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…]

Pope and Trump get into a fight

Pope Francis tore into Donald Trump, saying that anyone who is all about building walls instead of building bridges is “not a Christian.”  Trump responded in kind, saying that it’s “disgraceful” for a religious leader to “question a person’s faith.”

In a statement, Trump went further, saying “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”  Have the right?  So much for the pastoral office.

If that was bizarre, it’s also bizarre for the pontiff to interfere in an American election.  This is just a bizarre election. [Read more…]

Pope to have joint service with Lutherans on Reformation Day

Pope Francis will join with the Lutheran World Federation in a joint worship service in Lund, Sweden, on October 31, 2016, to celebrate Reformation Day.

To underscore, once again, conservative Lutheran bodies do not approve of joint services with those of other confessions.  Neither do conservative Catholics.  So we do have that in common, along with closed Communion, male-only ordination, pro-life convictions, traditional morality, and belief in the historic creeds.  The LWF has gone wobbly on all of those issues, so I’m curious what unity the Pope hopes to find.  I guess “justice, peace, and reconciliation” is more important than theology for all liberals and that the current pontiff is in that camp.

But setting that aside for now, some Protestants have wondered if they should celebrate Reformation Day.  If the Pope celebrates it, they should too! [Read more…]

The new colonialism

The left continues to condemn colonialism.  Western nations taking over “third world” countries was indeed morally problematic and the source of many problems today in our “post-colonial” world.  But today the left is championing a “new colonialism,” one that insists on imposing the modern West’s views of sexual permissiveness, contraception, and abortion on cultures that recoil from them.  Now Pope Francis is speaking out against this “ideological colonialism.”

Maybe this will encourage the left to abandon multi-culturalism and moral relativism!  Then again, those are the ideas they are trying to impose on traditional cultures. [Read more…]


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