So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis speaks to the US Congress. Not enough God talk?

Pope Francis with two Catholics—VP Biden and Speaker Boehner—behind him.
 AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Many in  the blogosphere, it seems, are criticizing the Pope for not being Catholic enough. Criticism targets his lack of religious language in his recent speech to the US Congress. Specifically, his failure to use the name of Jesus in his presentation.

Could it be that the Holy Father is merely refusing to cast pearls before swine (St. Matthew 7:6)? President Obama and Congress have both demonstrated hostility to the Christian Faith in a manner which suggests little openness to God-talk.

I'd like to think the Holy Father is softening the ground by using "bridge" language. I.e., language that lax Christians, agnostics and atheists as well as any person of goodwill might better understand and accept. The pope is using the language of secular society in a secular arena to gain the attention, first, of secular leaders who, if they are paying attention, might realize it is a pope who has entered their precincts—the pope, the Supreme Pontiff of the Church, the Successor of Saint Peter upon whom Jesus Christ built His Church.

Let's consider the obvious: Congress is not a church. If the Holy Father used bland talk in a Mass, then Catholics would be right to complain.

Frankly, this blogger is much more annoyed by the so-called hymns and songs typically presented at Mass which completely castrate God and fail to mention even once the name of Jesus. Instead of praising, adoring and thanking God, for starters, the songs amount to mere vapid narcissistic cheers. There is no excuse for the Jesus-less lyrics that frequently appear in hymnals that have received official approval from bishops' conferences. A real danger to Catholics comes from those who attack the integrity of the Mass and those who tolerate abuse of the Mass.

What the Holy Father did do is remind Americans of their dignity. He salted his speech with language which shifts attention away from a popular but false sense of dignity to a renewed understanding of the dignity of man:
(T)he figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being.
All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776).
The Holy Father also drew the attention of politicians to an authentic representative of the authentic social justice movement:
In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.
In other words, the Holy Father used honey, not a hammer, to tease Congress toward the Gospel, the Gospel which is present in every culture in seed form. It takes time for that seed to grow, and the soil of North America—which has been polluted for decades by the cancer of relativism—our fallow field, is ready for another planting.

The most successful missionaries who encountered the aboriginal peoples in what are now called the Americas were the missionaries who searched indigenous cultures for the hidden Christ, the Gospel hidden among the shadows. Recall how Saint Paul uncovered for the pagan Greeks of Athens the true identity of the "unknown god" (Acts 17:16-34).

Let's face it, many Catholics do not know the language of the Faith. A personal intimate communion with Jesus Christ and His Church is unknown to many Catholics.

Pope Francis did well to use English—certainly not his most fluent tongue—to reach out to all people of good will by using language non-Catholics and low information Catholics can appreciate, a gateway of sorts through which those who harbour resentment and bigotry and those indifferent to religion might enter into dialogue and come to a better appreciation that the Catholic Faith speaks to all. Pope Francis has issued an invitation to 'come and see', to come and see (and hear) more. That 'more' being the person of Christ and His Church.

Time will determine whether or not Francis' strategy is effective.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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