Benedict XVI: the duties of bishops
On 21 September 2006, in the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo, Benedict XVI received a group of recently-appointed bishops who were participating in a meeting in Rome.
‘Following Christ's example,’ he told them, ‘each of you, in the daily nurture of your flock, must become 'all things to all men,' presenting the truth of faith, celebrating the sacraments of our sanctification and bearing witness to the Lord's charity. Welcome with an open heart those who knock at your door, advise them, console them and support them on the way of God.’
The Pope then reminded the bishops that, by virtue of their power to govern, they are called ‘to judge and discipline the life of the people of God entrusted to their pastoral care, with laws, indications and suggestions, in accordance with what is laid down by the universal discipline of the Church. This right and duty of bishops is absolutely vital in order that the diocesan community may be internally united and progress in profound union of faith, of love and of discipline with the Bishop of Rome and with the entire Church. ... Building ecclesial communion must be your daily duty.’
He called on the bishops to ensure that their days are characterised by ‘a constant contact with God,’ and explained how ‘living in intimate union with Christ will help you to strike that vital balance between inner meditation and the exertions required for the multiple occupations of life, avoiding the danger of excessive activism.’
Vatican Information Service
The duties of Catholics in public life
Political and community leaders are called to change the world with justice and charity, and with a greater love for God than for their careers, said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver at the Red Mass in Harrisburg, Pennsylvannia, on 3 October.
‘When people claim they're Catholic but do nothing in the public square to advance the Christian understanding of each human person's dignity, they're deceiving themselves and other people - but they're not fooling God,’ the Archbishop said, naming areas of concern to Catholics, such as embryonic stem-cell research, abortion, assisted suicide, marriage, immigration, poverty and the disabled.
‘We need to drill it into our heads that defending the sanctity of the human person and serving the common good can't be separated,’ he said. ‘Stuffing our Catholic faith in a closet when we enter the public square or join a public debate isn't good manners, and it isn't political courtesy. It's cowardice. And we'll be judged for that cowardice by the God who created us.
‘It's always easier to talk about social justice or political reform when the target of the reform is 'out there,' rather than in here.
‘The world does need to change, and in your vocation as public leaders, God is calling you to pursue that task with justice and charity; with a love for the common good and a reverence for human life. The world needs committed Catholic laypeople like yourselves to lead with humility, courage and love.
‘But what it [the world] needs more than anything else is holiness - holy men and women who love Jesus Christ and God's Word more than they love their own careers and agendas’.
Catholic News Agency
Democracy needs to be based on truth
On 8 September, Benedict XVI received prelates from the Canadian (Ontario) Conference of Catholic Bishops who had just completed their ad limina visit.
Speaking in English, the Pope indicated that ‘the fundamental task of the evangelisation of culture is the challenge to make God visible in the human face of Jesus. In helping individuals to recognise and experience the love of Christ, you will awaken in them the desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, embracing the life of the Church. This is our mission.’
He called ‘the split between the Gospel and culture, with the exclusion of God from the public sphere’, one of the ‘impediments to the spread of Christ's Kingdom’. He pointed to ‘certain values’ which had ‘evolved in the most disturbing of ways’. For example, ‘in the name of 'tolerance' your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of 'freedom of choice' it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children. When the Creator's divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost.’
Democracy succeeded, he continued, ‘only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person. Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle. ... In your discussions with politicians and civic leaders I encourage you to demonstrate that our Christian faith, far from being an impediment to dialogue, is a bridge, precisely because it brings together reason and culture.’
The Pope identified relativism as ‘a particularly insidious obstacle to education today.’ Hence, there is a particular need for ‘the apostolate of 'intellectual charity' which upholds the essential unity of knowledge, guides the young towards the sublime satisfaction of exercising their freedom in relation to truth, and articulates the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life.’
Vatican Information Service
UK Bishops respond to BBC attack on Pope
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, President of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, filed a complaint with the BBC in October over a recently aired documentary, which accused Benedict XVI of covering up child abuse by priests.
The Cardinal addressed his letter of protest to Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC.
The documentary, ‘Sex Crimes and the Vatican’, which aired on 1 October on BBC1's Panorama, claimed to reveal how, in 2001, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, issued a ‘secret Vatican edict’ telling the world's Catholic bishops to put the Church before children's safety.
It described a 39-page document, Crimen Sollicitationis, as an updated version of a 1962 Vatican order which, it claimed, laid down the rules for covering up sex scandals.
The film claimed Cardinal Ratzinger enforced the document for 20 years. It reportedly included an oath of secrecy, enforceable by excommunication. The program said he advised Church leaders to encourage complainants, the accused, and witnesses to talk about abuse allegations rather than report them to the police.
Fr Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer dismissed from his Vatican post after publicly criticising its handling of child abuse, appears in the film, saying the document was an explicit written policy to cover up abuse.
But in a statement, issued on behalf of the bishops' conference, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham explained that the document was not directly concerned with child abuse at all, but with the misuse of the confessional.
‘This has always been a most serious crime in Church law. The program confuses the misuse of the confessional and the immoral attempts by a priest to silence his victim,’ the statement read.
The statement described the documentary as an ‘unwarranted, prejudiced attack on a revered world religious leader’ and said ‘the BBC should be ashamed of the journalism used to create this unwarranted attack on Pope Benedict XVI’ with the use of ‘sensational tactics and misleading editing, old footage and undated interviews’.
Catholic News Agency
Pope's warning to theologians
Benedict XVI warned theologians against serving ‘the dictatorship of common opinion,’ as he celebrated Mass on 6 October with the members of the International Theological Commission.
The Commission had been meeting in Rome to discuss the fate of children who die unbaptised, with widespread reports indicating that the group would recommend a move away from the concept of Limbo. Benedict did not mention that topic in his homily during the Mass that closed the Commission's week-long meeting.
However, he did warn strongly against the temptation for theologians to ‘speak to elicit applause,’ and to be guided by ‘what men want to hear.’ That approach, he said, is ‘a kind of prostitution.’ The proper approach to theology is one of ‘harsh discipline in obedience to the truth.’
Benedict called the theologians' attention to the example of St Bruno, founder of the Carthusian order, whose feast the Church was celebrating. While a theologian cannot imitate St Bruno's commitment to silence, still any scholar should recognise the value of ‘silence and contemplation,’ the Pope said, since those habits ‘enable us to enter into God's silence and thus reach the point where the Word is born. God is not the object; God is the subject of theology.’
He urged the scholars to follow the ‘path of purification,’ seeking to become ‘only instruments through which God may speak.’
Catholic World News
Vatican approves new traditional institute
The Vatican has established a new religious institute to accommodate priests and seminarians leaving the Society of St Pius X. The new group, the Good Shepherd community, will be located in Bordeaux with its members allowed to celebrate Mass using the traditional liturgy exclusively.
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, signed the decree establishing the Good Shepherd community on 8 September. The institute will be a ‘society of apostolic life,’ under the supervision of the Congregation for Clergy and the Congregation for Religious.
The Vatican has approved the canonical statutes for the new institute, as well as the first superior, Father Philippe Laguérie, a priest who was dismissed from the Society of St Pius X (SSPX).
Informed sources at the Vatican report that Benedict XVI personally approved the settlement that will allow members of the Good Shepherd society to use the traditional liturgy, following the Missal of St Pius V.
The new fraternity will include five priests and a number of seminarians, including several who are in line for ordination to the priesthood shortly. Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos will celebrate the group's first ordinations. All of the members have already left the SSPX.
The creation of the Good Shepherd institute could provide an incentive for other priests to leave the SSPX. Father Laguérie, the leader of the new institute, expressed the concerns of traditionalists in March when he wrote that the Vatican should remedy ‘the scandals of the years 1960- 2000,’ and insisted traditionalists should have ‘total freedom for the liturgy’ and the liberty to question the teachings of Vatican II. He argued that Pope Benedict, in a December speech to the Roman Curia, had acknowledged the damage done by popular interpretations of Vatican II.
Catholic World News
Benedict XVI: importance of beautiful liturgy
Speaking of the tremendous value of the organ as a liturgical instrument, the Pope reminded a group of his native Bavarians on 13 September that music and song are ‘themselves part of the liturgical action,’ which makes us more capable, ‘of transforming the world.’
These, he said, ‘are more than an embellishment of worship, they are themselves part of the liturgical action.’
The organ, ‘transcending the merely human sphere, as all music of quality does, evokes the divine. ... It is capable of echoing and expressing all the experiences of human life. The manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God.’
Benedict continued, offering an analogy between the organ and the Church itself explaining, ‘Just as in an organ an expert hand must constantly bring disharmony back to consonance, so we in the Church, in the variety of our gifts and charisms, always need to find anew, through our communion in faith, harmony in the praise of God and in fraternal love.
‘The more we allow ourselves, through the liturgy, to be transformed in Christ, the more we will be capable of transforming the world, radiating Christ's goodness, His mercy and His love for others.’
Concluding his speech, Benedict declared, ‘May all those who enter this splendid Basilica, experiencing the magnificence of its architecture and its liturgy, enriched by solemn song and the harmony of this new organ, be brought to the joy of faith.’
Catholic News Agency