Posts tagged with: pope benedict xvi

Photo Credit: youngdoo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: youngdoo via Compfight cc

In this week’s commentary, “Made to Trade,” I explore the natural dispositions that human beings have to produce, exchange, consume, and distribute material goods.

If you’ve ever noticed that a sandwich made by someone else tastes better than one you make yourself, you’ll know what I’m getting at: “Recognizing the satisfaction that comes from such a gift of service from another person illustrates an other-directed disposition that is a deep and constitutive part of human nature.”

There is a gracious foundation for giving and receiving, whether in the form of gifts and distributions or in exchange. As Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate, “Gratuitousness is present in our lives in many different forms, which often go unrecognized because of a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life. The human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension.”

Sometimes I think the ideas of gift and exchange can be too radically distinguished. Benedict describes a gift as something that “by its nature goes beyond merit, its rule is that of superabundance.” The relationship between love and justice, or between charity and merit, is complex and difficult to hold in proper balance. Emphasis of one at the expense of the other leads to errors of antinomianism or legalism.

What is clear, however, is the gracious foundation of all of our economics activities derive from God’s providential ordering. We give, receive, “truck, barter, and exchange,” as a manifestation of the constitutive sociality of our human nature, created in God’s image, male and female.

National Public Radio did a roundup of views on what to expect from Pope Francis on economic issues. Reporter Jim Zarroli interviewed Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg and several commentators on the Catholic left. NPR host Audie Cornish introduced Zarroli’s report by observing that the new pope “comes from Argentina, where poverty and debt have long posed serious challenges. In the past, when thrust into debates about the country’s economic future, Francis had made strident comments about wealth, inequality and the markets. Now, some Catholics are hoping their new pope will play a similar role, giving voice to the poor and exerting influence on a global scale.” But Cornish cautioned that if “some say the idea that Pope Francis is some kind of economic liberal is to misread him and the church.”

Here’s the exchange between Gregg and Zarroli that wrapped up the report.

ZARROLI: But anyone who expects Francis to take an active role as a critic of capitalism is sure to be disappointed, says Samuel Gregg, research director of the Acton Institute. Gregg says even as the new pope was criticizing the IMF, he was also taking a stand against liberation theology, the leftist movement that swept some parts of the church in the 1970s and ’80s. Gregg says Francis saw the movement as tainted by Marxist ideas that were at odds with church teaching and he didn’t want the church in Argentina to become politicized.

SAMUEL GREGG: Liberation theology, at least certain strands of liberation theology, insisted that the church had to become involved in more or less revolutionary movements for justice. And his response was no, that is not the responsibility of priests. Priests are supposed to be pastors. They’re supposed to be guides. They’re supposed to offer the sacraments. They’re not politicians. They’re not revolutionaries. (more…)

Michael Severance, operations manager of the Istituto Acton in Rome, recently wrote an article for the World Catholic Report explaining why Pope Francis was a historic choice and examining  what we can expect from his papacy.

He points out that “this past week proved a historic week of firsts:”

We now have the first Jesuit pope. And the first pope named Francis. He is the first non-European pope since Gregory III, an eighth-century Syrian. And we now have the very first pope from the Americas.

We have also witnessed a pope who is shunning what some critics perceive as Vatican tinsel and niceties during these economic hard times.

Francis has refused to ride in the pope’s private car (preferring the shuttle bus) or to wear red shoes and a fur-lined cape, or mozzetta, opting for ordinary black shoes and a white cassock.

This is the first time in a very long while that we have listened to a pope who readily quips in public and frequently includes off-script interjections to prepared remarks—at his first Mass with his brother cardinals, then a second time during his first press conference with journalists on Saturday, then a third time during his Sunday sermon at the Vatican parish of St. Anne, and again only a few hours later at his noontime Angelus, when he preached from his apartment above St. Peter’s Square. Not even John Paul II was at such ease with humor and his own words so early on in his pontificate.

Since Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was somewhat unknown before he was elected Pope, Severance has compiled a brief profile of Pope Francis, focusing the pope as a pastor, thinker, and advocate for the poor. (more…)

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Surprise was the reaction in Rome on hearing of the elevation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, to the Papacy. My colleagues in Rome told me that the Plaza was unusually quiet as the people tried to figure out what was going on.  I guess the Cardinals showed that they elect the pope on their own terms, and now everyone is wondering who Pope Francis is, how he will lead, and what will characterize his pontificate.

Intra and Extra: Challenges for the Pope in the Church and the World

The Pope’s main role is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his first homily as Holy Father he asserted just this. “We can walk as much as we want,” he said  “we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a compassionate NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ.”  He also has a Church to govern—and he’ll face serious challenges on both fronts.  On the inside, the Church continues to reel from scandals and abuse. The curia needs to be reformed and the bureaucracy cleaned up. On the outside, Pope Francis faces a growing and hostile secularism, religious persecution from a number of fronts, dwindling number of believers in traditionally Catholic lands, including Latin America, and increasing ignorance of the basic tenets of Christianity. But there are also some real positives. The Church continues to grow in the Global South—especially in Africa and Asia. Belief is still high in Latin America, though many Catholics are leaving for the Pentecostals or evangelicals. Among U.S. Catholics, Hispanics are now the majority.  And while the Church in the West may be getting smaller, it is also more vibrant and serious. Younger Catholics are orthodox and evangelical, and dissenters like Hans Kung are aging and less influential each day. Pope Francis also has the advantage of following Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI, whose interpretation of Vatican II and whose intellectual and spiritual guidance set out a framework for the New Evangelization.

Francis brings several important things to his papacy. The most obvious are that he is a Latin American, and not a member of the Roman Curia. The Curia needs reform, and being an outsider with experience of diocesan dysfunction will serve him well. Further, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he not only dealt with extreme poverty, corruption, lack of rule of law, and social and economic volatility that is common in the developing world, he also has had to contend with virulent and aggressive secularism that is common in the West.  He has been a fearless defender of human life and family, has called abortion the “death penalty for the unborn,” and has been unafraid to clash with political leaders over corruption, reminding them that social corruption is rooted in personal sin.

He also brings a long record of engagement with the poorest of the poor. (more…)

New Delhi TV recently published a Agence Franch-Presse report describing the former pope’s “invisible presence at conclave:”

Retired pope Benedict XVI is gone but far from forgotten as cardinals begin voting for candidates to replace him, with his personal secretary Georg Gaenswein one of the last to leave the Sistine Chapel before the start of the conclave.

Rev. Robert Sirico addresses Benedict’s influence on the conclave:

Benedict has “been very careful not to insert himself into the proceedings” for his succession.

He pointed to Benedict’s “removal of himself to Castel Gandolfo, and the fact that he made no comments or expressed any preferences on a number of the things leading up to his resignation.”

The “pope emeritus,” who turns 86 next month, has begun his retirement at the papal summer residence outside Rome with promises of being “hidden from the world” and living as a “simple pilgrim.”

“Obviously there are consequences to his decision and obviously not all good,” Sirico acknowledged, adding: “It has to weigh on his mind (that the cardinal electors) are in this position because of his decision.”

One obvious consequence is that “future popes could more easily resign,” he noted. (more…)

The conclave to elect the new pope is scheduled to begin tomorrow afternoon after the public Missa pro Eligendo Pontifice (Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff) which is scheduled at 10am Rome time.   It was at this mass in 2005 after the death of John Paul II that the then Cardinal Ratizinger famously spoke of the “dictatorship of relativism.”   At 4:30 pm Rome time, the cardinals wearing full choir dress will enter the Sistine Chapel singing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit).  Cardinals will enter into conclave (from the Latin cum clave, meaning “with key”) and they will be locked away from the world with no access to television, newspapers, or mobile phones until they have elected the new pope.

As the Conclave gets underway and the world waits to see who will be the next pope, here are some helpful hints for making your way through the media storm that is already underway.

1. The papal election is not a U.S.- or European-style political event.

In our hyper politicized world where almost everything is reduced to politics it is hard for our imagination to process a public event like the election of a new pope outside of the structures of politics.  That’s not to say there’s no politics in the Church.  There’s too much of it.  Way too much. And it’s always a factor.  Nevertheless trying to understand the papal election if the light of the American political system or interest and lobbying groups will not be of much help. (more…)

ROME — For all the ‘Vaticanisti’ (journalists specializing in the Vatican) sitting around Rome and interviewing one another for the last several weeks, the wholesale consumption of high blood pressure medication took a precipitous drop on the announcement Friday afternoon that the Conclave to elect the new pope would occur on Tuesday, March 12, one day later than I had predicted several weeks ago.  Now is the lull before the storm. A Mass praying for the election of the pope will be followed by the first voting session of the Conclave in the early evening.

With many media outlets waiting for that date to be announced, the remaining hotel rooms left in Rome will be gobbled up, and by Monday evening we can expect an influx of the rest of the 5000 journalists accredited to the Holy See to cover the event.

It is difficult not to compare the lead up to this Conclave to the last one I had the opportunity to witness eight years ago.  Then, of course, one of the monumental figures of the twentieth century had passed from the scene after a long and highly visible bout with Parkinson’s disease.  By the time I had arrived to provide commentary at the BBC location above St. Peter’s Square, the body of John Paul II was being translated (an elegant way of saying the body was ‘moved’) from the Apostolic Palace where the pope lived and died, to beneath the Bernini colonnades in the center of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was a slow, mournful and moving sight.  By the time the body of the Polish pope was laid in state at the foot of the papal altar lines, long line, began forming down boulevard leading to the basilica.  The crowds would grow in the following days to estimates ranging from three to four million pilgrims to pay the last respects the John Paul II. (more…)

Acton president and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, and Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, are currently in Rome for the upcoming papal conclave. Here’s a roundup of their observations, including thoughts on the legacy of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.

Rev. Sirico was recently on the Laura Ingraham show discussing Benedict XVI’s resignation and legacy with guest host, Raymond Arroyo. Rev. Sirico pointed out that in some ways this is an “era of firsts,” once a new pope is elected, there will be photographs of the pope and the pope emeritus together. Sirico and Arroyo talk about Benedict’s plans for retirement and that his legacy has been a noble one. Rev. Sirico argues that some of Benedict’s biggest contributions as “the pope of reason” are his encyclicals, his liturgical reform, and his refusal to compromise the truths of the faith. Finally, they note that Benedict fought to move the ongoing secularization “in the direction of the sunlight.”

Listen to their conversation below:

Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, was invited on Ave Maria’s Al Kresta in the Afternoon to talk about true reform in the Catholic church. They discuss Gregg’s recent article, “Catholicism, True Reform and the Next Pope,” the new era that the church is entering into, and the reforms that must occur. Gregg states that the church is always in need of reform, as humans are sinful and need to continually conform their lives to Christ. The church as a whole needs this reform in order to better equip it for it’s ultimate purpose: evangelizing.

Listen to the full interview:

Samuel Gregg also spoke to Dave Weekley from Metro News Hotline. They first discuss the search for a new pope. Gregg points out that there are about 115 cardinals who will be voting, several of these men are from Italy, but they are from all over the world with about 50 percent being European. Gregg also discusses his personal reaction to Benedict XVI’s resignation.

Listen here:

For all the latest news about Benedict’s resignation and the selection process for the new pope, visit Acton’s Resource Page.

Detroit News reporter Oralandar Brand-Williams interviewed Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton’s Rome office, about preparations at the Vatican to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI. A date for the conclave, the assembly of cardinals that will elect the next pope, has not yet been set. Jayabalan said that there is no cause for concern. “They need to wait for all the voting cardinals to arrive before deciding on the date,” he told The News. “There’s a sense it’s better to take some time rather than rush it.”

The Italian news agency ANSA is reporting that “Hong Kong bishop John Tong Hon, one of the last cardinal electors set to come to Rome for the conclave, arrived in the Italian capital early on Wednesday.”

Read “Cardinals taking their time electing pope’s successor” by Oralandar Brand-Williams in The Detroit News.

On the website of Crisis Magazine, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg looks at the “tsunami of unsolicited advice from pop atheists, incoherent playwrights, angry ex-priests, and celebrity theologians that has erupted since Benedict XVI’s abdication.” Then there’s Hans Küng’s article in the New York Times:

Much of Küng’s article involves his familiar tactics of citing dubious polls (as if polls somehow determine Christ’s will for His Church) about Catholics’ views of the usual subjects as well as propagating myths about Church history. Then there is his mockery of the evident love for Benedict and his saintly predecessor by young church-going Catholics. According to the good professor, we shouldn’t pay too much attention to “the wild applause of conservative Catholic youth groups.” Plainly it’s been a very, very long time since young Catholics have applauded Father Küng—assuming, that is, they even know who he is. As one such person recently remarked to me: “Hans Küng? I thought he was dead.”

Hans Küng

Hans Küng

Writing in his Carnets du Concile during the Second Vatican Council, the Jesuit theologian and council peritus Henri de Lubac—who was no reactionary—described Küng as possessing a “juvenile audacity” and habitually speaking in “incendiary, superficial, and polemical” terms. Nothing, it seems, has changed. But amidst his litany of half-truths, Küng is right about one thing. There is something dying in global Catholicism. It’s just not what he thinks it is.

Read “Catholicism, True Reform and the Next Pope” by Samuel Gregg at Crisis Magazine.