dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Benedict in Brazil (II)

From the Pope's address to the Brazilian Bishops assembled for Vespers in the Cathedral of Sao Paulo:

There is nothing new in the observation that your country is living through a historic deficit in social development, whose extreme effects can seen in the vast cross-section of Brazilians living in need and the great inequalities in income, even at the highest levels of society. It is your task, my dear Brothers, as the hierarchy of the people of God, to promote the search for new solutions imbued with the Christian spirit. A vision of the economy and social problems from the perspective of the Church's social teaching should always bring us to consider things from the viewpoint of human dignity, which transcends the simple interplay of economic factors. Hence, it is necessary to work untiringly to form politicians, and all Brazilians who wield a certain influence, be it great or small, as well as all members of society, so that they can fully assume their responsibilities and learn to give the economy a truly human and compassionate face.

There is a need to form a genuine spirit of truthfulness and honesty among the political and commercial classes. Those who take on leadership roles in society must try to foresee the social consequences -- direct and indirect, short-term and long-term -- of their own decisions, always acting according to the criteria that will maximize the common good, rather than merely seeking personal profit.

The rest here.

John Allen, in his weekly online column, offers background and analysis of the trip to date:

When Benedict was asked to approve the motto of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which he will formally open tomorrow in Aparecida, it was "Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our people may have life." The pope asked that the final phrase be amended to, "so that our people may have life in Him. That Christological flourish hinted at the leitmotif of the trip.

So far, Brazil has offered an intriguing mix of what many regard as "the real Ratzinger," with tough talk on abortion, marriage, priestly celibacy and ecclesiastical discipline, along with the more pastoral Benedict -- praising the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador; urging work on behalf of the poor, the Amazon rainforest, and in general for "a more just and fraternal society"; and, by virtue of his very choice to be here, offering an olive branch to a Brazilian church long seen as estranged from Rome.

At bottom, Benedict's pitch seems to be that the famous social commitment of Brazilian Catholicism -- which he certainly has endorsed -- must nevertheless yield pride of place to a clear focus on Catholic fundamentals, above all what the pope calls "the primacy of God." There are no short-cuts, the pope has implied; one cannot defend the poor without defending the family and the unborn, and one cannot serve humanity without feeding its spiritual as well as material hunger. The failure to keep those priorities clear, he suggested in an address to Brazilian bishops on Friday, goes a long way towards explaining the losses of the Catholic church to Pentecostal and Evangelical "sects."

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

An amazing speech! This may be one of the Holy Fathers defining speeches and it brings much encouragement.To illustrate:1.He defines the deep crisis faced by the Church in Latin America, especially Brazil, but it echoes elsewhere as well.a.liturgical disobedience,b.instruction of and religious formation of seminarians,c.ideological disputes & the danger of "rationalist ideologies (interrupting)" the work of the Church,d.clarity in ecumenical matters he clearly explains that the Church subsists fully only in the Catholic Church presided over by Peters successor and asks the bishops to communicate this truth to the people.The Maid

I presume that Pope Benedict stepped outside his glass popemobile while addressing the bishops of Brazil. Riding through throngs inside a protective box seems to me one of the silliest of messages: he fears sudden death, he fears crowds, he wants a wall to ward off other's' words. Does Lula or George Bush ride around in a President-mobile? Yet, both too suffer from their stifling entourage. The popemobile and what it symbolizes should go the way of the Volkswagen Golf.Joe McMahon

I guess the Maid cannot help fawning in osequiousness. Can she help herself if the mind has been brainwashed? What other explanation is there. For a continent that is mostly Catholic, it has escaped prosperity. There may be a solid argument that the people there are worse off politically and spiritually because of the RCC. Liturgical disobedience? This is why Christianity has made little progress in India, China and Japan---the arrogance of Rome.Latin America is the strongest reason for the whole continent to convert to Protestantism.Clarity in ecumenical matters. Like, continue to suppress the poor and support dictators.Fully Subsists? Like the 80% of the world that is not Catholic is woefully malformed.This is a church that has failed in Latin America. Why won't Benedict begin with an act of contrition?Allen writes,The pope...."offering an olive branch to a Brazilian church long seen as estranged from Rome."Wonder why.

While the Maid's piece reads like the usual shameless Pr, the wire service report on the Pope's visit to the Drug Center today cites David Gibson on the many problems Benedict faces there.Continuing loss of catholics, one priest per 14.000, not enough appreciation of the base communities should be added to the "thong culture" Benedict must preach to and reach out to.He says he wants to show the faith as 'joyous" and "dynamic" and not as a bunch of prohibitions, but it's hard to see that happening there.Of course, Brazilian Catholics are delighted that their Pope has visited and canonized a local. But the impact when he's gone?I couldn't help think of Gordon Brown's acceptance spech in London that his government will be about .listening and learning.How much more could we hope for if Benedict came not only as teacher but listener and copartner in the struggle for the faith not only in Brazil but among the Latino community as a whole.

I realize that my language may have been too harsh on the Maid. I apologizeI really do not fault most who support the hierarchy. Most of us were there once. It aint easy but most of us have to dialogue better.

Bill Mazzella is right that liturgical obedience is a cause of stagnant and now declining church growth in Japan. (Japanese Catholics are outnumbered by Catholic immigrants from the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria and Latin America, who have more vibrant ideas of liturgy.) I celebrate the Mass in Japanese, and it is like moving about in heavy armor. The language is modeled on Latin constructions and is alien to the native genius of the Japanese tongue.Benedict is evidently more preoccupied with sexual freedoms in Brazil than with any other issue. He implicitly blames the flight of Catholics on Liberation Theology, which made the Church insufficiently Christ-centered. Did not Harvey Cox show that the success of evangelical and pentecostalist churches in Latin America was due to their offering a sense of community and belonging? Basic Ecclesial Communities aim to do the same thing, but they are no doubt heavily discouraged by the Vatican.I believe that the major responsibility for the utterly disheartening crises of Catholicism in such countries as Canada, the Netherlands, and now Ireland -- and even Brazil with its 20% disappearance rate -- lies on no other shoulders than those of the Roman Curia. Blockage, obstructionism, obscurantism, obfuscation, obtuseness, unprofessionalism, pastoral hamfistedness, are among the least severe things to be said about their stewardship of the legacy of Vatican II, a Council they seem to lose no opportunity of mocking.

It is disappointing that a priest would find obedience to be a negative thing. Joseph O'Leary's speculation that liturgical obedience is a cause of stagnation or decline in the Japanese Church is a unique read on recent Church history. I wonder if he can imagine that a celebrant's criticism of obedience to ecclesiastical tradition and liturgical norms might lead to decline in a congregation more readily than faithfulness to liturgical norms? The Netherlands is a place where obedience to liturgical norms had been in short supply for many decades and we've seen nothing but decline during that period of widespread liturgical dissent. Joseph also seemingly stops his read in Church history at 1970 forgetting the growth that the Japanese Church experience before the introduction of the Pauline missal there. Perhaps he speculates that there was reverence for liturgical disobedience in 1959 Japan and that liturgical disobedience inspire the Church's growth even then.There are already published reports that the rate of defections from the Church in Brazil have begun to stabilize but it is amazing that so few here admit that liberationist pastoral practices may have spurred some of those defections to Biblically based - and yes - orthodox congregations preaching that "old time religion". Goodness knows those who've defected to Evangelical Christianity in Brazil were obviously not inspired by Liberationist preaching because they show no signs of looking for "liberal" Christianity.When I read Bob's comments I can't help but infer a near regret that the Holy Father's reception has been so exuberant in Brazil. How "terrific" it would have been if those people had just stayed home due to his apparent displeasure with most forms of liberationist theology. Maybe a Brazilian women religious will lecture him about his behavior.Or perhaps some of us will come to admit that our progressive views are not shared by the majority of the faithful. Clearly the Church's conservative morality and liturgical positions are not cause for the people to turn a deaf or indifferent ear to the Holy Father. And Bill - I accept your apology and thank you for it. I'm impressed by anyone who can fit the word "obsequiousness" into a sentence on a blog. I do see a place for liberal Christianity in the Church and I know you feel that way too. Where we differ is in a tendency by some to be obsequious toward the secular culture as it attempts to form our morality, historiography, theology, liturgy, and world view in place of the tradition of the Church and the infallible Magisterium.Joseph's take that decline in Canada, the Netherlands, and even Ireland is due to the Roman curia is given here without evidence and attempts to absolve local Churches for their own pastoral failures. Canada and Ireland were blessed with the former incarnation of ICEL just as the US was and progressive theology swept religious houses and formation centers in those places. Clerical laxity is widespread in those nations as well. There is your problem. The Netherlands is an even more extreme example with well documented pastoral indifference to liturgical norms for many years after the Council. Attempts to blame Brazilian defections to conservative Protestant sects on Roman "conservativeness" are without foundation.Again - compare the growth of Protestantism in the Campos diocese to any progressive diocese of similar size in Brazil. What do you find?I could agree that the Roman Curia shares some of the blame for decline in those Churches to whatever extent the Roman curia permitted local hierarchies to impose a hermeneutic of rupture on local Churches and permitted laxity in religious congregations.The Maid

Maid,Clerical laxity existed before Vatican II. After Vatican II some were just more open about it. Pre-Vatican II was notable for its regimentation, counter reformation, clergy infallibility and dominance.You cannot measure God's people by conformity to bishops. Never before have women been so powerful a force and prensence in the church. Most of the critics of the church remain within the church. There are many of us and we are making this a better church. There was a lot of deadness pre-Vatican. While there may be some apparent laxity (which I say existed but now is more open) the church, the people, are better stronger and more serious about their faith than ever. The bishops are a threat to that growth not a booster.

"Joseph O'Leary's speculation that liturgical obedience is a cause of stagnation or decline in the Japanese Church is a unique read on recent Church history."I did not say anything about obedience or disobedience. I simply said that the language of the Japanese liturgy is artificial and dead, and many others say the same. I did speculate on a connection with stagnant church growth, but it would be no means be unique for bad liturgy to empty churches -- Ireland provides another illustration." I wonder if he can imagine that a celebrant's criticism of obedience to ecclesiastical tradition and liturgical norms might lead to decline in a congregation more readily than faithfulness to liturgical norms? The Netherlands is a place where obedience to liturgical norms had been in short supply for many decades and we've seen nothing but decline during that period of widespread liturgical dissent. "I do not advocate disobedience to liturgical norms. But like Bishop Trautman I do think the faithful should have the right to ask for improvements in the language of the liturgy. The sensus fidelium must be consulted."Joseph also seemingly stops his read in Church history at 1970 forgetting the growth that the Japanese Church experience before the introduction of the Pauline missal there."So is this an argument against the Pauline missal? If so, is it not you who are recommending liturgical disobedience?" Perhaps he speculates that there was reverence for liturgical disobedience in 1959 Japan and that liturgical disobedience inspire the Church's growth even then."The church growth in all denominations after 1945 was very much connected with the extraordinary situation of Japan at that time. "There are already published reports that the rate of defections from the Church in Brazil have begun to stabilize but it is amazing that so few here admit that liberationist pastoral practices may have spurred some of those defections to Biblically based - and yes - orthodox congregations preaching that "old time religion"."Speculation -- contradicted by Harvey Cox's researches that show that the attraction of the evangelical churches is that they provide warm community." Goodness knows those who've defected to Evangelical Christianity in Brazil were obviously not inspired by Liberationist preaching because they show no signs of looking for "liberal" Christianity." Here is another picture: Liberationist preaching, or basic ecclesial communities, were never a majority presence in Latin America and have been systematically suppressed by Rome. The heavy hand of Rome, undermining vital community and vibrant liturgy, has sent Catholics fleeing to other churches."Or perhaps some of us will come to admit that our progressive views are not shared by the majority of the faithful. Clearly the Church's conservative morality and liturgical positions are not cause for the people to turn a deaf or indifferent ear to the Holy Father. "Agreed that the majority of the faithful are as you say -- but then did not the US elect Bush as President twice? So what does this prove?"Joseph's take that decline in Canada, the Netherlands, and even Ireland is due to the Roman curia is given here without evidence."The Roman Curia sets church policy on all issues and appoints all bishops. John Paul II's 1979 visit to Ireland confirmed the conservative direction which has proven entirely unsuited to the needs of the nation. PS I object to this sentence: "It is disappointing that a priest would find obedience to be a negative thing. "Apart from the distortion of my view, you are using the typical gambit of neocath laity, to use clerical status as a kind of blackmail. I have been told on some neocath websites that as a priest I should not have time to blog. This is a method of shutting up theological voices, and it is laden with anticlericalism. It is as if I were to say to a woman contributor, "Why are you, a married woman, not looking after your kids instead of voicing your views here?"

Joseph,Words mean things. You wrote:Bill Mazzella is right that liturgical obedience is a cause of stagnant and now declining church growth in Japan.And now you say:I did not say anything about obedience or disobedience.It looks to me like you are agreeing with Bill M. that obedience is a cause of decline at least in Japan but seemingly in other places too. Additionally, that seems to be a difficult conjecture to support since even you admit that the Church in Japan experienced growth during a time when liturgical disobedience was almost as rare as maniples are among today's Jesuits.And Joseph, by pointing out that your read on history seemed to stop at 1970 I was not arguing against the Pauline missal but pointing out that a liturgy that gives great attention to rubrics and obedient observance of liturgical norms evidently does not necessarily lead to stagnation since the Church in Japan and elsewhere in Asia did grow before the introduction of a vernacular liturgy and the current abbreviated rubrics. A similar observation can be made about both the Netherlands and Ireland. You may not have noticed but I look forward to the renewed ICEL translation of the Pauline missal as an opportunity to further my active participation in the sacred mysteries.You mention decline in Ireland and the Netherlands and you may have noticed that I did agree that the curia may carry some of the blame for certain problems there. However, we cannot absolve conferences of bishops for their own actions or inaction. The way they permitted laxity in religious houses (would we have had more Cardinal McIntyres), permitted their seminaries to grow lax as well, failed to provide good liturgical translations, lost influence in most of RC higher education, allowed poor catechetical texts to be widely distributed, waited for Rome to fix many problems, published statements that had to be revisited or fixed later: to name just two Always our Children and Env. And Art in Catholic Worship, - the list goes on and on.We cannot blame Rome for every pastoral failure and it is not just or honest to publicly advocate for policies contrary to our tradition or ecclesiastical law and then blame Rome for the peoples departure from our parishes or missions. We cannot ignore history and statistics by failing to appreciate that the most widespread decline in popular practice and in religious congregations occurred after the introduction of the post V2 reforms and that this decline, at least in America, occurred after many years of consistent and nearly unbroken growth in every area of Church life (read Ken Jones).You suggest that Pope John Paul II's visit to Ireland way back in 1979 confirmed a conservative direction "unsuited" to Ireland. I don't see any evidence of how that is true. I do not see the people flocking to the more liberal (when compared to Catholicism) Church of Ireland and the progressive religious orders there continue their slow decline.Since a priest makes a promise of obedience to his bishop (superior) and through him to the Holy Father himself a priest always carries a unique obligation toward modeling Christian ecclesiastical obedience generally and liturgical obedience specifically because only he can celebrate the mysteries and the laity (and vowed religious) are dependent upon him for this pastoral service. I agree with you that there is a risk of anti-clericalism growing among even the devout when clergy fail to minister to the peoples' religious needs, when clergy fail to support the people in living their religious lives, and when the clergy appear worldly. I do not accuse you of any of these things of course.Certainly a priest who finds his religious needs are not being met in a conventual liturgy or even in a parish can celebrate privately but the laity (and religious) cannot.Therefore, Joseph, there is a unique burden carried by those in orders and there is a risk of scandal when the vow, promise, or virtue of obedience is portrayed as a negative and that should surprise no one. Of course that burden is also an opportunity for much grace.The MaidPS: What does "neocath laity" mean?

First, it seems that Benedict implied, if I read him right, that small groups immersing themselves in the Scripture is a good thing. - The new Commonweal carries a deeply incisive and balanced view of the Sobrino notification by Ashley and Loewe - take a look- not onl yfor Sobrino's weaknesses but also the CDF's methodoligical problems.The tension between the traditional scholastic approach there (and by Benedict>) and contemporary exegesis and theological inquiry is still another divide as the proclamation of the faith in the Global south is so increasingly important.