian soundness is essential for promoting fraternity and communion; his upright behaviour attests to the high standard of the disciples of the Lord; his cultural preparation allows him to dialogue with men and their cultures; his orthodoxy and fidelity to the Truth whole and integral, which the Church safeguards, makes of him a pillar and point of reference; his interior and exterior discipline allow for self-mastery and open up opportunities for welcoming and leading others; his ability to govern with paternal firmness ensures the safety of the authority that leads to growth; his transparency and detachment in the administrations of the goods of the community invest him with authority and meet with the esteem of all. All of these indispensable gifts must nonetheless be secondary to the central witness to the Risen One, subordinate to this primary commitment. It is the Spirit of the Risen One who fashions his witnesses, who integrates and elevates their qualities and value in fashioning a bishop.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Covering up abuse

In a week when the question of alleged child abuse, and alleged covering up of that abuse, reached the heart of UK society (see BBC news reports here and here, and other media coverage of the last few days) .... the Catholic Church appeared to be well ahead of wider society on the matter.

Though the Vatican Information Service gave its report a completely misleading headline - what Pope Francis actually said when you read the text of his homily was that "There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses" - Pope Francis' homily at Santa Marta will, I believe, stand out as one of the most remarkable engagements of the Church with the question of abuse by those in positions of responsibility in the Church. See also Catholic Voices comment here, with links to further news reporting of Pope Francis' homily.

What is particularly striking is how Pope Francis, by his reference to St Peter's experience of the gaze of Jesus, takes upon the Petrine office of which he is now the holder the burden of the sin of abuse by others who have held office in the Church.
Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.
I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.
Though I am not able to find a suitable link as I write, Pope Francis' predecessor spoke in a similar way on more than one occasion and, like Pope Francis, carried the burden of the abuse scandal in the office of the Successor Peter. Perhaps the most comparable example of Pope Benedict's would be his letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

In the present context in the United Kingdom, a section of Pope Benedict XVI's address during his meeting with the Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland in September 2010 seems very prescient, if not prophetic:
Another matter which has received much attention in recent months, and which seriously undermines the moral credibility of Church leaders, is the shameful abuse of children and young people by priests and religious. I have spoken on many occasions of the deep wounds that such behaviour causes, in the victims first and foremost, but also in the relationships of trust that should exist between priests and people, between priests and their bishops, and between the Church authorities and the public. I know that you have taken serious steps to remedy this situation, to ensure that children are effectively protected from harm and to deal properly and transparently with allegations as they arise. You have publicly acknowledged your deep regret over what has happened, and the often inadequate ways it was addressed in the past. Your growing awareness of the extent of child abuse in society, its devastating effects, and the need to provide proper victim support should serve as an incentive to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community. Indeed, what better way could there be of making reparation for these sins than by reaching out, in a humble spirit of compassion, towards children who continue to suffer abuse elsewhere? Our duty of care towards the young demands nothing less.