-by Robert Mickens
“Pope Francis’ decision to call an extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy looks more and more urgent with each passing day.
Several incidents in the past couple of weeks here in Rome alone suggest there is a great need for the entire church to reflect deeply on how the acceptance and imitation of God’s mercy, forgiveness and unfailing love make up the central tenet of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Sadly, among those who seem least inclined to embrace this reality are some of the church’s ordained leaders — clergymen at every level of the hierarchy and those preparing to join them. A number of these individuals are quite prominent. And since the little group of which they are a part has become loud and well-organized, one might mistakenly think they represent the majority of all our deacons, priests and bishops.
Pray God that they don’t.
But — at least publicly — they have been promoting petitions, giving interviews and spearheading events that seem to be aimed more at making sure people pay for their mistakes — and, at times, pay dearly — rather than finding a way to offer them God’s mercy.
(These zealots) secured the official backing of six Vatican officials. They included Cardinals Angelo Amato (Congregation for the Causes of Saints), Marc Ouellet (Bishops) and Zenon Grocholewski (retired), as well as Archbishops Vincenzo Paglia (Pontifical Council for the Family) and Zygmunt Zimowski (health care). Cardinal Raymond Burke was actually present at the rally. He was one of 20 non-Italian bishops who outnumbered their Italian confreres… Heads of only 15 of Italy’s more than 220 dioceses (included).
But among them — and perhaps also for strategic motives — was Archbishop Bruno Forte. He, too, sent a written endorsement …. Of course, he is the same theologian-bishop traditionalists fiercely criticized last October after he put accommodating language about gay Catholics in the midterm report at the synod on the family.
The traditionalists were out in spades.., and many of them then attended a Tridentine Mass that Msgr. Marco Agostini offered …. The 53-year-old priest from Verona has been a papal master of ceremonies the last six years.
…Reparation is a favorite theme in traditionalist circles, where, apparently, there are some questions about just how absolute is God’s mercy and forgiveness. The traditionalists place a greater emphasis on divine judgment, sacrifice, penance and the fires of purgatory. It seems as if it all boils down to paying for one’s sins and mistakes.
Not mercy, but sacrifice. Not forgiveness, but repayment of the debt.
Unfortunately, a similar attitude can be found in the alarmist pleas that are urging the pope not to allow this October’s synod to change a single iota of the church’s law and discipline regarding marriage and sexuality. There are at least three or four groups frantically trying to whip up support for petitions in this regard.
A right-wing university group for the “defense of tradition, family and property” claims to have garnered more then 200,000 signatures for an online petition to the pope to “save the family.” They paint a dark picture of “dissident Catholic pressure groups” that are “bombarding” the synod to “water down the indissolubility of marriage; allow the reception of Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried couples; make the Church ‘LGBT-friendly’; and approve same-sex civil unions.”
Two other petitions voicing similar concerns are currently trying to solicit signatures from priests in Britain and in the United States.
In the midst of all this, several cardinals and a small group of the world’s roughly 5,000 bishops are engaging a number of theologians to come up with arguments to help block any development of the church’s teaching on marriage and family matters.
Two of them — Cardinals George Pell of the Vatican and Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary — predicted in separate interviews last week that “nothing will change” at the synod. What is most troublesome is the fact that the Hungarian cardinal has a key role in the synod as its “relator general,” a sort of moderator in charge of helping to frame the discussions.
The synod “will massively endorse the tradition” of the church, according to Pell. “I don’t anticipate any deviation from that at all,” he told a few hundred people (including Burke)…
These uncompromising defenders of truth, tradition and life say the church has no authority to develop, alter or modify teachings that, they insist, come directly from Jesus. They are certainly sincere when they express the conviction that they are defending a law of God that cannot be changed.
Pope Francis has taken up the urgent challenge of trying to help them — and all Christians — to understand what is too difficult for most us humans to comprehend: Namely, that greater than any of God’s laws is God’s absolute and boundless mercy.”
“Mercy is the word that summarizes the Gospel; we might say that it is the ‘face’ of Christ, that face that He showed when He went towards everyone, when He healed the sick, when He shared a table with the sinners, and especially when, nailed to the cross, He forgave: there we find the face of divine mercy. And the Lord calls upon us to be ‘channels’ of this love firstly towards the least among us, the poorest, who are privileged in His eyes. Let yourselves be continually challenged by the situations of fragility and poverty with which you come into contact, and endeavor to offer in the appropriate ways the witness of charity that the Spirit infuses in your hearts.
Mercy will allow you to open up promptly to current needs and to be industriously present in the new areopagus of evangelization, prioritizing — even if this may involve sacrifices — openness towards those situations of extreme need, symptomatic of the maladies of today’s society.”
— Audience with General Chapter of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 5, 2015
I hate fascists. I hate Catholic fascists.
Love, and His infinite, unfailing mercy for all to the end,