02 July, 2010

Seven days that shook the Vatican | National Catholic Reporter

Best analysis of the events shaking the Roman Catholic Church I have read. (I have read a lot of them!!) The insights expressed by the Pope (B16) in the recent curial appointments of three theologians into the most powerful offices of the Church (including Cardinal Ouellet of Quebec to lead the Congregation responsible for choosing Bishops throughout the world) men who are wholly compatible with what B16 has already revealed in his first two encyclicals, the virtues of Love and Hope. It is (FINALLY!) an acknowledgment of the fact that the Church is 'on fire'... and not in the way that devout Catholics would have hoped for... but that at last it is orienting itself to face this deadly challenge to its very existence posed by the modern State. If B16 can steer the Barque of Peter into the wind, we are well equipped to weather the storms that threaten the ship of faith today. History is replete with predictions of the Church's imminent sinking, yet the barque of Peter continues to sail on towards the culmination of its mission.

What's needed today is another G.K. Chesterton or C.S. Lewis, and perhaps the Holy Spirit will bring such souls to the fore. Personally I have found the writings of the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and of the very much alive George Weigel, to be among the most eloquent and effective defenders of faith in  these trying times. For example RJN's last book, American Babylon (Basic Books; 2009) presents the knitting together of the various threads of his approach to faith, life and the challenges of post-modern secularism which confronts the Catholic voice in today's society. Rooted in hope, history, reason, charity and faith, he builds a most convincing argument for the place and role of Christians who are called to be faithful and full citizens both of 'Babylon' and the 'New Jerusalem'. It is as if he knew that his days were coming to an end and took the time to write a 'summa theologica' detailing where his core beliefs would bring  anyone who chose to walk in his footsteps. A summary of the convictions that were  key to his (and our) understanding of his obligations to God and neighbor. He demonstrates a maturity and wisdom drawn from years of study, comment, and conversation with the greatest religious and civic minds of the last half of the 20th century and the opening decade of the next. He calls  all people of 'good heart' to do what is needed to make the world more closely resemble that which we hope it is to become, in the great prolepsis of time's end. In his final pages, (pp 243-251) RJN offers the most powerful response to the challenge articulately posed by MARTIN, a sometimes participant in these conversations on my blog. I sincerely hope and pray that he might find his way to reading these few words of RJN. It will give him (as it will anyone who's faith has been broken by the burdens and injustices of life) much to ponder.

George Weigel, in works such as The Cube and the Cathedral (Basic Books; 2005) and The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform and the Future of the Church (Basic Books; 2004) addresses many of the same issues that confront the Church today. His brilliant analysis of the life and theology of Pope John Paul the Great provides the key to comprehending the way that God is calling the faithful  today. By making JP2's writings understandable to the average Catholic, he has demonstrated his own gift of offering answers to those that challenge and menace the church today. I eagerly await the arrival of his latest work, The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II--the Struggle for Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (Doubleday; September 2010) in which he attempts to do for JP2 as RJN does in his last opus; to stand and take in each thread of his pontificate as it relates to the whole of his teaching and apply it to the serious questions facing the Church today. In this, he offers answers to today's challenges formed from his synthesis of JP2's canon - answers which do not involve a retreat behind the safety of Church walls, but rather he invites others to  engage vigorously today's culture in offering the wisdom found in an orthodox and actively lived Christian faith. Weigel has few peers today who can match him in wit and wisdom as he discusses the role of faith in the parlance of the Public Square. I expect this next book to be another triumph, solidifying Weigel as the successor voice to RJN as the intellectual voice of American Roman Catholicism in the 21st Century.

Until voices such as these catch the imagination and minds of those searching for 'a better way' in life, there are many folks such as me (and many of you) who will continue to blog and post articles and opinions that may help others on this journey through to the 'end', be it personal or eschatological. Hopefully there are some who will find solace, wisdom, support and direction from what we share with others in these virtual forums. Even if we walk by different paths, we will all arrive at last at the one universal point of departure from this existence: the hour of our death. May that passing be everything we hope for. May it stand as vindication of our life's hopes and desires and so inspire us to live our lives in mutual respect with all people of good heart and hope of leaving behind a better world than we received from our elders.

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