October 23, 2017

A Wake Up Call for Shepherds

adoratio

Adoration of the Shepherds, Mantegna

This is the season when we remember heaven’s wake up call to the shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. The divine alarm sounded a brilliant “Gloria!” and the angel enlivened them with “good news for all people.” The shepherds were awakened with the gospel of the newborn Savior.

Pope Francis decided to deliver a wake up call to the spiritual shepherds in the Roman Curia this Christmas in a very different manner: he laid down the law of Christ to them. Noting that the Curia is “a small model of the Church,” that is “a ‘body’ which earnestly attempts to be more alive, healthier, more harmonious and more united in itself and in Christ every day,” Francis proclaimed that the Curia cannot live “without having a vital, personal, authentic and solid relationship with Christ.” To serve without that central, enlivening spirituality turns shepherds into mere bureaucrats.

He then went on to identify fifteen “diseases” that grow out of that core failure. He admonished members of the Curia to consider these marks of spiritual sickness in order to prepare themselves for confession at this season when we celebrate the humble Incarnate Jesus who came to bring forgiveness and joy.

The Pope’s words are appropriate for all Christians to consider, but they are especially pertinent for those in ordained ministry, the shepherds of God’s flock. Here are the fifteen diseases Pope Francis identified:

schongauer8

Adoration of the Shepherds, Schongauer

The disease of feeling ‘immortal’ or ‘essential’
Speaking of this disease, Francis warned that “a curia that does not practice self-criticism, does not keep up to date, does not try to better itself, is an infirm Body.” He admonished them to avoid the “Messiah complex” and “narcissism.”

The disease of excessive activity
The Pope reminded them of Martha, who portrays those who “lose themselves in their work, inevitably neglecting ‘what is better’ —  sitting at Jesus’ feet.”

The diseases of mental and spiritual ‘petrification’
Francis warned of the danger of becoming “‘procedural machines’ instead of men of God,” unable to “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.”

The disease of over-planning
Good planning is necessary, the Pope affirmed, but he warned against falling into the temptation of wanting “to enclose or steer the freedom of the Holy Spirit” or of taking the easy route by falling back on static positions.

The disease of bad coordination
This is the disease of failing to work together well in partnership, so that a group becomes “an orchestra producing undisciplined noise because its members do not cooperate and do not live communally and have team spirit.”

Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease
We can see this, the Pope said, in those who have “lost their memory” of their encounter with the Lord, who depend on their “passions, whims and obsessions.” This leads to a “progressive decline of spiritual faculties” in which people live in total dependence on their own imagined truth.

The disease of rivalry and vainglory
Here Pope Francis warned against living a false “mysticism” and false “quietism” that competes with others to achieve honors or attain to wearing certain recognizable vestments that mark one’s achievements.

The disease of existential schizophrenia
He pinpointed this as the disease of those who live “a double life, a result of the hypocrisy typical of mediocre people and of advancing spiritual emptiness, which degrees or academic titles cannot fill.” This life loses touch with reality and real people, creating a parallel life easily drawn to dissolution.

The disease of gossip and chatter
Francis forcefully proclaimed this as the disease of cowards, who do not have the courage to speak upfront and so talk behind others’ backs. He even called it a form of “terrorism.”

Adoration of the Shepherds, di Credi

Adoration of the Shepherds, di Credi

The disease of deifying the leaders
Those who “court their superiors,” becoming victims of “careerism and opportunism,” and “live their vocation thinking only of what they must gain and not of what they must give” suffer this disease

The disease of indifference to others
The symptoms of this disease include isolating oneself from the warmth of human relationships,  refusing, as a more experienced pastor, to humble oneself to help more novice ministers, and rejoicing in seeing others fall, rather than lifting them up and encouraging them.

The disease of the funeral face
The Pope pointed out people who are “scowling and unfriendly and think that, in order to be serious, they must show a melancholic and strict face and treat others – especially those, whom they think are inferior – with rigidity, harshness and arrogance.”

The disease of hoarding
This occurs, said the pontiff, “when the apostle seeks to fill an existential void in his heart by hoarding material possessions, not because of necessity, but only to feel secure.”

The disease of closed circles
We suffer this disease when belonging to a clique becomes more important to us than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, than belonging to Christ himself. Though this disease may start from good intentions, in time it can entrap its members and become a “cancer” to the rest of the Church.

The disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism
This “is the disease of those people who relentlessly seek to increase their powers” rather than serving others. They may do this to accumulate riches or simply to gain more power and control. This often involves stepping on others, slandering and putting them down. Such a lust for power may lead to desperately using all necessary means to remain at the top, even though cloaked in the most religious of motives.

• • •

In calling the Curia to humble, serving ministry Pope Francis pointed them to the God who “was born in poverty in a cave in Bethlehem to teach us the power of humility,” and who was welcomed not by the “chosen” people but by the “poor and simple.” He asked these pastoral leaders, and all of us, to examine our consciences in preparation for confession before Christmas.

Comments

  1. The law is certainly the best way to chop us (all) off at the knees. The Pope did a wonderful thing in laying it on thick to those who really need to hear it (all of us).

    As far as confession goes, before Christmas…I’d tell the Pope, “You first.”

    • Advent is a penitential season in which all Christians are urged to make confession. I’m sure Francis will join in alongside everyone else.

      Except, that is, for Christians who have not been taught that confession is a good and desirable practice, both individually and corporately.

      • We Lutherans certainly believe in confession.

        Just NOT confessing to a clergyperson as a prerequisite to being saved, or to receiving the sacrament…as does the Catholic Church.

        • Luther disagrees. This is from the Small Catechism:

          What is Confession?
          Confession embraces two parts: the one is, that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor, as from God Himself, and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe, that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.

          As does the Augsburg Confession:

          Confession in the churches is not abolished among us; for it is not usual to give the body of the Lord, except to them that have been previously examined and absolved.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Comment deleted

          • Comment deleted

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Comment deleted

          • Do you agree with everything that Luther said?

            I don’t.

            • I thought Lutherans held to the Augsburg Confession, Steve, and taught their children the Catechism. I was merely challenging your statement about what Lutherans believe and practice.

          • Steve, Luther didn’t write the Augsburg Confession.

            Nobody agrees with everything Luther said (including himself, most likely). But what Mike quotes is most certainly a Lutheran belief, and so to reject it is, well, un-Lutheran.

            However, Mike, Steve is right that our churches do not believe, teach, and confess private absolution as a necessity for salvation. To the clergy, yes. Mandatory prerequisite to communion? Kind of. It is good, right, and salutary to confess our sins to a Pastor, especially in prior to receiving the Lord’s Supper. But I do believe using the term “prerequisite” crosses over into Roman Catholic teaching.

            • Seems to me that many Lutheran churches, if not most, are satisfied with corporate confession and absolution as a sufficient preparation for communion. Nevertheless, Augsburg is pretty clear that Lutheran teaching advises and encourages confession, with an ordained minister pronouncing absolution.

          • “. . . our churches (Lutheran) do not believe, teach, and confess private absolution as a necessity for salvation” The Catholic Church does not teach that confession to a priest is” necessary” for for salvation. It is the ordinary means, but not the only means. It is not considered a prerequisite, and as far as I know, it never has been a prerequisite. The only place I’ve read about this “Catholic” teaching is in non-Catholic writings. There is a saint, Andreas Wouters, who was a priest and bit of a male slut and drunk. His true repentance and subsequent martyrdom are the reasons for his holiness.

            My impression is that these statements are lore about Catholic beliefs OR a misunderstanding of the philosophical arguments from Trent. Unfortunately those documents use a lot of complex terminology modified by phases like, “always,” “only,” and “never”. The actual teaching is more complex and nuanced than what you present.

          • Miguel, Does Lutheranism really require private confession to a pastor before reception of Holy Communion?

          • “Confession embraces two parts: the one is, that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor, as from God Himself, and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe, that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.”

            This “in no wise doubt, but firmly believe” seems to me to throw back upon the individual Christian the entire weight of making sure that our faith is perfect, if only in this one matter. How is this different from the centrality of propositional faith that much evangelicalism affirms as necessary, and how does this liberate us from self-preoccupied interiority, as Lutheranism often claims to do?

          • POPE FRANCIS

            GENERAL AUDIENCE

            Saint Peter’s Square
            Wednesday, 19 February 2014

            Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

            Through the Sacraments of Christian Initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist — man receives new life in Christ. Now, we all know that we carry this life “in earthen vessels” (2 Cor 4:7), we are still subject to temptation, suffering, and death and, because of sin, we may even lose this new life. That is why the Lord Jesus willed that the Church continue his saving work even to her own members, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick, which can be united under the heading of “Sacraments of Healing”. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a Sacrament of healing. When I go to confession, it is in order to be healed, to heal my soul, to heal my heart and to be healed of some wrongdoing. The biblical icon which best expresses them in their deep bond is the episode of the forgiving and healing of the paralytic, where the Lord Jesus is revealed at the same time as the physician of souls and of bodies (cf. Mk 2:1-12; Mt 9:1-8; Lk 5:17-26).

            1. The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation flows directly from the Paschal Mystery. In fact, on the evening of Easter the Lord appeared to the disciples, who were locked in the Upper Room, and after addressing them with the greeting, “Peace be with you!”, he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (Jn 20:21-23). This passage reveals to us the most profound dynamic contained in this Sacrament.

            First, the fact that the forgiveness of our sins is not something we can give ourselves. I cannot say: I forgive my sins. Forgiveness is asked for, is asked of another, and in Confession we ask for forgiveness from Jesus. Forgiveness is not the fruit of our own efforts but rather a gift, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit who fills us with the the wellspring of mercy and of grace that flows unceasingly from the open heart of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Secondly, it reminds us that we can truly be at peace only if we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in the Lord Jesus, with the Father and with the brethren. And we have all felt this in our hearts, when we have gone to confession with a soul weighed down and with a little sadness; and when we receive Jesus’ forgiveness we feel at peace, with that peace of soul which is so beautiful, and which only Jesus can give, only Him.

            2. Over time, the celebration of this Sacrament has passed from a public form — because at first it was made publicly — to a personal one, to the confidential form of Confession. This however does not entail losing the ecclesial matrix that constitutes its vital context. In fact, the Christian community is the place where the Spirit is made present, who renews hearts in the love of God and makes all of the brethren one thing in Christ Jesus. That is why it is not enough to ask the Lord for forgiveness in one’s own mind and heart, but why instead it is necessary humbly and trustingly to confess one’s sins to a minister of the Church. In the celebration of this Sacrament, the priest represents not only God but also the whole community, who sees itself in the weakness of each of its members, who listens and is moved by his repentance, and who is reconciled with him, which cheers him up and accompanies him on the path of conversion and human and Christian growth. One might say: I confess only to God. Yes, you can say to God “forgive me” and say your sins, but our sins are also committed against the brethren, and against the Church. That is why it is necessary to ask pardon of the Church, and of the brethren in the person of the priest. “But Father, I am ashamed …”. Shame is also good, it is healthy to feel a little shame, because being ashamed is salutary. In my country when a person feels no shame, we say that he is “shameless”; a “sin verguenza”. But shame too does good, because it makes us more humble, and the priest receives this confession with love and tenderness and forgives us on God’s behalf. Also from a human point of view, in order to unburden oneself, it is good to talk with a brother and tell the priest these things which are weighing so much on my heart. And one feels that one is unburdening oneself before God, with the Church, with his brother. Do not be afraid of Confession! When one is in line to go to Confession, one feels all these things, even shame, but then when one finishes Confession one leaves free, grand, beautiful, forgiven, candid, happy. This is the beauty of Confession! I would like to ask you — but don’t say it aloud, everyone respond in his heart: when was the last time you made your confession? Everyone think about it … Two days, two weeks, two years, twenty years, forty years? Everyone count, everyone say ‘when was the last time I went to confession?’. And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there, and Jesus is more benevolent than priests, Jesus receives you, he receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!

            3. Dear friends, celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation means being enfolded in a warm embrace: it is the embrace of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us recall that beautiful, beautiful parable of the son who left his home with the money of his inheritance. He wasted all the money and then, when he had nothing left, he decided to return home, not as a son but as a servant. His heart was filled with so much guilt and shame. The surprise came when he began to speak, to ask for forgiveness, his father did not let him speak, he embraced him, he kissed him, and he began to make merry. But I am telling you: each time we go to confession, God embraces us. God rejoices! Let us go forward on this road. May God bless you!

          • Too bad Luther didn’t leave detailed instructions about how he arrived at the place where he “in no wise” doubted anymore, so that I could emulate him. Or did he leave such instructions? If so, please point me the way, because I’ve certainly never arrived at the place in which I “in no wise” doubted, though I might like to.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            If you want “detailed instructions”, go to the Koran or Calvin’s Institutes or those 100+ item lists you see from some Fundy churches.

          • In case you don’t know, I’m speaking ironically, and I’m casting doubt on the ability of anyone to achieve Luther’s required state of “in no wise” doubting.

          • To state it more straightforwardly: If it’s necessary to receive absolution for my sins before going to Holy Communion, and if this absolution is conditional on my ability to “in no wise doubt” that my confessor forgives me in the name and power of God, then I can never receive Holy Communion, because I’m constitutionally unable to achieve such a state of certainty.

            • Robert , I think it is clear that this language designed to encourage faith. One helpful aspect of Luther’s example is that he was a habitual doubter who battled the devil and his own demons his entire life.

          • Robert, that is an excellent question. Gonna have to get back to you on that, you know the rush that goes with my vocation about this time. I’m heading to the folks for a break tomorrow, so I’ll have a few days to throw some thoughts your way.

          • Give me a break, you guys.

            We don’t have our Lutheran congregation to to the pastor for private confession of sin before the sacrament…so we are NOT Lutheran.

            That is B.S..

            You need to remember, Miguel, that the Lutheran Confessions are NOT Holy Scripture, as good as they may be. We are actually free to do, or to not do, many things that many Lutherans would not agree with.

            • Steve, you are missing my original point. You made a claim about “what Lutherans believe and practice” in contrast to Catholics. All I was trying to do was show you, from two of the foundational documents of Lutheran teaching, that “Lutherans” have indeed believed and practiced just the opposite of what you claimed. The point is: don’t make claims for all Lutherans that you can’t back up.

    • Steve, Pope Francis is not playing a game of law/grace dichotomy. He’s not delivering a law homily to the Curia with the intention of leading them to a grace punchline. He’s addressing deeply entrenched corruption in an institution called to embody grace, and he’s trying to change that institution. His critique is in fact the form that grace is taking in the midst of institutional malaise and inertia; if he were to soften the hard edge of that critique with a “word of grace,” he would be resorting to cheap grace, which is grace in name only.

      • David Cornwell says:

        I think you have it right Robert.

      • Right. In other words, he is calling the church to repentance. This is a word of Law apart from Gospel, of moral exhortation apart from forgiveness. But the Law is certainly good, and THIS is certainly not the only sermon this Pope is preaching. I’d say it is very appropriate for the occasion. As a leader in the church, he is responsible to hold the feet to the fire of those for whom he is responsible. Calling out err the way he is doing takes guts, and I wish we had more of that in the Lutheran church. Preach the Law to it’s harshest, we ought to say, that the height of our condemnation may be more clearly seen and our need for grace more readily appreciated. Especially if the Pope is giving an exhortation to confession, where those who truly do repent of their sin are guaranteed a Gospel Word of absolution.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        When all you’ve got is a hammer….

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Law Homily with Grace Punchline” sounds all too similar to the Forced Indoctrination/”Brainwashing” approach of “Crush them completely then offer Your Way as their only escape”. Or could easily be corrupted into such.

  2. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

    Wow. I suspect there are quite a few evangelicals who need to hear this, too…

    • Evangelicals? I’m starting with the man in the mirror (pardon the MJ quote). Overplanning, gossip and spiritual schizophrenia hit pretty durn close to home here…

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      As someone with strong Roman Catholic sympathies, and a naked disgust of Evangelicalism, I have to say: the Roman Curia had this coming. I doubt many people disagree with that.

      I find Francis to be very refreshing, even when his is doubling down. Harsh terms for the powerful and privileged, and mercy for the powerless and disadvantaged. It is counter-cultural and so unamerican – finally, someone talking in these terms. Rather than heaping blame and guilt on the poor and disadvantaged while raising innumerable ‘reasonable’ reasons [aka excuses] for why the powerful and privileged are not responsible – which describes so much of what I hear around me.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Harsh terms for the powerful and privileged, and mercy for the powerless and disadvantaged.

        Like most of the Prophets in the Tanakh.

      • ” …the Roman Curia had this coming.”

        They have a lot more than this coming. If this is all there is to it, then it would be back to business as usual after the holidays. A little harsh talk is not going to shake the whitewashed sepulchres, not enough to make anything change.

        But I suspect this is not all there is to it. This is merely the shot across the bow. Something tells me the boys in the Curia had better get ready for a rough ride, one in which some of them may be thrown right out of the boat. Things are going to get uglier before they get better.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I think this has an extra-biblical source (definitely NOT Leviticus), but it’s always stuck in my mind:

          A False Prophet tells you what you Want to hear.
          A True Prophet tells you what you NEED to hear.

          • MelissatheRagamuffin says:

            Ohhhh I like that. I’m stealing it.

            *still wondering what HUG said that got deleted*

  3. doubting thomas says:

    The not so spiritually healthy side of me was hoping to read about how the Pope kicked some but when I clicked on this post. Instead I got something much better. An invitation to take an inventory of myself.

    • Christiane says:

      + 1

    • + 1

    • +1

    • If anything deserves a +1, it’s this.

      +1

    • Not to be the contrarian, but:

      Yes, yes; no doubt what Pope Francis said has universal applications that it would behoove many of us to heed.

      But make no mistake: The Pope was addressing the Curia, and his words were meant specially for the them, tailored to them, and directed at them, just as Jesus’ harsh words to the Pharisees were words to the Pharisees first and foremost. We should not lose sight of this fact, and neither should the Curia.

      • We all have a bit of Pharisee in us, and I assume we all have a bit of the Curia in us. If we don’t take Jesus’ words to the Pharisees to heart, we are in danger of becoming just like them. Same here.

        • Yes, I readily agree to your point, and in fact anticipated it in the first sentence of my comment above.

          At the same time, it would be an exceedingly bad thing if the members of the Curia softened the impact of the Pope’s critique of them by taking refuge in the thought (no doubt true) that the faults and defects the Pope was pointing out are, after all, universally shared with the whole human race, and as a result the Pope is not laying any special burden of responsibility on their shoulders. The Pope was talking specifically to these men, who hold a special kind of power and bear a special kind of responsibility, which he clearly believes they are not only not living up to, but also taking advantage of for their own aggrandizement.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            At the same time, it would be an exceedingly bad thing if the members of the Curia softened the impact of the Pope’s critique of them by taking refuge in the thought (no doubt true) that the faults and defects the Pope was pointing out are, after all, universally shared with the whole human race, and as a result the Pope is not laying any special burden of responsibility on their shoulders.

            Like the story on another blog about a Neo-Cal youth pastor accused of pedophilia whose in-church defense was “The Hearts of Men are Desperately Wicked” and leveling the field with the Doctrine of Total Depravity of All Men.

      • Yes, but the Curia is not to the Pope as the Pharisees were to Jesus. It may become that way, but as it stands right now, they are brothers fighting for the same team, rather than plotting an assassination.

        • I did not call the Curia Pharisees. I used the example of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees as an illustration of how a critique, though containing universally applicable spiritual truths, may nonetheless be tailored for a specific, special and unique audience with specific, special and unique responsibilities.

          The Curia is not to the Pope as the Pharisees were to Jesus. That’s true. But the Pope is clearly indicating that there are a good number among the Curia who are not only not meeting their responsibilities to the “team”, but are actually using their unique authority and influence for purely personal purposes and goals. There is no missing the tone tone of opposition in his remarks, especially given as they are in the context of a Christmas speech that is traditionally an occasion for expressions of cordial seasonal greetings.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Like the picture of the sour-faced Obama after that Secret Service Sex Scandal broke in the media, this is “The Boss Is NOT Happy”.

  4. Christiane says:

    I think with Francis, he does hold up a mirror for us rather than pointing the finger
    . . . it’s like he knows that the mirror is more effective by far in helping us toward healing . . .

  5. “Francis warned that ‘a curia that does not practice self-criticism, does not keep up to date, does not try to better itself, is an infirm Body.’ He admonished them to avoid the ‘Messiah complex’ and ‘narcissism.’ ”

    This is killing evangelicalism. Self-criticism is treated like giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Bad apples can’t be thrown out until they have literally ruined the whole bunch, or brought an entire church to ruin. What can be said about a solid majority of “pro-life” evangelicals who think torture is just fine? Here’s hoping for better in 2015. Yes, we all need to gaze in this mirror.

    • OldProphet says:

      Killing Evangelism? What are you talking about? Francis is speaking to his Catholic flock. Although he has much authority, he has none over my fellowship and church group. He is not my pastor or leader. I am under the authority of the ruling elders of my church. I served for years in the Vineyard movement for years which was headed by John Wimber. Wimber had no authority over the RC, SB, Lutheran, etc. The Pope had none over the Vineyard. Leadership is important. But to ascribe biblical authority wrongly, over the wrong groups, is poor theology. The Avenging Evangelical has spoken!

      • If what he is saying is true then it carries authority to anyone who happens to hear it. Dumb ox just seems to be pointing out a group (though not the intended one)who could use to perk up their ears. I am no apologist for the Pope or the Catholic Church, but there seems to be some good stuff here.

        • If what he is saying is true then it carries authority to anyone who happens to hear it

          Yes……

      • Christiane says:

        thing is, the Pope doesn’t live by the same ‘barriers’ that fundamentalist-evangelicals have set up to exclude others from their fellowship . . . ‘exclusivity’ doesn’t mark a man who prays with and for rabbis and imams, no

        • OldProphet says:

          Really, Christians? The RC isn’t exclusive?

          • OldProphet says:

            Christiane, sorry

          • Christiane says:

            Hi OldProphet,

            IF you want to become a Catholic, the process takes somewhere between eight months to three years. And IF you wanted to come receive the Eucharist, the priest says to you ‘Body of Christ’ and you will say ‘Amen’ . . . so that does rather screen out those who don’t know what they are getting into or do not accept the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist . . . so CAN I see your point.

            HOWEVER, if you are talking about the Church Catholic, you do have to understand how it sees those who are not ‘full members’ but still are considered fellow baptized Christians included within the Body of Christ;
            AND you also have to understand this, which does rather place the Church in a position where fundamentalist-evangelicals would NOT call it ‘exclusive’ according to their specifications:

            “.” As Peter proclaimed before the Sanhedrin at the very start of the apostolic preaching: “There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).”
            For those too who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and are not recognized as Christians, the divine plan has provided a way of salvation. As we read in the Council’s Decree Ad Gentes, we believe that “God in ways known to himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel” to the faith necessary for salvation (AG 7). Certainly, the condition “inculpably ignorant” cannot be verified nor weighed by human evaluation, but must be left to the divine judgment alone. For this reason, the Council states in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes that in the heart of every man of good will, “Grace works in an unseen way…. The Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (GS 22).” (John Paul II)

            I would say that the Catholic Church is not one that fundamentalist-evangelicals would look at as ‘exclusive’ according to their definition of how ‘exclusivity’ is practiced, no. Not at all.

          • OldProphet says:

            Thanks for the info Christiane. But I knew all this. Been a Christian over 30 years. And know about transubstantiation, purgatory, and all the rules and regs. I love and respect the RCC but very happy in the theological system I’m in. Merry Christmas to you and your family. (PS. I might attend a midnight mass on Christmas eve. Will they find out I’m a heretic) LOL

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        I agree. It is absolutely killing evangelicalism, especially the more conservative and baptist strands. Pope Francis wasn’t talking to evangelicals, of course, but they should prolly listen.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Why would they listen?
          A lot of them are still fighting the Reformation Wars against that Antichrist in Rome.

      • A lack of self-criticism is killing evangelicalism. Many have said it; I happened to have said it numerous times this past year. I’m a more than a little tired of evangelicals judging, condemning, and dictating how others should live; but when anyone dares to hold evangelicals to account or to a standard of conduct, they are shouted down with accusations of legalism and/or persecution.

  6. David Cornwell says:

    All of us need to pray for Pope Francis. He has powerful enemies all round. This kind of truth does not set well with the powerful, the envious, and the doctrinaire in and out of Church. May God give him strength.

    • I think your words are very true, David. If Pope Francis is really as serious as he seems to be about changing things in the Vatican, things are going to get rough, and possibly even dangerous, on the road ahead.

    • Merry Christmas to all who regularly post here! I won’t bore anyone with my views, but feel called as a mere observer to offer a thought. I am an apologist type who has been in the battle lines many years. As of late I grow weary of debate. I am fully aware of positions on all sides and corresponding theological arguments (my church position is quite fixed by now). I am much more interested in entering into learning- borne from mutual love and respect. For the most part this is what I have encountered here. I thank you all for your mostly gracefilled discourse and wanted to remind you to consider how important each statement is phrased. I am sure many (lurkers) are affected by tone and context as many people are turned from Our Lord by calumny and shrillness. I want to thank each of you for your witness and the light you bring.
      Sursum Corda!
      Dennis

  7. What about the disease of hiding and protecting pedophiles?

    What about the disease of telling AIDS ravaged communities in Africa that condom use is a sin?

    Religious platitudes and easy pieties comfort us for sure. But real repentance consists of both remorse and restitution. Until it confronts it’s own disease the Church has no moral authority to speak of.

    • I don’t disagree with your points, but this was a message to a particular group of people, appropriate for them. We’ll see how Francis and the church continue to deal with other issues. Some things are beyond mere confession — they call for a thorough reformation.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      What about the disease of hiding and protecting pedophiles?

      Like all those Born-Again Bible-Believing or Truly Reformed megas and indies and IFBs that get exposed on a regular basis by Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, Calvary Chapel Abuse, et al?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      So only those you agree with completely and whose history is blameless have “moral authority”?

      You bring up sex related issues. What about those who silently condone conditions akin to slavery? Or allow people to starve? Racial bigots? Poison the air and water? [which makes people sick, if it doesn’t kill them] All the while reciting platitudes? They get a free pass? Usually seems that way.

      Maybe you don’t mean any of that. But these kind of declarations of no-moral-authority always seem to have an axis-of-sex. Sorry, but I do not believe either sexual deviance or sexual prudery render someone devoid of moral authority.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        That’s because Christians are just as messed-up and obsessed about SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX as everyone else, they just show it differently. (And often the opposite — Thou Shalt NOT instead of YEAH YEAH YEAH. Funhouse-mirror reflections of each other, polar opposite yet otherwise identical.)

      • …and EVERYONE knows that ONLY Catholic Priests have ever been pedophiles….no scout leaders, preachers, Sunday school teachers, regular school teachers, coaches, or the like??

        The RCC messed up, but has ‘fessed up and has removed not only the culpable parties but also those that condoned or ignored the abuse (even those who fell in with the THEN in-favor idea of rehabilitation…) Other groups….not so much, and certainly not as publically.

        Stephen has some serious issues with the Church….and I would bet (if I gambled) that he is ignorant of actual RCC theology and teachings, but has grabbed onto mainstream media soundbites. Hard to avoid hand-grenades of horseapples when you are as visible and widespread as Rome……

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          And all that talk ignores that in the 70s/80s at least there was – at least my mid-west America – a serious tendency for everyone to turn a blind eye. I witnessed numerous events which today would have resulted in people loosing their jobs, at least, if not jail time. Male junior high teachers having girls sit on their laps, young women ducked out of sight fast as scurrying roaches when the police cruiser rolled through the trailer park, etc… Not only did people not do anything, many gawfawed about it – not Catholics, everyone. Now when historical dirt is dragged up people are aghast! How could that have been permitted to go on! Yeah, they are all so righteous and indignant now, in the safety and convenience of hindsight.

          Sorry, this topic ticks me off. I have friends who could have used someone around – at the time – with some moral clarity, nah… some guts. Being morally outraged thirty years later is cheap.

        • MelissatheRagamuffin says:

          A man who was once associated with the children’s ministry at the church I attended when Spawn was little has recently been charged with sexually abusing children at this current church. Here’s a conversation no parent ever wants to have – did Insertnamehere ever hurt you when you were little?
          It really brings one up short, and if I had my son to raise over again or had another child now, I wouldn’t send them down the the nursery or children’s church because you just don’t ever know.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            “I had my son to raise over again or had another child now”

            But then you just live in fear, and limit yourself, do to a fear of an unlikely evil. This is a terrible way to build a society or create citizens.

            There are institutional ways to mitigate this risk. I would not fear the nursery. I would choose an organization that takes management seriously, and I would ask questions about policy and procedure – like, first, if they have any – and then I wouldn’t worry about it anymore.

  8. In the words of some war tale I heard: ‘I am hit’

    I dunno. I like Jesus the teddy-bear better.
    Or at minimum Aslan the lion who is stuffed and in a display case.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      What about the disease of hiding and protecting pedophiles?

      Which is a really big help when (not if) Tash kicks in your door.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Should have been:

        Or at minimum Aslan the lion who is stuffed and in a display case.

        Which is a really big help when (not if) Tash kicks in your door.

        • As much as I hate to admit it I like comfortable religion that I can control. That’s why either the teddy bear or stuffed lion is good.
          The stuffed lion can give me the thought that somehow I am on the cutting edge and ‘more progressive’ and the teddy bear gives me comfort.

          The lion is especially good as he can be used against others.

          The truth is in my life more often than not it is the lion working on my selfish heart.

          Pope Francis that stuff hurts-you might even have hit us Protestants with that fusillade.

  9. I like when Aslan is my big and fierce protector….not when He swats me for my many transgressions!

  10. I like this a lot. It targets something Jesus would target: the sins of religious folks such as myself, rather than the sins of common man (which are much easier for us religious folks to pick on).

  11. Good stuff from the guy with the big hat and wise counsel for Christian leaders of all stripes.
    Figuring out just how to apply honest self-analysis and unsparing self-criticism has been and continues to be a problem for church leaders and even church institutions as a whole. How do we go about dissecting that animal without killing it? In my experience, most people can only swallow so much brutal honesty and transparency before they start to choke on it ? and then they tend to turn on the one serving up that unpleasant meal. And I would dare say there are very few leaders of any kind on the planet who can maintain that position for long without a public image or projection serving as a buffer between what people want to see and what truly is. Most leaders ? even the relatively good and honest ones ? rely on a certain level of self-imposed blindness (a kind of grace if you will) on the part of those who claim them as leaders.
    And when it comes to religious institutions, I have never encountered one with anything like a functional policy for critical self-examination and self-correction. Large institutions are like really big ships ? they’re very hard to stop once they gather momentum in a particular direction and they turn very slowly once a decision is given to make a course correction. And those decisions are very rare. More often than not, institutional leaders will choose to deny the existence of the looming ice berg rather than admit deep-rooted institutional problems or errors.

  12. I wonder whether Pope Francis entitled his Sermon “15 Diseases Afflicting the Curia.” After all, fully three of the five IM Bulletin Board posts begin with numbers (two fives and a ten).

    Well, at least they’re all nice multiples of five, in contrast to the Top Seven / Thirty-Four / Twenty-Three / Your-Favorite-Integer-Here lists that populate the rest of the internet these days.