Tune in tonight to EWTN’s “At Home with Jim and Joy” when I speak of a Pope I dearly loved, respected and admired – and in whose papacy I worked! – St. Pope John Paul. Today is his feast day and also the 40th anniversary of the inauguration of his pontificate on that faraway October 22, 1978. I share a few personal moments and also look at a handful of the “firsts” of the John Paul papacy!
As you will see below, Msgr. Charles Pope wrote a brilliant piece for the National Catholic Register entitled, “Reflections on Archbishop Viganò’s courageous Third Letter.” Believe me, he is spot on!
SYNOD OF BISHOPS: WE MUST ASK FOR FORGIVENESS
At Monday’s press briefing for the Synod of Bishops on Young People a bishop said that the Church must ask young people for forgiveness for the kind of world we have created.
By Russell Pollitt, SJ (vaticannews)
The Synod Fathers had Monday off while the first draft of the Synod document was being finalised. This draft will be presented at the General Assembly on Tuesday morning. The draft will be debated on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday the Synod Fathers will have a day off while a final draft is being prepared. On Friday the General Assembly will meet to elect a new Council for the Synod and, on Saturday, the final document will be presented to the bishops. They will vote on the document paragraph by paragraph, each needing a two thirds majority to be included in the final document.
We must ask forgiveness
Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, S.J., from Turkey said that he has been thinking about the kind of world that has been created for young people. We have not prepared a liveable world for young people where they can work, express themselves and use their talents. We have to ask young people for forgiveness, he said, for creating a world in which we have deprived them of so many possibilities.
The Bishop also said that what emerged for him at the Synod was the vast differences between the Church in affluent wealthy parts of the world compared to many impoverished places. He said that in impoverished places it is very hard to talk about faith and discernment when many young people from the ages of 8 or 10 are not able to choose because choices are made for them, often by the desperate conditions they find themselves in.
We must change, we must take conversion seriously, so that we can become a better Church, said Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, S.D.B., General Superior of the Salesians of Saint John Bosco. He said that young people have asked the Church to be brave and bear witness, to testify to the faith. He said that this was a call to all adults, not just to the clergy.
Ms. Henriette Camara, an auditor and member of the Catholic Scouts from Guinea, spoke about her conversion. She said that she came from a Muslim family. She came into contact with the Catholic Scouts and explained how, through this movement, she chose to convert. She says that she received a lot of support from them, she was welcomed without any discrimination and that her commitment to the Church with other young people has been a very meaningful experience. She also said that, even today, her mother is not happy that she chose to convert but she is still supported by the scouts.
Feeling fatherless and motherless
Bishop Bizzeti and Fr Artime said that they believe that motherhood and fatherhood is missing in the world. Fr Artime says that he meets young people who suffer from this lack of parenthood. He said that even in families that are conventional the pace of life is such that children are often not given the presence and accompaniment they need.
He went on to say that he believed that there is a weakness in the Church’s vision. The Church is not only present in parishes but in schools, shelters and other institutions and it is precisely in these that the Church can offer and help young people with a truly mature and healthy motherhood and fatherhood.
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano from the USA, said that the work of the Synod has been to look at things from a universal level but that this now needs to be taken into local Churches. He said that Synodality doesn’t end now, it must be concretised in local areas. A big question for him, he says, is how he takes this forward in his own diocese. He said that he wants to bring young people in his diocese together so that they can put their heads together and find a way forward. He said that a diocesan synod or congress might be a way of taking the Synod forward.
Bishop Caggiano said that young people have a unique contribution to offer the Church in the form of the technologies they use. Young people have expertise on the “digital continent” and that needs to become real missionary territory. He said that the young people at the Synod are ready to be sent and that it is his hope that they unleash a new energy and power in the Church. Young people best evangelise young people, the bishop said.
Commenting on the sexual abuse of minors. Bishop Caggiano said that abuse was both a crime and a sin and that there is no place in the Church for this at all. We need to let young people know that we are committed to rebuilding our credibility and trust. The Bishops said that when trust is broken it is very hard to rebuild and needs to be done one person at a time. He said that that is something the bishops will address and must have a definitive way of dealing with in the future.
NOTRE DAME STUDENTS REFLECT ON SYNOD, CHALLENGES FACING YOUTH TODAY
As the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment draws to a close, twelve students from the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture’s Sorin Fellows program spent a week in Rome meeting with synod delegates, volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity, and traveling on pilgrimage to some of Rome’s historic churches.
Here is a link to their reflections on the synod process and the challenges facing young people today: https://cruxnow.com/synod-of-bishops-on-youth/2018/10/21/notre-dame-youth-on-synod-the-sacred-heart-and-mother-teresa/
REFLECTIONS ON ARCHBISHOP VIGANÒ’S COURAGEOUS THIRD LETTER
In thin-skinned times such as these, Archbishop Viganò’s most recent letter shines forth as a clarion call to Catholics everywhere.
Msgr. Charles Pope (for National Catholic Register)
As I finished reading Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s third letter, I had an immediate sense that I had just read something that is destined to be one of the great pastoral and literary moments of the Church’s history. There was an air of greatness about it that I cannot fully describe. I was stunned at its soteriological quality — at its stirring and yet stark reminder of our own judgment day. In effect he reminded us that this is more than a quibble over terminology or who wins on this or that point, or who is respectful enough of whom. This is about the salvation of souls, including our own. We almost never hear bishops or priests speak like this today!
Others will write adequately on the canonical, ecclesial and political aspects of Archbishop Viganò latest and very concise summary of the case. As most of you know, I have fully affirmed elsewhere that I find his allegations credible and that they should be fully investigated. But in this post I want to explore further the priestly qualities manifest in this third letter, qualities that are too often missing in action today.
To begin with, he has in mind the moral condition of souls. The Archbishop warns in several places of the danger posed to the souls of the faithful by the silence and confusing actions of many bishops and priests and the Pope. He laments that this, along with the homosexual subculture in the Church, “continues to wreak great harm in the Church — harm to so many innocent souls, to young priestly vocations, and to the faithful at large.”
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, this was the first concern of most every priest: the moral condition of souls, including his own. Today, many bishops and priests, as well as many parents and other leaders in the Church, seem far more concerned with the feelings, and emotional happiness of those under their care than with their actual moral condition. They worry more about political correctness and not upsetting those who engage in identity politics and base their whole identity on aberrant and sinful habits and disordered inclinations. That a person be pleased and affirmed today is seemingly more important than that they be summoned to repentance and healing or be made ready for their judgment day. Passing and apparent happiness eclipses true and eternal happiness. Further, silence in the face of horrible sin, deferring to and fawning over powerful churchmen, and cultural leaders of this world seems to outweigh any concern for the harm caused to the souls and lives of others.
Yes, too often, the only thing that really matters, the salvation of souls, is hardly considered. As others have rightly pointed out, this points to a loss of faith and a bland universalism wherein all, or the vast majority, attain to Heaven. Further, the possibility of Hell is all but dismissed — almost never preached, let alone considered a factor in how we should pastorally guide people.
In all of this, Archbishop Viganò still has that “old-time religion.” He takes seriously Jesus’ admonitions regarding Judgment Day, his many warnings about Hell and the absolute need to decide whom we will serve: God or the world, the Gospel or popular culture, the flesh or the spirit. Viganò’s final two paragraphs could not be clearer:
You can choose to withdraw from the battle, to prop up the conspiracy of silence and avert your eyes from the spreading of corruption. You can make excuses, compromises and justification that put off the day of reckoning. You can console yourselves with the falsehood and the delusion that it will be easier to tell the truth tomorrow, and then the following day, and so on.
On the other hand, you can choose to speak. You can trust Him who told us, “the truth will set you free.” I do not say it will be easy to decide between silence and speaking. I urge you to consider which choice — on your deathbed, and then before the just Judge — you will not regret having made.
This is powerful. I could be reading St. John Chrysostom, Pope St. Gregory the Great or St. Alphonsus Liguori. Honestly, I cannot recall many times I have heard a modern bishop or even priest speak like this. There are exceptions of course, such as the great Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, but clarity is rare. I hope too that some of the deacons, priests and bishops who might read this are saying, “I too am an exception. I often preach like this.”
But my general experience tells me, from many who write to me, that their priests and bishops never mention mortal sin, Hell or judgement. And if they do preach on sin they use abstractions and generalities, euphemisms and other safe terms such as “injustice” and “woundedness.”
In this letter Archbishop Viganò writes as if he never got the memo to obfuscate and speak in cloaked and guarded ways; to speak in such hazy terms that no one really has any idea what you are saying.
Instead the Archbishop comes right out and says,
[T]his very grave crisis cannot be properly addressed and resolved unless and until we call things by their true names. This is a crisis due to the scourge of homosexuality, in its agents, in its motives, in its resistance to reform. It is no exaggeration to say that homosexuality has become a plague in the clergy, and it can only be eradicated with spiritual weapons. It is an enormous hypocrisy to condemn the abuse, claim to weep for the victims, and yet refuse to denounce the root cause of so much sexual abuse: homosexuality. It is hypocrisy to refuse to acknowledge that this scourge is due to a serious crisis in the spiritual life of the clergy and to fail to take the steps necessary to remedy it.… the evidence for homosexual collusion, with its deep roots that are so difficult to eradicate, is overwhelming. …To claim the crisis itself to be clericalism is pure sophistry.
Here too there have been very few bishops or priest willing to speak so clearly and to depart from euphemisms. There are exceptions, but they are too few. And, for a bonus round, the good archbishop even reintroduces an older term that has fallen out of use:
Unquestionably there exist philandering clergy, and unquestionably they too damage their own souls, the souls of those whom they corrupt, and the Church at large.
A philanderer is a man who exploits women, a “womanizer.” He is one who, in an often-casual way exploits a woman, but has little or no intention of marrying her. He will exploit her for his needs but not consider her as a person deserving of his ultimate respect and loyalty in marriage. Sadly this too exists in the priesthood, but on a far more limited basis. Whatever the number or percentage of philanderers — one is too many — the much larger number of homosexual offenses (80 percent) in clergy sexual delicts shouts for attention. But few, very few bishops or Vatican officials are willing to talk openly and clearly about it. This must change if any solutions are to be credible and trust is to be restored with God’s people. Excluding any reference to active homosexuality in the priesthood is like excluding any talk about cigarette smoking as a cause for lung cancer. It results in a pointless and laughable discussion that no one can take seriously. Will any other bishops follow the lead of Archbishop Viganò and a few others, such as Bishop Robert Morlino? It remains to be seen, but credibility remains in the balance.
Finally, Archbishop Viganò, in a Pauline sort of way, has taken up the necessary mantle of opposing Peter’s (i.e., Pope Francis’) behavior to his face and publicly. While some wonder why this is not done privately, the answer must surely be, “How could he approach Pope Francis privately?” Pope Francis has steadfastly refused to engage his questioners. He has taken up a policy of “weaponized ambiguity” and when legitimate questions are asked, they are greeted with silence. Far from answering his flock, he often refers to them as monsters, accusers, scandalmongers and worse when they press for clarity and seek for answers and accountability.
How rare it is that other bishops are willing to speak out so clearly of their concerns. Only four cardinals issued the dubia. Why is this? Where are the rest? Only in recent weeks has the Pope even hinted that there may be an allowable investigation of the Vatican Archives. One must still ask: When? How? And to what extent? It will take a courageous insistence on the part of the faithful and bishops to see this through.
In the end, I am deeply grateful for Archbishop Viganò’s dose of “old-time religion.”
It is refreshing to hear an archbishop actually call sin by name; to show concern for the moral condition of souls, not just the emotional state; to warn of judgment and summon us all to decide — not just hide, obfuscate and fret about “getting along” while souls are being lost. It is hopeful that an archbishop of high reputation is willing to call the Pope and the Vatican to account. This sort of leadership is too little in evidence today among the hierarchy and priests.
Some will surely bristle at the Archbishop’s “strong language.” But I ask you, is it really so different from the way the Lord Jesus spoke? Perhaps the bristling is more emblematic of our dainty and thin-skinned times — times marked by identity politics, cries of victimization, and every form of shock and outrage over the slightest reproach.
In my estimation this letter of Archbishop Viganò will go down in history as one of the great moments of pastoral exhortation and integrity. It will shine forth as a clarion call in an age of timid silence from too many other prelates and priests. May the Archbishop’s courage inspire many more to come forth and respectfully but clearly insist on answers and honesty. May his warning on our Judgement Day be salutary. May repentance, renewal and courage be growing realities in God’s Church!