Posts tagged: theologians

It Started With the Liturgy

By , April 15, 2014 5:47 am

Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, bishops, priests and theologians were for the most part very relaxed about the Church. Most of them thought that everything was just fine and they never dreamed that an explosive development was coming down the pike that would be known in history as the Second Vatican Council.

However, there had been certain glimmers of approaching change and they first began to appear in the liturgical life of the Church. In the Western Church, everything was in Latin, not just the Mass and the Sacraments, but it was the working language of the Church. It was really a good thing for people who traveled a great deal. If you were a Frenchman attending Mass in the Congo, you were right at home with the Latin, but for most of the faithful the Latin language served as background music. They understood nothing but found it comforting.

Pope Pius XII had worked hard to encourage theologians to go back to the scriptures and he unleashed a very strong surge of dramatically improved scripture studies. Scripture would soon be overlapping in the world of liturgy and question began to be asked about certain things that might be accented too much or not enough.

Liturgists began to organize, liturgical and scripture scholars began to communicate more effectively, and suddenly there came to be a sense that not all was well in the inner-life of the Church.

In 1958 a wonderful, fulsome, Italian bishop from the Alps was elected to the Chair of Peter and he took the delightful name of Pope John XXIII.

He had been listening to that questioning and wondering himself about the need for updating the inner-life of the Church and then finally he did it. He called for a meeting of all the bishops of the world to come together under the dome of St. Peter’s and to pray, study, test, debate and decide on how the Church could more effectively move forward. In calling the Council, it generated an explosion of excitement and hope. The bishops answered his summons and met for several months a year for four years. Needless to say, the first issue that they took up was the sacred liturgy and they published an extraordinary document that would have awesome repercussions around the world.

Let’s take a look at that subject tomorrow.

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Signs of Hope – Bright Signs!

By , November 12, 2013 4:27 am

Bishop McElroy

The secular media almost went berserk last month when Pope Francis gave a lengthy and detailed interview to La Civilta Cattolica and it was published in other Jesuit publications around the world. Their superficial reaction was that the Church was going to stop being so involved in issues such as abortion and same sex marriages and would turn to more popular social issues. They could not have been more wrong.

Popes do not change Catholic doctrine but an individual pope may decide to shift the emphasis that he is taking on this or that subject. And what is Pope Francis emphasizing?? Poverty. He is directing the Roman Catholic Church, spread across the world, to make its main concern the alleviation of an agonizing poverty that spreads across the entire planet but is especially present in South America and the urban centers of the developed world. Catholic moral theologians are beginning to study this and other recent documents that Pope Francis has put out and are beginning to see the very dramatic direction that they are taking.

The Church has always called its members to individual spiritual conversion. We are all called by baptism to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. The pope is presenting us with a greater challenge, an invitation to cultural conversion and the pope has outlined three false cultures that materialism has created in our world. Bishop Robert McElroy, the Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco, has done us a favor by breaking down this thrust into three segments. In the October 21st issue of America magazine Bishop McElroy stated, our Holy Father has laid bare, “Three false cultures that materialism has created in the world. The first is the culture of comfort that makes us think only of ourselves. Second is the culture of waste that seizes the gifts of the created order only to savor them for a moment and then discard them. Finally, the culture of indifference that desensitizes us to the suffering of others no matter how intense, no matter how sustained.”

Who can argue with the accuracy of this evaluation? Watch the TV ads, look at the signs along the highway. The customer has to have the exact degree of softness or firmness in our mattresses. The furniture in our homes and cars must be exactly what we desire as individuals.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any one of these things but it becomes wrong when we allow ourselves to enjoy this culture of comfort and at the same time making us oblivious to the unnecessary deaths of millions of children and a destructive force of terrible diseases that we know that could be easily eradicated in North America and Europe if we were willing to share our awesome resources.

The need for cultural conversion is made also obvious by the second false culture, the culture of waste that is reflected in our restaurants, our second homes and any uneaten food pouring out the back doors of our homes and restaurants. This inordinate desire of comfort and the indifference to waste culminate into the culture of indifference which desensitizes us to the suffering of others no matter how intense, no matter how sustained.

Let me again quote Bishop McElroy. “The United States and the richest nations of world community have a moral responsibility to share from their plenty with the poorest people within the human family. In 2002, the wealthy nations of the world pledged to direct 0.7% of their gross domestic product towards the alleviation of dire poverty by the year 2015. This level of investment could have largely eliminated poverty on the planet. However, the United States and most other leading economic powers have reneged on their commitment. Today the United States only gives 0.2% of its gross domestic product in development assistance.”
How long will we be able to see the deaths of millions of children taking place unnecessarily across the world while we continue to spend on our luxury cars, pets, lawns and nails!

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Real and Meaningful Ecumenism

By , April 29, 2013 4:45 am

Talk about ecumenism and a modest amount of movement in the ecumenical world has been going on at least since the 1960’s. Changed attitudes by Roman Catholics has helped tremendously because after Vatican Council II we decided to break up on circling the wagons and head West towards Christian unity. I am sure that it was a shove from the Holy Spirit after 300 years of religious isolation.
There has been a great deal of progress at the international level. Scripture scholars and major theologians have spent years exploring their religious roots, traditions and present positions and have discovered happily an amazing amount of unity that actually exists between the major Christian faiths in the world. This is especially true of Anglicans, Lutherans and Roman Catholics. While those meetings were tremendously important, they seldom reached down to the parish or neighborhood level.
Today I would like to spotlight a small group that I wish would become symbolic of the next phase of ecumenical activity. I am referring to a small group of clergy who meet at 10:00 a.m. every Wednesday morning in the parish rectory of St. Louis King of France. The host is Father Larry Covington, the pastor of St. Louis, and four or five neighborhood pastors representing all the major Christian traditions of the neighborhood. Finally, and this is truly wonderful, they are joined by a rabbi from the nearby synagogue. His presence is a real asset to the others not only because of his ability to contribute to discussions from the Old Testament, but with deeper insights in New Testament texts. These are hard working men serving large local congregations but they take the time to deepen their knowledge of their own faith and, at the same time, familiarize themselves with the religious traditions of others in the neighborhood.
Ecumenism for the last fifty years has always involved a relaxed ability to work together on social issues but it seldom got into deep open discussion of theological views. That is not true in north central Austin.
May God bless this group and may they become multiplied many times in the future.

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Silenced Theologians

By , January 5, 2012 4:15 am

We may forget it now but the years leading up to the Second Vatican Council often saw a sharp tension between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and leading theologians across the world. A recent book, “Silence Speaks: Teilhard de Chardin, Yves Congar, John Courtney Murray, and Thomas Merton” by Father Robert Nugent describes the pain and tension in the lives of those theologians as the Vatican reacted negatively to their writings. In all four instances, they were silenced – not allowed to speak or write in their field of competence but later all will surface with honor and acclaim during the years of the Council.

The first half of the 20th century is a painful chapter in the story of theological development within the Church. Happily, we saw dramatic improvements after the Council but there are regrettable signs of a return to the heavy-handedness of that sad period are manifesting themselves again. During his ordeal, Yves Congar described the situation, “The Holy Office and practice rules the Church and makes everyone bow down to it through fear or through interventions. It is the supreme Gestapo, unyielding, whose decisions cannot be discussed.”

Currently, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is headed by an American Cardinal, William Levada. Let’s hope that he will lead the Congregation in such a way that will lend a productive atmosphere between the authority of the Church and the many theologians working sincerely to enhance the understanding of revelation.

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