"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Disobedience is not a way to renew the Church, Pope tells dissident priests


During this morning’s chrismal mass, Benedict XVI referred to the appeal signed by Austrian priests and called for “the Church not to be transformed according to our wishes and ideas”

In his homily said during this morning’s chrismal mass in St. Peter’s, Benedict XVI referred explicitly to the appeal by dissenting Austrian priests for reforms and the possibility for women to be ordained to the priesthood. Speaking of a priest’s “faithfulness to Christ” and the difficulties in achieving this, “given the often dramatic situation in the Church today,” the Pope said:“A group of priests in a European Country recently published an appeal for disobedience, which should even ignore definitive decisions set out in the Magisterium – for example on the question of women’s ordination. The Blessed Pope John Paul II had made a definitive statement on the subject, saying that the Church had received no authorisation from the Lord on this matter.”

“Is disobedience a way of renewing the Church?” Ratzinger asked himself. “We want to believe the authors of this appeal  
- he added - when they claim that they are motivated by  their concern for the Church; that they are adamant that the slowness of Institutions should be dealt with by taking drastic measures to open up new paths – so that the Church can keep up with the pace of today’s world. But is disobedience really the way forward? Is it possible to perceive, in this, elements of faithfulness to Christ - which is the prerequisite for real renewal - or is it just a desperate push for something to be done, for the Church to be transformed according to our wishes and ideas?”

The Pope was referring to the so-called “Pfarrer-Initiative”, an “appeal to disobedience”, signed by 329 Austrian parish priests, which asks for urgent reforms in the Church. Signatories also involved other groups, such as We Are Church, who have been making similar requests (abolition of compulsory celibacy for priests of the Latin Church, communion for remarried divorcees and women’s access to the priesthood) to the Holy See for years. Dissidents have threatened to proceed with “masses” celebrated by lay people if their requests for the ordination of women and married men are not met.

After referring to the appeal, Benedict XVI pointed out that Jesus “corrected those human traditions which threatened to suffocate the word and the will of God,” in order to re-awaken “obedience to God’s true will,” against the arbitrary will of man. He denied that the call to obedience represents a defence of ultra-conservatism, inflexibility and tradition. “No,” the Pope said, “if one looks at the history of the post-conciliar era, the dynamics of real renewal can clearly be seen. This renewal often took on unexpected forms within lively movements and makes inexhaustible vitality of the Catholic Church almost tangible.” “It is clear - he added - that faithfulness to Christ is the pre-requisite and basis of any renewal.” 

Ratzinger then said that if the figure of Jesus can “sometimes appear too elevated and great,” the ““translations” that have been given to us describe orders of magnitude that are more accessible to us and to which we can relate.” The Pope mentioned “the host of holy priests” from “Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, to great pastors such as Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory Magnus, Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney, to martyr priests of the nineteen hundreds and to John Paul II who through his suffering and actions became an example for us in faithfulness to Christ.”

It is the saints, Benedict XVI said, who show us “how renewal works and how we can aid this renewal.” He went on to say that “God does not look at big numbers or at external success, but encapsulates his victories in the humble symbol of the mustard seed.” The Pope then recalled that in the recent consistory, a number of cardinals “spoke of a religious illiteracy that is spreading across our intelligent society.”

Many are now ignorant of the key elements of faith which all children used to know in the past. But in order to be able to live and love our faith - he added – to love God and to be able to listen to Him correctly, we need to know what God actually said.” This knowledge is gained above all from the Holy Scriptures. But if we are to communicate it in a way that “really touches our hearts,” we need the help of the word of “the teaching Church”. In reference to this, the Pope spoke about the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which he defined as “essential tools”, just like John Paul II’s documents “a treasure which is still far from being made the most of.”

Finally, Benedict XVI cited the Curé of Ars as an example of the importance for priests to have a “zeal for souls”: an outdated expression, “considered a banned word” in some contexts because it has been said to express a duality between body and soul which wrongly divides man.” The Pope said that “naturally, as priests we are concerned with the whole person, including his or her physical needs – the hungry, the sick and the homeless,” but “we are not just concerned about a person’s body but about their spiritual needs as well: those who suffer from rights violations or destroyed love; those who are in the dark about the truth; who suffer from a lack of truth or love.” “People must never feel that we carry out our conscientious mission during our normal working hours but belong to ourselves the rest of the time. A priest never belongs to himself.”

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