Thursday, February 06, 2014

Quote of the Day

“God's kingdom is not of this world. Nothing we can do will change that. But Jesus never absolved us from resisting and healing the evil in the world. He never excused us from solidarity with the poor, the hungry, the unborn child, the immigrant, the broken families and the disabled persons who bear the burden of selfish nations and societies.

The Church cannot be silent in public life and be faithful to Jesus Christ at the same time. She needs to be a mustard seed in the public square, transforming every fiber of a nation's political, economic and social life. We need to remember this fundamental democratic fact: Working respectfully and firmly to form the public conscience violates no one's free will. Actively witnessing to our convictions and advancing what we believe about key moral issues in public life is not "coercion." It's honesty. It's truth-telling. It's vital to the health of every democracy. And it's also a duty -- not only of our Catholic faith, but also of our citizenship.

Here's my final point: the nature of the lay vocation. In May [2009], speaking to a pastoral convention of the Diocese of Rome, Benedict XVI made a comment that many people overlooked. But I think his words have exactly the spirit that needs to guide this conference.

He said that the Church needs "a change in mindset, particularly concerning laypeople. They must no longer be viewed as 'collaborators' of the clergy, but truly recognized as 'co-responsible' for the Church's being and action, thereby fostering the consolidation of a mature and committed laity."

Christians are in the world, but not of the world. We belong to God, and our home is heaven. But we're here for a reason: to change the world, for the sake of the world, in the name of Jesus Christ. That work belongs to each of us. Nobody will do it for us. And the idea that we can somehow accomplish that work without engaging -- in a hands-on way -- the laws, the structures, the public policies, the habits of mind and the root causes that sustain injustice in our countries, is a delusion.

Laypeople are not second-class disciples in this task. They're not second-class members of the Body of Christ. There is no such creature as a "second-class" Christian. Baptism is a sacrament of redemption; but also of equality in God's love. Laypeople have exactly the same dignity as clergy and religious -- and this moment in history cries out for mature, intelligent, zealous and faithful lay leaders in an urgent way.

Priests and bishops cannot do the work of laypeople. That's not what Christ called us to do. It's not what the Church formed us to do. Our role as clergy in bringing Jesus Christ to the world, and the world to Jesus Christ, flows through you lay men and women who hear the Word of God; who love the Church for the truth she teaches; and then bring that Catholic witness into society to change it and sanctify it in Christ's name.

Every Christian life, and every choice in every Christian life, matter eternally. Laypeople, not clergy, have the task of evangelizing the secular world, and only you can do it as God intended.

So never be embarrassed by your baptism. Never be afraid of the consequences of your faith. Take pride in your Catholic identity for the blessing and mandate it is. Act on it. Share it with others....

All of us who are Catholic in America need to revere this gift. We need to find in it once again the confidence to live and preach our faith -- in everything we do -- without apologies or excuses. And if we do that, then we won't need to ask what the "new evangelization" looks like. We'll know – because we'll be incarnating it in our lives.
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Another day, another ideology-fueled pseudo-narrative out the window.

As the Pope continues his deliberate process of flushing and reconstituting the dicasteries of the Curia, Roman Noon this Thursday brought another notable development as Francis named the voice behind the quote above – Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia – as a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

After all the hysteria in some quarters these last months, the sudden case of crickets is rather amusing. Just a few weeks ago, see, Francis' remaking of the dicasteries was apparently a matter of widespread, intense interest.

To be clear, this isn't to say that Laity is Bishops. Especially given the prevalent framing out there of late, though, it ain't Bupkus, either.

After nearly two decades on the national stage, the move gives the 69 year-old Capuchin his first seat at a Curial table... as well as the only prelate's slot given to a non-cardinal in today's nods. As background goes, there is a history – the then-archbishops of Denver and Buenos Aires became friendly at the 1997 Synod for America, where Chaput's intervention struck a nerve with the future Pope. (During the October reunion seen above, Francis is said to have warmly recalled the talk yet again.)

In any case, the match of member and dicastery is a sound fit. Over 15 years in the Rockies, Chaput championed – and largely gave free rein (plus Chancery office-space) to – a host of lay initiatives which have become ingrained across broad swaths of the Stateside church, ranging from the ENDOW ministry for women to the campus mission work of FOCUS, the lay-run theology programs at Denver's Augustine Institute and the now-national Catholic Association of Latino Leaders. In his lay-dominant governance model, meanwhile, the key staff act as a cabinet, while the Pastoral Council is treated as less a rubber stamp than a board of directors. And behind the scenes, the onetime parish priest and college chaplain has quietly but concertedly formed a rising generation of pew-driven leadership, whether in business or law, culture or education, public policy and the press, encouraging no small number of folks to take their rightful places both in their professions and in engaged discipleship. (Full disclosure: the latter experience has marked this scribe's life for just shy of 17 years... indeed, well before the brutal mess of the present.)

The new intake at Laity was rounded out by several scarlet-clad heavy hitters, including Schönborn, Chito, the Religious chief Joao Braz, Nairobi's John Njue, Rio's Cardinal-designate Orani Tempesta and Reinhard Marx of Munich, the lone European ordinary among Papa Bergoglio's Gang of Eight. 

Beyond the prelates, 12 laypeople were named as either members or consultors to the council. Unlike congregations, the current Curial protocols allow for the non-ordained to be named to the pontifical councils. Spaces for lay involvement in dicastery roles are almost certain to be expanded once the full bore of Francis' intended structural reform comes into place over the next year or so.

According to a statement from the Council, the new appointments do not represent a full reboot, but are merely additions to the pre-existing membership, which from the US already included Carl Anderson, the Supremo of the Knights of Columbus, who likewise remains on the lay board overseeing the Vatican Bank.

Beyond its broad competence in facilitating and encouraging the ecclesial mission of 99.6 percent of the church's presence, the Laity arm's most prominent responsibility is organizing Catholicism's "Olympic event," World Youth Day, which saw its second-largest turnout ever last July, as an estimated 3 million converged in Rio (left).

Though the JPII-chartered observance only takes place on a global level every third year – next in Krakow in 2016 – it's intended to be an annual moment in the local churches. Accordingly, this morning's reshuffle at Laity was released alongside Francis' message for the 2014 WYD, dedicated to the Beatitudes theme of "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."

On the wider Curial front, among the offices where Francis still has yet to reconfirm the current rosters or appoint new ones, two in particular stand out: the Apostolic Signatura, whose Wisconsin-born head, Cardinal Raymond Burke, has widely been perceived as a center of resistance to the new pontificate, and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, where months of rumors have tipped the departure of the current prefect, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, back to Spain as archbishop of Madrid... to be replaced by the incarnate lightning-rod of the "Liturgy Wars," the MC of two decades to John Paul and Benedict, Archbishop Piero Marini.

As some still need to figure out, though, especially these days, only time will tell how it all goes down.

Stay tuned.