Friday, February 22, 2008

Benedict and the Jesuits

Pope Urges Jesuits to Commit to Orthodoxy by Francis X. Rocca

VATICAN CITY (RNS) For the second time in two months, Pope Benedict XVI urged leaders of the Catholic Church's largest religious order to affirm their commitment to orthodoxy in several controversial areas, including religious pluralism and human sexuality. Benedict made his remarks on Thursday at a meeting with delegates to the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits.

The pope asked the Jesuits for their "renewed commitment to promote and defend Catholic doctrine," as a response to the "powerful negative forces" of contemporary life, including "subjectivism, relativism, hedonism (and) practical materialism."Citing a letter he wrote last month to the order's retiring leader, he repeated his appeal for assent to church teaching on "the relationship between Christ and religions, some aspects of the theology of liberation," divorce and homosexuality.

In recent years, the Vatican has censured several Jesuit theologians for deviations from orthodoxy on such matters as the uniqueness of the Catholic Church as a means of salvation and the compatibility of Christianity with the teachings of Karl Marx.While he praised the Jesuits for their extensive assistance to the needy, particularly refugees, Benedict also enjoined them to "rediscover the fullest sense" of their order's unique vow of obedience to the pontiff. That vow, the pope said "does not imply only the readiness to be sent on mission to distant lands, but also ... to `love and serve' the Vicar of Christ of Earth."

The pope's remarks are the latest evidence of tension between the order and the Holy See. At a Mass to open the Jesuit congregation last month, the Vatican official in charge of religious orders voiced "sorrow and anxiety" over the unwillingness of "some members of religious families" to "think with the church" and obey the hierarchy.

Very interesting!



Church in Cuba

During a huge Mass that filled the Havana Cathedral as well as the neighboring square, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, demanded the right of the Catholic Church in Cuba to evangelize without limits imposed by the state. Several key leaders of the Cuban government sat in the front row of pews at the Havana Cathedral, while more than 3,000 people filled the outside square, in a public expression of faith unseen in the Cuban capital since the visit of Pope John Paul 10 years ago.

"We have to thank God because the Church in Cuba along the centuries has been a beneficial presence, marked by intense educational and social action, promoting the respect for the life of all human persons," Cardinal Bertone said. "Therefore, the Church aspires to be ever more present and active in the midst of society, fulfilling its urgent mission to teach, heal, assist the poor and promote the dignity of all human beings," he also said.

After transmitting to "each one and all of you the spiritual closeness of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI," the Secretary of State concluded that "the fields in which the Church is present are vast," but the Church wishes to expand without limits it radius of action to other fields, to contribute to the common good of the Cuban people." In recent years, the Cuban Bishops have requested from the government, without success, the right to provide Catholic education and to run their own media organizations. According to the Cuban constitution, only public education is legal and all media must be state-owned.

Amen and Amen!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Se Cayo el Caballo!

MEXICO CITY: Fidel Castro stepped down Tuesday morning as the president of Cuba after a long illness, ending one of the longest tenures as one of the most all-powerful communist heads of state in the world, according to Granma, the official publication of the Cuban Communist Party.

In late July 2006, Castro, who is 81, handed over power temporarily to his brother, Raúl Castro, 76, and a few younger cabinet ministers, after an acute infection in his colon forced him to undergo emergency surgery. Despite numerous surgeries, he has never fully recovered but has remained active in running government affairs from behind the scenes.

Now, just days before the national assembly is to meet to select a new head of state, Castro resigned permanently in a letter to the nation and signaled his willingness to let a younger generation assume power. He said his failing health made it impossible to return as president.

"I will not aspire to neither will I accept — I repeat I will not aspire to neither will I accept — the position of President of the Council of State and Commander in chief," he wrote.

He added: "It would betray my conscience to occupy a responsibility that requires mobility and the total commitment that I am not in the physical condition to offer."

I have been waiting most of my concious life for this day, when Fidel, "el caballo", "the horse", an apparent reference to his virility among Cubans, was finally out of power and out of office! I am glad and a bit hopeful yet have to admit that the manner in which it happens is quite anticlimactic! He steps down of his own choosing leaving a confusing legacy, having had a hand for evil and good in the lives of so many. Like it or not Fidel has written words, a page, a paragraph,a chapter, in the lives of many including myself.

I have to confront many feeling today and acknowledge that it is hard to understand life in our world. How can it be that; an idealistic young Christian is struck down in youth by illness or a drunk driver, a mother can succumb to a stroke following childbirth, a soldier die in Irak in the performance of his duties yet, a dictator , after 49 years of rule marked by opression and fear, choooses to retire and will likely die of old age and natural causes safely in his bed? It begs the question of fairness and justice in our world, of evil tolerated and allowed to flourish while good is not spared! It is with reason St. David warns us not to look to the apparent prosperity or longevity of those we consider evil lest we despair about fairness, justice and God.

I can not be the judge of Fidel who confidently stated that history would, in the end absolve him! Much less can I put God to the scrutiny for failing to meet out the justice I see fit! So in the contradictions and incomphrehensibles of life I must trust that all will in the end work together for good, and God's purposes will be acomplished! I must believe that, if the good book be true, there is a day when Christ will judge righteously the hearts and secrets of all men and only then will we know final absolution, true justice and reward.



Tuesday, February 12, 2008

British Bishop's Islamic Idiocy

By JOHN O'SULLIVAN February 11, 2008
NOTHING can have prepared Dr. Geoffrey Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, for the row that has broken out in Britain over his comments last week that the British adoption of some aspects of sharia law is "unavoidable" and that there is a case for "plural jurisdiction" At about the time Rowan Willians was named for the ancient See of Canterbury, a friend who'd known and admired the new archbishop well at Oxford told me he was alarmed by the news. "He is a fine teacher, a very scrupulous theologian and a pious man," said my friend. "But he lacks political skills and everyday common sense - which today are essential qualities in a successful archbishop."

He went on to predict that Anglicanism would be convulsed in rows that would deeply distress his old friend. That was a safe bet: The worldwide Anglican Communion was already embroiled in painful disputes between progressives and traditionalists over women priests, gay marriage and the authority of the biblical tradition. Alas, in the course of persuading both sides not to push their disputes to the point of breaking up Anglicanism, Rowan Williams as primate (first bishop among equals), has repeatedly turned the other cheek - and repeatedly got slapped by both sides. More, he has shown a genius for putting his foot in it with ill-judged public statements - for instance, that terrorists "can have serious moral goals" or that Western market transactions might be "acts of aggression" against the world's poor - that then require several rounds of further explanation.

Now his seeming advocacy of - or, at least, resignation to - British adoption of sharia. Other Anglican bishops have criticized his remarks; some prominent Muslims have (happily) denied that their co-religionists want sharia law in the UK; and several churchmen have called for his resignation. And the row shows no sign of stopping. After all, as the archbishop points out, some aspects of sharia are already recognized in Britain and British law. One sharia "court" in a London suburb, Leyton, has reportedly more than 7,000 divorces. In the capital's Woolwich district, the police granted the request of a stabbing victim's family for the perpetrator's release so that a Somali sharia "court" could handle the matter.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

An Anglican Covenant -

St Andrew's Draft Text

3.2 Acknowledging our interdependent life, each Church of the Communion commits itself:

(3.2.1) to have regard to the common good of the Communion in the exercise of its autonomy, and to support the work of the Instruments of Communion with the spiritual and material resources available to it;

(3.2.2) to respect the constitutional autonomy of all of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, while upholding the interdependent life and mutual responsibility of the Churches, and the responsibility of each to the Communion as a whole[12];

(3.2.3) to spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and reflection to listen, pray and study with one another in order to discern the will of God. Such prayer, study and debate is an essential feature of the life of the Church as its seeks to be led by the Spirit into all truth and to proclaim the Gospel afresh in each generation. Some issues, which are perceived as controversial or new when they arise, may well evoke a deeper understanding of the implications of God’s revelation to us; others may prove to be distractions or even obstacles to the faith: all therefore need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.

(3.2.4) to seek with other Churches, through the Communion’s shared councils, a common mind about matters understood to be of essential concern, consistent with the Scriptures, common standards of faith, and the canon law of our churches.

(3.2.5) to act with diligence, care and caution in respect to actions, either proposed or enacted, at a provincial or local level, which, in its own view or the expressed view of any Province or in the view of any one of the Instruments of Communion, are deemed to threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission, and to consent to the following principles and procedural elements:

(3.2.5.a) to undertake wide consultation with the other churches of the Anglican Communion and with the Instruments and Commissions of the Communion;

(3.2.5.b) to accept the legitimacy of processes for communion-wide evaluation which any of the Instruments of Communion may commission, according to such procedures as are appended to this covenant;

(3.2.5.c) to be ready to participate in mediated conversation between parties, which may be in conflict, according to such procedures as are appended to this covenant;

(3.2.5.d) to be willing to receive from the Instruments of Communion a request to adopt a particular course of action in respect of the matter under dispute. While the Instruments of Communion have no legislative, executive or judicial authority in our Provinces, except where provided in their own laws, we recognise them as those bodies by which our common life in Christ is articulated and sustained, and which therefore carry a moral authority which commands our respect.

(3.2.5.e) Any such request would not be binding on a Church unless recognised as such by that Church. However, commitment to this covenant entails an acknowledgement that in the most extreme circumstances, where a Church chooses not to adopt the request of the Instruments of Communion, that decision may be understood by the Church itself, or by the resolution of the Instruments of Communion, as a relinquishment by that Church of the force and meaning of the covenant’s purpose, until they re-establish their covenant relationship with other member Churches.

(3.2.6) to have in mind that our bonds of affection and the love of Christ compel us always to seek the highest possible degree of communion.

Our Declaration

With joy and with firm resolve, we declare our Churches to be partakers in this Anglican Covenant, offering ourselves for fruitful service and binding ourselves more closely in the truth andlove of Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Archbishop Bates message for Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday
remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality and the inevitability of our death. When we receive the ashes on our foreheads the priest or deacon will say, “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not however unconnected from the events of the Passion and Resurrection. The Psalmist reminds us that our Father also remembers even in our rebellion that we “are but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again.” Psalm 78.39

It is a good thing that the Church calls us to pause and reflect on not only our mortality but also the struggle we all face with sin, the world, and the devil. Even in our baptism we are signed with the sign of the cross. This sign, done with the oil of chrism, seals us as Christ’s own forever while at the same time reminding us that we participate in the life of Christ crucified and are called into the great spiritual warfare in the heavens.

The Church calls us on Ash Wednesday to a holy season of prayer and fasting. This prayer and fasting is an ancient tradition of the church. This season will, in light of the love of Christ Jesus, enable us to make a serious self-examination and confess, with the intent of amendment of life, our sins. It is a time to seek the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) for self-examination must always be done with the knowledge of the assurance of forgiveness. This is not a time of accusation and condemnation but a time when we can lament our sins knowing we are loved and forgiven. For as John reminds us, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is no in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all un-righteousness. (I John 1.8-9) James tells us, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5.16)

It has been said, “we are merely beggars telling other beggars where to find food.” In Lent as we are reminded of our sin and the forgiveness of Christ we are also allowing the Holy Spirit to transform and conform our hearts to the loving heart of Christ. Lent motivates us to fulfill the great commission. It reminds us, as we participate in the reconciling work of Christ Jesus that the primarily mission of the Church is the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5.19) The message of the Church is that God loves us and has demonstrated this love on the cross. (Romans 5.8)

Our prayer during Lent should be for an increase awareness of the love of Christ, which will inflame and renew in us a desire for evangelization.

So we should heed the call of our fathers in God when they call us to a most holy Lent. It is good news to our ears. It is a call to remind us of the shortness of life, the reality and horror of our sins, and the incredible and awesome love of God made manifest in the Cross and Resurrection and proclaimed at every Holy Eucharist.

Under His Mercy,
The Most Rev’d Craig W. Bates
Patriarch, ICCEC

Friday, February 1, 2008

Jasper on Justice

From Bishop Marc Andrus Blog
guest blogger: Jasper Goldberg
Dec 19, 2007 at 11:11 PM

Jasper is a high school student and member of Uur Saviour, Mill Valley, where i heard him eloquently participate along the line of the post below regarding the heart of the Episcopal Church and our place in the Anglican Communion. I was deeply moved by what he had to say, and by his commitment.

Every year at Advent we hear the story of John the Baptist, crying out in the wilderness that something great is coming. We hear also of how crazy he was, how so few people listened, but we know now that he was right. Something wonderful was indeed coming. That something was a someone, Jesus of Nazareth, who would go on to preach a message of love and equality, echoing John’s call to lower every mountain and fill in every valley. We call ourselves Christians because we dedicate ourselves to loving and serving all that God has blessed.

We see in the stories of Jesus’ ministries to the prisoners, the lepers and the outcasts of society in his day a message that no one is below the love of God. We are all God’s children, and we know that what we do unto the least of the people of God, we do unto God. Every time that we allow an injustice to be perpetrated against a gay man or a lesbian woman, the marginalized of today’s world, we allow the attacker to harm our beloved God, and in our negligence we are guilty. It is not enough to stand on the sidelines, and hope that someday things will be better. We must make our stand for those that society considers “outcasts” if we are to be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is not easy to take a stand on so divisive an issue. In our fractured world, I would much rather advocate unity and reconciliation. Only one glance at the newspapers is enough to remind me that this world is defined by East vs. West, Shia vs. Sunni, red vs. blue. I do not want to support splitting the world yet another way. But this is not a division on ethnic, religious or political differences. This is liberty vs. inequality. This is right vs. wrong, and there can be no reconciliation with wrong.

This is not just a struggle for members of the gay and lesbian community. I am not gay, but I owe it to my family members and friends who are gays and lesbians to take a stand. I owe it to the individuals who fought and sacrificed for the Goldberg family during the dark years of Nazism. I owe it to all who have taken stands in the past. I owe it to Jesus himself, who gave everything for each and every one of us.

This essay by a high school student certainly seems full of passion for what he sees as the liberating mission of Jesus! In standing in favor of the opressed, fighting for justice and extending mercy to the outcasts of society he identifies the call of John the Baptist to he Church and society and recognizes it as a place of wilderness.

Certainly the Episcopal Church, the community to of faith he belongs to, has taken bold steps in the last several years! The consecration of gay man living in a partnered relationship,, the choosing of a woman as Presiding bishop, the clamor in some parts for the blessing of commited same sex couples puts the church in the center of controversy and schim! Many faithful Christians hold these things as a departure from the traditional Scriptural and Traditional values of Anglicanism.

It would be interesting to poll young Christians about their attitudes towards women in ministry and the role of gay people in the Church. A Barna survey in 2007 showed the a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that Christianity is "anti-homosexual."
Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a "bigger sin" than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians

I wonder, as I read the post by this young Episcopalian, the findings of surveys among the young ,as well as the attitudes and concerns of younger people in my own parish wether we have missed the boat. Could it be that instead of showing the face of Jesus, full of love and compassion for all, we have shown the world and our children a face of hatred and intolerance? Certainly time will tell the way it will go for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion! For me, I guess the bigger question is what kind of values and gospel are todays Christians communicating to their children. It seems like there is a disconnect in more ways than one!