Saturday, March 28, 2015

Organizing Burke's Resistance Movement

Resistance is mounting, indeed is being pro-actively organized, to Pope Francis and his program of mercy as Catholics of a more conservative stripe are making it clear that they do not want to see our co-religionists who are not married according to Catholic law or who are living in irregular unions admitted to the sacraments.  After last October’s Extraordinary Synod where the subject was discussed, Cardinal Raymond Burke, a persistent critic of the Pope, pledged to “resist” Pope Francis should there be any change in the current practice which requires divorced persons to obtain a Church annulment before they can enter a second union.   Pope Francis, or rather his “front man” Cardinal Walter Kasper, has spoken of introducing a process similar to the Orthodox Churches where divorced persons can acknowledge their fault in a marriage’s failure, do penance for their role in the marriage’s collapse, and then have their second marriage blessed—albeit it in a more somber rite that distinguishes it from the sacramental first marriage.  
Nearly 500 priests, Secular and Religious, from England and Wales signed the following letter to the English Catholic newspaper, The Herald, urging the participants in the upcoming Synod on the Family (Part II) this October to maintain the current discipline that excludes the divorced and remarried from the reception of the sacraments. 
SIR – Following the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2014 much confusion has arisen concerning Catholic moral teaching. In this situation we wish, as Catholic priests, to re-state our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the Word of God and taught by the Church’s Magisterium for two millennia.
We commit ourselves anew to the task of presenting this teaching in all its fullness, while reaching out with the Lord’s compassion to those struggling to respond to the demands and challenges of the Gospel in an increasingly secular society. Furthermore we affirm the importance of upholding the Church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments, and that doctrine and practice remain firmly and inseparably in harmony.
We urge all those who will participate in the second Synod in October 2015 to make a clear and firm proclamation of the Church’s unchanging moral teaching, so that confusion may be removed, and faith confirmed.
Yours faithfully,

LifeSite News, the media face of the Campaign Life Coalition, published an interview with Cardinal Burke, the leader of the opposition to any change in pastoral practice regarding admitting those in irregular unions to the sacraments, in which His Eminence said the only pastoral help which the Church can give to those spouses who have been abandoned, to the children whose parents have divorced, to those who are “struggling with homosexual tendencies,” or to those who find themselves “trapped” in “illegitimate unions” is to hold the line of “traditional teaching” and to recognize “the sinfulness of the situation in which they find themselves” and to “leave that sinful situation and to find a way to live in accord with the truth.”  His Eminence went to say in the interview that the discussion of the possibility of welcoming those in irregular unions to the sacraments should not even have been discussed at the Synod.  For His Eminence, judgment rises or falls on the single issue of conforming to traditional sexual morality.  In regard to whatever kindnesses or generosity or charitable behavior that those in such unions might show, the Cardinal compared them to “the person who murders someone yet is kind to other people.”  The LifeSite News interview concludes with a request to sign a petition to Pope Francis to speak out and put an end to this discussion of changing pastoral practice regarding those remarried after civil divorce. 
Cardinal Burke’s remarks have been quoted—somewhat out of context—to say that he is equating the divorced and remarried and people in same-sex unions with murderers.  I don’t think His Eminence, who is one to express vociferously his opinions, but not always think them through first, consciously intended that judgment. But then with “The Lady in Red” who knows. 
Last year Cardinal Burke was one of five Cardinals who along with an archbishop and three theologians wrote a spirited attack on the proposal that the Church might change its discipline to admit the divorced and remarried to the sacraments.  The book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ, was a response to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s The Gospel of the Family as well as several addresses which the Cardinal gave—including one he gave last spring to his fellow Cardinals—in which the Cardinal outline how Church discipline might be changed to admit those whose marriages the Church does not recognize to receive Holy Communion.  Copies of Remaining in the Truth of Christ were delivered to the Synod Fathers during the October 2014 Phase I of the Synod to lobby against any proposed changes in sacramental discipline, but the books “mysteriously” disappeared before they found their ways into the Synod Father’s hands.  The blame for the books’ disappearance has been fixed on Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the General Secretary to the Synod.  American Life League President Judy Brown, a perennial sounder of the tocsin against Pope Francis and the directions in which he is taking the Church, has done much to pin the blame on Baldisseri without establishing the grounds for the charge.  And it must be remembered that Synod Rules prohibit any general distribution of materials to Synod members without those materials being first approved and then presented through the General Secretariat.   In other words, no one is allowed to just hand out materials on their own authority. 
All that being said, however, I must admit that I am not sure that I can see how the practice regarding admittance to the sacraments can be changed.  I am not a theologian, only a historian—but there is a long history to the Church’s restricting the sacraments to exclude those in irregular unions.  Individual cases have always been able to be adjudicated where due to specific circumstances and with the advice of a confessor or competent spiritual director individuals, either on a specific occasion or as a regular occurrence, are admitted to penance, Eucharist, or the anointing of the sick, but a sort of olly-olly-in-free is somewhat of an innovation.  However, should Pope Francis—Synod or no Synod—decide that it is time for such an innovation, I won’t resist, but then I am no cardinal.    

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Blood of Martyrs Is The Seed of Christians

Martyrs of the 20th Century--
Great West Door of Westminster

This past Sunday I noticed a middle-aged man get up and storm angrily out of Church when the priest mentioned the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero, bishop of San Salvador, who was murdered while saying Mass in 1980.  Though Father did not mention that the Archbishop was murdered by American-backed forces in the Salvadoran army, the very mention of the Archbishop and his upcoming beatification obviously stirred the memory of this gentleman and triggered his anger.  It was particularly surprising as our parish, while somewhat heavier than we would like with us “late middle-aged” folk, is pretty liberal, both politically and religiously.   But the mention of the murdered Archbishop, as the preacher was saying, is a reminder that the age of martyrdom is not over. 
Over the great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London, the gothic niches have been filled with statutes with the “Martyrs of the 20th Century.”  Archbishop Romero stands among them.  In addition to Archbishop Romero, the Catholic Church is commemorated with the memorial to Saint Maximillian Kolbe , the Polish Franciscan who, in 1941, voluntarily took the place of another prisoner in a starvation cell at the Nazi Auschwitz Concentration Camp. 
The Anglican Church is represented by Manche Masemola, Archbishop Janani Luwum, Wang Zhiming, Lucien Tapiedi, and Esther John.  The Orthodox Church is represented by the Grand Duchess Saint Elizabeth of Russia, and the Protestant faith by the Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoffer and the Baptist, Dr. Martin Luther King. 
Martin Luther King, of course, is familiar to us Americans as the great preacher and apostle of non-violence who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 until his murder by a white racist in 1968.  Just as attempts were made to tarnish the reputation of Romero by his foes both in El Salvador and here in the United States, King was subjected to character assassination by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI who wanted Americans to think that the preacher was a Communist agitator in an effort to discredit his objectives of an America in which there was an equal opportunity for all regardless of race. 
The Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia was a German Princess who married into the Russian Royal Family and converted to Orthodoxy.  (Her younger sister also married into the Romanoffs—married Nicholas II and became the Tsarina Alexandra.)  Elizabeth’s husband, the Tsar's uncle, the Grand Duke Sergei, was assassinated in 1905.  The young widow sold her jewelry to fund a convent of Orthodox nuns who worked among the sick and poor.  She herself headed the convent as its Abbess.  She was arrested during the Revolution and like her sister, the Tsarina, was brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.   
Manche Masemola was a young South-African woman murdered by her own family in 1928 for converting to Christianity from the traditional tribal religion.  Esther John similarly was murdered in the Pakistani Punjab region in 1960 for having converted from Islam to Christianity.  Archbishop Janani Luwum has a story much like Archbishop Romero’s.  Luwum was primate of the Anglican Church in Uganda and spoke out against the reign of terror in Idi’ Amin’s Uganda just as Romero had spoken out against the death squads in El Salvador.  He was arrested and died in police custody.  When the body was released to the family, it was riddled with bullet wounds.  Some present claimed that Idi Amin had personally shot and killed the Archbishop. 
Dietrich Bonheoffer was a German Lutheran Pastor who, with other Lutherans formed the “Confessing Church” when they found that the official Lutheran Church was collaborating too closely with the Hitler Regime.  Although already in prison by the time of the 1944 plot to kill Hitler by placing a bomb in the conference room where the dictator was meeting with his staff, Bonheoffer was connected with the would-be assassins.  He was hanged on April 9, 1945—just a few weeks before the fall of the Nazi regime.  
Lucian Tapiedi was a Papuan New Guinea Anglican lay evangelist who was killed during the Japanese invasion of that Island during World War II. 
Wang Zhiming was a Chinese Protestant brutally murdered during the Chinese “Cultural Revolution” in 1973  in a stadium before a crowd of 10,000 (mostly Christians) in an attempt to terrorize Christians to give up the practice of their faith.  These ten figures from different parts of the Christian family alert us to the sufferings of Christians today.  Christians in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, India and other countries often hold on to their faith at the cost of their lives. 
When I lived in Rome, I always attended a very special prayer service each Holy Week sponsored by the Community of Sant’ Egidio to commemorate those men and women who in the 20th and now the 21st century have laid down their lives for their faith.  We too should remember them—the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Foundation of the Anglican Church CXII

Coronation Portrait of
Charles II 

The Reign of Charles II marked not only the restoration of the monarchy but of the Anglican Church as bishops were restored to their sees and conformity to the Book of Common Prayer marked the worship of English churches.  Those clergy who had not been episcopally ordained and would not submit to reordination by a bishop and/or who would not conduct worship according to the liturgical norms of the Book of Common Prayer were deprived of their posts.  The meant that pretty much the entire Puritan wing of the Church of England went into a Non-Conformity from which the Congregational and (English) Presbyterian Churches emerged.  Baptists who had broken with the Puritans during the time of Cromwell and the Commonwealth also fell into the Non-Conformist category.  In 1661 Parliament had passed the Corporation Act which required all local government officials to take the Sacrament according to the Prayer Book Ritual and to formally foreswear the 1643 Solemn League and Covenant which had replaced the Anglican Prayer Book during the Puritan Commonwealth/English Civil War.   Furthermore, by this act, those who would not take the Sacrament according to the Rites of the Established Church could not hold office in the Army or the Navy, nor could they take a University Degree. This meant that Non-Conformists were ineligible for public office and many professions were closed to them.  In 1662 the Act of Uniformity, as mentioned above, required episcopal ordination for all clergy and adherence to the Prayer Book liturgy on pain of deprivation of office.  Parliament also passed a law that year demanding an oath of allegiance to the King.  Quakers could not take this oath as their beliefs proscribed the swearing of all oaths.  This act emarginated the Quakers from the larger English Society even more.  In 1664 Parliament passed the Conventicle Act which prohibited gatherings of more than 5 people for religious purposes unless they were under the auspices of the Church of England.  This law was meant to make Non-Conformist worship illegal.   In 1665 Parliament passed the Five Mile Act which prohibited Non-Conformist clergy from coming within five miles of towns or of the parishes they had held during the Commonwealth period.  They also were not allowed to be schoolteachers.  These acts, known collectively as the Clarendon Code, were attempts to make religious membership and worship outside the Established Church illegal and suppress religious dissent.  These laws were also grossly unsuccessful.  It is unknown just how many English followed their Non-Conformist clergy out of the Church of England as no census number were taken at the time, but later figures might indicate that at least a third of the population rejected the Established Church in favor of the Non-Conformist sects.  
The Jewish community in England was alarmed by the Conventicle Act as it technically proscribed Jewish Worship as well as Non-Conformist worship, but the King assured a delegation of English Jews who appealed to him not to worry, and the Privy Council granted them a explicit exemption so long as they obeyed the laws of the realm.  There was no such provision for Catholics, of course, but neither was there an aggressive campaign at this point to make life difficult for Catholics as Charles’ Queen, Catherine of Braganza, was a Catholic as was also Charles’ chief Mistress, the Duchess of Cleveland.  In 1672 Charles issued the Declaration of Indulgence which lifted the penal laws against both non-Conformists and Catholics, but the following year Parliament made him rescind the declaration in put in its place the Test Act which required one to swear an oath against the doctrine of Transubstantiation as well as take the Sacrament according to the Anglican Rite—this excluded both Catholics and non-Conformists from public life.
Charles was to die a Catholic, being received into the Catholic Church on his deathbed by Queen Catherine’s chaplain, the Benedictine monk John Huddleston.  Ironically Huddleston was among a group of Catholics who had saved Charles from the Parliamentarians after Charles’ defeat at the 1651 Battle of Worcester.  When Huddleston was ushered through a secret passage into the dying King’s bedchamber on February 5, 1685, the Duke of York, Charles’ brother, said: “Sire, this good man once saved your life.  He has now come to save your soul.”  The room had been cleared of all members of the Court except for the Protestant Earls of Bath and Feversham who were confidants of the King.   The presence of these two Protestant peers gave the Privy Council, expelled into an anteroom, a false confidence that the King was safe in his Protestant faith.  In the event, Charles’ conversion would be keep secret until well into the next reign.  Huddleston heard the King’s confession, anointed him, and gave him viaticum.   Some modern writers claim that he was not conscious, or at least not fully aware of what was happening, and that the conversion was foisted upon him by his Catholic Queen and his Catholic brother, James the Duke of York, who was to succeed him as King, but the contemporary accounts do not report any of this and the argument against his conversion to Catholicism seems to be more polemical than historical.  Charles was buried in the vault of Henry VII—the last Catholic King of England who had died in 1509—in Westminster Abbey without any public ceremony to mark his final religious affiliation.  The funeral was held late at night on February 14, eight days after the King’s death.  (This was a remarkably short interval between death and funeral for a prominent person in the 17th century. Charles niece, Mary II, was not buried until almost ten weeks after her death.)  The (Anglican) Dean and Chapter met the coffin at the West Door as was customary and escorted it the length of the Abbey to the chapel in the retro-choir where lay the royal vault.  Peers—including the (Anglican) bishops—attended in an official capacity but none of the late King’s blood relatives did.  They were represented by Prince George of Denmark, the Protestant husband of the King’s niece, Anne (later Queen herself).  The Dean read the Anglican burial service for this all-Protestant congregation and the King was deposited into his grave.
With Charles’ death and the succession of his brother James to the Crown, England found itself in the constitutional conundrum that a Roman Catholic was head of the Church of England.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

After Francis, What?

Ok, so Pope Francis thinks his papal years will be short.  Of course they will be—he is 78.  He has one lung.  He often is visible exhausted by the end of his weekly audience.  He has hinted of a premonition that he will not live much longer.  Threats have been made against his life.  Even should he live another eight or nine years, he has indicated that he, like his predecessor, will retire when he can no longer fulfill the responsibilities of the job.  He himself indicates it might be three or so more years.  But we never know.  The frail and sickly Cardinal Gioacchino Pecci reigned 25 years as Leo XIII and at his death at age 93 was the oldest man to sit on the Chair of Peter.  But lightening rarely hits twice and Francis is probably right.  So what will the next pope be like?
Well, you can be sure the Cardinals are going to argue long and hard about a successor.  The actual conclave may not last long—they rarely do in this day and age—but the interregnum and the daily consistorial meetings will be filled with lively debate.  Some Cardinals, but at this point I think relatively few,  will want to push ahead with Francis’ full agenda.   Others—and I think even fewer—will want to go back to the John Paul/Benedict days and dismantle the Francis Papacy in the same spirit—and with the same spiteful energy—that Tea Party wing-nuts will want to dismantle the Obama legacy.  Much will depend on how many Cardinals Francis gets to appoint.  Should he live another three years, he will probably appoint between 30 and 35 voting Cardinals.  He has already appointed 31 voting Cardinals.  While the majority of his appointees reflect the direction in which he is taking the Church, there are some who represent a more measured, even contrary, approach.  On the other hand, many of the Cardinals who elected him will still be sitting and he certainly has his allies in prelates like Oscar Maradiaga, Rienhard Marx, Donald Wuerl, Luis Tagle, and Christoph Schönborn.   I am somewhat reluctant to put Sean O’Malley in this group for while he is a strong supporter of Francis’ reform agenda and a man of unquestioned integrity, I suspect he might be a bit slower than Francis on the issues of welcoming those in irregular unions back to the Sacraments.  Don’t get me wrong, I think he will support Francis as long as Francis is Pope, but I think he may be a bit more cautious about where the Church should so publicly go.
In fact, I think enough Cardinals will be of a more cautious mind that while many of Francis’ reforms will be embraced, there will be a backing away from the more-or-less unconditional welcoming home of those whose lives don’t match up to a somewhat more rigorous approach to Catholic moral theology.  I am sure Francis knows this and is determined to cross the Eucharistic Rubicon while he still stands in the shoes of the Fisherman.  The 2014 session of the Synod on the Family proved to be a bigger hurdle than Francis and his supporters thought and I am sure both sides will be pushing even harder this October to determine where the line of scrimmage will fall.  But should he leave the agenda unfinished, I think the Cardinals will pick a successor who will be warm and friendly but not quite so spontaneous in his suggested pastoral approaches.
The role of our old buddy Ray By-the-Grace-of-God-Cardinal Burke in the pre-conclave jockeying will be interesting.  He has taken on the role as leader of the opposition, something that the Church has not had quite so openly for several centuries.  He has pledged to “resist” any change in discipline regarding admitting the divorced and remarried (and same-sex married) people to the sacraments, though it is not clear what he means by “resist.”  If Francis gets his agenda through the Synod, any public “resistance” is highly unlikely.  He may express his dismay, even his displeasure, but it would be difficult to repudiate an official Church policy.  Some think that Burke has set himself up in opposition to establish himself as the successor to Francis in the next conclave when the Cardinals, putatively disenchanted and disillusioned by Francis, decide to swing the pendulum back.  Burke has, over the years, confided to his nearest and dearest that he would like to be “the first American Successor to Saint Peter.”  But as obtuse as he can be—and H.E. can be pretty obtuse—even he has to realize that the geo-political scene would not permit a pope from the leading world power.  The credibility of the Church, what is left of it after the sex and banking scandals, demands a pope with established political neutrality.  What Burke, if his reality co-ordinates are at all aligned,  might be hoping for as leader of the opposition is an opportunity to play king-maker and get a pope elected whom he can trust to follow his own right-wing agenda.  This too, however, is highly unlikely as Cardinal Burke is generally regarded as a bit of a buffoon even by some of his fellow authors of Remaining In The Truth of Christ, the book that Burke and others wrote to resist Cardinal Kasper’s push to change the policy regarding Holy Communion for those in irregular marriages.  Burke’s obsession with the pomp and panoply of cappae magnae and sky-high miters capping off his pontifical gorgeousness  has made him the butt of too many jokes even among his fellow Cardinals to be taken with any seriousness.  Francis’ removing him from the various Congregations and commissions pulled the few remaining teeth of the now gumming lion sitting on the Aventine amid the equally silly swords and capes of the Malta Moolanaires. 
No, what I think we can expect after Francis is a Pope who will assure us that he will be following in Francis’ footsteps but who will, in fact, create his own agenda that will step back from Francis’ willingness to rethink things from the ground up.  This will be much like John Paul II who paid great tribute at his election of John XXIII and Paul VI but went on to be very much his own man and move in a very different direction than the two Popes of Vatican II.  There will be some external conformity to Francis.  I don’t think Popes will be living in the top-floor suite of the Apostolic Palace again, at least for some time.  All due respect for Pope Francis, but I don’t believe this was a move of humility.  In this age of drones and shoulder-fired missiles  no world leader would live in a place so exposed as a suite overlooking not simply Saint Peter’s Square, but the entire city of Rome.  The successor to Francis may find Benedict’s quarters in a former monastery to be more suitable than a hotel, but future popes will continue to have a private residence. I think his successor may also favor the simpler dress code of Francis but even if he reverts to the more traditional rochet and mozetta, I think it will be more like that of other bishops than Santa Claus (who was, after all, a bishop himself—but don’t tell Mrs. Claus.  Hmm, can Santa go to Holy Communion?  Is he married in the Church? Did he get properly dispensed?  Hmmm.)  I think the efforts to reform the Curia will continue, though I am not sure with how much success and any attempt to decentralize Church government in favor of the local ordinaries will depend on the success of Curia Reform. 
It is pretty unrealistic to think that Francis’ successor will be willing to turn the clock back on Vatican II.  Unfortunately ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue is in a bit of suspended animation these days and Francis’ cordiality in particular with his Jewish friends is seen more as a personal outreach than official contact.  The pan-Orthodox Synod scheduled for next year might kick-start some serious ecumenical endeavors to which Francis and his successor will need to respond, but then again it might be a dud as far as the non-Orthodox world goes.  On the other hand, rumors that the Synod might want a serious sit-down Council with the Pope and Western Bishops to forge a common Christian (or at least Orthodox-Catholic) response to the double threat of advancing secularism and radical Islam could provide some real challenges for this Pope and future ones.  Whatever happens though it is not realistic to think that Francis successor (or his successor or his successor’s successor or his successor’s successor’s successor etc) will be able to retreat from ecumenical and inter-religious collaboration. 
It is equally out of the question that Francis’ successor can make peace with the Society of Saint Pius X without the Lefebvrists formally accepting the Conciliar decrees.  Given the intransience of Bishop Fellay and his followers  it is highly unlikely that schism will be healed.  As for the Liturgy, Francis successor will probably—like Francis—tolerate the Traditional Liturgy but not only will do nothing to advance it but find ways to discourage its use.  Most of the Cardinals who are residential Archbishops have had sufficient problems with Traditionalist groups that they do not want to foster the movement.  Down the line that may change as the current crop of conservative seminarians and younger priests climb the ecclesial ladder; it is hard to tell what the long-term survival of Traditional Latin Mass groups will be.  Actually Cardinal Burke, like Cardinals Stickler (+2007) and Castrillón Hoyos before him, has done far more to hurt the survival of the Traditional Liturgy than help it.  Their great pontifical Liturgies have associated the  TLM with eccentricity and fringe groups that are given to monarchial displays and a sort of pedantic antiquarianism.   As the Traditionalists devolve more and more into a cult the mainline Church is less and less able to integrate them into the life of the Church and they find themselves isolated from the larger Church and more and more only in their own ecclesial bubble.  Their ability to survive within the Church will be a challenge to both sides over the next quarter century. 
So, for you “liberals” who love Francis—enjoy the day; it will not last forever. And for you neo-trads, the road ahead will be bumpy and with more disappointments than successes.  All in all I think the pace will slow down to a more gentle tempo after Francis but the course will be held.  But then only God knows.