Saturday 25 July 2015

Ideological colonisation?

During his visit to the Philippines in January, Pope Francis warned against an "ideological colonisation" of the family - Pope says "ideological colonisation" threatens traditional family.
Pope Francis on Friday warned against an "ideological colonisation of the family," a reference to gay marriage around the world and to a heated debate in the Philippines about a government population control plan.
The Pope made his impromptu comments at rally for families in Manila on a day that began with an appeal to the government to tackle corruption and hear the cries of the poor suffering from "scandalous social inequalities" in Asia's most Catholic country.
It is interesting in this context to watch Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta's response to  US President Barack Obama's comments on gay rights, during a press conference. It can be found in the second embedded clip of the BBC News report: Kenya: Trials would aid fight against corruption - Obama. (There is a certain disingenuity in President Obama's reference to "love", the term "love" here being typically undefined).

More recently, President Obama urged world leaders to heed Pope Francis' call in Laudato Si for action on climate change: Obama calls for world leaders to heed Pope Francis’s message.
“We have a profound responsibility to protect our children, and our children’s children, from the damaging impacts of climate change.”
But Laudato Si, n.155, reads as follows (emphasis added):
Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an “ecology of man”, based on the fact that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will”. It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it”.
A reference from this paragraph refers to Pope Francis' General Audience catechesis of 15th April 2015, during which Pope Francis discussed the significance of the "alliance between man and woman":
God entrusted the earth to the alliance between man and woman: its failure deprives the earth of warmth and darkens the sky of hope. The signs are already worrisome, and we see them. I would like to indicate, among many others, two points that I believe call for urgent attention.
The first. There is no doubt that we must do far more to advance women, if we want to give more strength to the reciprocity between man and woman. In fact, it is necessary that woman not only be listened to more, but that her voice carry real weight, a recognized authority in society and in the Church. .....
A second reflection concerns the topic of man and woman created in the image of God. I wonder if the crisis of collective trust in God, which does us so much harm, and makes us pale with resignation, incredulity and cynicism, is not also connected to the crisis of the alliance between man and woman. In fact the biblical account, with the great symbolic fresco depicting the earthly paradise and original sin, tells us in fact that the communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple and the loss of trust in the heavenly Father generates division and conflict between man and woman.
Across all three - President Obama, President Kenyatta and Pope Francis - there is an intriguing similarity of themes, but also a striking difference.

President Kenyatta appears to have articulated a very competent resistance to the colonisation of the culture of his country by an issue that is not foremost in the minds of its citizens.

[Whilst decriminalisation of homosexual activity might well be a step that the Catholic Church would consider desirable, I think we should recognise that the agenda represented by President Obama's remarks goes further than that.]

Monday 13 July 2015

Pope Francis and the Greek deal? UPDATED

Speaking to a meeting of popular organisations during his visit to South America, Pope Francis observed of the work of those organisations:
The first task is to put the economy at the service of peoples. Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money. Let us say NO to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth.
And cf this passage from Laudato Si, n.189:
Politics must not be subject to the economy, nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of technocracy. Today, in view of the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life. Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery.
I wonder whether the recently agreed Greek bailout deal measures up to this criterion?

UPDATE: When Pope Francis was asked about exactly this during his return flight to Rome, he gave a somewhat inconclusive answer as far as the Greek context was concerned, though I add emphasis to the last sentence as it perhaps indicates His Holiness' essential stance:
Certainly, it would be all too simple to say that the fault is only on one side. If the Greek government has brought forward this situation of international debt, also they have a responsibility. With the new Greek government we see a revision and it’s a bit right ... I hope that they find a way to resolve the Greek problem and also a way to have oversight so that the same problem will not fall on other countries. And this will help us move forward because that road of loans and debts, in the end, it never ends.

Saturday 4 July 2015

The Day of Christ, the Day of Mercy

I have just encountered a book Generating Traces in the History of the World,  a book which according to its blurb, "is a synthesis of Monsignor Luigi Giussani's reflection on Christian experience". In the last few months, excerpts from the book have appeared in Magnificat.

I was struck by the title of the last chapter of the book: "The Day of Christ, the Day of Mercy". Given Pope Francis' familiarity with the movement Communion and Liberation, I wonder whether that familiarity provides at least something of the background to his calling of the Year of Mercy, and a helpful way of understanding what the year is and is not about.

Just as the Bull of Indiction for the Holy Year includes a discussion of the relationship of justice and mercy to each other in the Christian mystery (nn.20-21), so does the chapter in Generating Traces suggest, albeit briefly, that where the reason of man can arrive at a notion of justice with regard to wrong doing, it takes the revelation of the Christian mystery to enable man to access the experience of mercy. The chapter does suggest an eschatological character to the revelation of divine mercy:
If every hour of history is the hour of Christ's human glory that happens through the conscious offering of believers, there will come a day that no one knows (neither the angels of God, nor the Son, but only the Father) when the definitive revelation of the Mystery will take place, as the valuing of every good the Father has generated, the Son has assumed, and the Spirit has made fruitful. All the good, even the furtive move stirred up in the almost unconscious darkness of human endeavours in history, will not be erased by God who, as the summit of Being, cannot contradict Himself by annihilating on single instant of good. It will be the day of the triumph of Christ, who will hand over everything to the Father, so that the Father may be "all in all".... If Christ is the protagonist of the "last day", the day of Christ's triumph will therefore be the day of mercy....
It is also worth reading the account of the parable of the prodigal son given in Generating Traces .. alongside that of Pope St John Paul II in his encyclical letter Dives in Misercordia (nn.5-6), in order to capture a nuance that is important in understanding a significance of the parable for the Holy Year:
In Rembrandt's famous painting, the prodigal son is the mirror image of the Father. The Father's face is full of sorrow at the son's error, at his denial, full of a sorrow that flows back into forgiveness. Human imagination can reach this point. But the most spectacular and mysterious thing is that the Father's face is the mirror image of the prodigal son. In Rembrandt's painting, the Father is in a position that mirrors the son - in Him is reflected the son's sorrow, the despair overcome, the destruction prevented, the happiness about to rekindle, in the instant in which it is about to rekindle, when goodness triumphs. Goodness triumphs in the prodigal son because he weeps for his mistake. But goodness triumphs in the Father: this is the concept of mercy which man cannot manage to understand, or speak of. And the Father's face is mercy, because it is pity for the one who has gone wrong and is there, turned towards the one who is coming back.
When we put this alongside words which occur about a page later in the chapter, and still commenting on the parable, it is impossible to take away from the proposal of the Jubilee of Mercy any sense that it is indifferent to wrong doing. Indeed, the call to conversion is of the essence of the response to mercy.
The concept of forgiveness, with a certain proportion between mistakes and punishments, is in some way conceivable for human reason, but not this limitless forgiveness that is mercy. Being forgiven arises here from something absolutely incomprehensible to man, from the Mystery; in other words, from mercy. It is what cannot be understood that ensures the exceptionality of what can be understood, because God's life is love, caritas, absolute free giving, love without profit, humanly "without reasons".
The chapter in Generating Traces .. suggests two ways in which we might in our turn try to be merciful as the Father is merciful. The first is that we should be sorrowful for what we have done, but sorrowful in a way that is at once also joy:
In virtue of the revelation of His mercy - which would seem to sanction all human behaviour, but it does not - God fills us with sorrow for the evil that we were not even aware of before ... his is a sorrow full of gladness, but it is still sorrow, sorrow at oneself.
The second is that of responding in astonishment at God's mercy, expressed in an attitude of entreaty, or begging, before the Lord:
We are not truly human if we do not wish to be merciful like our heavenly Father. The question is whether or not we really desire it. So the miracle of mercy is the desire to change.... This desire defines the present, the instant of man who is a sinner. The miracle is accepting oneself and entrusting oneself to an Other present so as to be changed, standing before Him and begging.
Entreaty is the whole expression of man now, in the instant.
Just as Pope Francis, at the end of the Bull of Indiction for the Holy Year of Mercy, indicates the dimension of evangelisation contained in the proclamation of mercy:
[The Church] knows that her primary task, especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction, is to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplating the face of Christ. The Church is called above all to be a credible witness to mercy, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
so does Generating Traces.., though from the viewpoint of an experience of Christian life:
The reality of mercy is the supreme opportunity that Christ and the Church have for making His Word reach man, not just as a mere echo of this word in man.