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Homélies du dimanche, homilies, homilieën, homilias. "C'est par la folie de la prédication que Dieu a jugé bon de sauver ceux qui croient" 1 Co 1,21

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"Non Prævalebunt." How and Why Benedict XVI Is Standing Up to the Attacks

dominicanus #homilies in English

The crisis of the Church is not resolved with the practical changes requested by its critics, but with a more lively and more real faith. Joseph Ratzinger was absolutely convinced of this as already as a cardinal. A memorable clash between him and a French archbishop helps to explain his current conduct as pope.






ROME, August 1, 2011 – In the heart of this summer, the attacks against Benedict XVI have suddenly picked up steam again, from outside and inside of the Church.

From the outside, there has been the frontal attack – of unprecedented harshness – of Irish prime minister Enda Kenny, who accused the Catholic hierarchy, even at the highest levels, of protecting pedophile priests from the rigors of earthly justice. Kenny even found a guilty seat for Joseph Ratzinger, because of this statement when he was a cardinal: "Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church."

In an editorial, the "Financial Times" also sided with the Irish prime minister and against the Catholic Church. In Ireland, a law is being considered that would require priests to inform state agencies of any sexual abuse of minors learned about in the sacrament of confession.

From within the Church, meanwhile, a new onslaught of demands has emerged on the part of droves of priests in Austria, the United States, Australia, and little by little in other countries, calling for the abolition of clerical celibacy, the conferral of priestly ordination on women, communion for divorced and remarried persons.

What ties all of these attacks together is the pressure to make the Church conform to the practices of the modern democracies, and imitate the dominant cultural currents. 

At closer inspection, the reform of the Church demanded by these accusers has at its center not doctrinal changes, but the modification of its organization and discipline. Orthodoxy does not matter to them, but orthopraxy does: it is the practical rules of the Church that must be changed and brought into step with the times.

It is precisely of this that Benedict XVI is accused: of insisting on the truth of doctrine, and rejecting the practical innovations that the Church needs.


In reality, the current pontificate is also characterized by an important series of normative changes in the areas of liturgy, finance, law, ecumenism, to the point that authoritative scholars of ecclesiastical law dedicated a recent conference precisely to "Benedict XVI, canonical legislator."

The conclusions of the conference are found in this article from www.chiesa:

> Six Years on the Throne of Peter. An Interpretation (1.7.2011)

But in what sense does Benedict XVI see himself as a "legislator"?

To answer this question, it is helpful to go back to before his election as pope: to a talk given by Cardinal Ratzinger in Paris, at the Sorbonne. A talk that was followed by a lively debate between himself and the archbishop of Bordeaux at the time, Cardinal Pierre Eyt, also a member of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith of which Ratzinger was prefect.

It was November 27, 1999. Ratzinger entitled his talk "Truth of Christianity?" And anyone who rereads it will find it in extraordinary harmony with the lecture he gave as pope in Regensburg on September 12, 2006.

In Paris, approaching his conclusion, Ratzinger said:

"Looking at the past, we can say that the power that transformed Christianity into a worldwide religion lies in the synthesis that it achieved among reason, faith, and life, briefly indicated with the expression 'religio vera'."

And he continued: 

"All of the crises within Christianity that can be seen in our day can be reduced only secondarily to problems of an institutional nature. The problems of both an institutional and a personal nature in the Church are derived, in the final analysis, from this question and from its enormous weight."

That is, precisely, from Christianity's "claim of truth," at a time in which for many men there are no longer certainties, but only opinions.


Cardinal Eyt reacted to these theses a few days later, in the December 9, 1999 issue of the Catholic newspaper "La Croix."

He objected that the "institutional problems" of the Church are not at all secondary, as Ratzinger had maintained.

Bishops and cardinals, in Eyt's view, must every day "decide and take positions with urgency." They cannot dawdle, because every day "their backs are against the wall." Under the provocations of the sensibility of today, "we must put our conceptions and practices to the test a little bit more."

Which practices? By way of example, Cardinal Eyt cited the remarks of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini at the synod that year, which had indicated the following questions as requiring change: "the role of women in society and in the Church, the participation of laypeople in some ministerial responsibilities, sexuality, matrimonial discipline, the relationship with the sister Churches of Orthodoxy, the need to revive ecumenical hopes, the relationship between democracy and values, between civil law and morality."


Ratzinger counterreplied on December 30, in "La Croix." And the first two points of his reply were the following:

"1. The cardinal [Eyt] says that, in the analysis of the decisions of the ancient Church, I should not only have taken into consideration the relationship between faith and rationality, but should also have highlighted the relationship between faith and Roman law.

"I cannot agree on this point. The relationship between faith and reason, in fact, is an original option of the Christian faith already formulated clearly in the prophetic and wisdom literature of the Old Testament, and then revisited decisively by the New Testament. The claim, in the face of mythical religion and politics, of being a faith in relationship with the truth and thus responsible with respect to reason, belongs to the essential self-definition of the biblical heritage, a heritage that preceded Christian mission and theology and that, even more, made them possible.

"The relationship with human law, instead, was developed only gradually beginning in the fourth century, and, with respect to the decay of the structures of the empire, was never able to attain in the West the same significance that it had in the Church of the Byzantine empire. This is a matter of a secondary option, which was introduced in a particular era and could also disappear again. It is certainly true that there is a fundamental mutual relationship between law and the Church, but this is a question independent of the other.

"2. My confrere of the college of cardinals maintains that I undervalue the meaning of the institutions. It is an indisputable fact that the Christian faith, from its origins, did not want to be only an idea, that it entered into the world endowed with institutional elements (apostolic function, apostolic succession) and that, therefore, the institutional form of the Church belongs by essence to the faith. But the institutions cannot survive if they are not sustained by common fundamental convictions, and if there is not an emphasis of values that establishes its identity.

"The fragility of this emphasis is – I repeat – the specific reason for the current crisis of the Church. Cardinal Eyt is right to remind me of the institutional decisions that I must make on a daily basis. But it is precisely here that the connection becomes clear for me. Wherever the decisions of the magisterium on values decisive for the identity of the ecclesial institution can no longer count on a common conviction, they are necessarily perceived as repressive, and remain, in the final analysis, ineffective.

"Those who defend the Trinitarian doctrine, the Christology, the sacramental structure of the Church, its origin in Christ, the function of Peter or the fundamental moral teaching of the Church etc., and must combat the negation of these as incompatible with the ecclesial institution, are shooting in the dark if the opinion spreads that all of this [truth as a whole] is without importance. In this way, an institution becomes an empty shell and falls into ruin, even if it remains powerful on the outside or gives the appearance of having solid foundations.

"Because of this, the institutional decisions of the magisterium can become fruitful only on the condition that they are connected to a serious and determined fight for a new emphasis of the fundamental options of the faith."


Returning to today, in seeing Ratzinger at work as "legislator pope," it might seem that he has changed his mind: that is, that the institutions, systems, and canonical norms are no longer something "secondary" for him. 

But that's not the case. Every time that Benedict XVI legislates – for example, by liberalizing the Mass in the ancient Roman rite or reinforcing the norms against the "delicta graviora" – he does everything he can to demonstrate both the foundation of truth of the decisions made, and their specificity with respect to the laws of the earthly city.

Where this "emphasis of the fundamental options of the faith" is lacking, he is careful to avoid complying with the "provocations of today's sensibility."

For him, orthopraxy cannot be separated from orthodoxy, just as "caritas" is such only "in veritate."

The final paragraph of his 1999 talk at the Sorbonne said exactly this:

"The attempt to restore, in this crisis of humanity, a global significance to the notion of Christianity as 'religio vera' must aim simultaneously at orthopraxy and orthodoxy. Its content, now as before, must consist, more profoundly, in the correspondence between love and reason as fundamental pillars of the real: true reason is love, and love is true reason. In their unity, they are the true foundation and the end of all reality."

I owe the inspiration for this analysis to Professor Carlo Fantappiè, a tenured professor of canon law at the university of Urbino and author of important studies on the Church and contemporary law. He has my heartfelt gratitude. (s.m.)

Sandro Magister


The original text, in French, of Joseph Ratzinger's talk in Paris, at the Sorbonne, on November 27, 1999:

> Verité du Christianisme?

The complete text of the attack against the Catholic hierarchy made on July 20, 2011, in parliament, by the prime minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny:

> Commission of Investigation Report in the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne: Motion

The sentence cited by Kenny to seat the current pope as well among the defendants is taken from paragraph 39 of the 1990 instruction "Donum Veritatis" on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian, signed by then cardinal Ratzinger as prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith:

> Donum veritatis

As can be seen from the entire paragraph 39 of this instruction, the sentence has nothing to do with pedophilia, but concerns the foundation of the truths of faith, which cannot be determined by "democratic" voting:

"39. The Church, which has her origin in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is a mystery of communion. In accordance with the will of her founder, she is organized around a hierarchy established for the service of the Gospel and the People of God who live by it. After the pattern of the members of the first community, all the baptized with their own proper charisms are to strive with sincere hearts for a harmonious unity in doctrine, life, and worship (cf. Acts 2:42). This is a rule which flows from the very being of the Church. For this reason, standards of conduct, appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy, cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church. Even less can relationships within the Church be inspired by the mentality of the world around it (ct. Rom 12:2). Polling public opinion to determine the proper thing to think or do, opposing the Magisterium by exerting the pressure of public opinion, making the excuse of a 'consensus' among theologians, maintaining that the theologian is the prophetical spokesman of a 'base' or autonomous community which would be the source of all truth, all this indicates a grave loss of the sense of truth and of the sense of the Church."

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

China. On the Powers of the Bishops, the Council Saw Far Ahead

dominicanus #homilies in English

It established that without the papal mandate, they cannot govern the dioceses. The young Ratzinger was against it at the time, but soon changed his mind. It is thanks to that norm that today, as pope, he is disarming the illegitimate bishops. And defusing the schism ...




ROME, July 22, 2011 – "Bishops Or Mandarins? The Dilemma of the Chinese Church." This was the title of an article published forty days ago on www.chiesa.

Since then, in China, the "mandarins" have increased by two, at least. And still others are about to arrive.

"Mandarins" refers to those bishops who instead of being united to the successor of Peter are created and act as officials of the empire. Ordained at the behest of the Chinese authorities, without the mandate of the pope.

Since 2006, no illicit episcopal ordinations had been carried out in China, and every new bishop was consecrated with twofold approval, of both the Chinese authorities and the Holy See.

Not only that. Step by step, those bishops who had been ordained without the mandate of the pope made acts of obedience and obtained approval from Rome.

In the summer of 2010, the reunification of the two branches of the Chinese Church – state-approved and clandestine – seemed almost within reach. The bishops who remained separated from Rome could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

But suddenly, in the autumn of 2010, the harmony was disrupted. The authorities of the regime reinvigorated the two institutions with which they keep the Church at bay, the Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops. They put in charge bishops submissive to them, including some in formal communion with Rome. And through these, they resumed the installation of new bishops without the papal mandate.

The first of the new illicit ordinations took place on November 20, 2010 in Chengde, the second on June 29, 2011 in Leshan, and the third last July 14 in Shantou.

Others will follow. The spokesmen of the regime speak of about forty dioceses waiting for new bishops chosen by the authorities, no matter if this is without the papal mandate.

Tainted by these acts of grave rupture with the Church of Rome are not only the newly ordained, but also the bishops who consecrate them.

The code of canon law, at canon 1382, punishes such acts with excommunication "latae sententiae," which goes into effect automatically at the very moment the illicit act is performed.

And this is what the Vatican authorities have reaffirmed, in two statements released following the two most recent ordinations.

Prudently, however, the Vatican authorities have indicated that only the newly ordained have definitely incurred excommunication. For the consecrating bishops, they are suspending judgment until they ascertain whether they acted freely or under constraint.

But for these latter as well, until the suspension is resolved, the sanctions are severe.

In a blog posting in Chinese and English created for this purpose on July 12, the online news agency "Fides" of the Vatican congregation for the evangelization of peoples – in charge of the dioceses in China – recalled that the excommunicated bishops cannot celebrate the Mass, nor administer or receive the sacraments, nor govern their respective dioceses. Even if they were to repent and the excommunication were revoked, they would not be able to exercise the episcopal ministry until Rome authorized them to do so.

As for the consecrating bishops, until they have demonstrated that they acted under constraint, they will nevertheless find themselves in the state of "presumed imputability." Therefore they as well will be unable to exercise their episcopal ministry, and the priests and faithful will have to avoid receiving the sacraments administered by them.

If to the definitely excommunicated are added the "presumed imputable" and the bishops without papal recognition, there are now a couple of dozen Chinese bishops in a state of schism with Rome today.

The ordination of these "mandarin" bishops is sacramentally valid. Also sacramentally valid are the Masses celebrated by them. What they lack is hierarchical communion with the see of Peter. And it is this that renders them devoid of authority over their respective dioceses, over the clergy and the faithful.

They are in fact bishops, but devoid of that power of governance which only the pope can give. The declarations and instructions that the Holy See released following the latest illicit episcopal ordinations in China insist on this. 

This is a point that saw a highly charged clash of positions at Vatican Council II.

There were in fact some who held the position according to which sacramental ordination is sufficient to confer on the new bishop the fullness of his powers, including that of governance, without the need for a further mandate from the pope: that is, precisely the position that is so agreeable to the Chinese authorities today.

An active part in that conciliar clash was also played by a young theologian named Joseph Ratzinger.

On which side of the fence did he stand?


To answer this question, one must go back to the middle of November 1964, to what has been called the "black week" of Vatican Council II.

That week began, on Monday, November 16, with the unexpected reading in the basilica of Saint Peter, on the part of the secretary general of the Council, Archbishop Pericle Felici, of a "Nota explicativa praevia" desired by the "highest authority," meaning Pope Paul VI.

At the behest of the pope, the note was to be received as "explanation and interpretation" of chapter three of the constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium": the chapter dedicated to the role of the bishops, submitted for voting in those same days.

In point number 2, the note affirmed that one becomes a bishop by virtue of episcopal consecration. But in order that a bishop may exercise the "power" that has been conferred on him with sacred orders, he must receive the "iuridica determinatio" from the supreme authority of the Church.

The note raised protests from the progressives. Even the theologian who had drafted it, the Belgian Gérard Philips, was complaining two years later about its excessive "legalism," which ended up "suffocating and extinguishing the communion of charity."

Among the conciliar periti, one of the most determined in criticizing the note was the young Ratzinger, who was the trusted theologian of German cardinal Joseph Frings.

In an essay that will soon be published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana and has recently been previewed in issue number 61 of the Notiziario of the Paul VI Institute, the author, Belgian canon Leo Declerck, reconstructs Ratzinger's position at that juncture, on the basis of the diaries of other protagonists of the Council.

In order to clear the way for the note and its interpretation of the powers of the bishops, Ratzinger met with Professor Giuseppe Alberigo, a representative of Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti, who was the leader of the progressives. Together they wrote the draft of a speech by which Cardinal Frings would downgrade the note to a simple commission text and would ask that it be submitted for discussion in the assembly. At the same time, groups of bishops, including about a hundred Africans, would sign petitions to the pope. The objective was the removal of the entire third chapter of "Lumen Gentium."

But that's not what happened. The third chapter was approved by a large majority, and the note entered among the conciliar documents as a supplement to "Lumen Gentium."

Ratzinger recognized afterward that the note had had the merit of defeating the "maximalism" of the progressives and appeasing the Council's traditionalist minority, getting "Lumen Gentium" approved almost unanimously.

But he was careful to point out that the note did not bear the signature of the pope or of the Council fathers, but only that of Archbishop Felici.

And he wrote, shortly after the Council had ended, that in any case the note left "a bitter taste," both for the way in which it had been imposed and for its content, expressive "of a legal-systematic mindset that has as its standard the present-day juridical figure of the Church," in contrast with "an historical approach that would be based on the full extent of Christian revelation."

Today, a few decades later, having become pope, Joseph Ratzinger takes a more critical view of the conviction that "the Church should not be a Church of law, but a Church of love," free from juridical restraints.

He has criticized this position on a number of occasions. And with an important series of normative provisions, he has shown that he sees the role of canon law as essential in governing the Church.

If today Benedict XVI does not recognize the authority of the Chinese bishops ordained without his mandate, and also thanks to this rule "is confirming the faith" of Catholics in China, he owes this precisely to that "Nota explicativa praevia" which had seemed so unpalatable to him when it was promulgated. 

Sandro Magister


The essay of Leo Declerck previewed in issue number 61 of the Notiziario of the Paul VI Institute is entitled: "Les réactions de quelques 'periti' du Concile Vatican II à la 'Nota explicativa praevia' (G. Philips, J, Ratzinger. H. De Lubac, H. Schauf)."

It will be published soon in the volume by E. Ehret, "Papstlicher Primat und Episkopat," being printed by Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The "Nota explicativa praevia" on the powers of the bishops is found at the end of the text of the dogmatic constitution on the Church promulgated by Vatican Council II:

> Lumen gentium

On Benedict XVI as "canonical legislator":

> Six Years on the Throne of Peter. An Interpretation

The declaration of the pontifical council for the interpretation of legislative texts published in "L'Osservatore Romano" on June 11, 2011, on the canonical effects of the illicit episcopal ordinations:

> Illicit ordinations in China: the Holy See explains what is to be done with excommunicated bishops

The declaration of the Holy See of July 4, 2011, in English, Chinese, and Italian, on the illicit ordination of the bishop of Leshan:

> "With regard to the episcopal ordination..."

The blog posting in Chinese and English created on July 12, 2011 by the online agency "Fides" of the congregation for the evangelization of peoples, with twelve questions and answers on what to do in the case of illicit episcopal ordinations:

> Being Catholic in China

The statement by the Holy See of July 16, 2011, in English, Chinese, and Italian, on the illicit ordination of the bishop of Shantou:

> "The following clarifications..."

On the resistance of Chinese bishops, priests, and faithful in communion with Rome to the illicit episcopal ordinations backed by the regime:

> Chinese Church "resists" excessive power of Government and Patriotic Association

Two Catholic news agencies that specialize in the Church in China, with continually updated news:

> Asia News

> UCA News

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

From the Prairie to the Atlantic Coast. The New Bishops Stateside

dominicanus #homilies in English

After Scola goes to Milan, now Chaput is going to Philadelphia. Step by step, the appointments of Benedict XVI are remodeling the leadership of the foremost countries of worldwide Catholicism. An interview with the newly elect 


charles j. chaput


ROME, July 19, 2011 – The appointment, made public today, of Charles J. Chaput as the new archbishop of Philadelphia, is a further step forward in the journey undertaken by Benedict XVI to remodel according to his own standards the leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States, as he has already done in other countries.

Chaput, 67, born to a farming family in Kansas, a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe, a Franciscan of the Capuchin order, has been the bishop of Denver, Colorado since 1997. And before that he was the bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota. His arrival at the head of one of the oldest and most prestigious dioceses of the Atlantic coast of the United States is a novelty even from the geographical point of view.

That Chaput was a candidate for an important episcopal see had been in the air for some time. But even as late as the end of last June, his expected destination was another, Chicago, as coadjutor with right of succession to the archbishop in office, Cardinal Francis E. George, a former president of the episcopal conference of the United States.

Until June 30, for Philadelphia – in the place of Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, near retirement age – the leading candidate at the Vatican congregation for bishops was the current bishop of Louisville, Joseph E. Kurtz.

Nonetheless, Chaput was second on the list. And after him came the bishop of Bridgeport, William E. Lori, and the bishop of Atlanta, Wilton D. Gregory.

Apart from the last one, also a past president of the episcopal conference and classified among the lukewarm progressives, the other two were, like Chaput, "affirmatively orthodox," very decisive in asserting the presence of the Catholic Church in society, without compromise or dilution.

But at the last moment, the congregation for bishops opted for Chaput instead of Kurtz, preferring to promote the former to Philadelphia immediately instead of waiting for Cardinal George to leave Chicago free for him, in a couple of years.

On Saturday, July 2, in an audience with Benedict XVI, the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, therefore proposed the appointment of Chaput, which the pope gladly approved.

With Chaput in Philadelphia, a see traditionally honored with the cardinal's hat, the upper echelon of the episcopate of the United States is thus more and more solidly occupied by persons in close harmony with pope Joseph Ratzinger, and known and respected by him.

It should be enough to mention, among these, the archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, and the archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gómez, the latter linked with Chaput by a close friendship.

Since last autumn, Dolan has also been president of the episcopal conference. And for his election, in the final ballot, the votes previously received by Chaput himself were decisive.

After the public proclamation of his appointment, on July 19, the new archbishop of Philadelphia granted his first interview to www.chiesa, which has featured his writings and speeches in the past.

The interview is presented below. At a certain point, Chaput refers to the last lines of a novel by Thornton Wilder, "The Bridge of San Luis Rey," which won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1928.

They spoken by the abbess of a convent in Lima, Peru, and tie together the threads of the entire story (that of the collapse of a suspension bridge and the death of a few people, and the successive investigation by a Franciscan friar in search of an answer for why they died):

"There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning".

Sandro Magister



Interview with Charles J. Chaput

Q: You came to Rome on June 29 to attend the pallium ceremony for your friend José Horacio Gómez, new Metropolitan Archbishop of Los Angeles. Next year you will have to come for Philadelphia. Were you expecting this?
A: Archbishop Gomez is a good friend from our days serving together in Denver. I don’t think anyone can “expect” a responsibility like leading the Church in Los Angeles or Philadelphia. But in some ways Archbishop Gomez must have been a logical choice for the Holy Father because of his abilities and background. I’m not sure that’s true about me.
I’m still processing the appointment to Philadelphia. In some ways it’s unreal. I did live and teach in Pennsylvania for years as a young priest. It was a very happy time in my life. But my whole ministry as a bishop has been spent in the American West, in South Dakota and Colorado. The style of Church life there is somewhat different from the East; more direct and informal; less clerical. I could give you three or four good reasons why I’m an implausible choice for a place like Philadelphia, which is really one of America’s great cities with a great Catholic history. But I don’t make those decisions. The Holy Father does. I trust his judgment, and I’m very grateful for his confidence.
Q: The impression might be that Benedict XVI, by personally appointing you, expects from you great things.
A: I think he expects from me what he expects from every one of his brother bishops: the humility and courage to serve the local Church well; to preach Jesus Christ without embarrassment; and to deepen the faith of the people. The Church is not defined by her problems. These need to be acknowledged and dealt with honestly, and anyone hurt at the hands of persons representing the Church deserves the support and special assistance of the Catholic community.
But the character of the Church everywhere, in every age, is determined by the quality of her priests and people. The Church in Philadelphia has a huge reservoir of goodness. I’ve known and worked with Philadelphia priests, and I very much admire them. A bishop needs to be a brother to his priests, not just in word, but in substance, and I’ll do everything I can to be present to the men who share the gift of priesthood. I’ve tried to do that in Denver. Denver has a great presbyterate, so many really good men; and I know the same is true of Philadelphia.
I’ve also had the benefit, throughout my priesthood, of many lay friendships and colleagues – I suppose that’s partly my personality and partly my Capuchin formation. Either way, I’m eager to meet the people in the parishes of Philadelphia. That’s where the life of the Church really resides. I have a lot of trust in the ability and good will of the lay faithful, in Philadelphia and everywhere else.
Q: It seems that a new brand of bishops is solidifying in the United States, neither "liberal" nor afraid of the world, orthodox but “proactive.” Are you too one of those?
A: I hope I’m what God wants and the local Church needs. Labels are misleading. They give people an excuse not to think. 
Q: "Better rejected than ignored,” as Cardinal Camillo Ruini once said?
A: Well, I suppose that’s true. Cardinal Ruini is a great churchman with a pretty keen grasp of human nature. But it’s even better to be “effective and forgotten.” We’ll all of us be forgotten anyway, so we might as well be effective. The only one who needs to remember us is God, and the only thing that finally matters is to be effective in the way we love. 
Every few years I reread the last lines of Thornton Wilder’s novel, "The Bridge of San Luis Rey." Look them up. They’re worth the search.
Q: Catholics are a quarter of the population in the United States. How much impact do they have in society, culture and the media?
A: Catholics have played a very big role in shaping America, from Charles Carroll – the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence – onward. But it hasn’t been easy. America has never really been comfortable with the content of Catholic belief. Catholics have tended to be accepted by the American mainstream in inverse proportion to how seriously they live their faith. Obviously lots of exceptions exist to that rule, but it’s still too often true.
Q: And in politics?
A: Especially in politics. Pennsylvania’s late Governor Robert Casey is one of my great heroes. The country could use a lot more Catholic men and women like him in public service.
Q: The Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, who is also President of the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference, is usually very present in the media. You as well write, debate and even confront political authorities. In Europe this would be called the Church’s “interference,” and some would protest.
A: Europe is shaped, in part, by the Wars of Religion, as well as the legacy of the French Revolution, its anti-clericalism and its basic distrust of religion. That’s a burden most Americans don’t understand. The American Revolution was a different creature, and it took place in a deeply Protestant Christian environment. Many of the Founders were themselves Christians. John Courtney Murray once observed that even when Americans don’t believe, it’s a friendly kind of disinterest. The vivid hostility to religion you find in Europe is alien to America. Or at least it has been until recently. 
Q: In comparison with Europe, the United States seems to me much more religious. Is it really so? Or the desert of incredulity also advances?
A: On the surface, that’s true. Americans are generally much more inclined to religious faith than Europeans. And it’s not just superficial. Many millions of Americans do take their faith seriously and do sincerely practice their Christianity. You really can’t understand the United States outside its Christian-influenced roots. 
But there’s a pragmatism to the American character, an underside of materialism and acquisitivness, that works against the Gospel. So a lot of Americans have the habit of belief without understanding its implications and without letting their faith really shape their lives.
Q: How would you describe Catholicism in the US? What would be its distinctive characteristics?
A: It’s always been an immigrant, minority faith. That accounts for both its vigor, and its over-eagerness to assimilate and fit in. American culture has a huge capacity to homogenize and digest newcomers. That’s not all bad. America is fundamentally a nation of immigrants. But it can result in a population with bleached-out beliefs.
Q: The "new evangelization" is one of Pope Benedict’s key programs. Is it valid also for the US? With what specific characteristics?
A: Denver is almost an icon for the “new evangelization.” To his credit, my predecessor in Denver, Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, saw that very early. Denver is a deeply secular environment: educated, young, modern, independent-minded, with a history of weak religious roots. It’s a new kind of mission territory, with many people who are either disinterested in religion, or who think they’re “post-Christian” without ever really encountering the Gospel. America is generally trending in that direction. Evangelizing that environment will be the task of the next generation of believers.
Q: In the "courtyard of the gentiles" in the United States, are there nonbelievers with whom there is a fruitful, friendly dialogue? Could you mention any names?
A: I’m sure there are many such persons, but other bishops are far more experienced than I am in that kind of dialogue. 
Q: Who are your "teachers" of reference, those who have influenced you the most?
A: Augustine and Francis. You can’t do better than that.
I’m deeply grateful to Father Ronald Lawler, O.F.M. Cap., who taught me philosophy in college. He had a very big impact on my thinking. When I studied theology as a seminarian, I learned a great deal from Father Robert McCreary, O.F.M. Cap., who also made the same kind of significant impact on my life and my thinking. 
In terms of Church leadership, as a young Capuchin priest, I had a great respect and reverence for Pope Paul VI, and still honor him as one of my heroes. And, of course, I’m deeply grateful to both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict for their extraordinary magisterium and apostolic energy. 
Q: What impresses you the most in Pope Benedict’s magisterium?
A: The consistent genius of his thought – I really don’t know how he sustains it –- and the organic development of his life from peritus at Vatican II to his service now as Pope. 
Q: And regarding his style for guiding the Church?
A: I’m coming from a little diocese a long way from Rome. I can’t imagine the burdens carried by this or any other man in the Chair of Peter. I do know that Benedict XVI is a great pastor and a great disciple of Jesus Christ; a man who knows the meaning of suffering and who still radiates the joy of the Gospel. The right “style” for any priest is to live in persona Christi. And I think Benedict embodies what those words mean in a very moving way.

The last speech by Archbishop Chaput reprinted on www.chiesa:

> When the Tribunal of the World Condemns the Church for Heresy (25.8.2010)

His criticism of the Kennedy model of relations between Church and state:

> The Doctrine of the Catholic Kennedy? Worthless (2.3.2010)

A manifesto emblematic of the new "affirmative" stance of the American bishops, signed by Chaput, Dolan, and others: 

> The "Manhattan Declaration": The Manifesto That's Shaking America(25.11.2009)

One of the moments of critical confrontation between Chaput and the current American president: 

> The Bishop's Ax Falls on Obama. And on the Vatican Curia (8.10.2009)

A review of Chaput's book "Render Unto Caesar," on the mission of the Catholic Church in society:

> How to Conduct Politics as Catholics. The Denver Memorandum

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

dominicanus #homilies in English

pope 60...


Saint Peter’s Basilica, 29 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

“I no longer call you servants, but friends” (cf. Jn 15:15).

Sixty years on from the day of my priestly ordination, I hear once again deep within me these words of Jesus that were addressed to us new priests at the end of the ordination ceremony by the Archbishop, Cardinal Faulhaber, in his slightly frail yet firm voice. According to the liturgical practice of that time, these words conferred on the newly-ordained priests the authority to forgive sins. “No longer servants, but friends”: at that moment I knew deep down that these words were no mere formality, nor were they simply a quotation from Scripture. I knew that, at that moment, the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way. In baptism and confirmation he had already drawn us close to him, he had already received us into God’s family. But what was taking place now was something greater still. He calls me his friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those he had spoken to in the Upper Room, into the circle of those whom he knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know him in a very special way. He grants me the almost frightening faculty to do what only he, the Son of God, can legitimately say and do: I forgive you your sins. He wants me – with his authority – to be able to speak, in his name (“I” forgive), words that are not merely words, but an action, changing something at the deepest level of being. I know that behind these words lies his suffering for us and on account of us. I know that forgiveness comes at a price: in his Passion he went deep down into the sordid darkness of our sins. He went down into the night of our guilt, for only thus can it be transformed. And by giving me authority to forgive sins, he lets me look down into the abyss of man, into the immensity of his suffering for us men, and this enables me to sense the immensity of his love. He confides in me: “No longer servants, but friends”. He entrusts to me the words of consecration in the Eucharist. He trusts me to proclaim his word, to explain it aright and to bring it to the people of today. He entrusts himself to me. “You are no longer servants, but friends”: these words bring great inner joy, but at the same time, they are so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one’s own frailty and his inexhaustible goodness.

“No longer servants, but friends”: this saying contains within itself the entire programme of a priestly life. What is friendship? Idem velle, idem nolle – wanting the same things, rejecting the same things: this was how it was expressed in antiquity. Friendship is a communion of thinking and willing. The Lord says the same thing to us most insistently: “I know my own and my own know me” (Jn 10:14). The Shepherd calls his own by name (cf. Jn 10:3). He knows me by name. I am not just some nameless being in the infinity of the universe. He knows me personally. Do I know him? The friendship that he bestows upon me can only mean that I too try to know him better; that in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in the communion of saints, in the people who come to me, sent by him, I try to come to know the Lord himself more and more. Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with his will. For his will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit. No, in friendship, my will grows together with his will, and his will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself. Over and above communion of thinking and willing, the Lord mentions a third, new element: he gives his life for us (cf. Jn 15:13; 10:15). Lord, help me to come to know you more and more. Help me to be ever more at one with your will. Help me to live my life not for myself, but in union with you to live it for others. Help me to become ever more your friend.

Jesus’ words on friendship should be seen in the context of the discourse on the vine. The Lord associates the image of the vine with a commission to the disciples: “I appointed you that you should go out and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16). The first commission to the disciples – to his friends – is that of setting out, stepping outside oneself and towards others. Here we hear an echo of the words of the risen Lord to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ...” (cf. Mt 28:19f.) The Lord challenges us to move beyond the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to the world of others, so that it pervades everything and hence the world is opened up for God’s kingdom. We are reminded that even God stepped outside himself, he set his glory aside in order to seek us, in order to bring us his light and his love. We want to follow the God who sets out in this way, we want to move beyond the inertia of self-centredness, so that he himself can enter our world.

After the reference to setting out, Jesus continues: bear fruit, fruit that abides. What fruit does he expect from us? What is this fruit that abides? Now, the fruit of the vine is the grape, and it is from the grape that wine is made. Let us reflect for a moment on this image. For good grapes to ripen, sun is needed, but so too is rain, by day and by night. For noble wine to mature, the grapes need to be pressed, patience is needed while the juice ferments, watchful care is needed to assist the processes of maturation. Noble wine is marked not only by sweetness, but by rich and subtle flavours, the manifold aroma that develops during the processes of maturation and fermentation. Is this not already an image of human life, and especially of our lives as priests? We need both sun and rain, festivity and adversity, times of purification and testing, as well as times of joyful journeying with the Gospel. In hindsight we can thank God for both: for the challenges and the joys, for the dark times and the glad times. In both, we can recognize the constant presence of his love, which unfailingly supports and sustains us.

Yet now we must ask: what sort of fruit does the Lord expect from us? Wine is an image of love: this is the true fruit that abides, the fruit that God wants from us. But let us not forget that in the Old Testament the wine expected from noble grapes is above all an image of justice, which arises from a life lived in accordance with God’s law. And this is not to be dismissed as an Old Testament view that has been surpassed – no, it still remains true. The true content of the Law, its summa, is love for God and for one’s neighbour. But this twofold love is not simply saccharine. It bears within itself the precious cargo of patience, humility, and growth in the conforming of our will to God’s will, to the will of Jesus Christ, our friend. Only in this way, as the whole of our being takes on the qualities of truth and righteousness, is love also true, only thus is it ripe fruit. Its inner demand – faithfulness to Christ and to his Church – seeks a fulfilment that always includes suffering. This is the way that true joy grows. At a deep level, the essence of love, the essence of genuine fruit, coincides with the idea of setting out, going towards: it means self-abandonment, self-giving, it bears within itself the sign of the cross. Gregory the Great once said in this regard: if you are striving for God, take care not to go to him by yourselves alone – a saying that we priests need to keep before us every day (H Ev 1:6:6 PL 76, 1097f.).

Dear friends, perhaps I have dwelt for too long on my inner recollections of sixty years of priestly ministry. Now it is time to turn our attention to the particular task that is to be performed today. 

On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul my most cordial greeting goes first of all to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I and to the Delegation he has sent, to whom I express sincere thanks for their most welcome visit on the happy occasion of this feast of the holy Apostles who are Rome’s patrons. I also greet the Cardinals, my brother bishops, the ambassadors and civil authorities as well as the priests, religious and lay faithful. I thank all of you for your presence and your prayers.

The metropolitan archbishops appointed since the feast of Saints Peter and Paul last year are now going to receive the pallium. What does this mean? It may remind us in the first instance of Christ’s easy yoke that is laid upon us (cf. Mt 11:29f.). Christ’s yoke is identical with his friendship. It is a yoke of friendship and therefore “a sweet yoke”, but as such it is also a demanding yoke, one that forms us. It is the yoke of his will, which is a will of truth and love. For us, then, it is first and foremost the yoke of leading others to friendship with Christ and being available to others, caring for them as shepherds. This brings us to a further meaning of the pallium: it is woven from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of Saint Agnes. Thus it reminds us of the Shepherd who himself became a lamb, out of love for us. It reminds us of Christ, who set out through the mountains and the deserts, in which his lamb, humanity, had strayed. It reminds us of him who took the lamb – humanity – me – upon his shoulders, in order to carry me home. It thus reminds us that we too, as shepherds in his service, are to carry others with us, taking them as it were upon our shoulders and bringing them to Christ. It reminds us that we are called to be shepherds of his flock, which always remains his and does not become ours. Finally the pallium also means quite concretely the communion of the shepherds of the Church with Peter and with his successors – it means that we must be shepherds for unity and in unity, and that it is only in the unity represented by Peter that we truly lead people to Christ.

Sixty years of priestly ministry – dear friends, perhaps I have spoken for too long about this. But I felt prompted at this moment to look back upon the things that have left their mark on the last six decades. I felt prompted to address to you, to all priests and bishops and to the faithful of the Church, a word of hope and encouragement; a word that has matured in long experience of how good the Lord is. Above all, though, it is a time of thanksgiving: thanks to the Lord for the friendship that he has bestowed upon me and that he wishes to bestow upon us all. Thanks to the people who have formed and accompanied me. And all this includes the prayer that the Lord will one day welcome us in his goodness and invite us to contemplate his joy. Amen. 

BENEDICT XVI, “They shall look on Him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:37)

Walter Covens #homilies in English

“They shall look on Him
whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:37)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

“They shall look on Him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:37). This is the biblical theme that this year guides our Lenten reflection. Lent is a favourable time to learn to stay with Mary and John, the beloved disciple, close to Him who on the Cross, consummated for all mankind the sacrifice of His life (cf. Jn 19:25). With a more fervent participation let us direct our gaze, therefore, in this time of penance and prayer, at Christ crucified who, dying on Calvary, revealed fully for us the love of God. In the Encyclical Deus caritas est, I dwelt upon this theme of love, highlighting its two fundamental forms: agape and eros.

God’s love: agape and eros

The term agape, which appears many times in the New Testament, indicates the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other. The word eros, on the other hand, denotes the love of one who desires to possess what he or she lacks and yearns for union with the beloved. The love with which God surrounds us is undoubtedly agape. Indeed, can man give to God some good that He does not already possess? All that the human creature is and has is divine gift. It is the creature then, who is in need of God in everything. But God’s love is also eros. In the Old Testament, the Creator of the universe manifests toward the people whom He has chosen as His own a predilection that transcends every human motivation. The prophet Hosea expresses this divine passion with daring images such as the love of a man for an adulterous woman (cf. 3:1-3). For his part, Ezekiel, speaking of God’s relationship with the people of Israel, is not afraid to use strong and passionate language (cf. 16:1-22). These biblical texts indicate that eros is part of God’s very heart: the Almighty awaits the “yes” of His creatures as a young bridegroom that of his bride. Unfortunately, from its very origins, mankind, seduced by the lies of the Evil One, rejected God’s love in the illusion of a self-sufficiency that is impossible (cf. Gn 3:1-7). Turning in on himself, Adam withdrew from that source of life who is God Himself, and became the first of “those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Heb 2:15). God, however, did not give up. On the contrary, man’s “no” was the decisive impulse that moved Him to manifest His love in all of its redeeming strength.

The Cross reveals the fullness of God’s love

It is in the mystery of the Cross that the overwhelming power of the heavenly Father’s mercy is revealed in all of its fullness. In order to win back the love of His creature, He accepted to pay a very high price: the blood of His only begotten Son. Death, which for the first Adam was an extreme sign of loneliness and powerlessness, was thus transformed in the supreme act of love and freedom of the new Adam. One could very well assert, therefore, together with Saint Maximus the Confessor, that Christ “died, if one could say so, divinely, because He died freely” (Ambigua, 91, 1956). On the Cross, God’s eros for us is made manifest. Eros is indeed – as Pseudo-Dionysius expresses it – that force “that does not allow the lover to remain in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved” (De divinis nominibus, IV, 13: PG 3, 712). Is there more “mad eros” (N. Cabasilas, Vita in Cristo, 648) than that which led the Son of God to make Himself one with us even to the point of suffering as His own the consequences of our offences?

“Him whom they have pierced”

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look at Christ pierced in the Cross! He is the unsurpassing revelation of God’s love, a love in which eros and agape, far from being opposed, enlighten each other. On the Cross, it is God Himself who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us. The Apostle Thomas recognized Jesus as “Lord and God” when he put his hand into the wound of His side. Not surprisingly, many of the saints found in the Heart of Jesus the deepest expression of this mystery of love. One could rightly say that the revelation of God’s eros toward man is, in reality, the supreme expression of His agape. In all truth, only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the heaviest of burdens. Jesus said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ “draws me to Himself” in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love.

Blood and water

“They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.” Let us look with trust at the pierced side of Jesus from which flow “blood and water” (Jn 19:34)! The Fathers of the Church considered these elements as symbols of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Through the water of Baptism, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, we are given access to the intimacy of Trinitarian love. In the Lenten journey, memorial of our Baptism, we are exhorted to come out of ourselves in order to open ourselves, in trustful abandonment, to the merciful embrace of the Father (cf. Saint John Chrysostom, Catecheses, 3,14ff). Blood, symbol of the love of the Good Shepherd, flows into us especially in the Eucharistic mystery: “The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation … we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving” (Encyclical Deus caritas est, 13). Let us live Lent then, as a “Eucharistic” time in which, welcoming the love of Jesus, we learn to spread it around us with every word and deed. Contemplating “Him whom they have pierced” moves us in this way to open our hearts to others, recognizing the wounds inflicted upon the dignity of the human person; it moves us, in particular, to fight every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to alleviate the tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of so many people. May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God’s love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must “regive” to our neighbour, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need. Only in this way will we be able to participate fully in the joy of Easter. May Mary, Mother of Beautiful Love, guide us in this Lenten journey, a journey of authentic conversion to the love of Christ. I wish you, dear brothers and sisters, a fruitful Lenten journey, imparting with affection to all of you, a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 21 November 2006.


© Copyright 2006 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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