Pope plans to canonize priest killed by terrorists

Pope Francis says that he wants to make Father Jacques Hamel, the French priest killed by Islamic terrorists as he was celebrating mass, a saint.  The usual miracles are not necessary, it turns out, because Father Hamel was martyred for his faith.  The pope also said that the persecution of Christians is satanic. [Read more…]

Commemorating or undoing the Reformation?

On Reformation Day, October 31, the Pope will commemorate the Reformation in a common service with Lutherans in Sweden.

Michael Root, in The Christian Century, discusses the event, sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation, and gets into the difficulties it and related events scheduled for the 500th Anniversary of the 95 Theses have been posing for Catholics.  Nothing is said about the difficulties they might pose for Lutherans.

But such unionistic services raise the question:  Is the intention to celebrate (what Protestants are saying), commemorate (what Catholics are saying) or undo the Reformation (what would seem to be the ecumenical agenda)? [Read more…]

Pope connects gender ideology to economic exploitation

Pope Francis connected the new gender ideology, according to which children can choose their own gender, to economic exploitation, colonialism, and the destruction of the environment.  What they have in common is the rejection of Creation, both of nature and of human beings made in God’s image. [Read more…]

Pope gives Mary Magdalene same status as Apostles in church year

Pope Francis has elevated Mary Magdalene’s saint’s day to a “major feast,” putting her on the same level liturgically as Christ’s apostles.  The pope wants Christians to consider Mary, who first told the apostles about Christ’s resurrection, as “a paradigm of the ministry of women in the church.”

Should non-Catholic Christians follow this promotion and make a big deal of Mary Magdalene’s Day on July 22? [Read more…]

The separation of doctrine from practice

After much study and debate among the bishops, Pope Francis has issued a letter on the family entitled Amoris Laetitia (the joy of love).  In wrestling with how to minister to gays, the problems of modern families in a time of sexual revolution, and  whether or not to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion, the Pope is characteristically unclear.

He upholds traditional morality, pro-life ethics, and historical Catholic teaching on the family, and yet he speaks much about “individual conscience” (which is usually problematic in Catholic theology) and pastoral discretion.  As usual, his pronouncement is controversial and is being taken differently by all sides.  (See this and this.)

The best thing I’ve read on the document is from Ross Douthat, who says that Catholics have been upholding doctrine (pleasing the conservatives) while allowing great flexibility in actual practice (pleasing the liberals).  He says that what is new in Amoris Laetitia is that the Pope is giving official sanction to that separation of doctrine and practice.

I would add that this is not just a Catholic phenomenon.  We certainly see this in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod when it comes to official insistence on, for example, closed communion, even as many congregations ignore that teaching in practice without any official consequences.  (Can you think of other examples in non-Catholic churches?)

Is this a necessary accommodation in a fallen, complicated world?  Or is it evidence that churches don’t really believe their own teachings? [Read more…]

Pope condones contraception to avoid Zika?

Pope Francis told reporters that women threatened with the Zika virus, which causes birth defects, could use contraception.  Abortion, though, he emphasized, is an “absolute evil,” which should never be committed.

This is extraordinary.  It seems to me that if you make this exception, in which the end justifies the means, the whole fabric of the Roman Catholic ethical system and its reading of  natural law, becomes unravelled.

Every time the Pope has said something radical, the Vatican comes back with an explanation that this is not what he really meant.  We’ll see if that happens this time. [Read more…]