Chant from the ecumenical monastic community of Taize…
Chant from the ecumenical monastic community of Taize…
Pope Francis comes out swinging, in his first major address concerning economics; from Vatican Insider:
In his first major speech on the global financial crisis, Pope Francis strongly denounced “the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal”. He called on the world’s financial experts and political leaders to promote “disinterested solidarity” and “a return to a person-centered ethics in the world of finance and economics.”
His opportunity to critique the present financial and economic disorder and call for an ethically based global financial reform came on May 15 when he welcomed new ambassadors to the Holy See from Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Botswana.
While addressed in the first place to the governments represented by the new ambassadors, his message was clearly targeted at the world’s financial and political leaders. And it was clearly rooted in his experience in Latin America, and especially in Argentina where over the past decades he had witnessed the country’s economic meltdown, an increase in poverty, the growing gap between rich and poor, and widespread corruption.
“The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them”, he told the ambassadors. He made clear that he sees this as one of his duties as Successor of Peter.
He began his speech by noting that “the human family” has reached a “turning point in its history” if one considers the advances made. He praised the “positive achievements”, particularly in the fields of health, education and communications, but he then moved quickly to highlight the disastrous situation that most people are living in.
“The majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences”, he stated. “Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences”, he added; “fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way.”
One cause of this dramatic situation, he said, is to be found in “our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society”, Indeed, the root cause of the present financial crisis in the world is to be found in “a profound human crisis”, namely, in “the denial of the primacy of human beings!” This has happened, he said, because “we have created new idols”.
He recalled how in the Bible, the Book of Exodus tells how people worshiped “the golden calf” thousands of years ago and said that today this worship “has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal”.
All this has resulted in the current distortion of the world’s economy and finances and has created the present global financial and economic crisis, in which man is reduced to mere consumption, he said.
Still worse, he said, “human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started a throw-away culture.”
“This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted!” he stated; and in these circumstances “solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy.”
Pope Francis highlighted the fact that “while the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling”. He attributed this “imbalance” to the ideologies that “uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.”
In this way, he said, “A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules.” Furthermore, “indebtedness and credit distance countries from their real economy and citizens from their real buying power.”
On top of all this, Pope Francis said there is “widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The will to power and of possession has become limitless.”
He drew attention to the fact that “concealed behind this attitude is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God”. Indeed, “Ethics, like solidarity, is a nuisance! It is regarded as counterproductive: as something too human, because it relativizes money and power”.
Today, he said, ethics is regarded as “a threat” because “it rejects manipulation and subjection of people” and because it “leads to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market.”
Pope Francis said that “God is thought to be unmanageable by these financiers, economists and politicians”. God is considered “unmanageable, even dangerous, because he calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery”, he said
“Ethics – naturally, not the ethics of ideology – makes it possible, in my view, to create a balanced social order that is more humane”, he said.
He encouraged “the financial experts and the political leaders” to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom, who once said: “Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs.”
Pope Francis insisted that “there is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone.”
While acknowledging that such a reform requires “a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders”, he urged them “to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations.” “Money has to serve, not to rule!” he stated.
From First Things:
Earlier this month, Christopher Warner at the Catholic World Report interviewed Archimandrite Robert Taft, S.J., a Byzantine Catholic priest and professor emeritus of Oriental Liturgy at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, about Catholic-Orthodox relations and the prospects for future unity:
CWR: Most Catholics probably envision future unity between the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church as a re-installment of one world Church organization with the pope of Rome at the top of the governing pyramid. A look at history shows that such a model never existed, so what could Orthodox-Catholic communion actually look like if it were achieved? A renewal of Eucharistic communion? The possibility of an eighth ecumenical council? A resolution for the dating of Pascha/Easter?
Taft: What it would look like is not a “reunion” with them “returning to Rome,” to which they never belonged anyway; nor us being incorporated by them, since we are all ancient apostolic “Sister Churches” with a valid episcopate and priesthood and the full panoply of sacraments needed to minister salvation to our respective faithful, as is proclaimed in the renewed Catholic ecclesiology since Vatican II and enshrined in numerous papal documents from Paul VI on, as well as in the wonderful Catechism of the Catholic Church. So we just need to restore our broken communion and the rest of the problems you mention can be addressed one by one and resolved by common accord.
. . .
CWR: How could the papal claims of Rome be modified in a way that would be both acceptable to the Orthodox Churches and faithful to the tradition of the Catholic Church? Do you think the jurisdiction issue really is a hang-up for the Orthodox since they also practice cross-jurisdiction throughout Western Europe, the Americas, Australia, and East Asia?
Taft: The new Catholic “Sister Churches” ecclesiology describes not only how the Catholic Church views the Orthodox Churches. It also represents a startling revolution in how the Catholic Church views itself: we are no longer the only kid on the block, the whole Church of Christ, but one Sister Church among others. Previously, the Catholic Church saw itself as the original one and only true Church of Christ from which all other Christians had separated for one reason or another in the course of history, and Catholics held, simplistically, that the solution to divided Christendom consisted in all other Christians returning to Rome’s maternal bosom.
Vatican II, with an assist from those Council Fathers with a less naïve Disney-World view of their own Church’s past, managed to put aside this historically ludicrous, self-centered, self-congratulatory perception of reality. In doing so they had a strong assist from the Council Fathers of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church whose concrete experience of the realities of the Christian East made them spokesmen and defenders of that reality.
In this context I would recommend the excellent new book by Robert Louis Wilken, The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press 2012). Professor Wilken, a convert to Catholicism who is a recognized expert on Early Christianity and its history and literature, shows that Early Christianity developed not out of some Roman cradle but as a federation of local Churches, Western and Eastern, each one under the authority of a chief hierarch who would come to be called Archbishop, Pope, Patriarch, or Catholicos, each with its own independent governing synod and polity, all of them initially in communion with one another until the vicissitudes of history led to lasting divisions.
This is hopeful, but to put it in perspective, I don’t know many time, quoting the Ecumenical Patriarch, I have had Orthodox friends respond “Well, he’s not really Orthodox”…
“It was a lovely and very intense meeting,” Bartholomew said. “I felt moved and I really hope the successor of the Apostle Peter and the successor of the Apostle Andrew, his brother, will decide to do the pilgrimage to Jerusalem next January.” The Patriarch of Constantinople even invited Francis to visit the Holy Land: “We would like to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the embrace between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, in January 1964. The Patriarch of Jerusalem also agrees.” Bartholomew also invited Pope Bergoglio to Istanbul for the Feast of St. Andrew on 30 November: “We invited him to visit this year or the next.”
Read the whole thing here.
It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life, which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards ‘having’ rather than ‘being’.
Centesimus Annus – ‘The One Hundredth Year’ (1991), paragraph 36
Its [the Church's] desire is that the poor should rise above poverty and wretchedness, and should better their condition in life; and for this it strives.
Rerum Novarum -’Condition of Labour’ (1981), paragraph 23
When there is a question of protecting the rights of individuals, the poor and helpless have a claim to special consideration. The rich population has many ways of protecting themselves, and stands less in need of help.
Rerum Novarum, paragraph 29
While an immense mass of people still lack the absolute necessities of life, some, even is less advanced countries, live sumptuously or squander wealth. Luxury and misery rub shoulders. While the few more enjoy very great freedom of choice, the many are deprived of almost all possibility of acting on their own initiative and responsibility, and often subsist in living and working conditions unworthy of human beings.
Gaudium et Spes – ‘Joy and Hope’ (1965), paragraph 63
The principle of participation leads us to the conviction that the most appropriate and fundamental solutions to poverty will be those that enable people to take control of their own lives.
Economic Justice for All, US Catholic Bishops (1986), paragraph 188
“If someone who has the riches of this world sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17) It is well known how strong were the words used by the Fathers of the Church to describe the proper attitude of persons who possess anything towards persons in need. To quote Saint Ambrose: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.”
Populorum Progressio -’Development of the peoples’ (1967), paragraph 23
The Church continually combats all forms of poverty, because as Mother she is concerned that each and every person be able to live fully in dignity as a child of God.
Pope John Paul II, Lenten message, 1998
“The Church’s love for the poor … is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2444
I exhort every Christian, in this Lenten season, to evidence his personal conversion through a concrete sign of love toward those in need, recognising in this person the face of Christ and repeating, as if almost face to face: “I was poor, I was marginalised … and you welcomed me.”
Pope John Paul II, Lenten message, 1998
We begin with the scandal of poverty. Half the world’s population, some three billion people, live on two dollars or less a day. Of these 1.2 billion people, 20 per cent of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty on less than one dollar a day. This poverty occurs in a world of plenty, in a global economy capable of satisfying all the demands of its richest consumers but seemingly and scandalously unable to meet the needs of vast numbers of the poorest, whose needs ought to be at the heart of public policy. That is why poverty is the proper starting point for all discussions about aid, debt cancellation and trade.
Catholic Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales, 2003
Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use.
Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2445
People who are poor and vulnerable have a special place in Catholic teaching: this is what is meant by the “preferential option for the poor”. Scripture tells us we will be judged by our response to the “least of these”, in which we see the suffering face of Christ himself. Humanity is one family despite differences of nationality or race. The poor are not a burden; they are our brothers and sisters. Christ taught us that our neighbourhood is universal: so loving our neighbour has global dimensions. It demands fair international trading policies, decent treatment of refugees, support for the UN and control of the arms trade. Solidarity with our neighbour is also about the promotion of equality of rights and equality of opportunities; hence we must oppose all forms of discrimination and racism.
Bishops of England and Wales,
The Common Good, 1996
Faced with the tragic situation of persistent poverty which afflicts so many people in our world, how can we fail to see that the quest for profit at any cost and the lack of effective responsible concern for the common good have concentrated immense resources in the hands of a few while the rest of humanity suffers in poverty and neglect? Our goal should not be the benefit of a privileged few, but rather the improvement of the living conditions of all.
Pope John Paul II,
Lenten message 2003
The solidarity which binds humanity together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist.
Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra -’Christianity and Social Progress’ (1961), paragraph 157
Countless millions are starving, countless families are destitute, countless men are steeped in ignorance; countless people need schools, hospitals, and homes worthy of the name. In such circumstances, we cannot tolerate public and private expenditures of a wasteful nature; we cannot but condemn lavish displays of wealth by nations or individuals; we cannot approve a debilitating arms race. It is our solemn duty to speak out against them.
Populorum Progressio, paragraph 53
It is the person who is motivated by genuine love, more than anyone else, who pits his intelligence against the problems of poverty, trying to uncover the causes and looking for effective ways of combating and overcoming them.
Populorum Progressio, paragraph 75
As followers of Christ, we are challenged to make a fundamental ‘option for the poor’ – to speak for the voiceless, to defend the defenceless, to impact on the poor…..As Christians, we are called to respond to the needs of all our brothers and sisters, but those with the greatest needs require the greatest response.
Economic Justice for All, paragraph 16
As individuals and as a nation, therefore, we are called to make a fundamental ‘option for the poor’. The obligation to evaluate social and economic activity from the viewpoint of the poor and the powerless arises from the radical command to love one’s neighbour as one’s self. Those who are marginalized and whose rights are denied have privileged claims if society is to provide justice for all. This obligation is deeply rooted in Christian belief.
Economic Justice for All, paragraph 87
The obligation to provide justice for all means that the poor have the single most urgent economic claim on the conscience of the nation.
Economic Justice for All, paragraph 86
The primer purpose of this special commitment to the poor is to enable them to become active participants in the life of society. It is to enable all persons to share in and contribute to the common good. The ‘option for the poor’, therefore, is not an adversarial slogan that pits one group or class against another. Rather it states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community. The extent of their suffering is a measure of how far we are from being a true community of persons. These wounds will be healed only by greater solidarity with the poor and among the poor themselves.
Economic Justice forAll , paragraph 88
Renowned liturgist and retired professor from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, Archimandrite Robert Taft, S.J., from his essay, Liturgy in the Life of the Church:
“Now, in the case of Christian Initiation, modern historical research and historical reflection have shown that the universal primitive tradition of both East and West viewed the liturgical completion of Christian Initiation as one integral rite comprising three moments of baptism, chrismation and Eucharist, and without all three the process is incomplete. In Christian antiquity, to celebrate initiation without Eucharist would have made about as much sense as celebrating half a wedding would today. For this reason, contemporary Western Catholic experts on the liturgy and theology of Christian Initiation have insisted on the necessity of restoring the integrity of this process which broke down in the Middle Ages. . .
From the beginning of the primitive Church in East and West, the process of Christian Initiation for both children and adults was one inseparable sequence comprising catechumenate, baptism, chrismation (confirmation) and Eucharist. History is unmistakably clear in this matter: every candidate, child or adult, was baptized, confirmed, and given Communion as part of a single initiation rite. This is the universal ancient Catholic Tradition. Anything else is less ancient and has no claim to universality.
For centuries, this was also the tradition of the Church of Rome. In 417, Pope Innocent I in a doctrinal letter to the Fathers of the Synod of Milevis, teaches that infant initiation necessarily includes Communion:
“To preach that infants can be given the rewards of eternal life without the grace of baptism is completely idiotic. For unless theu eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, they will not have life in them. [Note: From the text, it is obvious that Innocent I is teaching principally that without baptism infants cannot be saved. But the argument he uses from John 6:53, which refers to the necessity of eucharist for salvation, shows he simply took for granted that communion was an integral part of Christian Initiation for infants].”
That this was the actual liturgical practice of Rome can be seen, for example, in the 7th century Ordo romanus XI, and in the 12th century Roman pontifical, which repeats almost verbatim the same rule (I cite from the later text):
“Concerning infants, care should be taken that they receive no food or be nursed (except in case of urgent need) before receiving the sacrament of Christ’s Body. And afterwards, during the whole of Easter Week, let them come to Mass, and receive Communion every day.”
Until the 12th century this was the sacramental practice of the Roman Church and the doctrinal teaching of Latin theologians. Christ Himself said in John 6:53 that it was necessary for eternal life to receive his Body and Blood—“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you”—and the medieval Latin theologians applied this to everyone without exception, infants included.
The practice began to be called into question in the 12th century not because of any argument about the need to have attained the “age of reason” (aetus discretionis) to communicate. Rather, the fear of profanation of the Host if the child could not swallow it led to giving the Precious Blood only. And then the forbidding of the chalice to the laity in the West led automatically to the disappearance of infant Communion, too. This was not the result of any pastoral or theological reasoning. When the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) ordered yearly confession and Communion for those who have reached the “age of reason” (annos discretionis), it was not affirming this age as a requirement for reception of the Eucharist. Even the 1910 decree Quam singulari issued under Pius X mentions the age of reason not as required before Communion, but as the age when the obligation of satisfying the precept begins.
Nevertheless, the notion eventually took hold that Communion could not be received until the age of reason, even though infant Communion in the Latin rite continued in some parts of the West until the 16th century. Though the Fathers of Trent (Session XXI,4) denied the necessity of infant Communion, they refused to agree with those who said it was useless and inefficacious—realizing undoubtedly that the exact same arguments used against infant Communion could also be used against infant baptism, because for over ten centuries in the West, the same theology was used to justify both! For the Byzantine rite, on December 23, 1534, Paul III explicitly confirmed the Italo-Albanian custom of administering Communion to infants.
So the plain facts of history show that for 1200 years the universal practice of the entire Church of East and West was to communicate infants. Hence, to advance doctrinal arguments against infant Communion is to assert that the sacramental teaching and practice of the Roman Church was in error for 1200 years. Infant Communion was not only permitted in the Roman Church, at one time the supreme magisterium taught that it was necessary for salvation. In the Latin Church the practice was not suppressed by any doctrinal or pastoral decision, but simply died out. Only later, in the 13th century, was the ‘age of reason’ theory advanced to support the innovation of baptizing infants without also giving them Communion. So the “age of reason” requirement for Communion is a medieval Western pastoral innovation, not a doctrinal argument. And the true ancient tradition of the whole Catholic Church is to give Communion to infants. Present Latin usage is a medieval innovation.”
There are two particularly grisly tales in the news in which dead babies are prominent: the trial in Philadelphia of abortionist Dr Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder for killing babies outside the womb, and here in Ohio, the arrest of Ariel Castro, accused of kidnapping, then imprisoning for over a decade, three young women, who were subjected to repeated rapes and beatings. The prosecutor has announced that he will seek the death penalty for Mr Castro, who more than once beat and starved one of the women whom he had impregnated until she aborted the child she was carrying.
These cases are curious for many reasons. The babies Dr Gosnell murdered were no different biologically or ontologically than if he had murdered them a few minutes earlier, when they were still inside their mothers. If he had done that he would only have been charged with violating Pennsylvania’s law against late term abortions. And those babies were no different biologically or ontologically than if he had killed them a couple of months earlier, which would have been perfectly legal.
And the babies Mr Castro killed? Fathered by a rapist? Even many who call themselves “prolife” believe that such children can be killed with impunity. This is unprincipled, to be sure, but even Catholics like Paul Ryan hold to this “exception”. If the young woman had escaped while pregnant her child’s life would have no value; it is apparent that its only value now is a legal way of seeking greater punishment for Mr Castro.
So when does life have value? When it is valued by the mother? When society finds it useful? Is it not apparent that in this country the value of human life is utterly arbitrary? And is this not a frightening thing, which sets a precedent for God knows what horrors?
This is yet another fruit of consequentialism, the idea that an act is moral or immoral not because of the innate nature of the act but because this or that good or evil consequence may follow from it. This is a sort of original sin of moral reasoning, one which may be used to justify any horror, from bombing civilian populations, to torturing terror suspects, or any act that treats human life as disposable for a “good” reason.
Until this nation rethinks this and acknowledges objective moral truth -in this case that it is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being - we can expect the fruits of this confusion, this divided mind, to continue to poison our nation.