Thursday, October 24, 2013

Real hope for real change

“Christian hope is not a matter of optimism; it is not the expectation of steady progress through democracy and science; it is the anticipation of everlasting life with God, his angels, and all his saints. Only such an unchanging good could serve as the foundation for hope.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)

Excerpt From: “Rebuilding Catholic Culture - Ryan N. S. Topping.” iBooks. 
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Vatican Insider trips over its own criticisms

After lauding the way that immediate access via the internet to Pope Francis' statements means that they are no longer subject to distortion from unreliable "intermediaries," you'd think that Vatican Insider would take care to get their own reporting exactly right. Yet on the day after that assertion, we see an article titled "Francis' Message to Catechists: 'An Injured Church is Better than a Closed Church.'" But what did the Pope really say? Quoted in the same article is the answer:
Sometimes, being in a Church community “is like being in a closed room. You get sick sooner or later. Of course, when you go out into the street accidents can happen, but I would far rather have an injured Church than a sick Church.”
Is it "closed" or "sick" that the Pope really said? Does it make a difference? I think so. Is it too much to ask that a headline copy-writer at La Stampa, which runs Vatican Insider, report the Pope's actual words?

Pope Francis' "rivers of words"

From Vatican Insider, how to miss the point about Pope Francis' torrent of words:
Even the upper echelons of the Vatican hierarchy have been aware for a while now that, since Francis rose to the papal throne, his river of words has been reaching people through all sorts of channels and without any intermediaries. So the Pope’s direct way of addressing his audience is ensuring that the media do not go into a spinning frenzy regarding the figure and actions of the Bishop of Rome.
It is simply not true that Pope Francis' speeches and homilies are "reaching people through all sorts of channels without any intermediaries." I'd argue that it's usually through intermediaries that Catholics are encountering the Pope's words. And not faithful Catholic intermediaries, either, but through their daily newspapers, if they still read any, or more likely through some popular online aggregator like Google News or the Huffington Post, which generally dismiss the mission or teachings of the Church, and have a tacit alliance with those within the Church who strive to turn it into a social services agency.

The last man who clearly explained the liberating reach of Francis’ direct style of preaching was the Assessor for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State Peter Brian Wells. ... Wells said that online access to the Pope’s homilies and speeches has freed individuals, families and communities from a reliance on media coverage that may be manipulative or biased.
This is utterly unrealistic. Perhaps Mr. Wells and his co-workers can spend the time necessary to find and then carefully read the Pope's extensive comments, homilies, and speeches, but I'd bet the farm that fewer than one in a thousand American Catholics do that. They get their Church news from the same sources they get their secular news, with the dangers already mentioned.

The problem with Francis' torrent of statements is that it is a torrent. Fewer statements that were more carefully worded, more cautiously guarded from misinterpretation, and unembellished with asides, would serve the faithful much better.

"An exciting ride"

If Francis really is in the line of Cardinals Martini and Bernardin, as Russell Shaw remarks, we are indeed in for "an exciting ride" in the Catholic Church. Exciting, that is, in the sense that skidding your car into a freeway guardrail is exciting. And to claim that the Church has been too confrontational over the past forty years is to ignore the shabby record of silence of most American and European bishops on any subject that might get them bad press, or even a few scowls from the more dissident members of their flocks. If Shaw is right, Francis' path isn't new; what's new is that we now have papal validation of the worthless habits of thought that have led to so much decline.

For eight precious years of the pontificate of a certain Emeritus Pope, it looked like the "long, melancholy, withdrawing roar" of this blog's namesake poem had finally fallen silent, and that the Sea of Faith was poised for a new flood tide. But with each passing month of Francis' reign, that hope seems to have been, at best, premature.

I posted a portion of these remarks first in the combox of the Alateia website, where the article appeared.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Poets who came home

This enjoyable article at National Catholic Register tells of five notable poets of the 20th century who converted to the Catholic faith: Wallace Stevens, Claude McKay, Oscar Wilde, Sally Read, and Roy Campbell. Very much worth a look.

In the combox there, one trollish reader condemned all tales of deathbed conversions to Catholicism (e.g., Stevens's and Wilde's) as propaganda, because the supposed convert is dead, and we can no longer ask him or her to verify the story. The trouble with this line of reasoning is that if we followed it uniformly, we would believe almost nothing about the past. Before photography and audio recording became widespread, there was simply no other source of knowledge about a distant or past event than the testimony of someone who was there — a witness. Since this may be obvious even to the aforesaid reader, I suspect that the rule is to apply only to events which might be dangerously pro-Catholic.