As we would describe it here in Oklahoma, Pope Francis said a mouthful.
His comments on family life have been spot on. Here are a few from a discussion he gave Friday to the XXI Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family:
The family is the “community of life,” the “natural center of human life,” the “engine of the world and society,” and the “place (where) you learn to love.”
Each of us builds his own personality in the family.
In the family a person becomes aware of his own dignity and especially if his education is Christian, recognizes the dignity of every human person.
Marriage is the ‘first sacrament of humanity.’
A society that abandons its children and marginalizes the elderly severs its roots and obscures its future.
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called the family a “community of life with its own consistent autonomy”, and that it is the “natural centre of human life”, “the engine of the world and history”, and the “place you learn to love”.
He was speaking on Friday to participants of the XXI Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Assembly has been looking at the theme “Family, Live the Joy of Faith” and also marked the 30th Anniversary of the Holy See’s 1983 Charter on the Rights of the Family.
“Each of us builds his own personality in the family, growing up with their mother and father, brothers and sisters, breathing in the warmth of the house,” Pope Francis said. “In the family, a person becomes aware of his own dignity, and especially if his education is Christian, recognizes the dignity of every human person, and in a special way, that of the sick, weak and marginalized.”
The Holy Father reminded the participants the family is based on marriage, which he called “like a first sacrament of humanity”.
“In marriage, we give ourselves completely without calculation or reservation, sharing everything – gifts and sacrifices – trusting in God’s Providence,” Pope Francis said. “This is the experience that young people can learn from their parents and grandparents. It is an experience of faith in God and mutual trust, of profound freedom, of holiness, because holiness pre-supposes giving of yourself with faithfulness and sacrifice every day of your life!”
The Pope then spoke briefly about two stages of family life: childhood and old age.
“Children and the elderly are the two poles of life and also the most vulnerable, often the most forgotten,” he said. “A society that abandons children and marginalizes the elderly severs its roots and obscures its future. Whenever a child is abandoned and an old person is marginalized, is not just an act of injustice, but it also demonstrates the failure of that society. Taking care of children and the elderly is the only choice of civilization.”
The so-called Bishop of Bling, Bishop Frantz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, has been suspended for what may prove to be misappropriation of funds.
The charges against him are basically that he has been living large off monies that should have gone to Church ministries.
Other bishops find themselves in situations like that of Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St Paul Minneapolis. This bishop is in trouble for failure to remove priests with pedophile problems from active ministry.
While the charges against both these bishops are serious, I don’t feel nearly as strongly about the things Bishop Tebartz-van Elst is accused of doing as those that Archbishop Nienstedt may have done. I am, as I said yesterday, out of patience with the refusal by some bishops to do their jobs vis a vis the clergy child sex abuse scandal.
Both these situations highlight a simple fact: The Church’s way of dealing with the public failings of its bishops is going to have to change.
The era of ignoring things is over. The reason it is over is that the world has changed. We live in an age where I can sit in Oklahoma and learn about the missteps of a German bishop right along with the people in his diocese. I know about what is happening in Minnesota as soon as the Minnesotans know.
More than that, I learn about these things in an immediate way that makes me feel as if I am one of the parishioners in Minnesota or Germany, that this is my problem, as well as theirs.
Unfortunately, vendetta-inspired lies and smears transmit with the same speed as facts. Different pressure groups, particularly gay marriage advocates, have used this ability to communicate at internet speed to punish, coerce and just plain injure those who disagree with them.
Not only do we live in a world of instant communication, we also live in a world of self-entitled people who think that whatever they want is a moral imperative that justifies whatever they do to get it.
What this means for bishops of the Church is that they are often the targets of vendetta-motivated smear campaigns. The bishops who speak out strongly for Church teaching against the forces that want to oppose that teaching are the most viciously targeted.
Since bishops are human beings with human failings, there will always be things about them to criticize. Not one person on this planet can survive this kind of malicious scrutiny intact. We’ve all done something or other. Most of us have done lots of somethings or other, that would look gross when they are put in the worst possible light and flung out on the internet by those who hate us and are motivated to destroy our reputations.
The question for the Church is when to stand by a bishop in disgrace, and when to remove him.
This is not a small question. If the Church allows public witch hunts to provoke it into removing bishops, then it will destroy its own strength of witness in the world. On the other hand, if it leaves truly disgraceful bishops in place, it will — once again — destroy its witness in the world.
I don’t have to make these decisions, and I’m glad I don’t. However, I do have one opinion.
The sexual abuse of children by clergy has got to stop.
It has to stop.
I understand that charges like this are sometimes flung against priests falsely. I also understand that each priest functions more or less independently most of the time, which means that bishops don’t know all that they are doing.
But when a bishop is given credible information that makes it seem likely that a priest is engaging in kiddie porn or other improper behavior with and about children, that bishop needs to act immediately. It is not necessary to ascertain if the evidence will stand up in a court of law. The safety of children demands that if the evidence is credible — as opposed to baseless vicious gossip — the bishop has to remove that priest from active ministry.
I’ve read several reports now of people within a diocese sending a bishop clear evidence of priests having salacious photos of children on their computers and the bishop brushing it off. This has happened with different bishops in different states. We’ve had to deal with a bishop in New Jersey who allowed a priest who had been convicted of child sex abuse to go back into ministry with children.
If the bishops will not remove priests who have these problems from active ministry, then the bishops themselves need to be removed.
The safety of our children and the integrity of the Church depend on it.
Deacon Greg has the story.
The Vatican has suspended Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the so-called “Bishop of Bling.” This action is less than the calls from at least some quarters in the German public to dismiss the bishop, and it is more than the nothing which many people expected.
Rather than make a public statement about the bishop’s guilt or innocence, the Vatican confined itself to saying simply that “A situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his episcopal duties.”
From what I’ve read, that is an accurate assessment of the situation.
To read more, check out The Deacon’s Bench.
I can never undo what happened to those boys, and that hangs incredibly heavy on me, says Jennifer Haselberger.
That is evidently the motivation that led Ms Haselberger, who is the former chancellor for canonical affairs for the Archdiocese of St Paul Minneapolis, to turn whistle-blower against her employer.
Ms Haselberger found what she describes as child pornography on the computer disks of a priest who is still in active ministry. She resigned her position with the archdiocese after her attempts to get action concerning this priest from her boss, Archbishop John Nienstedt, failed.
Personally, I am all out of patience with the bishops who do this. When a bishop’s response to photos from a priest’s computer of a child engaging in sexual acts is to confiscate the evidence and refuse to act, there’s something wrong with that bishop as a man and a human being. That kind of behavior is also, at least here in Oklahoma, a felony, with serious jail time attached to it.
These bishops who do this are not following Jesus. Followers of Christ do what Ms Haselberger did and defend children from sexual assault, regardless of the cost to themselves.
This set-in-concrete, stubborn refusal to defend little children from sexual assault by at least some of the bishops makes no sense. They are contributing to the scandal which has so greatly damaged the Church’s moral witness in these perilous times. They even set themselves up for criminal prosecution.
This isn’t a lapse in either judgement or morals. It’s gone on too long for it to be a lapse of any sort.
Why do they keep doing this?
What is wrong with these men?
From Minnesota Public Radio:
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The church lawyer turned whistleblower at the center of a series of investigative reports involving the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was described glowingly as “studious, thoughtful and extremely well prepared” by the archbishop who hired her in 2008.
As of last week, a lawyer for the archdiocese was referring to her as a disgruntled former employee.
Jennifer Haselberger, who left her position as chancellor for canonical affairs last April, was appointed to the post in August 2008 by Archbishop John Nienstedt. She resigned four and a half years later after a series of unsuccessful attempts to get her superiors to take action on problem priests.
One of those efforts, which she later described as the “nuclear option,” involved copying pornographic images that had been found on a priest’s computer onto a word document and sending them to the archbishop. Some of the images, she said, appeared to show boys engaged in sexual acts.
After Nienstedt failed to call the police, his deputy, the Rev. Peter Laird, ordered Haselberger to hand over the images. She did so, she said — and called Ramsey County authorities. She also contacted MPR News.
Many Catholic universities have become salt that has lost its savor.
They’ve drunk so deeply from the post Christian cup that if you took the word Catholic from their names, you would never guess they were anything other than another state-run school. Their alums, as well as the rest of us, feel cheated by this. After all, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into building these schools, all of it dedicated to the proposition that a Catholic education was distinguishable from the education provided by secular schools.
It’s as if a great treasure of Catholic culture has been stolen from us, and the theft has been instituted by people we trusted to care for it — our priests and religious who run these schools.
Evidently, Peter Blatty, Georgetown alumnus and author of The Exorcist, shares these feelings. He recently signed a petition asking Georgetown to either implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae or stop the false advertising of claiming to be a Catholic university.
While I understand the emotion, I also think there should be more that we can do than just ask these schools to either be Catholic or stop saying they are Catholic. After all, this “drift” they’ve taken into anti-Christ secularism is not just a harmless thing. It amounts to the theft of the treasure of many people, as well as a violation of their trust.
I wonder if there aren’t civil remedies of some sort. I’m not sure what kind of lawsuit could be mounted against these schools, but it’s certainly worth looking into. I also wonder if it wouldn’t be possible to change their leadership. After all, many of the worst offenders are run by Jesuits. Surely they are answerable to somebody; maybe somebody in Rome.
All this is just musing on my part.
For now, here’s the story about Peter Blatty’s actions. From the National Catholic Register:
The reluctance of predominately Christian countries to speak out is remarkable.
That quote comes from a February 2012 article in the National Review.
The article describes a PEW Research study which says that over 200 million Christians live in countries where they are persecuted. The article also states that over 100,000 Christians are murdered each year for their faith.
After going through all these facts, the National Review author comments that the reluctance of predominantly Christian countries to speak out is remarkable.
Is it remarkable? Or is it an obvious result of the harassment and repeated attacks people who speak out about Christian persecution are subjected to?
Are those who tacitly support the violent persecution of Christians able to silence those Christians’ supporters in the West by the simple methods of mocking, deriding and slandering them into silence?
I think the answer is yes.
Every time I write a post about Christian persecution, I get a flurry of nasties coming on here to claim that (1) It ain’t so, and (2) I’m both a moral and intellectual demagogue for claiming that it is so. I’ve had other bloggers dedicate posts on their blogs to attacks on my intellect and my compassion because I wrote about Christian persecution. I have had fellow travelers of those who murder, rape, batter, abduct and terrify Christians join around the virtual campfire to take shots at me.
What does this indicate — beyond the fact that some bloggers aren’t so crazy about Rebecca Hamilton? I think that it’s a small sampling of what awaits those who try to stand up for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. As such, it offers an explanation as to why the silence about Christian persecution from the Christian West is not so remarkable after all.
My advice to anyone who wants to take a stand against the atrocities that Christians suffer in much of the world today is consider the source of the insults they may receive and go ahead and speak up. Criticisms which are designed to tacitly support mass murder are not worthy of either answers or serious consideration.
Persecuted Christians are Christ crucified, right in front of us.
The mob yelled “Crucify Him!” and Jesus’ friends ran away from Him on that day. They ran away naked in the night, denied they even knew Him and went into hiding while He was tortured and murdered. Only the women and one disciple went to the cross with Him.
Don’t let today’s descendants of that mob scare you into running away from Him. His Passion is happening again in the suffering of our brothers and sisters. Don’t miss your chance to be one of the faithful few who don’t run away.
From National Review Online:
Perhaps the gravest under-publicized atrocity in the world is the persecution of Christians. A comprehensive Pew Forum study last year found that Christians are persecuted in 131 countries containing 70 percent of the world’s population, out of 197 countries in the world (if Palestine, Taiwan, South Sudan, and the Vatican are included). Best estimates are that about 200 million Christians are in communities where they are persecuted. There is not the slightest question of the scale and barbarity of this persecution, and a little of it is adequately publicized. But this highlights the second half of the atrocity: the passivity and blasé indifference of most of the West’s media and governments.
It is not generally appreciated that over 100,000 Christians a year are murdered because of their faith. Because Christianity is, by a wide margin, the world’s largest religion, the leading religion in the traditionally most advanced areas of the world, and, despite its many fissures, the best organized, largely because of the relatively tight and authoritarian structure of the Roman Catholic Church, the West is not accustomed to thinking of Christians as a minority, much less a persecuted one.
… The reluctance of the leading predominantly Christian countries to speak out against these outrages is remarkable.
Government money is not free.
It is a hammer than can beat people and institutions into the government mold. It is also a great corruptor.
The Church in Germany has been dealing with one particular manifestation of this corruption in the person of the bishop the press and people have dubbed “The Bishop of Bling.”
Germany levies a church tax on those who register as members of a recognized church. The government then cuts a big check to the church where these people are registered.
What that means is that the Catholic Church (among others) does not have to deal with the messiness of the people in the pews in order to get their do-re-mi. The government sends them a check to the tune (in the Catholic example) of billions of dollars. Not only does this lead inexorably to a Church that is out of contact with its people and content to be fat and indifferent, but it can and does lead to the personal corruption of individual bishops.
Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, bishop of Limburg, Germany, has been called to Rome to explain his actions regarding the finances of his diocese. The reason is that he has used the vast government monies that are dumped in his coffers for himself. He’s spent tens of millions renovating his house, flies first class, drives an expensive car and otherwise lives large.
There is also a question as to whether or not the bishop lied under oath about these expenditures. That is something I want to let the courts — rather than public outrage — decide.
All this runs counter to the kind of Church that Pope Francis is calling for. It harkens back to the embarrassing excesses of half a millennia ago.
It is also entirely different from the behavior of the bishops I have known. My own archbishop lives in an unpretentious ranch-style house and flies in the we-hate-our-passengers class at the back of the plane. I know. I’ve coincidentally ended up on several flights with him. He’s patient and kind to the people — including me — who come up to him in airports, and he stands in line with his roller bag along with the rest of us.
Behavior like that of Bishop Tebartz-van Elst denies the people in their diocese the rightful use of their monies, harms the trust that people should have in their Church and smears good bishops like mine whose behavior is the antithesis of these abuses.
The Holy Father has requested a report concerning Bishop Tebartz-van Elst’s activities. In the meantime, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst has been called to Rome to explain himself.
This is one time I would not want to be a fly on the proverbial wall while a conversation is going on. I’m happy to leave the bishop in the hands of our pope. I believe that the Holy Father will sort this out in a way that only a follower of Christ could.
From ABC News:
After being kept waiting nearly one week for an appointment, German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was able to meet with Pope Francis today at Vatican to explain his lavish use of church funds.
The Bishop of Limburg – now known as the Bishop of Bling — has spent some $42 million to renovate his official residence and is accused of falsifying expense reports.
The pope, who has used the Throne of St. Peter to preach for a “poor” church and has set the example by rejecting the opulence available to his position, released no statement following the meeting.
Pope Francis had been briefed last week by the head of the German Bishop’s conference. German press reports say the Vatican has asked Archbishop Robert Zollitsch to file an official report on the affair, speculating that the fate of Bishop Tebartz van Elst may only be decided after it is filed.
The bishop of Limburg admits using church funds to restore his residence but has defended his actions, saying the renovations of the church property involved 10 different buildings that had to be upgraded according to historical preservation laws. But the scandal has caused a great uproar in Germany, where a mandatory church tax for members brings in billions of dollars the German Catholic Church each year.
Christian Weisner, of the lay organization We Are the Church, said the bishop’s actions seriously damaged the reputation of the church.