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Pope Sets Record Straight on
Newman and Conscience
The highlight of the Pope's visit was his Mass in Birmingham on September 19 to beatify John Henry Newman. This was the first beatification Mass the Pope has personally celebrated since his election to the chair of St. Peter more than five years ago.
Pope Benedict made it known that he felt that beatifications should be celebrated by the local bishop with Mass in the locale of the beatified, rather than in Rome. This was to emphasize that though acknowledged by the universal Church, the person declared blessed has a special connection to the community where he bore witness to the Catholic Faith.
Why the exception in the case of Cardinal Newman? It is widely known that Pope Benedict, during his student and, later, teaching days, felt a strong affinity to Newman. Temperamentally, the two men appear similar: shy, scholarly, gentle, sensitive in feeling yet firm in conviction.
And there is yet another reason why the Pope may have chosen to go to so potentially an unwelcoming place as Great Britain. Cardinal Newman's orthodoxy had been made a subject of controversy by those churchmen and theologians who wished to acquire a pedigree for their heterodox views. Newman's famous defense of the primacy of conscience was ripped out of context and made to stand against the very thing it was invoked to defend: papal infallibility as defined at the First Vatican Council. See: "That Still Small Voice".
In beatifying Newman, the Pope necessarily placed himself in the crosshairs in the constant combat between progressives and traditionalists. But whose side was he on? He ended all speculation during his trip to Great Britain. He praised Cardinal Newman's defense of orthodoxy, not his alleged apologia for private judgment.
In his address on September 18, in Hyde Park, London, Pope Benedict said he wished to talk about aspects of Newman's teaching that are particularly relevant to the Church today. The Holy Father went on to say: "At the end of his life, Newman would describe his life's work as a struggle against the growing tendency to view religion as a purely private and subjective matter, a question of personal opinion." See full address: "Newman spoke this evening in Hyde Park".
Thus, in the deft manner that has become his characteristic way of handling polemics, the Pope made it plain that he honored Newman not as the hero of Vatican II's break with Tradition, but as a precursor of the hermeneutic of continuity with which Benedict is trying to reunite the fragmented Church he inherited. See: "Pope Benedict XVI on the hermeneutic of continuity".
Bishops Patrick Hoogmartens and Jozef De Kezel, of Hasselt and Bruges respectively, have taken the occasion of a highly publicized state investigation into possible Church cover-ups or failures to report criminal sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy to raise the question of priestly celibacy. See: http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Holy_Orders
According to the bishops, the time is ripe for a reconsideration of the Church's requirement that priests remain celibate. Many in Belgium, and elsewhere, have linked sexual abuse by the clergy to mandatory celibacy and pointed out that the Church's rule on celibacy is not linked to defined doctrine and can be changed.
Hoogmartens, according to Agence France-Presse, said: "I can imagine two sorts of priesthood. Those who live celibately and those who have a relationship — are married." His fellow bishop, De Kesel, said, "People for whom celibacy is humanly impossible should also have the chance of becoming priests."
De Kesel appears to place Holy Orders on the ever-growing list of human rights that can legitimately be claimed by anyone, no matter what his circumstance. His Excellency also appears to forget that priestly celibacy is a special grace, not a natural attribute that some find "humanly impossible."
What the two Belgian bishops have demonstrated, aside from opportunism in the midst of scandal, is a view of the Church based on Naturalism, not defined doctrine and immemorial discipline. The priesthood is not a right, nor is it simply a career choice: it is a Divine calling.
Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is also on record as favoring a discussion about the rule on priestly celibacy. He has called for "an unflinching examination." See: "Cardinal Schönborn on Celibacy". The Cardinal's spokesman later "clarified" the statement, saying that His Eminence was in no way questioning the Church's position on priestly celibacy. This obvious backpedaling is more in the nature of a contradiction than a clarification.
What the Cardinal and the bishops cited above appear to be forgetting is that Pope Benedict has declared priestly celibacy non-negotiable. In the wake of Cardinal Schönborn's remarks, the Pope while in Germany denied the link of celibacy to sexual abuse and defended priestly celibacy as a sign of "entire commitment to the Lord." See: "Pope defends celibacy rule amid sex abuse scandals".
The Holy Father, in linking the sexual abuse crisis to the Fatima prophecies, is clearly telling us that the chastisement of the Church is due to a failure to heed Our Lady of Fatima and Her saving message. May Pope Benedict go further along this road and, at long last, perform the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart. Only that will bring an end to this chastisement and an end to the persecution of the Church.
Latest Fatima Perspectives
Israel Fuels Speculation on War Preparations — Two events in the Middle East indicate that mounting tensions between Israel and Iran may soon result in military action by Israel. In early August, the Bushehr civilian nuclear power plant became operational. About the same time, the U.S. Department of Defense asked Congress to approve the sale of massive quantities of military grade jet fuel to Israel, along with substantial amounts of diesel and unleaded gasoline designated for military use.
Change We Can Believe In — All of our institutions — ecclesial, political, financial, familial — are mired in habitual crises of one sort or another. A crisis is said to exist when opposing forces are poised for a final conflict that will lead us in one of two radically different directions. The widespread sexual abuse of adolescents and children by some of the clergy and the subsequent cover-ups are now routinely labeled by the media as a crisis for the Catholic Church. If the designation is accurate, what opposing forces are in conflict? Between what radically divergent courses must the Church decide?
The Fatima Message and the Problem of False Obedience — The subjects of this article are: (1) the evident suppression of a text of the Third Secret of Fatima that would explain and accompany the vision of the "Bishop dressed in White" published under the auspices (strangely enough) of the Vatican Secretary of State on June 26, 2000; and (2) the obviously not done Consecration of Russia which Cardinal Bertone would forbid us from talking about. Rather than reviewing the evidence, the focus here will be on a great obstacle to accomplishment of the imperatives of the Fatima Message: false obedience.
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