Commentary: Don’t buy fake agendas; defend the pope!


London, England, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For years now, I have bemoaned the growing number of so-called progressive Catholic figures, in academia, the media and the outer curial orbit, who fancy themselves to be the Pope’s ideological vanguard, amidst what they have taken to calling their “intra-ecclesial battle.”

The agenda they push is an obvious rehash of seventies liberalism: a “progressive” approach to sexual ethics, acceptance of divorce and remarriage, recognition of same-sex relationships, “creating a space” for those who disagree with the Church on life issues. This rather tired agenda has been dressed up in the language of woke university students and twitter social justice warriors, but its core premise remains the same as it ever was - to push the fallacy that Vatican II was part of the cultural revolution of the sixties, rather than the Church’s answer to it. Their efforts are easy to spot, just look for the people endlessly invoking the council but never actually quoting a document from it.

Their main objective is to fracture the continuity and authority of the Church’s essential teaching on the dignity and nature of the human person, relationships with God and other people, and society. In this fight, they have identified the key battleground, their greatest enemy, and their biggest opportunity: Pope Francis.

Pope Francis, from the moment of his election, has been a gigantic figure on the global stage. Through a combination of his personal charisma and the age of viral social media, his every soundbite gets attention and circulation that his predecessors couldn’t have imagined. Being seen to be “with” the pope is more powerful than ever before.

Conversely, being painted as “anti-Francis” is now the fastest way to find yourself beyond the pale of acceptable Church discourse - a far cry from the days when the progressive ‘cool kids’ seemed to take a juvenile kind of pride in forcing St. John Paul II or Benedict XVI to discipline them. Many of those who previously wore dissent as a badge of distinction have become the first and fiercest to label those they dislike, whether journalists, academics, or even cardinals, as “disloyal” to the pope, and opposed to his teaching authority.

Yet those who cry the loudest against the pope’s supposed opponents are themselves at the sharp end of a campaign of double deception. They insist that they are with the pope, or rather he is with them, and so to oppose them, on anything, is to oppose the pope. This is a falsehood.

The list of subjects on which Pope Francis is at odds with his self-appointed enforcers has grown to a comical length. In the last few months alone, Pope Francis has sided with the parents of Charlie Gard in defense of life, contrary to statements from the remade Pontifical Academy of Life, headed by Archbishop Paglia, and he has publicly echoed Cardinal Sarah’s call for a rediscovery of reverential silence in the liturgy, even as the Pope’s supposed-supporters demanded that Sarah be sacked.

Just days ago, the election of Archbishop Joseph Naumann as chairman of the US Bishops’ Conference pro-life committee was railed against by prominent liberal Catholics, who shouted themselves hoarse arguing that this election was an explicit rejection of the pope, and of his entire vision for the Church.

Pope Francis has, of course, called abortion a “horrendous crime,” a “very grave sin,” and, just last month, part of a “eugenic tendency” against the disabled. None of this made it into liberal coverage of the vote, nor was it held to be a factor in the election of an archbishop with sterling pro-life credentials over another who once discouraged his priests from participating in the 40 Days for Life campaign.

This is a group doing everything they can to take the pope’s public image and message hostage, and replace it with their own. The extent to which these voices are trying to define a “Francis agenda” contrary to the clear teaching of the Pope himself would be laughable, if their spurious arguments didn’t seem to gain so much traction.

Their biggest success thus far has been the confected row over communion for the divorced and remarried, an idea the pope has repeatedly refused to endorse, even categorically refuting the claim that his call for “full integration into parish life” meant receiving communion. The motivating force behind this campaign has nothing to do with pastoral concern for the tiny minority of catholics in this situation, in fact many of them have been hurt by the confusion and speculation of this effort. Rather, the goal is to force a crack, in practice if not yet in theory, in the Church’s absolute adherence to the indissolubility of marriage. It has also served to successfully suppress any discussion of the actual content of Amoris Latitiae, a document which not only reaffirms the permanence of marriage, but actually endorses the teaching of Humanae Vitae, the great liberal bête noire of the last sixty years.  It also rejects, in stark terms, the great progressive causes of the moment: a softened stance on abortion and euthanasia, same-sex unions, and gender theory.

Successfully convincing huge swathes of the Church that the pope is in favor of the very things he has condemned, while the evidence to the contrary is there for all to see, is the result of an incredibly brazen slight of hand, unwittingly abetted by the pope’s indifference to television and the internet. It has sown division and discord across the Church. There needs to be an urgent and unflinching response, one which takes true filial pride in the real papal magisterium and uses it to confront those who knowingly abuse the name and authority of Pope Francis and Vatican Council II for their own ends.

 

 Ed Condon is a canon lawyer working for tribunals in a number of dioceses. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.


Tips from a local: What Cardinal Bo recommends for Pope’s visit to Burma


Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:00 am (CNA).- To prepare for Pope Francis’ trip to Burma, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the first and sole Burmese cardinal in the Church’s history, met with the Pontiff in a private audience Nov. 18.  The cardinal offered the Pope three recommendations for his upcoming trip.
 
Cardinal Bo told CNA that “the meeting lasted about 30 minutes,” and that the Pope took each of his recommendations under consideration.
 
What did Cardinal Bo recommend?
 
First, he asked the Pope not to use the term “Rohingya” in speeches during the trip. Cardinal Bo explained that “the term is controversial.” In the Bengali language it means “a person who comes from the State of Rakhine”, though it is frequently suggested, and a matter of widespread controversy, that Rohingya are “a separate ethnic identity.”  

“Extremists are trying to mobilize a population by using the word Rohingya, thus generating the risk of a possible new interreligious conflict,” the cardinal explained.

The term “Rohingya” often refers to Muslims from in the Rakhine State of Burma, who are not granted citizenship under Burmese law, and thus are stateless. The United Nations estimated that 582,000 Rohingya have fled Burma for Bangladesh. Pope Francis has made a number of appeals for the protection of the Rohingya.

Cardinal Bo said that the correct term is “Muslims of the Rakhine State.” He added that there are other minorities in Burmese territory who are enduring persecution and conflicts, among them the Kachin, Kahn, and Shahn people.  He said these ethnic minorities also face displacement, but the “media are weak in telling their story.”
 
Cardinal Bo’s second recommendation was to include in the Pope’s schedule a meeting with General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces.  Burma functioned as a military dictatorship for more than 50 years, until democratic reforms taking root in 2011.

 Despite newly emerging signs of democratic reform in Burma, also called Myanmar, the military still wields considerable political authority, including the appointment of cabinet ministers, and one-quarter of the nation’s legislature.
 
Although the Pope’s agenda has no meeting scheduled with the general, Cardinal Bo thinks it is important that a meeting take place. “For sixty years,” he said, “the Church has had no dialogue with the Army, while now a relationship has started, and we hope that the dialogue will improve.”
 
Cardinal Bo stressed that “an official meeting between the Pope and the general” would raise some issues, but there could be “a discreet private meeting,” because “neglecting the government during this trip could bring more tensions in future.” Cardinal Bo said that the Pope “would advise the general to work for peace, and have a greater respect for Burmese ethnic minority groups.”
 
Finally, the Archbishop of Yangon offered the Pope the opportunity to include a meeting with some Burmese leaders who promote interreligious dialogue.
 
He told CNA that the group of leaders is composed of “about 15 people, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims (including Muslims of the Rakhine State) and Hindus.” Cardinal Bo suggested the Pope include a meeting with them before one of the Masses the Pope will celebrate in the country. He told the Pope that “the group for the interreligious dialogue cannot be set aside, because this group could give a great contribution to build peace in the country.”
 
All of these suggestions are part of the Church’s effort to bridge communities in Burma. Although Catholics represent just one percent of population, they have become a sort of reference point for the other religions based in Burma, the cardinal said.
 
The cardinal shared with CNA that “Pope’s speeches will touch many issues: the situation of the Muslims of the Rakhine State, but also that of other minorities who are suffering.”
 
He added that “the Pope will speak about the need to work for peace,” but he will also mention the “equal use of natural resources” and environmental issues.
 
Burma is very rich in natural resources, including oil, gas, minerals, precious stones and gems, as well as  timber and forest products. Despite that, about one-quarter of population lives below the poverty line. The exploitation of timber and forests make urgent the need to tackle environmental issues.
 
Burma’s complicated political situation led Cardinal Bo to ask Western world that “there are in fact two government in Myanmar, and the military one is very powerful. The west was very judgmental and strongly criticized Aung san Suu Kyi [a democratic reformer who has been criticized regarding certain human rights issues], but people who criticize don’t know what it means to dialogue with the military.”
 
Cardinal Bo said that “the west should better understand and back Aung San Suu Kyi, as she is trying to do her best to improve the collaboration between the government and military forces.”


Pope: Are you afraid of God? If so, you don't really know who he is


Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 05:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Sunday cautioned against having a “mistaken” idea of God as harsh and punishing, saying this fear will end up paralyzing us and preventing us from doing good, rather than spreading his love and mercy.

“Fear always immobilizes and often leads us to make bad choices,” the Pope said Nov. 19. “Fear discourages us from taking the initiative, and encourages us to seek refuge in safe and guaranteed solutions, and so we end up doing nothing good.”

To go forward and grow on the path of life, he said, “we must not be afraid, but we have to trust.”  

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his Sunday Angelus address on the first-ever World Day for the Poor, which he implemented at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy.

In his speech, the Pope turned to the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, which recounts the parable of the talents. In the passage, a master goes on a long trip and entrusts three servants with different talents, but when he returns, only two have gained profit from it, while the third buried his out of fear.

This parable “makes us understand how important it is to have a true idea of God,” Francis said, noting that the third servant didn't really trust his master, but but feared him, and this fear prevented him from acting.

We shouldn't think that God is “an evil, harsh and severe master who wants to punish us,” the Pope said, explaining that if we have this “mistaken image of God, then our lives cannot be fruitful, because we will live in fear and this will not lead us to anything constructive.”

Fear, he said, paralyzes us and so is self-destructive. So when faced with the unfaithful servant in this parable, each of us is called to reflect on what our idea of God really is.

Turning to the Old Testament, Francis noted how in Exodus God is described as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Even in the New Testament, Jesus always demonstrated that God is not “a severe and intolerant master,” but a father full of “love and tenderness, a father full of goodness,” Francis said, and because of this, “we can and must have immense trust in him.”

Jesus, he said, shows us his generosity in various ways, through his words, actions, and his welcome towards all, especially toward sinners and the poor and vulnerable. But also with his admonishments, “which show his interest in us so that we do not waste our lives uselessly.”

This, the Pope said, is a sign of the great esteem God has for us, and having this knowledge ought to help us to take responsibility for our every action.

Concluding, Pope Francis said parable invites us to have “a personal responsibility and fidelity which become capable of continually placing ourselves on new roads, without burying the talent, which is are the gifts that God has entrusted to us and of which he will ask us to account for.”

After leading pilgrims in the Angelus prayer, the Pope made a series of appeals, the first of which was for the World Day for the Poor. He prayed that the poor and disadvantaged would be “the center of our communities” not just on special occasions, but always, “because they are the heart of the Gospel, in them we encounter Jesus who speaks to us and challenges us through their sufferings and their needs.”

He also drew attention to beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey yesterday in Detroit, saying the friar was “a humble and faithful disciple of Christ, who distinguished himself with an untiring service to the poor.”

“May his witness help priests, religious and laity to live with joy the link between the announcement of the Gospel and the love for the poor.”

Francis also offered special prayers for those living “a painful poverty” due to war and conflict, and renewed his appeal to the international community “to commit every possible effort in favor of peace, especially in the Middle East.”

He prayed especially for Lebanon, particularly for the country's stability, “so that it may continue to be a message of respect and sharing for every religion and for the entire world.”

A final appeal he made was for the crew of an Argentine military submarine, who have been missing for several days without a trace.

After concluding the Angelus, Pope Francis made his way to the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, where he had lunch with some 1,500 poor and needy in town for the World Day of the Poor.

Before the meal, Francis said a blessing for the food and for everyone there, asking the Lord “to bless us, to bless the meal, to bless those who prepared it, to bless all of us, our hearts, our families, our desires and our lives, that he give us health and strength. Amen.”

He also offered a blessing for all those eating in other soup kitchens throughout Rome. “Rome is full of these today,” he said, and asked for “a greeting and an applause” for the thousands of others participating in the event.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PopeFrancis?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PopeFrancis</a> says blessing before eating lunch, prays for the cooks, the guests, their families &amp; charity organizations in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rome?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Rome</a>: asks that they receive &quot;health &amp; strength&quot; <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldDayofthePoor?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldDayofthePoor</a> <a href="https://t.co/jRrW0dN3xc">pic.twitter.com/jRrW0dN3xc</a></p>&mdash; Elise Harris (@eharris_it) <a href="https://twitter.com/eharris_it/status/932212710749691905?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 19, 2017</a></blockquote>
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