Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Papal Appeal?

Father John J. Lombardi

My dad, a news-savvy guy, surprised me with a statement and question recently: "It seems everyday there's new news on the Pope-what's going on? "

Pope Benedict XVI has had some challenging times here of late.

Item: he lifted a ban of excommunication--which is a first stage to full reconciliation-- from renegade bishops of Bishop Lefebvre's community (an ultra-traditionalist who denied the reforms of Vatican Council II, 1962-1965). Next, one of those prelates, Bishop Williamson, declared in an interview recently that much of the Jewish Holocaust numbers of Jews killed in Nazi extermination camps were inflated. An outcry ensued, naturally.

The Pope was then decried for his outreach to this traditionalist order and that he has lost sight of the rest of the flock. Even orthodox commentators questioned the Pope-and some others even called for his resignation.

Item: Some Jewish rabbis questioned the Pope on his altering of Good Friday prayers (for limited usage) which call for the "conversion of the Jewish people". A few rabbis cancelled audiences with him at his upcoming visit to the Holy Land-Israel. After clarifications were made the outcry died down.

Item: The Legionaries of Christ, a newish order in our Catholic Church, have found that their founder, Fr. Maciel, "led a double life"-in fathering a child and possibly did other unrighteous actions towards seminarians and his own order regarding monetary issues. The Pope was seen in some way part this injustice.

Some thoughts:

While justice must be brought about regarding Bishop Williamson-he made a "half-hearted apology"-and he should have been, as we say today," vetted," is the Pope really to blame? Jesus Christ and many popes and priests and bishops have long sought the unity of the Church to reconcile anyone whether they are liberal or traditionalist. When I explained the Bishop Williamson situation to a non-Catholic friend they responded: "isn't' that his job?" Yes: The Pope's "job" is to try to bring back into Christ's visible fold-the Catholic Church-those who "are outside". And yes, now the Pope, seeing Bishop Williams' "true colors' must redress the man (Bishop Williamson is a sinner like us all and is bound to err and err greatly), and make reconciliation with his detractors, if possible. The Pope and many at the Vatican have issued helpful clarifications and reassured many that they believe the Shoah (Holocaust) has caused untold decimation upon humanity.

Now, regarding evangelizing Jewish persons-or anyone: aren't we called to be "evangelistic"? That is, to love people so much we bring Christ to them. I recall now an atheist who once said, something like, with wry wit: Don't you love an atheist enough to bring Christ to them? Yes, point: a lotta people are embarrassed-either by the Gospel or today's "tolerant" culture that they neglect or reject Christ and His mandate to preach the Gospel and baptize all nations (Mt. 28). Now, obviously, as Pope John Paul II said, "We propose the truth, we don't' impose it," so, perhaps such overt words like "conversion" should be nuanced or not used, however, are we, as Catholics and Christians, now gonna throw out the Gospel and all evangelization?

It seems in these events, along with the unfolding Legionaries situation, that the Pope has been blamed far too much tarnished unfairly, by an aggressive media-along with critics waiting to jump on him, because he is so orthodox. These current issues, while serious and needing appropriate address are all "in-house" affairs, so why are so many outside the Church telling the Pope what to do and how to act and who to reconcile? And the critiques to some seem disproportionate, unfair, precisely because: he is not made in their image; he is a crystalline defender of the Faith; he has tried to bring about reform in the Church thru un-popular ways (seeking reconciliation with traditionalists; the use of more

Latin in Masses-which Vatican II called for, actually); because he is not Pope John Paul II--charismatic and "pastoral," and because he is not media savvy, etc.

In other words: many are trying to jump on a burnishing bandwagon and decry the Pope and thereby, consciously or not, de-stabilize the Church and papacy. Many thru the ages have wanted to re-create both the Church and papacy in their own image and therein, change Christ's Message-to save souls and bring pastoral love and challenge to all. This is nothing new-both the Pope and the Church will outlast the many.

Another Item: As Associated Press reported last week: "Pope Benedict XVI received Nancy Pelosi, one of the most prominent abortion rights politicians in America, and told her Wednesday that Catholic politicians have a duty to protect life "at all stages of its development." The U.S. House speaker, a Catholic, was the first top Democrat to meet with Benedict since the election of Barack Obama, who won a majority of the U.S. Catholic vote despite differences with the Vatican on abortion"

The Pope gave no fanfare for Mrs. Pelosi, no pictures or center stage gala; just met with her in an ante room at the Vatican. A few months ago Mrs. Pelosi wrongly said the Church did not have a clear teaching on when life begins, and that abortion has not always been taught as wrong. Actually: The Church has always taught that abortion is always wrong, and since the late1800's that life begins at conception. Mrs. Pelosi was instantly castigated by

many bishops for her attempt to pretend to teach Catholic teaching and to blur it. Possibly to suit her purposes of being for abortion politically while personally opposing it.

When Archbishop Chaput of Denver was being interviewed regarding "The Pope and Pelosi". Then he said, eloquently yet assertively that abortion is not just a religious issue, or Catholic one, but a human rights issue and that any politician who claims to be a valid member of the Catholic Church should believe all the Church teaches and if not, they should not receive Holy Communion since they differ from the Church, they pick and choose their beliefs and, on such a fundamental issue like abortion, are actually opposed to Church teaching. May those who are given the privilege of legislating and governing, and to protect the unborn-and who rather choose to promote the killing of them the most defenseless, turn away from sin and turn to Him-the challenging and compassionate Lord !

The Gospel: Open wide your soul and seek the Lord's Mercy. Some people open a "peep hole" for the Lord God to enter. Others open the front door-more generous. The men in this Sunday's Gospel opened the roof for Jesus' healing. Are you being generous to Jesus in prayer time, the sacraments, charity towards others?

Lent: Begins this Ash Wednesday-it's about your relationship with the Lord and others.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi