Saturday, March 23, 2013

Francis might teach us to be good

I have been a little out of touch with things lately, I have only just read the latest in the Cardinal O'Brien saga, I don't know if it is true but it has the smell of truth about it.

I don't know how the Papacy of Francis is going to pan out, 10 days is a bit short to judge. I was rather heartened by the words of one of my parishioners, "Pope Benedict taught us to think, Pope Francis might teach us to be good". I like that, I think we, especially the leaders of the Church have forgotten we must be good.

I think Pope Benedict really did teach us to think, to return to original sources, to the actual words, not just of the Council but of Scripture and the Fathers, but really of the Word Made Flesh, Francis I hope may well teach us how to live out the Gospel.

The dichotomy between the goodness of the Gospel and the sometimes wickedness of Christians is shameful. The secular media are right to pillory us for hypocrisy. The Gospel cannot be an abstract concept, Jesus cannot be vague ideas, the Gospel has to be about the Word being made flesh, Jesus has to be seen in his Church, and made visible in the darkness of the world.

The synoptic Gospels are full of imperatives, "do this", forgive, show mercy, even, "cut off your hand", "pluck out your eye" and the Gospel of John speaks so often of "works", "evidence", "witnesses". Jesus' teaching is backed up by solid examples of his own good works, of miracles, and his own death and resurrection.

The secular media's main complaint, and it should be taken seriously is that we, the Church, are not good, that we are hypocritical. We cannot blame the world if it simply does not see the Gospel lived in the lives of Christians, and as priests and bishops we cannot blame Christians if they do not see the Gospel lived in the lives of their leaders.

The real problem in the Church is our failure to lead effectively, and that isn't about management, it is simply about lack of commitment to the Gospel, the failure to even attempt to put it into practice. It is worth considering that leadership in the Church is ultimately about leading people to Jesus Christ. Pope Francis might well at times be a bit crass, his language might even be a bit more like a fisherman than a prince of the Church at times, he might even make liturgical blunders or even theological errors of judgement. As Archbishop he seems to have won over many and alienated a some but he seems genuinely to have tried to be authentic witness, a believable witness.

As a Church, and as Christians, we have nothing to offer except Jesus Christ, the world recoils from hypocrisy but it still wants to see the face of Christ. For the last 50 years the Church has been concerned about its own self, this has been disastrous both for itself and for the world, its fruit is the people outside of it no longer see Christ in it, and people inside it no longer believe in what Christ teaches. The result is we produce no fruit and as Jesus says. "By their fruits you shall know them". We can talk all we like about faith, but without works it is dead!


nickbris said...

There are a lot of good people around,they vastly outnumber the monsters we always read about or see on TV.

Good people are not newsworthy,they go about privately without talking or boasting about it.

The Saint who handed in the £50 I forgot to take from the cashpoint did it without a second thought.We do recognise these people but they would be embarrassed if we praised them.

If His Holiness wants to lead by example it can only be a good thing for everybody. If the luxury yacht builders go out of business that is just too bad or the £20k handbag manufacturers for that matter.

The red shoes and the tiara can go in the bin.

Annie said...

"The real problem in the Church is our failure to lead effectively . . . the failure to even attempt to put it (the Gospel) into practice."

I would change that a bit:

"The real problem in the Church is our failure to *teach* effectively . . . the failure to even attempt to make disciples of all nations."

Christ didn't tell His apostles to "go out and lead everybody" or to "go out and practice what I've told you to do". He told them to make disciples of people by "baptizing them" and "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."

Practice is important but it can't be divorced from teaching. An adulterer can run a food kitchen. Does being on the street with the poor exempt a man from the Sixth Commandment? Does he even know what that Commandment is? Do we get a pass on our personal immorality if we give drink to the thirsty? Can we forget about worshipping God because, after all, when we visit the sick we're visiting Jesus?

We are dancing to the tune of the world when we define ourselves as just another social services agency. The Corporate and Spiritual Works of Mercy have to be understood through the teachings of Jesus Christ from which they flow or we've fed a person's body but starved his soul. At least the Salvation Army makes people sing a few hymns before they hand out the food. We don't even do that.

Jacobi said...

Father, I wouldn’t worry about how Pope Francis will do. He is a bit of a showman, but then so was Jean Paul II.

All Popes emphasis different aspects and that is a good thing. What they don’t do, and cannot do, as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, is change the eternal and unchanging Truths and teachings of the one true Church, the Catholic Church.

It is now generally agreed that the underlying cause of the shambles of the last fifty years is a retreat from Faith, made much worse by the failure of bishops (and priests ), to teach in a clear and authoritative way these Truths.
I suspect, the Holy Father has worked this out also!

mike said...

Fr you touched on imperatives, what is are commandments. When Christ directed if you love me you will keep My commandments, what are His commandments? was, "You are Peter" what followed a commandment and we should all follow? relativism and pride combined to make a private relation for many says, "NO" I often think that the directive of Christs which said,"If you love M "e, should be applied by Bishops to their priests spiritually, surely not physically as is a habit at times. The whole New Testament is a commandment made by a Man who had and ably demonstrated the power to enforce His instructions. relativism is certainly found in the majority of the bad translations of the Scriptures.

The Bones said...

Annie, but better way of teaching than by doing.

Is this not what Our Lord asked for - fruits?

Is this not what St James taught?


Greg Collins said...

Amen Father. Amen.

We need to stop preaching exclusively to the (partly) converted and looking inwards at ourselves.

We need to stop bickering about non-essentials like the colour of the Pope's shoes, the style of music at Mass, and focus on the things that are essential to our salvation and the salvation of the world.

We need to know what these essentials are and get out on the streets, and proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

The Angels have no hands. Ours is the work.

Tony Flavin said...

I'm at a loss as to how Cardinal O'Brien's faults, which require our prayers, fits in here please.

I shall know the cardinal by his fruits not his faults, like Mary Magdalene, is that it?

Delia said...

Video of Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus on Fr Z's blog (also BBC but usual commentary). So beautiful to see them together, so touching and moving. I couldn't hear what they were saying, though. Also, I did think that Benedict looked even more frail.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Deacon Flavin, Do you not think there is just a tinge of ineffective witness, of hypocrisy, of bad leadership, of failure to live the Gospel.
Isn't this kind of scandal, perhaps you do not think its, a stumbling block to belief?

Pablo the Mexican said...

"We make good men better"

The credo of Freemasonry.

Even Pagans can be good and Charitable.

We need a Holy Father that will feed his sheep.

Canon Law of Holy Mother Church:

Suprema Lex Soli Solimarum: The Supreme Law is the Salvation of Souls

May He, Who , for your sake was nailed to the Cross, be in every way impressed upon your heart.

¡Ave María Purísima!


Unknown said...

Father, what better time for us all to put into practice what you have written than this coming Holy Week.


I met lots of nice people who never caused any trouble on the 'outside' before I came back in to the church. Since that time I have met some quite horrible people, at times became not so nice myself, and met plenty of people who say they follow Christ, but then show a level of disrespect for the Catholic Church which has been shocking.

But then again, Satan is going to be more interested in those who are closest to Christ, and causes the greatest havoc from within. I guess by doing this he guarantees that those on the outside are never evangelised.

Unknown said...

It is very regrettable that the cardinal created a scandal. I felt very supportive towards him initially because anyone can say anything about another and I assumed in reference to the late-night drinking bouts that perhaps at worst stupid things could have occurred a long time ago under the pernicious influence of alcohol, but he has admitted to grievous sin, and it appears it was not a one-off but rather a recurrent and continuing sin. What I can’t understand is why he allowed himself to be elevated? Did he have no good friends to warn him?
I did support him years ago when he was off the national radar screen but seemed to be a man of spine unlike his English peers (as I then thought). And I admired so much what he did for Scotland which has a long history of bigotry and hatred of Catholics.
The Scottish prime-minister had the decency to ask that the cardinal’s good works should not be overlooked by his misdeeds. That was a generous tribute. And I hope we can all pray for Cardinal O’Brien.

Tony Flavin said...

I agree with you totally Father, and there but for the grace of God goes any one of us.

And for those that fall, we Christians pray, not point.

John Fisher said...

I read the article in the Scottish Herlad and it seems to me the priests have to go as well. Certainly O'Brien was brvaer than Mahoney of los Angeles. The gay ideology really hats homosexuals who say homosexuality and gay ideology is wrong. Talking from bitter experience is just ignores. Why? Because they have ahrdened their own consciences and become angry when challenged. Concerning Pope Francis I read he did nothing to stop clegy coohabiting with males and females in his dioces in Argentina. I read a sex change man and his male partner had an IVF child baptised and even received Communion. It was in the cathedral!
Catholic laity are not stupid. We know who our "gay" priests are and yes we know few are celebate. They find ways of doing what they feel. There is a clear link betweeb sexal abuse of minors and adults. The Church must have a zero tolerance to all sexual abuse! Also read the riot act to priests who do not keep celebacy!!!!

Greg Collins said...

And for those that fall, we Christians pray, not point.

A point that Cardinal O'Brien appears to have overlooked in some of his pronouncements in regard to homosexuals.

Such apparent hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness is indeed a σκανδαλον, a "stumbling block" for those of fragile faith.

No one compelled him to accept high office within the Church, and the high profile that goes with it, whilst living a lifestyle so at odds with Church teaching.

Men are often weak in such matters, but they do well to acknowledge their weakness and not take leadership positions where the gulf between their walk and their talk will damage the faith of others.

gemoftheocean said...

"The luxury yacht builders" are often working and middle class stiffs, Nickbris. I'm glad there are rich people around who provide employment for them. Some time ago in the 80s the idiots in the US congress decided "let's stick it to the wealthy yacht owners and charge a huge tax on luxury items like yachts." All that ended up doing was screwing the people who did the grunt work of making the boats and it put them out of business and on the dole. Real bright idea that one. The idiots in congress had to back off the "screw the rich" policy - because it made everyone poorer. O'Dumbo has yet to learn same.

nickbris said...

That's right Karen the thieves have to be encouraged;they've got all the money in the World,less for the rest of us to fight over.

Unless some more of that old-fashioned common sense comes round we are all doomed;Pol Pot tried to sort it out,the Taliban will eventually solve a few problems,and the Businessmen robbing us all blind will inherit the earth.

Tony Flavin said...

Greg, I smoke, I know it's wrong, I don't condone it, but it's a weakness, a flaw in my character.

I would not advocate a the smoking ban being revoked, I would argue against the smoking ban being revoked.

I hope I have made the parallel clear.

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