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Francis's Catechesis

In today's audience in Saint Peter's Square, Pope Francis spoke of the Holy Spirit. Vatican Radio has the full text. Here is an excerpt [translation modified for the sake of clarity]:

This is the precious gift that the Holy Spirit brings into our hearts: the very life of God, the life of true children, a relationship of familiarity, freedom and trust in the love and mercy of God, which brings also a new vision of others, near and far, seen always as brothers and sisters in Jesus, to be respected and loved. The Holy Spirit teaches us to look with the eyes of Christ, to live life as Christ lived, to understand life as Christ did. That's why the living water that is the Holy Spirit quenches our thirst because it tells us that we are loved by God as His children, that we can love God as his children, and that by his grace we can live as children of God, as did Jesus. And what of us? Do we listen to the Holy Spirit who tells us: God loves you? Do we really love God and others as Jesus did?

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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And just before that, Francis met with the nuns and told them not to be "old maids".

The Pope's address to the Sisters is here: lines regarding "spiritual maternity" are these:"Ma, per favore, una castit feconda, una castit che genera figli spirituali nella Chiesa. La consacrata madre, deve essere madre e non zitella! Scusatemi se parlo cos, ma importante questa maternit della vita consacrata, questa fecondit!""But, please: a fertile chastity, one that brings forth spiritual progeny in the Church. The consecrated woman is a mother, she must be a mother and not a "spinster." Excuse me if I speak so, but it's important this motherhood of the consecrated life, this fruitfulness."Vatican Radio has just posted extensive excerpts in English:

Pope Francis' prose style is so much less dense than Benedict's. I find it more congenial to preaching to the people.

The speech to the sisters seems fine. I saw that AP release (about "not being spinsters") this morning and hoped it was out of context. But I don't think anyone needs to caution Catholic women against careerism in the Church, though. What careers would we be talking about?Thank you for linking to fuller explanation of the Pope's speech.

What is the male equivalent of zitella? Would the pope instruct a group of male religious not to be zitelli?"In modern everyday English," the New Oxford American Dictionary says, "spinster cannot be used to mean simply 'unmarried woman'; it is now always a derogatory term, referring or alluding to a stereotype of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, prissy, and repressed."[1] Read more:

Gerelyn --Not only does the Pope say that the nuns aren't (gasp!) "spinsters", he even apologizes for using the term with reference to nuns: "The consecrated are mothers: they must be mothers and not 'spinsters'! Forgive me if I talk like this but this maternity of consecrated life, this fruitfulness is important! May this joy of spiritual fruitfulness animate your existence."In fact the nuns aren't mothers, they're consecrated spinsters. But what can you expect in a church that never, ever prays for the 1-in-10 Catholics who never marry. Oh, it prays for the pet cats and dogs and pigs on the feast of St. Francis, but never for the spinsters and bachelors. Now that more and more people are remaining single the Church can expect to lose more of them by sheer neglect, Add to the neglect, we've even been insulted by Pope Francis, of all people. Sigh.

I appreciated waht the Pope said about poverty, one of the "three pivots" underlying the "existence" of religious communities:"Poverty, which teaches solidarity, sharing, and charity and which is also expressed in a soberness and joy of the essential, to put us on guard against the material idols that obscure the true meaning of life. Poverty, which is learned with the humble, the poor, the sick, and all those who are at the existential margins of life. Theoretical poverty doesn't do anything. Poverty is learned by touching the flesh of the poor Christ in the humble, the poor, the sick, and in children.""Theoretical poverty doesn't do anything." A blunt but appropriate reminder for all Christians. ;)

Men and women of the Church who are careerists, social climbers, who use the people, the Church, brothers and sisters - those they should serve - as a springboard for their own ambitions and personal interests do great damage to the Church," he said.I wonder what he means by that. Does anyone know nuns who could be called "careerists" and "social climbers"? Sad that he shares the antipathy so many priests feel toward nuns. And the antipathy so many men feel toward women.When I was a child, we had lots of lessons about vocations. We were told there were three "states" to which Catholics might be called. The highest (of course), was the priesthood. (Or religious life for girls, although nuns were still just laywomen.) The second highest was the married state. The lowest was "unmarried life in the world." Even though it was not something to aspire to, at least it was recognized. Now, a pope from Latin America tells unmarried laywomen not to be old maids/spinsters.He should read Mary Daly (a radical feminist) to appreciates what spinsters have done for MANkind throughout history.

I took the pope's words to merely mean that although they do not physically give birth, the religious sisters must not remain sterile: they must bear fruit in other ways. I like the (obvious) idea that, even for women, there are ways to contribute to the world other than by having and raising babies. He used "being a mother" for all the ways of bearing fruit, and in that fashion recognized the worth of the lives of women who are childless. Isn't that right?

Gerelyn Then the Pope is telling the sisters not to allow themselves to be repressed?

"What is the male equivalent of zitella?"I once attended a weekend retreat for divorced & separated. A visiting Catholic cleric-speaker shared his hope that he would never eventually turn into a "crusty old s.o.b." (because of celibacy if I remember).

Claire --Indeed, Francis is telling the nuns to be generous with their lives as most mothers are, at least to their own children, and I'm sure he appreciates that most of them are. What I object to is his treating the word "spinster" (unmarried woman) as if it were a dirty word, one not to be mentioned in the presence of a nun. He even asks *forgiveness* for talking about spinsters and nuns in the same sentence! Poor man was obviously trying to be nice to them, but what a view of unmarried women.

I once attended a weekend retreat for divorced & separated. A visiting Catholic cleric-speaker shared his hope that he would never eventually turn into a crusty old s.o.b. (because of celibacy if I remember).Another term that insults women. What's the male equivalent of bitch? And how disrespectful of his mother. (I've read that priests use lots of derogatory language about women, starting in the seminary. Another way to insulate themselves from what they fear and loathe.)

Maybe "spinster" isn't derogatory in Italy or Argentina, it could just be odd in translation?Aren't unmarried men called "bachelors"? I've sometimes heard men referred to as "Irish bachelors" which I took to mean men of a certain age who would probably not get married.

If it's not derogatory, why did he apologize for using it?

A few thoughts.I do not think Pope Francis is in any way disparaging the unmarried. He's contrasting two attitudes: one that is creative, spiritually fecund, and one that is cramped and in-turned. His "apology" is that he is being blunt. I referred to his "sermo humilis" popular style in another post. And most certainly the attitude of the "zitella" is equally applicable to men -- recall his homily to priests at the Chrism Mass.What strikes me about the talk is how Ignatian it is: his call to be firmly centered in Christ. His evocation of "sentire cum ecclesia:" experiencing in and with the Church. These are themes that have pervaded his homilies as well. Recall his exhortation to the Cardinals in the very first homily he preached: without Christ and his cross at the center, the Church would be only a charitable NGO.

Exactly, Gerelyn.Irene -- note that "bachelor" doesn't have the same connotations as "spinster". You wouldn't hesitate to call a man a bachelor, but you wouldn't call a woman a spinster, at least not to her face. Or would you?

Francis is a product of his generation of clerical training and experience and will not reflect liberal or moderate wishes.That is who he is and that is who the church has gotten. Now that the initial blush of wishful thinking is fading, reality is setting in.Maybe he will appoint Joo Braz de Aviz as head of the CDF, the Apostolic Signatura, or Secretary of State and position him well for the next papal election.

Robert:I didn't like the Chrism Mass homily, either. (I dislike smelly sheep comparisons. We're human beings, not sheep. The "pastors" come from human families, not from pastures.)But getting back to today's remarks: I still find it odd that women religious would be cautioned by the new pope against careerism and social climbing. On what does he base that? Is it a problem? Will any specific examples be forthcoming? I'm still hoping the results of the inquisition will be made public. What answers did the religious give to the questionnaires? How many nuns are there? (Now we're told 57,000 in the U.S., an absurd figure.) What did the "visitators" uncover? (And speaking of secrets: has the new pope opened the secret dossier the old pope left for him? Who's being blackmailed? Who are the blackmailers? Do they have anything on Francis?)

Jim McC --I"m still hopeful that Francis will change his mind about some things. He has already shown that he is willing to make changes in the Church. Maybe that willingness to change will extend to some of his own mistaken assumptions. As a scientist (he was a chemist), surely he must have a healthy respect for evidence. But he is old, so who knows.

I think he's a great Pope so far.

Gerelyn --I've known some ambitious nuns -- wanted to be head of the order, dean of the college, etc. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with such ambitions. But unreasonable or self-centered ambition has certainly not been typical of the many nuns I've known, though I must admit there have been a few holy horrors (some heads of orders I once knew slightly) plus a couple of others I knew well.The generalizations the CDF committee made about the nuns were outrageous. If Francis finds out what the facts are I'm hopeful he'll make some changes. Not that there aren't some serious differences between many nuns and the Vatican. So the changes might be a while coming.

Yeh, I thought Francis was a John xxiii too. Signed: Proud to be a spinster

The Pope's remarks reminded me of a talk Newman gave to his Oratorian brethren warning them about collapsing celibacy into bachelorhood.

Precisely right -- and an often comfortable bachelorhood at that.

Fr Komonchak,Would you happen to remember the exact reference to the Newman quote you mentioned above?Thanks

Just a thought:Could the pope's admonition about careerism and social climbing be a subtle way of saying nuns should not seek ordination.

Helen, yes, I think you're right.I really found that admonition hard to understand. It made no sense at all to me. The (many) nuns I've known, known of, read about in (numerous) convent histories, etc., etc. could never be accused of being "careerists" or "social climbers." Obviously there were nuns who led their communities, ran schools and hospitals, etc., but it was at the behest of Popes Pius XI and XII that they obtained the education necessary to achieve important positions. Surely the new pope was not criticizing the old nuns for obeying his predecessors. And social climbing? There have always been nuns whose apostolates were the education of rich girls. In some cases, orders that started out with the intention of teaching poor girls and "wayward" girls, were forced by bishops into habits, cloisters, and select academies. (The Ursulines are a prime example.) And the nuns, retired now, who gave their lives to teaching in parochial schools for little or nothing, were hardly social climbers. I even thought maybe Francis was so accustomed to the nuns of Mexico and Central and South America with their very different histories, that he didn't understand nuns of the U.S.A., Canada, and Europe. But your idea makes perfect sense.

Helen,I'm adding a question to your question. Would the pope tell men not to social climb? Would he tell that to seminarians, a gathering of priests, of bishops, that?

Little Bear:Actually, he has used the term, careerism, several times since being elected pope and even before as Archbishop. In those cases he qualified it as CLERICAL careerism.

Re: "be mothers and not spinsters". Matthew Schmitz at the First Thoughts blog has compiled a list of striking phrases that Pope Francis has used in his preaching. "Be mothers, not spinsters" seems to me to be of the same ilk.

I was mistaken about the occasion of Newmans remark about celibacy, which occurs not in a talk of his Oratorian brethren but in a sermon for the religious profession of a nun; but bachelorhood does seem to be an appropriate word for what he says celibacy is not. Here is the relevant passage, along with a second paragraph describing celibacy or virginity instead as a relationship with Christ.

The Gospel recommends celibacy, but observe how it draws around it the choicest blessings of human nature, while it seems to be giving them up. There is a state of celibacy recommended by philosophers, exemplified in religious teaching, which does but harden the heart, which is of that forlorn, haughty and repulsive natureas it has been imaged and extolled in the pages of heathen writers or in the teaching of false religions. There have been those among the philosophers of antiquiity who ave been led to praise of a life of asceticism and self-denial almost Christian. There have been those among false religions who have actually observed the state of celibacy, and that on the ground that it was higher than the common life of man. To make a single life its own end, to adopt it simply and solely for its own sake, I do not know whether such a state of life is more melancholy or more unamiable, melancholy from its unrequited desolateness and unamiable from the pride and sclf-esteem on which it is based.This is not the Virginity of the Gospelit is not a state of independence or isolation, or dreary pride, or barren indolence, or crushed affections; man is made for sympathy, for the interchange of love, for self-denial for the sake of another dearer to him than himself. The Virginity of the Christian soul is a marriage with Christ. Hence the words, I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor 11:2). O surprising love and wisdom, that has thus allowed us to aim at being Angels without ceasing to be men. O transcending condescension that He should stoop to be ours in the tenderest and most endearing wayours to love, ours to consult, ours to minister to, ours to converse with, ours to joy in. Ours so fully that it is as if He had none to think of but each of us personally. The very idea of matrimony is possessionwhole possessionthe husband is the wifes and no others, and the wife is the husbands and none but his. This is to enter into the marriage bond, this is the force of the marriage vow, this is the lesson of the marriage ring. And this it is to be married to Jesus. It is to have Him ours wholly, henceforth, and for everit is to be united to Him by an indissoluble tieit is to be His, while He is ours.

(Newman the Oratorian, ed. Placid Murray (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1969) 276-77)

In my opinion, a perfect example of clerical careerist is Archbishop Georg Ganswein, is person secretary to emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, now living with him on the grounds of the Vatican.He is also prefect of the Pontifical Household, a job that entails arranging papal audiences and the logistics for Vatican events and ceremonies as well as the pope's travels in Rome and other parts of Italy.The ethical thing for him to do is resign for his Vatican post due to a conflict of interest.Fat chance.

Actually, he has used the term, careerism, several times since being elected pope and even before as Archbishop. In those cases he qualified it as CLERICAL careerism.A pope who was concerned about clerical careerism could do several things to put a stop to it. He could abolish the Pontifical North American College (and its counterparts for fast-track seminarians from other countries) and the Pontifical Gregorian University (the "Pope's Harvard").He could require appointments of newly ordained priests to be made by drawing lots. Ditto for appointments to chancery positions. Ditto for choices of auxiliary bishops. Bishops would be elected by the laity of the dioceses. Bishops would be natives of the dioceses and would have served as pastors of parishes in the dioceses. Etc., etc.

Jim P.Thanks for the link. I suspect there will be more to add to the list.

I had the same rather shocked reaction of many to his language. I am not a native speaker of Italian but my huge bilingual dictionary, my monolingual dictionary, my Spanish-Italian dictionary and my book of Italian synonyms all describe this word zitelle in italics as ''scherzo o spreg". I know I need not translate. My monolingual dictionary [Garzantini] adds - "a cui si attribuisce como luogo commune, un carattere bisbetico, acido". [Bisbetico - peevish, shrewish, cantankerous, odd]. In my Spanish -English dictionary the Spanish equivalent gives as an example - "He fusses round like an old maid", thus stressing the point that there is no male equivalent. ie It does not just mean 'spinster' as a neutral word for an unmarried state or a simple equivalent to 'bachelor'; it is what here we used to call an 'old maid', very much used as an insult and a jeering stance. Given his apology I presume he knows that. It was a horrible word to use and one whose English equivalent I have not heard here for decades. [For amusement I looked up 'man' and 'woman' in the book of Italian synonyms: there were 5 for men, all positive; there were 10 for women, 6 of them would qualify as "scherzo or spreg", some very "spreg" indeed]. I too did not understand the point of a lecture about careerism being given to women - and, in view if the situation of American nuns, ended up wondering how iron a hand there is inside his very velvet glove.

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