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April 16, 2013

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19 Comments
  1. Stephen K permalink

    Re: Reform is in the Air.
    What an impressive interview! Well worth re-reading. Thank you Martin.

  2. Kevin Walters permalink

    02/09/2013.
    Is this Church politics at play or is it the work of the Holy Spirit?
    Any revelation given by the Holy Spirit must give glory to our Father in heaven.
    The Credibility of the Church has been lost with the child abuse scandal.
    As mankind looks on they see our Popes receiving glory from one and other, do they see Pride or Humility?
    To seek to know oneself (Humility) in any man before our Father in heaven gives glory to God.
    “How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
    For me this is a defining moment for Pope Francis, is he a man severing the Truth or just another politician.

    Kevin your brother in
    In Christ.

    • Stephen K permalink

      Kevin, if I have understood you correctly, that there is something unseemly about Popes canonising other Popes, especially in the light of the abuse scandal, then I would agree. The thing that strikes me is that anyone who is really a saint would not want others to call him or her a saint and would not think they were! To me, paradoxically, the greatest respect we might give to a person we esteemed as holy would be to keep it private and refrain from what resembles a kind of worldly honour. What do you think? Have you noticed how a holy person always redirects our focus onto God or another who needs our help? Have you noticed how Jesus’ focus was always on the Father, or the needy? Surely there’s a message here! The Church should imitate this, rather than construct and maintain the religious equivalents of status, honours and riches. What do readers say?

      • Kevin Walters permalink

        05/09/2013
        Thank you Stephen for your response
        When someone sacrifices their life (Martyrdom) for the love God, it is an act that cannot be misunderstood or manipulated and sets an example for all of us to follow and it is fitting that the Church should acknowledge this, as All can acclaim (see)the glory given by God through His holy Church on earth. The point here is ALL can see the glory that comes from God even unbelieves are drawn to the love of God. What we are seeing at the moment can only be described as foul and arrogant, as man glorifies man, all of mankind (unbelievers) can see the hypocrisy of this act. For me this is a defining moment for the Church but more so for Pope Frances as its leader, does he proclaim the heavenly Glory of our Kings and Queens (Martyrs) or sully their names(If this be possible) before our Father in heaven and bow down before Satan and give baubles to those who seek their own advantage.
        kevin your brother
        In Christ

  3. Martin Mallon permalink

    Stephen, I accept your arguments. However, I believe “saints” can be a great help to many people and their lives can be good examples. However, I think any biography should include warts and all; show us that these people were human and sinners who were doing their best to follow Jesus. Show people that saints are not perfect but try their best to be like Jesus and to live out his teaching of love. This gives us all hope.
    Hagiography, the writing of idealised biographies, should be banned as it encourages the idea that all saints are so good that we could not even attempt to imitate them

  4. Stephen K permalink

    Martin, there seem to be two distinct propositions in your article: (1) the process of identifying “saints” – those promoted as exemplars for imitation – needs someone who has access to all the material to show why they were not; and (2) the haste to canonise JPII and Escrivar is proof of (1).

    I wonder whether this whole idea of “saint-making” has not been compromised completely. It’s interesting. I think the concept of medical “miracles” is inappropriate but at the same time it may have operated to prevent too hasty canonisations in the past. And, as much as one might have sympathy for a John XXIII rather than a Pius IX, I can’t help feeling that there is too much ‘team-barracking’ involved for any canonisation, at least of prominent figures, to be considered sound or reliable. I don’t think it’s acceptable to say in effect ‘you can have your Pius IX and Escrivar so long as we can have our John XXIII and Oscar Romero”. Safer to have none.

    The other thing is that it is the public reputation that counts for people where “saints” are concerned: we may all know someone who comes across to us as wise or kind and holy and it is our thinking they are holy that can inspire us to be better. If we discover that in their private lives they were not, then that’s the finish. Does that mean that few official “saints” would ever pass scrutiny? The Devil’s Advocate might ensure we are less likely to have such surprises and disappointments. But in any case, I wonder whether we ought not simply dispense with declaring people “saints” or whether we continue but modify the concept of “saint” so candidates are thought of differently. I haven’t the time to flesh this idea out further here and now but others might have comments.

  5. Stephen K permalink

    Re royal priesthood
    Martin, that the earliest arrangements were not identical to the elaborate sacerdotal theology that later developed seems clear after the kinds of reading and reflection you allude to in your article, if not obvious. I venture to say that the modern liturgical battles over the Mass – especially restorational efforts – are evidence of some considerable loss of perspective on the original essence of the eucharistic memorial – namely, an intimate sharing of the symbolic sacrificial body and blood in a gathering of a group desiring to remember Jesus’ words and deed and the meaning of his offering and enter into his kingdom of love of God and neighbour. This communal supper memorial eventually became a ceremony styled on what might have been temple and court ritual for which a new caste of priests had to be trained and set apart. I imagine it would be difficult for many Catholics to conceive of “Mass” without a priest. This does not mean that it could not or should not be explored, in an attempt to get back to primitive meanings. But some orderliness and structure is inevitable if extremes of egocentrism and degradation of meaning are to be avoided. It’s a delicate task, but as lay-led congregational services in other Christian churches and communal services in some New Age religious contexts show, it can be done.

    My attitude to the Mass, to the concept of eu-charist, was enlightened and changed by my experience of Holy Thursday Christian Seder celebrations in a Carmelite priory. I had a glimpse then of the original context, the Jewish connections and the beauty of agape that Jesus invited. I don’t argue for a moment that the Mass should or could routinely adopt this form, but the Seder concept showed up, for me, in sharp relief how the Mass, in its sophisticated ceremonial formality, may have become subconsciously in many Catholic minds something of a magic show centred around an ‘abracadabra’ moment at the consecration. I think it is helpful to try to re-balance the focus people may apply in the Mass with attentiveness to the other phases – the introductory prayers, the reading and meditation on the Scriptures, the communion and evangelical commissioning at the dismissal. These things do not depend on any form of sacerdotal “power”.

    Is the notion of “priest” part of the problem? I don’t think so. We invest the word with several important meanings: church-official servant; ritual leader; dedicated disciple; sacramental minister. We see in priests things we might express as signs-of-contradiction, models-for-respect, exemplars of virtue, spiritual guides, God’s chosen, even friends-of-trust. We are brought up to see them “set apart”, special and in the business of holiness. [Now one can see why and how devastating the clerical abuse scandal will have been]. But in a church that permitted lay-presided Masses, only the concept of sacramental minister would be modified and that only to the extent of enlarging the sub-category of eu-charistic consecrator. The idea of priest would remain the same in all other respects.

    Part of the modification depends on jettisoning the theology that suggests a priest has intrinsic ontological power and adopting the theology that the priest acts only through a commissioning by the bishop, who can commission anyone in theory. We see the force of this in the inquiries into the abuse scandals – bishops failed to de-commission – i.e. deprive of authority and ‘power’ – early enough those priests guilty of abuse. Faculties is the term used to describe the ‘authority to say Mass and hear confessions and preach’ and this is entirely within the remit of the bishop. Hence, we already have the theoretical and structural foundation for permitting lay-presided, lay-consecrated, eucharists, even hearing confessions. Just some thoughts, Martin.

  6. Martin Mallon permalink

    I agree with most of what you wrote, Stephen, however, there are many Catholics who believe in papal infallibility when popes speak ex cathedra and I felt it was important for these people to comprehend that a “definitive” statement is very different from an “infallible” statement.

  7. Stephen K permalink

    An interesting set of observations, Martin. I also re-read your article on the hermeneutics of continuity etc. One thing I would caution against: anyone who seeks to argue that there is nothing stopping women from being ordained “because” there is no such back-door infallible statement as a “definitive formulation” risks crashing on the shoals of truth-by-process. They risk having no answer to the hypothetical that had John Paul II or Cardinal Ratzinger dared to pronounce the prohibition ex cathedra they would have had no room to move. No argument from process or authority works here: those who would deny women’s ordination have yet to come up with a reason why a woman as woman cannot be commissioned in orders and offer the Mass and perform priestly duties; those who would enable women’s ordination have to reject completely the idea that ex cathedra makes the slightest iota of difference to the controversy. In short, the notion of papal infallibility is rank nonsense, and Vatican I was a complete travesty, as anyone who reads Dom Cuthbert Butler’s account may easily and very reasonably conclude.

  8. Stephen K permalink

    Re the unfaithful departed
    An article I think that makes a lot of theological sense, Martin. Well asked! And Father John also makes an interesting comparison with the prayers at Mass. Yes, I think it is un-Christian to only pray for the good. Well prayed! But how does one reconcile passages like Matthew 13:42, with John 12:32? Has Christian theology been confused about itself right from the beginning?

  9. Thank you Martin for July 30 article “Why pray for our faithful dead and not just the dead?”

    For decades I have changed “may the souls of the faithful departed” into “may all the dead”

    …which is how we pray at Mass….Eucharistic Prayer 2: “bring them and ALL the departed into the light of your presence”

    Praying only for Christians is …unChristian!

  10. Hazel Cooper permalink

    Tuesday 23rd July
    Luke 9:50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” and in Matthew 12:30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
    Appearing in both Matthew and Luke underlines the importance the evangelists attached to this and it is surely Jesus’ command that we work together in his name. OK, so we work differently, we worship differently, we even think differently. I love our Catholic tradition, I love our Mass, and our seven sacraments, but if others are still walking along the same road, albeit on a different carriageway, can we not join together at every opportunity, welcoming our sisters and brothers in Christ and sharing all we can. Once again I blame all those clever theologians tying us, and themselves, up in knots, trying to work out complicated mores for us all to follow. One thing is necessary: to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself! Dear Lord, bring us all ever closer together and closer to you in all we do. Please stop these divisions between sisters and brothers over your love and your teachings.

  11. Stephen K permalink

    I am horrified to think lenders are charging 5000% interest! Yes, our system encourages greed and injustice. May more leaders follow the Archbishop’s lead.

  12. Stephen K permalink

    Martin, at the root of the desire to control is fear and the unfaced awareness that one is not in control. Being out of control means you imagine the worst if it does not actually happen. We all want to be safe, but the desire to control can put safety above others. Imagine a world where no-one sought to control anyone else.

  13. This certainly was a most interesting piece of news: i.e. the Pope hires an administrative consultant, and not just any consultant!….a consultant who has some definite ideas about change for the Church from the German perspective….where the voice of reform has probably been the strongest!

    You did give me pause for thought, Martin, as you are of the opinion that the CDF is no longer a threat for reformers and their writing and speech. I would like to think so….but, I think, it was simply Pope Francis caught unawares as to what he really said….From my perspective what he said about the CDF was an insensitive remark, especially for people like Father Tony Flannery, Father Roy Bourgeois and many more. The CDF has created much heartache for many people and my sense was that the Pope does not understand or appreciate this….I think, we are now left wondering, what is the true relationship between the CDF and the Pope? Does he support any of their past actions? If he does, which ones? And If he doesn’t, why isn’t he correcting wrongs? He speaks a lot about brotherly love….but, I need to see it happening with Him and the “brothers so loved” that were treated more like servants of Satan, rather than servants of Christ. I also question we really have an atomosphere with this Pope, where there is “freedom of speech”.

    My “heart” has “ached” for more than 30 years now with the pain of not being able to speak with the ones that say they are our priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes. I have wept for the injustices and abuses that were and are consciously or unconsciously meted out by the clergy, and in particular, the Pope and the Vatican! I realize that I could say the same about trying to be heard by our politicians and the primeministers. Somehow, the Church situation hits me really hard……I believe, it was Sister Joan Chittister who wrote about the people being WEARY with the former papacy and the way the Church does business….I’m afraid, that that weariness and heaviness of heart is not too far away, if, justice within the Church does not prevail. Pope Francis is rightly concerned about the poor, but, he has ‘poor’ within the Church who look to justice and being heard. I know that I am one such ‘poor’ woman who has endured the bruiser in Rome for most of my life and I wonder how many others would say the same? I think, he either just doesn’t get it or he poopoos the impact that the hierarchy has had on Church members, especially, women. One would think, he’s saying, politely of course…ah, just suck it up….No, I wish, you were right on this one Martin…but, I fear not. It is most assuredly a turning point in his papacy with the appointment of the advisor and the 8 cardinals preparing topics for the bishops synod….It is also a turning point for anyone or any group in the Church that needed his audience and support, but, failed to get it…..I’m sure Pope Francis will continue to make a difference in some areas….but, ignoring the voice of reformers and others will only serve to create greater problems and even perhaps, schism. Father Brendan Butler said on the ACP…that until, Pope Francis lifts the silence on Father Flannery, he sees no hope for Church under Francis…..I say it another way…….Unless, we see these issues addressed, we know that are will be some redecorating, and maybe even a renovation or two with the curia….but, until those wrongs are corrected and further ones corrected….the systemic rot…of the Church will continue and continue to do unspeakable harm. The systemic rot comes from the yeast of the Pharisees and sadduccess and in our case from the clerics and clericalism. The axe must be taken to clericalism, or ultimately, it is just window dressing……any perceived change in the church…

  14. Martin Mallon permalink

    Economics can be evil. Where society encourages a property boom, then when the crash comes bails out the bust banks and permit banks to repossess property and evict homeowners, this is evil. It is putting the good of financial institutions before the basic rights of people to live their lives. Today, in Europe at least, we are living in an evil economic system.

    Pope Francis has spoken out against “savage capitalism,” and, as summarised by Michael Sean Winters, has called for “government intervention to pursue the common good in the face of hostile market forces.” We need laws passed to enforce ethical economic behaviour by large financial institutions, but this will only happen if we can first change peoples’ hearts and this is part of what the, so called, “New Evangelisation” is about. That would only bring us close to the Old Testament position and still a long way from Jesus and his parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the King forgiving his steward (Mt 18:23-35), but it would be a good start in ridding our world of evil economic policies.

  15. Martin Mallon permalink

    It is important to point out that when Ireland gave a blanket bank guarantee Iceland chose the more sensible course of allowing their insolvent banks to default on bondholders.

    Iceland is now the envy of Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

    According to Bloomberg, Fitch Ratings in 2012 raised Iceland to investment grade, with a stable outlook, and said the island’s “unorthodox crisis policy response has succeeded.”

    Why? Because “Iceland’s approach to dealing with the meltdown has put the needs of its population ahead of the markets at every turn.” This is the opposite to the policies of Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

    Iceland has demonstrated that caring for your citizens and debt forgiveness, i.e. being Christian, also leads to economic success:

    Iceland’s $13 billion economy, which shrank 6.7 percent in 2009, grew 2.9 percent in 2012 and is currently expanding by 2.5 per cent a year while that of the eurozone is contracting. Housing, measured as a subcomponent in the consumer price index, in 2012 was only about 3 percent below values in September 2008, just before the collapse. Fitch Ratings raised Iceland to investment grade, with a stable outlook, and said the island’s “unorthodox crisis policy response has succeeded.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-20/icelandic-anger-brings-record-debt-relief-in-best-crisis-recovery-story.html

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100216232/iceland-chooses-independence/

    The Bloomberg article shows that the debt defaulted on was bank debt that was “beyond saving”. Governments should not nationalise bank debts; the bank bondholders should pay when an investment goes bad not the citizens of the country. This is not only good economics but it is not Christian for poor citizens to bail out bank bondholders.

    The Icelandic government decided “to forgive debt exceeding 110 percent of home values.” A mortgage of 110% of our houses’ value may not make most of us very happy, but would if your mortgage had been twice the value of your house.

    However, in Ireland houses have fallen by over 50% in value and a similar move by the Irish Government would give a lot of people some hope and would also help the economy. Why do our bishops and clergy not call for such Christian behaviour?

    It should be no surprise that Christian acts help the economy.

    Some people say the Irish were “just plain stupid” to borrow so much. Why? Ireland had a lower government debt than most countries until the ECB forced them to nationalise bank debt to save European banks and the euro. If the Irish were stupid it was in agreeing to nationalise bank debt. Most of the Irish bank bond holders were German, they knew the state of the Irish property market but were greedy for the rich pickings in booming Ireland. These risk takers became bond holders of insolvent banks and should have paid the price, but the German controlled ECB rode to the rescue at the Irish citizens expense.

    The Irish government debt would still be relatively low if they had not been “good” euro citizens. The Germans were and are laughing all the way to the
    German banks.

    Some also say “Iceland, of course, got into trouble buying what other people had with money that Iceland didn’t have”. Icelandic banks may have done this, Iceland did not. It is important not to smear whole countries for what the bankers do.

    The main and initiating greed in these cases, and causing the world recession, has been acknowledged to be that of the bankers, starting with subprime mortgage lenders in the US.

    Governments should also have restrained the financial markets but did not. When the so-called experts go bananas why lay the blame and the cost on the average citizen.

    Many people bought houses to live in at inflated prices during the boom years because there was no alternative. When the house prices collapsed in the recession and they had wage cuts or one or both in a couple lost their job then these people are naturally unable to pay their debts. The bishops and clergy should have called for these people to be assisted rather than bond holders and banks. What happened and is happening is not Christian so lets hope our bishops wake up to this fact.

  16. Thank you Martin for your blog…..filled with an important message, as I prepare to follow the Lord to Ireland. There are two aspects of “clericalism” that particularly annoy and therefore concern me, and that is the “arrogance” and “lording it over” of clerics and even of professional theologians. Since our Church became professionalized, the voice of the anawim, has been ignored and suppressed…….I would strongly hope that Pope Francis recognizes these aspects of clericalism….although, I was not assured of this, given, his recent response to the religious sisters of the U.S. and as I say, not even, Father Flannery of Ireland, was of the opinion, that the attitude of the Vatican was going to change……My greatest hope is the statement that Pope Francis made to the Argentian bishops, on the same occasion, that you are talking about, and that is when he prayed that he would never become proud and do what he wants and not Christ……I believe, that was probably…..a strong indicator to the bishops……that “clerical pride” is a serious problem, so serious a problem, that it is no wonder, that the Church becomes sick! If Pope Francis, is listening to Christ and following him to the very best of his ability, that really, is all we can ask for and expect…….So, once again, I pray for Pope Francis….that this remains….his single most important concern….that he’s doing what CHRIST WANTS!

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