Pope Francis has become the latest to contribute to a largely secular contemporary debate on the nature of happiness. But his responses, given in a new interview, have been criticized by some Catholics for appearing worldly and lacking serious Catholic doctrine.
In what amounts to his 10th major interview with the media, the Pope shared a 10-point plan for happiness that included the maxim “live and let live,” giving oneself to others, and protecting a culture of recreation in the face of consumerism.
Venturing into more political areas in the interview, the Pope also praised Sweden for its open-door immigration policy, and stressed that peacemaking is active, never a kind of stillness. He also implied he is opposed to fracking, the controversial method of extracting natural gas.
The Pope’s comments appeared on Sunday in a feature article in the Argentine magazine Viva, a supplement of the popular national daily, El Clarín. The interview, made earlier this month, was given to mark the first 500 days of Francis’ pontificate.
“The Romans have a saying, which can be taken as a point of reference,” the Pope said. “They say, “Campa e lascia campà [live and let live]. That’s the first step to peace and happiness.”
The next is “giving oneself to others” because if one gets tired, “one runs the risk of being egoistic, and stagnant water is the first to be corrupted.”
Another tip to achieving happiness is to “proceed quietly” and he held up the elderly as an example: they move with “kindness and humility,” he said, and warned that a people which doesn’t take care of its elderly “has no future.”
The Pope advocated playing with children as a key to joy, and stressed the importance of a healthy culture of leisure, reading and enjoying art. “Consumerism has led to the anxiety of losing [this culture],” he said.
Sundays should be a day of rest, spent with family, he said. Happiness can also be found in helping young people find employment, especially as many these days lack opportunities and “fall into drugs.” Suicide rates are “very high among young people without work,” he said, and he advocated young people today be taught more about skilled apprentice work.
For the other keys to happiness, the Pope recommended looking after and safeguarding nature (he is expected to issue an encyclical document on this soon) quickly forgetting the grudges (speaking badly of others shows “low self-esteem”) respecting those who think differently, and actively seeking peace.
Turning to the international situation, the Pope drew attention to the increasing number of conflicts and wars across the globe. “War destroys,” he said. “And we must cry out for peace. Peace sometimes gives the idea of stillness, but it is never stillness. It is always an active peace.”
On the plight of refugees, he said Europe fears speaking about immigration, but praised Sweden for its policies, noting that they have allowed in as many as 800,000 immigrants in a population of 25.3 million.
Regarding ecology, he warned against extracting earthly resources at the expense of the environment and made an implied criticism of fracking — the controversial method of extracting gas that opponents say risks contaminating water supplies.
“When, for example, you want to make use of a mining method that extracts more than other methods, but it contaminates the water, it doesn’t matter,” he said — according to Vatican Radio’s report on the interview. “And so they go on contaminating nature. I think it’s a question that we are not facing: Humanity, in its indiscriminate use of and tyranny over nature, is it committing suicide?”
The Pope also said he believes the church grows by attraction, not proselytizing. “The worst thing you can do is religious proselytizing, which paralyzes,” he said.
Calvo noted in the article that Francis only mentioned God three times in the 77-minute conversation, and Jesus Christ only once, in the context of a joke Calvo made about John Lennon’s quotation that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus. Also observers noted the Pope didn’t mention the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes as keys to happiness.
But this is becoming a well honed strategy with Pope Francis. As in his previous interviews with the secular media, he has preferred to speak in a language that everyman can understand and find acceptable.
In all of his addresses, he carefully tailors his speech and gestures to whichever
audience he is speaking.
This approach has arguably been successful.
In the mainstream media’s eyes, he can do no wrong as he has led them to believe he is just like one of them, thereby giving his teaching much more exposure than would otherwise be possible.
But the strategy fails to convince an increasing number of rank and file Catholics who would like to see more overtly Catholic statements coming from the See of Peter. The saying “Live and let live,” they argue as an example, is misleading and uncharitable to someone who is living immorally.
So compromising have some of the Pope’s statements seemingly become that Francis’ own Catholicity is being questioned, with a few openly accusing him of heresy. “He sees the world as the world see the world,” said one very disgruntled Catholic critic. “And he sees the church as the world sees the church.”
After giving nearly a dozen tailor-made interviews — all but one to the secular media — calls are increasing for the Pope to turn his attention back to his confused and somewhat disheartened flock.
It’s time, they say, to do some clearly orthodox preaching to the choir, but this time on the pages of the Catholic press.
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“It’s reminiscent of what we saw in Europe in the build-up to the Second World War or the ethnic cleansing witnessed during the Balkans in the early 1990s,” said former British ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell. “It’s as if the world is asleep and doesn’t care.”
The former diplomat was speaking Wednesday about the silence of Western political leaders to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq by the Al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Last weekend, at the barrel of a gun, the jihadist fighters emptied Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — of Christians, the first time in almost 2,000 years the city has not had a Christian presence.
With the exception of Pope Francis and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, world leaders have largely been silent about the religious cleansing that is spreading throughout Iraq and Syria — despite urgent calls from religious leaders in the region for an international response to what Ban called a “crime against humanity”.
Not only have religious minorities been terrorised, but much of Mosul’s rich Judeo-Christian heritage has also been destroyed.
Fighters took a sledgehammer to the tomb of Jonah, and replaced the cross on top of Mosul’s St. Ephrem’s cathedral with a black Islamic flag, before setting it ablaze.
The city’s Christians, who numbered 60,000 before the Iraq War, were one of the last communities to pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
Last Friday, the U.S. State Department condemned “in the strongest terms” the hounding and persecution by Isis, calling its ultimatum in Mosul that Christians leave, pay a tax, convert to Islam or face execution as “abominable actions” aimed at dividing and destroying Iraq.
But President Obama has yet to speak on the atrocity. Neither have Europe’s leaders.
Their silence in speaking up for Iraq’s persecuted minorities — not just Christians but also Mandaeans, Shabaks, Shi’ite Turkmen and Yazidis — has been noticed, even in secular France. In a front page editorial yesterday, Le Figaro decried not only the leaders’ silence, but the general indifference of the West and the media in the face of what it called “The Calvary of the Christians of Iraq.”
Writer Étienne de Montety wondered how Christians and non-Christians could react in such way in the face of the “terrifying procession of horrors, expulsions, murders in Mosul.” He pointed out that the Christians of Iraq were 1 million before the Iraq War; now there are less than 400,000. “With each wave of vexations, violence, persecutions, they take the path of exodus,” he said.
Europeans are usually “so eager” to have “mobilizations, petitions, demonstrations of every kind, but “in this case, nothing!”, he wrote. Through silence, the writer stated, “we are persecuting.”
British peer Lord Alton of Liverpool, writing in The Times Wednesday, said the world “must wake up urgently to the plight of the ancient churches throughout the region who are faced with the threat of mass murder and mass displacement.”
The UN, he stressed, claims it has “a duty to protect”, while the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “born in the embers of the Holocaust, insists that each of us must be free to follow our own beliefs.” But the religious cleansing and “unspeakable bigotry” at work in Mosul, he added, “makes hateful mockery of both.”
Some Christian leaders in Iraq blame complicity in the current Islamist takeover. Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman of Baghdad said Wednesday the real actors in Iraq are foreign governments and large energy companies, funding a proxy war in order to gain control over the country’s oil resources.
One possibility for the silence among world leaders may be to prevent the conflict escalating. Behind-the-scenes action, diplomacy and hidden acts of heroism could be more effective in keeping the Islamists at bay and sparing lives.
Such was the approach of Pope Pius XII with respect to the Jews in the World War Two after a large number of Jews and Christians lost their lives when Dutch bishops spoke out against the Nazis.
But it appears Western governments are not even doing that, leading many to call their policies naïve at best and cowardly at worst.
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Vatican officials are uneasy and perplexed after the publication this week of a conversation between Pope Francis and an atheist journalist who, for the third time in his conversations with the pontiff, didn’t record the exchange.
The officials’ discomfort also extends to the Pope’s spontaneous telephone calls to strangers, a couple of which implied he deviated from Church teaching but, being private and unrecorded conversations, are difficult to verify.
On Sunday, Eugenio Scalfari, co-founder of the Italian daily La Repubblica, published in the newspaper a long account of a conversation he had with the Pope last week.
Francis didn’t say anything particularly unusual, but some of the subject matter was highly sensitive including clerical sex abuse, priestly celibacy and the mafia.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, clearly not notified in advance of the conversation nor present during the exchange to record it, was unable to offer satisfactory clarification but — as has become usual — had to pick up the pieces.
In a statement, he was quick to point out that the published quotations of the Pope were drawn from Scalfari’s memory (it’s fairly common for Italian journalists not to record an interview but rather report on the spirit of it) and could therefore not be attributed to the Pope.
Scalfari is also 90 years old.
Given the controversy over Scalfari’s first exchange with the Pope last September, Vatican officials cannot fathom why Francis would give him another interview. Last year’s conversation, in which the Pope is alleged to have said proselytism is “solemn nonsense” and that “there is no Catholic God” — also wasn’t recorded. Remarkable, given the importance of the interviewee and the deep significance of the subject matter. The Vatican newspaper, which published that exchange in full, eventually removed it from its website.
“1.2 billion Catholics have the right to know precisely what the Pope said, especially on subjects so delicate and interesting,” veteran Vatican correspondent Marco Tosatti wrote on his blog this week. “If the interlocutor, for whatever reason, refuses to use a recorder, perhaps the Holy See should buy him one.”
The Pope is naturally free to speak to whoever he wishes, but perhaps he would be better served if Vatican aides were present when a veteran journalist such as Scalfari comes to the Vatican with the intention of publishing the conversation.
The overlooking of the obvious has led some to speculate that a possible strategy might be at play. This could entail using Scalfari’s foggy memory, radical views and tendency towards sensationalism to exaggerate certain issues in order to provoke a debate while avoiding the possibility of pinning anything on the Pope. This is unlikely but not impossible, and many Catholics would consider it scandalous if true, causing an unnecessary amount of confusion.
Already it is compounding what some perceive as lack of clarity over dogma during this pontificate. One unhelpful factor, critics say, has been the Pope’s out-of-the blue telephone calls to members of the public.
Although very popular for showing the Pope’s down to earth, caring and pastoral nature, they haven’t always been helpful. In April, the Pope called an Argentine woman to allegedly tell her that her divorced and remarried Catholic husband could receive communion, even though the church has always forbidden it.
The Vatican said the woman’s account was unreliable but, because it was private, it couldn’t completely rule out that such a conversation had taken place. The call caused widespread concern, not least among officials.
Lombardi, who declines to answer any questions over the latest Scalfari conversation, is placed in an almost impossible position if such incidents recur. Some even think he should threaten to resign in protest at having his job undermined in such a way.
At the very least, a number of Vatican officials and many lay faithful want to see such future conversations handled professionally, with less equivocal accounts and without any possible hidden agendas.
A new Vatican committee on media reform headed by Lord Patten, a former chairman of the BBC, will no doubt wish to address this. In the meantime, officials will be encouraged about one thing: since April, out-of-the-blue phone calls about sensitive matters appear to have ceased.
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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis Friday telephoned the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to voice his “serious concerns” over the worsening conflict in Gaza, urging them to seek an end to hostilities in Gaza.
He also reiterated the importance of prayer in bringing about peace.
In a statement released Friday afternoon local time, the Vatican said the Holy Father “personally telephoned President Shimon Peres and President Mahmoud Abbas to share his very serious concerns regarding the current situation of conflict involving in particular the Gaza Strip.”
The Pope noted that the fighting is taking place “in a climate of growing hostility, hatred and suffering for the two populations,” and it is claiming “many victims and giving rise to a serious humanitarian emergency.”
Late Thursday night, Israel began a ground offensive in Gaza, sending thousands of troops into parts of the coastal strip, backed by tanks and artillery fire.
The decision was taken after 10 days of intensive rocket fire from Hamas militants and airstrikes by Israel. As of Friday morning, the death toll stood at 258, most of whom are Palestinian civilians, including women and children.
To further the purpose of his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the “Invocation for Peace in the Holy Land” on June 8, the Pope “assures his ceaseless prayer and that of all the Church for peace in the Holy Land.”
He also stated in his calls to both presidents the need to “continue to pray.” He said all those involved at all levels of authority should “work to bring an end to hostilities, making efforts to promote a truce, peace and reconciliation in the hearts of those involved.”
The telephone calls follow the Pope’s “heartfelt appeal” on Sunday for prayers for peace in the region, in which he called on God to “strengthen us in courage to take concrete actions to build peace.”
“Make us willing to listen to the cry of our citizens who are asking us to transform our weapons into instruments of peace, our fears into trust and our tensions into forgiveness,” he said.
Speaking to the Register Friday morning, a Vatican diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said the Pope’s message on Sunday comes closest to reflecting the Holy See’s approach to the conflict.
He said the Vatican is “very worried” about the situation because the Israeli ground offensive is likely to intensify the conflict.
“It’s important to try to look for other ideas to promote peace, because if you use force, you won’t solve the problems,” he said. The official noted that “every two or three years” this happens in Gaza, and this, in itself, “shows it’s not the way to solve a problem.”
When assessing whether either side is in any way just in its actions, the official stressed that the “whole context” of the conflict must be taken into account.
“This is not a kind of normal war; there is no proportion,” he said. “Also, you cannot just look at the number of victims: One side has one of the strongest armies in the world, and the other is a small group of anarchists.”
Those really suffering, he argued, are the civilians. “This is the problem,” he said. “It creates an atmosphere of hate and disappointment, and this isn’t good for peace, even though most of the people would like to have peace.”
Some are speculating that the Pope might hold another vigil for peace, similar to the one he called for the Syrian conflict, but there is no sign of this so far.
On Sunday, Pope Francis stressed that the “Invocation for Peace in the Holy Land” with Peres and Abbas was not in vain, “because prayer helps us not to allow ourselves to be overcome by evil, nor resign ourselves to violence and hatred taking over dialogue and reconciliation.”
The Vatican official said the gesture “had an effect, but other people are not interested in peace: Only when the atmosphere is good do they try to do the opposite.”
He reiterated the Pope’s insistence on continuing to pray for peace and not to lose hope. “Situations are difficult, but the alternative isn’t this one [use of force],” he said. “It’s a disaster for everyone.”
Although some left during Thursday’s five-hour truce, members of Gaza’s very small Catholic community are remaining in the territory. A group of Missionaries of Charity, who care for 28 disabled children and nine elderly women, are believed to still be in Gaza, along with the parish priest, Father Jorge Hernandez.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem says the faithful are gathering in Gaza’s parish, the Church of the Holy Family, for permanent adoration to pray for forgiveness, justice and peace for all.
In comments to Fides news agency, Father Hernandez said Thursday that criminality was increasing, and young children were “beginning to get sick because of fear, stress, shock waves and the continuous noise.”
“Parents are doing everything they can to distract them by playing, jumping and dancing every time they hear an explosion,” he said.
The current conflict in Gaza was precipitated by the killing of three Israeli teenagers in June, the slaying of a Palestinian teen in retaliation and rockets launched against civilian areas in Israel by Hamas. Israel says the goal of “Operation Protective Edge” is to “establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror, while striking a significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Legionary Father Eduardo Robles Gil, a native of Mexico, was elected general director of the Legion of Christ in February this year. At that time, the religious congregation, founded in 1941, had just concluded its first Extraordinary General Chapter meeting to draft and revise its constitutions, bringing to a close the Vatican-supervised reform and returning the Legion to self-governance. .
In this wide-ranging interview with the Register in early July, he discusses the health of the religious congregation after its general chapter and the implementation of a program of reform.
The Legion and its lay movement, Regnum Christi, were thrown into turmoil in the late 2000s, after revelations came to light of grave misconduct by the congregation’s founder, Father Marcial Maciel (1920-2008), which the Legionary leadership acknowledged, denounced and apologized for in 2010.
Earlier this month, the Vatican appointed Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda as pontifical adviser to advance the renewal and reform of the religious congregation.
In this July 4 interview, Father Robles Gil also explains the congregation’s precise charism, provides details on the new pontifical assistant’s role as a consulter and shares the methodology behind the congregation’s recruitment techniques. He also sheds light on the revised constitutions.
What are your overall hopes and plans for the Legion of Christ?
Right now, our plans are to make the corrections requested to obtain the approval of our constitutions. We need to write our secondary rules and other regulations and updated formation plans. That’s one of our main jobs right now. Then we have to work on the unity and cooperation in the mission with all the other realities in Regnum Christi.
We have consecrated lay women, consecrated lay men and lay members, both married and single, as well as some diocesan priests. We have to figure out a canonical structure, so that, also juridically, we can reflect the communion we strive to live every day. So that’s one of our main tasks for this year. We are still working on that. I also want to visit all the Legionaries in the places where they serve. I have started visiting some places.
In the next months, I will be traveling a lot, so I can understand the reality of the Regnum Christi movement and of the Legion of Christ in each place. That’s very important for good government.
Do you also see your role as being important in trying to restore the morale of the congregation?
Yes, I think most of the Legionaries are enthusiastic now about our apostolic work and their lives, but it’s certainly a task of the new government, the general government, to improve the morale of the whole congregation and also to give it direction. We are analyzing our main lines of our apostolate in family, education, youth and other ministries. We need to evangelize in harmony with what the Church, both universally and locally, is trying to do right now.
What does it mean for the Legion, and for you personally, to live in fidelity to your founder, in accord with John Paul II’s 1996 post-synodal exhortation Vita Consecrata, which states: “It is precisely in this fidelity to the inspiration of the founders and foundresses, an inspiration which is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit, that the essential elements of the consecrated life can be more readily discerned and more fervently put into practice,” and the Second Vatican Council decree Perfectae Caritatis, which states, “Let their founders’ spirit and special aims they set before them as well as their sound traditions, all of which make up the patrimony of each institute, be faithfully held in honor.”?
The Church is not putting this question in this way. In Vita Consecrata, No. 36, St. John Paul II calls for fidelity to the founding charism and says that the inspiration of the founder is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit. Canon law states that religious should live according to the mind of the founders, but never does it equate this with fidelity to the particular individual who received the inspiration.
Following Vita Consecrata, it is important to ask: Who is the real source of the Legion of Christ? It’s God; it’s Christ; it’s the Holy Spirit. The source of all congregations and all works in the Church is the Holy Spirit. In the past years, the Church has asked us to redraw the constitutions, putting aside our founder and what he wrote. So we are in a situation which is not common among other congregations.
It sounds easy to put aside the founder, but is it so easy considering the founder had such an influence over the congregation in the past?
No, it’s very simple. I hope I express myself well here. I think the founder was very, very present in the general chapter, not his person, but the foundational inspiration he transmitted. He was present in the Legionaries who are today the bearers of the charism.
I like to think of myself as a man who tries to live his vocation to be a Legionary of Christ to the full. This means that who I am today, also because of my age, has been influenced to a certain extent by what he said and what he did.
But now we have to decide for the future. We are not placing his ideas, his writings as the source of the charism, nor are we presenting him as a model. We are placing the charism as we live it, and have lived it, under the Church’s guidance and approval.
As Legionaries, we have to look inside, to what the Holy Spirit says in our hearts. It may be difficult to accept that God may use a flawed individual to start a congregation, but that’s how it is. We also have other sources which help us to discern what comes from the Holy Spirit: We have the Church and the magisterium, the tradition of religious life in the Church: so many ecclesial documents, so many things where we can enrich our faith.
In particular, how will Father Maciel be portrayed to your men in formation?
He’s not going to be portrayed. It’s going to be part of the history that our founder didn’t behave properly.
Will they be told about this?
Of course they will. Even if we don’t tell them, it’s all over the place and commonly known. Just a few days ago, a book was published in Italy — The Devil in the Vatican — so it’s common information.
So there’ll be no spinning him, trying to portray him in a better light?
No. That’s what we said in our communiqué on Feb. 6. We were very clear about our position as a congregation regarding the founder and his actions.
What is the status of the penal processes regarding Legionaries? What procedures have you established to address allegations of abuse?
The ones that are open are at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and now we are waiting for them to be analyzed to proceed accordingly. But what is more important are the procedures we are following so that these things don’t happen again. We are also screening people who want to join the Legion and trying to form them better in these aspects.
We also have been accredited in North America by Praesidium Inc. and have set codes of conduct for venues where Legionaries and laypeople minister to young people. The crime of sexual abuse should never happen again, not in our congregation, not in the Church, not in society at large. We work, hope and pray that is the case.
Can you give an example of how you’ve put in place these new codes to address allegations of abuse?
What we’re doing right now is that we listen to people who come to us with an allegation. We always trust they are not coming to deceive us, but, rather, start out from the conviction that if they present an allegation it is because something horrible quite probably happened. So if it’s something that sounds credible, and that is usually the case, we immediately take the person aside, removing him from any ministry while the proper investigation is conducted. Cooperation with civil authorities and immediate mandated reporting are also important elements of our commitment towards the protection of children and youth.
There are many things in the codes of conduct, and in the whole Church, so we can protect and put the victims in first place. There is always room for improvement, and we can never say we’ve done enough in this area. But we are firmly committed to continue along this path, together with the Church.
How will the “fourth vow” and charism of charity be transmitted to the Legionaries in formation from now on?
That’s something of the past. We don’t have the so-called fourth vow of charity, of not being judgmental or externally criticizing superiors. We don’t have that vow anymore. That vow will never be made again. It is part of our past. What is part of our present is charity, and if you hear what Pope Francis has been saying about charity, especially to seminarians and priests, it includes not speaking ill of people. But if you also see this from a very realistic point of view, of what has happened in the past years within the Legion of Christ, we have gone through a learning process which has fine-tuned our criteria. That is why it is precisely Legionaries who have been saying, “This or that is not right.” Today, it seems that our main critics are now former members who seem unaware of how much we have changed in many aspects. It’s something we have lived in a sense of charity and dialogue.
Although you’ve done away with the fourth vow formally, is there a danger of the Legion still having excessive deference to superiors?.
You’re going to find this strange, but I hope a bit of deference comes back. Not towards me. Right now, we’re on the other side of the pendulum. So, right now, the approach to the authority of superiors does seem critical.
So seminarians will be encouraged to think critically about their superiors?
Yes. We stress the study of philosophy during the training of our men. Philosophers seek the truth, and that’s part of our formation.
It has always been part of our formation to think critically because that is what a philosopher does, although sometimes we took our lifestyle for granted. This has been overcome in the past years and is an ongoing process. We have to look for the truth and distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, if this is true and this is false.
Father Ganfranco Ghirlanda has just been appointed pontifical assistant to the Legion. Who chose him, and why and how did selection process happen?
I really don’t know what the selection process was, but I think they were very intelligent and wise in the sense that, if they want someone to help us, it’s important he knows us.
Father Ghirlanda has been helping us, working with us, for four years now. So it’s a continuation of the renewal process in an intelligent way. And he’s an expert in canon law.
One of the things we need now is to find a canonical solution for the unity of the whole Regnum Christi movement. He’s one of the best persons who could have been assigned to us. Of course there are other canon lawyers who are very competent, but maybe they do not know us as well as he does.
Will he also have a supervisory role?
It’s not supervision, it’s advisory, but he has a critical mind, so he will, perhaps, see something that, in his opinion, is not right, and he will tell us or he may inform the Congregation for Religious. That is part of the life of the Church. You see things and you try to improve them. If you don’t like something, you make it known to those who can make a change.
Father Ghirlanda is a very free man. We were able to see that in the chapter: He expressed his opinion very freely, and I am sure he will express his opinion very freely. I was in touch with him today by email, and he said he will try to help as best he can.
And is it good that he’s a Jesuit, given that in the past there was talk of some rivalry between the Legion and the Society of Jesus?
That’s more of a story than real history. We have a founder who was formed in his early years by the Jesuits, and since the Society of Jesus has been one of the strongest congregations, he looked to the society and how they were doing things. So many things in our spirituality and formation come from the Jesuits.
Some say the charism of the Legion is still too vague. Would you clarify what it is?
Yes, if you see what the Vatican told us after the visitation, they told us we had to redefine our charism. So, somehow, these expectations and opinions are well founded. In Articles 3 and 4 of our constitutions, especially No. 4, we define our charism as formation of lay apostles who serve and develop their leadership for the good of the Church. It is mainly inspired in Mark 3:14: “Christ called those whom he wanted to be with him and to send them out to preach the Kingdom.” So, here we have Christ calling people to be apostles, and we try to live that. In many Gospel passages, we find Christ teaching his apostles and sending them on a mission after forming them. So that’s what we see as an inspiration for our charism.
But will the Legion perhaps begin focusing on one particular thing, say education, refugees or bioethics?
In that same article of the constitution, we have many things related to that main mystery of the life Christ: teaching, that is to say, education, forming priests. The article says: “In the mission of forming apostles, Christian leaders at the service of the Church, the Legionaries make present the mystery of Christ who gathers the apostles around him, reveals the love of his heart to them, forms them and sends them out to work with him in building up his Kingdom.”
So we promote the fullness of baptismal vocation, and together with other members of the Church we establish institutions that contribute to the building of the Kingdom. Legionaries serve the whole of the faithful. You can find Legionaries proclaiming the faith, involved in education, evangelizing the family, the media, in youth groups, forming diocesan priests and promoting justice, charity and solidarity with others.
Within Regnum Christi, we also offer priestly assistance to the rest of the members. So it’s a broad spectrum where we serve, but always under this core concept of building the Kingdom through formation of Christian apostles.
Critics often say that the Legion needed refounding because of the extent of scandal caused by Father Maciel and his close association and identity that’s enmeshed with the Legion. Others argue that unless it’s refounded, it will continue, in some way, to reflect the predatory nature of Father Maciel, in terms of fundraising, recruitment, etc. regardless of any constitutional and personnel changes. What do you say to these concerns?
I honestly would tell them that they haven’t heard and haven’t paid attention to what the Church thinks, what Pope Benedict and Pope Francis think.
Four years ago, those concerns could have had a foundation. Not anymore. Why? Because, at the moment, when we were in the middle of our crisis, the hardest part of the crisis and our soul-searching process, Pope Benedict — he had all the information needed — said in Light of the World that there were a lot of good people in the Legion and that it was a mainly healthy body which needed to be confirmed, renewed and had to improve in some of its practices. He appointed a cardinal of his confidence to rule over us in the process of correcting things that were not evangelical, that were not right. He also helped us to review the constitutions for a new future of service to the Church and mankind.
Would it be easier for the Legion to reform if, for example, the name changed? Should there be some radical change in perception of the Legion?
Reality and perception are two different things. The reality is the Legionaries of Christ, the reality is the works of evangelization. If you change the name, you don’t change the reality.
But would it help the reform process?
Okay, we talked about that in the general chapter, and we said that we would leave it for the time being. We could have done that, after a consultation of all the members. But we certainly do not want to do something that sounds like marketing strategy or whitewashing.
We have to assume our history, the bad parts of our history, and we have received the mercy of God and the mercy of the Church, and we have to accept that. As simple human beings, we are sinners who have been called by God. With his mercy, he has forgiven our sins and has called us. It’s like the vocation of Peter as an apostle. He denied Christ, but he was called to be the first pope.
So the mercy of God takes the misery of man and sends us out as his apostles. It’s one of the greatest mysteries of the Church.
This may also be gone now, but it used to be a common criticism that the congregation cultivated the young and those who are weak-minded, trying to psychologically control them, similar to a cult. What do you say to this?
One of the things we don’t want inside the Legion is weak-minded people. We want men who are convinced about their vocation and who are happy to be here and willing to be here. That’s something we need.
But not manipulated to be there, even if they’re not weak-minded?
One of the elements mentioned in the May 1, 2010 communiqué, published at the conclusion of the apostolic visitation, was to address the issue of formation. One of the points, which are very clear now, is that each one has to decide his own future in many, many things. So no one is pushed.
Maybe discerning a vocation may seem strange for someone who has not experienced it. How do you know you are called by God? It is something perceived by faith; it is moral certitude. You don’t have a letter coming from God through the mail; you don’t have the experience of Paul, blinded by the light on the road to Damascus. You only have a certitude of faith and the freedom to accept God’s calling.
What do you say about those who have wanted to leave the Legion and had trouble doing so? One has heard stories over the years of priests leaving the Legion but then their reputations were smeared because they left.
I don’t know which cases you’re referring to, but we have people who have left because they didn’t like the Legion or feel they could fulfill their calling with us. Also, some people have left because they haven’t behaved as was expected from them.
But these people didn’t seem to have done anything bad or wrong; they just wanted to leave and found it difficult, either through psychological mind games or their reputation was somehow smeared.
This is not my experience. I was speaking with a Legionary priest in this very room yesterday. We were talking about the fact that he wasn’t very sure what he wanted right now, but he wanted his period of exclaustration to be extended. He said he might leave the Legion and serve as a priest in his home diocese, but he wasn’t sure. We were talking in a very friendly way, and I told him to do whatever was best for him: “You decide.” This is how it is now. Maybe years ago, it might have been different. Now, it is very easy to leave, observing canonical procedures, of course. It’s easier to leave than to get in.
What tribute would you like to pay to your predecessor, Father Alvaro Corcuera, who died last month?
I am a little older than he was, but we have been friends. We joined the consecrated life in Regnum Christi together and shared many moments together.
What I always admired about him was he was very kind, gentle, educated. He was always trying to make people happy. He was really very charitable, and all his sufferings were not able to take this charity away from him. He was a gentle man, also in suffering and in pain, even in contradiction.
He worked right up to the end?
He was on a leave from the office of general director because he felt he did not have the strength to carry about his ministry properly. We later found out that what he was experiencing were the symptoms of brain cancer. During his illness, he underwent a lot of suffering, and he couldn’t work, but he was present in many ways and didn’t hide from people. When he could, he would participate in community life, accepted to celebrate the Eucharist for the faithful and found some time to talk to people, whether it was nurses, fellow patients or just your ordinary passerby.
In Holy Week and Easter this year, he was present in our missions outreach. He was staying in a little town near Guadalajara in Mexico and celebrated Mass daily for the missionaries and the faithful of the parish, even if he wasn’t feeling too well. Right after that, he had to go to for a checkup, and he never recovered. So we can say he was working, being a priest, until the end.
How much contact has Pope Francis had with the Legion, and can you share his hopes and concerns for the congregation for the future?
He has very little direct contact with the Legion as an institution. He has had some encounters with various Legionaries. Twice I’ve exchanged a few words with him. He told me: “Go forward; I support you; I want to help you; I don’t want you to fail.” He has been close to us through the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life, and in this, we have seen his love and pastoral care for us. Even in the naming of a pontifical adviser, the Pope has shown he wants to assist us through a person whom he trusts. So I think he has been very close to our process.
You had a recent ordination of new deacons. What are the numbers of vocations like?
At this time, the statistics are a little bit confusing. You never have a generation of priests that is similar to another. There are many things that happen, and each one follows a unique path. Three years ago, we had 62 new priests — that’s the biggest class in our history, precisely in the middle of our crisis. They joined the Legion before the crisis.
Right now, we’re going to have numbers that are oscillating. We’re going to have close to 35 ordinations this year. It is a good number, but the best thing is the personal history of each of these men. Hopefully, it will get better with God’s help. Some of the classes to come might be smaller, and some might be bigger.
Overall, you’re very hopeful?
Sure, we’re very hopeful. With the help of God and the prayers of many, I am confident that we will be able to overcome the crisis we have lived. We also have to acknowledge that there is also a crisis of vocations in the Church, which is a challenge for us all.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ apostolic voyage to South Korea will be the first papal visit to Asia in just over a decade.
The Holy Father is making the Aug. 14-18 trip for two principal reasons: to attend the sixth Asian Youth Day and to beatify 124 Korean martyrs who were among 10,000 mostly lay Catholics killed in successive waves of persecution in 19th-century Confucian-dominated Korea.
But the visit, which has as its theme “Arise, Shine (Isaiah 60:1),” will also serve a number of other purposes that include encouraging the rapid growth in faith in the country and parts of the continent; giving hope to those suffering economic and other hardships; and promoting peace and reconciliation, both internally and between North and South Korea.
“The Korean Church is the first Asian Church to welcome Pope Francis,” noted Father Matthias Young-yup Hur, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seoul. “Through this meaningful event, the Korean Church will become the door to the evangelization of Asia.”
South Korea’s Catholics are some of the most dynamic in the region. Although still very much a minority, in just 25 years, the number of Catholics has soared from 1.5 million to 5.4 million, out of a total population of 51.2 million. Over the past decade, the number of Catholics has grown by 70%.
Various reasons have been given for this rapid growth, including the Church’s role in the democratization of South Korea, its active participation in various works of social welfare and its respect for interreligious dialogue and traditional Korean spirituality.
“The Catholic Church in South Korea is strong on social justice and human rights, so many Koreans, Catholic and non-Catholic, naturally favor Catholicism,” Father John Kim Jong-su, rector of the Pontifical Korean College in Rome, told the Register.
Many hope the Pope’s visit will provide a boost in vocations and conversions. “I expect many Koreans will want to try to imitate the Pope,” Father Jong-su said. “After the visit, we hope there will be more vocations, but the numbers are high already.”
St. John Paul II visited the Korean Peninsula for a Eucharistic congress in October 1989. He also made a trip to South Korea in 1984, when he canonized 103 Korean martyrs.
The last time a pope visited Asia was 2002, when John Paul II visited Azerbaijan.
‘An Inspiring Exemplar’
But both Church and society are, of course, not without their problems.
Bishop Peter Kang U-il, president of South Korea’s bishops’ conference, noted the country has long suffered “vast hardships and persecutions,” but these could be “an inspiring exemplar for the Churches of the world in trouble and despair.”
He added in a message on the official visit website that Korea has experienced “rapid economic and social development and now is struggling with the conflicts surfacing from increased social polarization.” The Church, he said, echoing the call of Pope Francis, must “go beyond itself to meet the world, in all its joys and sorrows, with the Gospel.”
Expanding on the nation’s internal problems, Father Hur told the Register that Korean society “is filled with the problems of the gap between rich and poor and the ideological difference between the progressive and conservative party.” These divisions, he said, have caused “anxiety and chaos in our society,” which, he added, have also made their way into the Church.
“More and more, people are facing a faith crisis,” he said. “We hope that the Holy Father’s visit to Korea would become an opportunity for us to learn to overcome these differences and to coexist harmoniously in the love of Jesus.”
Beyond internal problems are, of course, the long-running tensions between North and South Korea. The Church has historically been at the forefront of trying to heal the divisions.
“It is the mission of the Korean Church to work towards the reconciliation and unification of our country,” said Father Hur. “We believe humanitarian support and sincere conversations are the most necessary,” he added, and pointed out that the Church has continued to give humanitarian support, “even when the North-South relation becomes tense.”
After the Second World War and liberation from Japanese occupation, the Korean Peninsula was occupied by the Soviet Union in the North and the United States in the South. The North later chose to remain communist, and resulting tensions led to the 1950-1953 Korean War. Both states are technically still at war, as fighting only ended as a result of an armistice.
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul, recently said Koreans are hoping the papal trip will produce a “miracle” for the peninsula, helping both countries to enter into dialogue. Many are hoping the Pope will repeat his “Invocation for Peace for the Holy Land,” this time praying for an end to tensions between the Koreas.
“All people hope that it’s an occasion to open and advance dialogue between the two Koreas, seen from the Pope’s perspective,” said Father Jong-su. “His visit is bringing the hope for peace on our peninsula.”
For Father Hur, “Korea is a country which symbolizes the world’s need of peace and reconciliation,” and so the visit of the Holy Father “may bring an important message of hope and peace to our country.”
Beatification of Korean Martyrs
The Pope’s beatification of the 124 Korean martyrs will also be highly significant. The spread of the faith in the country is largely due to the thousands who gave their lives for the faith. And, unusually, most of them were laypeople rather than clergy.
“To all the Korean Catholics, the martyrs are great models of faith, who sacrificed their own lives for their strong belief,” said Father Hur. “Nowadays, frankly speaking, it is difficult for us to imagine ourselves dying for religion; but the beatification of martyrs gives us an opportunity to reflect on our faith and to think what we can do to sacrifice for our faith.”
Church officials have been busy preparing for the visit: In April, an organizing committee held a three-day meeting at the Vatican to discuss all issues related to the trip. And to help spread the message of the Pope throughout the country, more than 20 Korean Catholic celebrities have come together to make a music video honoring the Pope’s arrival.
The Holy Father faces an intense program, including celebrating Mass on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption, in Daejeon for those attending Asian Youth Day. The next day, he will visit the Shrine of the Martyrs of Seo So mun, after which he will celebrate the beatification Mass of Paul Yun Ji-Chung and his 123 martyr companions. Following the Mass, the Pope will visit with the disabled in the “House of Hope” rehabilitation center in Kkottongnae and then meet the leaders of the lay apostolate in the city’s the Spirituality Center.
On Aug. 17, he travels to Haemi, where he will meet with the Asian bishops and have lunch with them in the Haemi shrine. Afterward, he will celebrate the concluding Mass for the Sixth Asian Youth Day.
Before leaving on his final day in South Korea, Pope Francis will meet with various religious leaders and celebrate Mass for peace and reconciliation in the Myeong-dong Cathedral of Seoul. He will then participate in a farewell celebration at the city’s air base and depart for Rome, where he will arrive close to 6pm on Aug. 18.
For more information on the papal voyage, go to PopeKorea.catholic.or.kr/en/default.asp
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
VATICAN CITY — The first significant developments in Pope Francis’ efforts to reform the Roman Curia were revealed at the Vatican Wednesday, including the appointing of a new president of the Vatican Bank and the hiring of a British peer to advise on reforming the Vatican’s media operations.
The initial reforms, announced by Cardinal George Pell of Australia, will focus on: the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which handles assets belonging to the Holy See, the Holy See’s media operations, the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), commonly known as the Vatican Bank, and the Vatican pension fund.
“A vast amount of planning has been done,” Cardinal Pell, who is prefect of the new Secretariat for the Economy, told reporters at a Vatican briefing this afternoon. “We’re benefiting from that, and we’re starting to roll that out.”
He explained that, based on a motu proprio (a document released on his own initiative) that Pope Francis issued today, the APSA — a department at the center of allegations of financial misconduct in recent years — will be split in two, with one part transferred to the new Secretariat for the Economy to enable “economic control and vigilance.”
The remaining staff of the department will begin new roles, working exclusively as a treasury and central bank for the Holy See and Vatican City State. One of their key tasks will be to establish working relationships with central banks around the world.
In further financial reforms, Cardinal Pell said that annual reports of Vatican finances will be “audited externally,” and he hopes to appoint an auditor general who will be “independent” and “able to go anywhere and everywhere.”
He stressed that other efforts are continuing to ensure that “international financial standards” will be followed in all sections and dicasteries of the Holy See and the Governatorato (the governing body of Vatican City State).
“We’re not quite at that stage, but that’s the explicit goal to which we are heading,” he said. “We hope to be a model for financial management, rather than a cause for financial scandal.”
In other changes, the Secretariat for the Economy, along with each department and administration, will prepare its own budget to be followed. Internal communications will also be improved within the Vatican’s financial structures, including the publication of a monthly bulletin and regular updates.
The IOR will be scaled down in its second phase of reform, shifting its assets into a newly created structure called Vatican Asset Management. It will focus more on providing financial advice and payment services for clergy and lay Vatican employees.
Cardinal Pell also announced that Pope Francis appointed Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, who heads a mergers and acquisitions consultancy firm, to take over from Ernst von Freyberg as president of the institution. A Frenchman married with four children, he is also a member of the pro-life World Youth Alliance board.
New Pattern of Cooperation
De Franssu has been appointed with the explicit task to oversee the second phase of IOR’s reform and told today’s press conference that he wishes to continue efforts to increase the IOR’s transparency. Over the next three years, he will oversee revision of the IOR’s statutes and operations.
Imminent reform includes a new general pattern of clerical-lay expert cooperation. Although the exact nature of this new structure is yet to be determined, six new lay members will be appointed to the board of the Vatican Bank, including Harvard professor Mary Ann Glendon and the British-Australian financier and Vatican patron of the arts Sir Michael Hintze.
“The IOR is in a phase of peaceful transition,” said Cardinal Pell, who commented that “excellent progress” has been made through adherence to international standards. “The resultant transparency is evident,” he said.
Von Freyberg told reporters that, under his watch, the IOR investigated “every single client” and “knows all” of its 18,000 clients. It also investigated “legacy cases with which IOR is burdened,” and he recalled various measures, such as the publishing of annual reports, that have increased transparency.
He highlighted a number of “good surprises” during his 18-month tenure, most notably that there are no numbered accounts, no large amounts belonging to Italian families, politicians or bad organizations, and that “no one” blocked his investigations.
“We found it quite easy to do what we’ve done,” he said. He also praised the media for their diligence and dedication to searching for the truth without an agenda — another welcome surprise for him.
Concerning the Vatican’s pension fund, Joseph F.X. Zahra, deputy coordinator of the Council for the Economy, announced the Vatican had set up a “technical committee” to study the current situation and make proposals to the Council for the Economy before the end of the year.
He said its anticipated new statutes will be prepared over the next six months to adapt the fund’s organization to the Holy See’s new economic-administrative structure. He also reassured fund holders their pensions were secure in today’s changing environment.
Concerning reforms to the Vatican’s media operations, which have long been criticized for unnecessary duplication and inefficiency, Cardinal Pell said a committee has been established to propose — though not implement — reforms over the next 12 months.
British politician Lord Chris Patten, a former governor of Hong Kong and, until earlier this year, chairman of the BBC Trust, will head the committee that will comprise a mix of Vatican staff and senior international experts.
As chancellor of Oxford University, Patten is one of Britain’s most prominent Catholics. Although he is recovering from heart surgery, he told the Financial Times that his new role is “an important and challenging part-time assignment over the next year” and that he is “looking forward to beginning work in late September.” He said the committee will look especially at developing a digital strategy and ways for the Church to evangelize.
Cardinal Pell said the aim is to “sensitively and progressively” make “significant saving of funds” in Vatican communications, as well as improve coordination and create a “more balanced expenditure.” He said patterns of Vatican expenditure on media “in no way correlate to the number of people who are reached” and that there is a need to “enhance coordination” and “diminish replication.”
Said Cardinal Pell, “We want to build on very recent positive experiences, such as ‘The Pope App’ and the Holy Father’s Twitter account.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
One of the most interesting Vatican appointments announced this morning by Cardinal George Pell is that of the British peer Lord Patten.
A well known figure in Britain and one of the country’s most prominent Catholics, the Vatican has chosen him to head a committee advising Pope Francis on reforming the Holy See’s media operations.
Cardinal Pell said he chose the former British politician on account of his wide experience and is “delighted” he’s accepted.
Currently chancellor of Oxford University, Christopher Patten has had a long and highly distinguished career in public life. He served as a member of parliament from 1979 to 1992, during which he was a Foreign Office and cabinet minister and later chaired Britain’s Conservative Party. After losing his seat, he spent a tumultuous but ultimately successful few years as Britain’s last Governor of Hong Kong, preparing the colony for its handover to the Chinese in 1997.
He was then involved in the Northern Ireland peace process before serving five years as a European Commissioner. Most recently, he chaired the governing body of the BBC which he was forced to resigned from earlier this year due to a heart operation.
His new Vatican posting, which is expected to be only part-time and focus on making better use of digital media and cutting back on waste and inefficiency, will no doubt be a welcome relief. He told The Guardian newspaper on leaving the BBC that his time there was ten times harder than he expected – “harder than chairing the Conservative party, harder than being European Commissioner, harder than negotiating the return of Hong Kong to the Chinese. Nothing had prepared me for the ubiquity of hostility in the press.”
Accusations against the broadcaster of bias exasperated him, but he steered the corporation through a particularly dark time which included its director general resigning after just two months over serious lapses in journalistic standards.
As a cradle Catholic educated by Benedictine monks in west London, Patten has also freely given his time to helping the Church. In 2010, he took over the organizing of Pope Benedict XVI’s state visit to Britain after the British Foreign Office appeared unwilling or unable to prepare for it properly, throwing the trip into turmoil. He managed to rescue the operation, pulling off what many regarded to be a miraculously successful and historic occasion. A year later, he was tipped to become Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, but the post allegedly didn’t appeal to him.
His Catholicism is said to be on the more liberal wing of the Church. “I’m like a lot of other Catholics,” he said shortly before Benedict XVI’s visit. “I don’t agree with everything that the Vatican says” – though he did express his admiration for Benedict XVI’s intellectual abilities, saying he felt he was more open to dialogue “than one or two of those who advise him.”
With its ingrained culture of life contracts, outdated management techniques and needless replication, skilful dialogue is certainly one important ability Patten will need in helping to successfully and sensitively turn the Vatican’s media operations around.
ROME — One of Europe’s leading pro-life figures believes a sea change in public opinion in favor of a culture of life is under way, but the momentum needs to be maintained, primarily by younger generations.
In an interview with the Register, Luca Volonte, a former Italian parliamentarian and chairman of the Popular Christian Democrats to the Council of Europe, says the increase in popularity for pro-life marches on the continent has been an unexpected boon of the past five years.
Volonte, who has been at the forefront of campaigns to uphold natural marriage and the family in Europe, was interviewed during a break at a conference on the Church’s approach to poverty and her “preferential option for the poor.” The June 26-29 conference was hosted by the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, a Rome-based Christian think tank that he chairs.
What have been the most interesting aspects of this conference for you?
The aim of the speakers was to try to understand, on the one hand, that the social economy and free market are not in opposition to the Christian idea and dignity of the human person. On the other hand, it was very interesting to understand the different approaches of the speakers and the impact Pope Francis’ remarks have had on this new humanitarian approach to the market and culture, based on Catholic social teaching.
Next year, we would like to examine how democracies can survive if their effects exclude people, most notably unborn children or the elderly from society, and how it’s possible that democracy can improve itself without a real, clear moral basis.
Pope Francis often criticizes “the system,” often taken to mean the capitalist system of the West. Do you think it’s also important — and the Holy Father says this, too — to highlight the lack of morals, and specifically the lack of Christianity in society, regardless of the economic system?
Yes, it is. The real message of the Pope is not to criticize the system itself, but how the system appears today. It’s a system that has lost its moral basis.
It’s very difficult to describe such a system as the same capitalist system, or the same free market society, in the way it was described 10 years ago. When we proposed at the end of the socialist era at the end of the last century that the free-market society could be a new approach for all new democracies, we referred to a free market, a free society and the rule of law in every state. These three pillars (a free market, a free society and the rule of law) would be important for a new democracy to work.
Now, are we so sure that these three fundamental pillars are the same pillars that support and sustain a free market society at this time? We have some doubts. Also, the Pope has remarked that capitalism, or anti-human capitalism, is a consequence not directly of the free-market society and the rule of law in a democracy, but, rather, is born around the fact of the financial crisis.
But how much does the economic crisis point to a deeper cause, that of secularism, a lack of Christian belief? Would you like to see the Pope speak more along those lines, perhaps saying a key problem is the loss of Christian roots in Europe?
This is what I especially liked about the Pope [and his remarks] at his recent meeting with Sant’Egidio, in which he said we should not only restore the Christian roots of Europe and the world, but also re-offer these joyful Christian roots and invite others to discover this joyful mission in the world.
He touched briefly but clearly on the same point John Paul II touched upon at the end of 1990s and was more often touched upon by Benedict XVI. Europe has a proper mission in the history of the world, and this mission is not only to discover its Christian roots, its Judeo-Christian roots, but also using, improving these roots to benefit not only Europe, but also the discussion worldwide. This has been very clear, from John Paul II to Pope Francis.
Some talk about a resurgence in the pro-life movement in Europe, especially against abortion and among young people. Is this your experience, too?
Sure, there are many, many good signs. All the time, I try to focus on the positive, because we should try to start with the positive. We have important statistics: The enormous number of people who have participated year by year in marches for life in Rome, Brussels or Paris and many other countries has been increasing, and … their consciences [have been affected, as well]. This has been an unexpected sign of the last five years.
At the same time, we have the insurgency of pro-family associations around Europe, not only pointing out what is wrong in upcoming legislation [against the family unit], but repurposing, reoffering the importance of natural marriage and the natural family as a key point on which social questions can be rebuilt.
These two movements are closely working in Europe, more than in the U.S., where we have a sort of war between them. Many of these movements are made up of 30%-50% young men and women. So it’s an impressive and positive sign for the future of Europe.
For sure, my generation, those aged 40-50, have a prophetic duty to help them, support them, work with them; and at the same time, we should be sure that anything could happen in Europe. We must also be a part of this new social cause to rediscover our Christian roots, but we should also be aware that much of this work will be up to future generations.
Many in the pro-life movement were disappointed at the time by the Pope’s comments last year when he said the Church shouldn’t talk about abortion, contraception and same-sex “marriage” “all the time.” Others took his words out of context, saying the Church shouldn’t be “obsessed” by these issues. Did you view this as a setback for the movement?
I took the Pope’s declaration as a real question I had to ask myself from a personal point of view, not because I was upset — because, instinctively, I was totally upset — but because I felt I had to reflect on this question of the Pope, and that was really tough.
We come across, many times, the temptation to use sort of nominalist values, also to justify our work, and use them to place ourselves in opposition to others.
In this sense, the Pope’s declaration totally had an impact on our side of the problem and cast light on using values in a nominalist sense only to oppose others who want to destroy these values, but without reference to any broader picture. The Pope’s words should, therefore, be seen as an invitation to propose what we want to defend: We want to defend natural marriage and the natural family because we live a joyful experience in our marriages — those who have natural marriages and families. So proposing something positive obliges us not simply to defend one word or definition, but also to take a positive approach overall.
For sure, by proposing something positive, we have more possibilities to convince others. That’s positive. Promoting the natural marriage and family introduces a contradiction into the current political system. Sure, we should at times be obliged to defend our opinion, but starting from the point of view of only ever defending something is also sometimes an excuse for not doing something else.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Pope Francis’ recent remarks in which he said mobsters are excommunicated were widely welcomed, but they’ve left some Catholics wishing for an equally robust condemnation of other groups that prey just as violently on the innocent and vulnerable.
In a homily in the Calabrian town of Sibari on June 19, the Pope said the ‘ndrangheta (Calabrian mafia) adore evil and money, have turned from Christ, and have “contempt for the common good.” He said those who take this “road of evil, such as the mobsters, [are] not in communion with God. They are excommunicated.”
Francis chose to make the one-day visit to the southern Italian town after a series of recent mafia killings whose victims included a 3-year-old toddler and a 69-year-old priest. The Pope said he wanted to speak out because “our children are asking for it, our young people are asking for it. They are in need of hope and faith can help respond to this need.”
Italians were largely grateful for his words and his clear demonstration of compassion. And given the history of the church, in which unequivocal opposition to the mafia hasn’t always been so clear, the Pope’s comments were seen as timely, courageous, and overdue (although Francis has already strongly condemned the mafia on at least two previous occasions, in May 2013 and March this year).
But some Catholic question why the Pope appears to hold back the same condemnation for those Catholics who condone or practice a worse crime, such as the mass killing of unborn children. Catholics involved in similarly grave sins such as abortion, especially Catholics in public life, are causing just as much scandal, they argue.
The church teaches that any Catholic directly involved in procuring an abortion is excommunicated. The teaching is less clear whether Catholic politicians who promote abortion face the same penalty, although Benedict XVI stated they risk excommunication by taking such a position.
Notwithstanding this lack of clarity, such offenders are not called out so readily, and even have opportunities to be seen in public with the Pope.
“Why is it routine for politicians, many of them Catholic, who support the slicing up of fetuses to get their photo ops?” Roger McCaffrey, the former publisher of “Latin Mass” magazine, told me. “And if the reply is that ‘the Pope is a head of state,’ then what do we make of head-of-state Pius XII’s failure to meet with Hitler or Mussolini?”
McCaffrey said he hears some Catholics respond by saying, “Well, Christ sat down with Pharisees and prostitutes.”
Others believe that the Pope’s seeming reluctance to similarly single out these Catholics is primarily because organized crime is clearly seen as sinful and scandalous by the world at large.
One prominent Catholic source in Rome, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “The reality is the existence and practice of the mafia scandalizes the secular world, and when today’s church sees the secular world scandalized, she reacts.” By contrast, he added, when a Catholic scandalizes God, the hierarchy tend to speak only of mercy.
A case in point was when Pope Francis last year strongly condemned a Vatican official taken to court because of financial crime, even though his case had yet to be heard in court. But in response to a papal aide accused of sexual sins at about the same time, he implied that, because it was not a secular crime (such as financial misconduct or the sexual abuse of minors), the aide’s sins were therefore less grave.
“The problem with the contemporary church is that it sets up an artificial division between mercy and truth,” the Rome source said, alluding to the tendency of the Pope to respond with words of mercy with regards to most sins, but words of truth when it comes to scandals in the eyes of the world. “It’s as though somehow they’re opposed to one another, as though there’s a natural antagonism between mercy and truth.”
But he said that cannot be the case, because Christ is mercy and truth incarnate. It is therefore an act of mercy and charity to tell someone, or a group of people in this case, that their actions, in truth, have placed them — or risk placing them — outside of communion with the church.
The Pope is no doubt already aware of this, and conscious that the church never rejoices that a Catholic has been excommunicated — a punishment whose primary purpose is to help the offender recognize his sinful ways and repent — he prefers to remain silent and pray for the person in question.
But perhaps to be consistent, next time a pro-abortion Catholic politician asks him for a photograph, he will be as charitable to him as he is with the Mafia, reminding him publicly of the true consequences of his actions and the perils facing his soul.
Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/EdwardPentin/catholic-mafia-pope/2014/07/07/id/581077#ixzz37w4345MX
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