Tag Archives: change
Via Anglican Memes
In an interview, Pope Francis voiced his concern with what he calls “leprosy” in the Vatican. He also reveals that he was anxious when he was named pontiff and considered turning the position down.
By Matthew DeLuca, Staff Writer, NBC News
Pope Francis, using strong language to condemn a “Vatican-centric view” of the Roman Catholic Church, says that church leaders have too often been narcissists, “flattered and sickeningly excited by their courtiers.”
Extending his departure in style from his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Francis vowed in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that he would do everything in his power to change that view.
“The church is or should go back to being a community of God’s people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God,” he said.
The pope suggested that the church should rethink the relationship between its leaders and the faithful.
“Leaders of the Church have often been Narcissus, flattered and sickeningly excited by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy,” he said.
Asked what he meant by “the court,” Francis said that he did not mean the Curia — the officials who govern the church from Vatican City — but something more like the quartermaster’s office in an army, which provides clothing and equipment to troops.
“It is Vatican-centric,” he said. “It sees and looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part, temporal interests. This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us. I do not share this view and I’ll do everything I can to change it.”
The pope said that he was against what he called “clericalists,” saying that when he meets one, “I suddenly become anti-clerical.” He referred to St. Paul’s outreach to pagans and other religions, said that the church should include people who feel excluded, and preach peace.
In a reference to the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, which led to modern reforms in the church, the pope said: “This includes a dialogue with non-believers. After that, not so much was done in this direction. I have to the humility and ambition to do so.”
The interview was conducted last week in the Vatican guest house, where Francis, who has been praised for what is seen as a simpler and more humble approach to the papacy, lives in a low-key residence.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected to lead the Catholic Church following the resignation of Pope Benedict
The interview appeared as Francis begins a three-day meeting with a group of eight cardinals gathered from around the world with the task of reforming the Vatican administration, the Curia.
Last month the pope said the church should not focus on issues like abortion, contraception, and gay marriage to the extent that it neglects other aspects of the faith.
“We have to find a new balance,” he said in an interview published in Jesuit journals. “Otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the gospel.”
In the interview with La Repubblica, Francis disclosed some of his own fears before being elected by a conclave of cardinals in March.
“When in the conclave they elected me pope, I asked for some time alone before I accepted,” he said in the interview. “I was overwhelmed by great anxiety, then I closed my eyes and all thoughts, including the possibility of refusing, went away.”
Eugenio Scalfari, the co-founder and former editor of La Repubblica, who conducted the interview with Francis said he was “shocked” when the pope called to set up the interview.
“I answered, and he simply said: ‘Good morning, it’s Pope Francis. You wrote me a letter in which you said you would have liked to meet me and get to know me, so here I am. Let’s book an appointment. Is Tuesday OK with you? The time is a bit of a pain, 3 p.m.…is that OK?’” said Scalfari recounting the conversation to NBC News.
Scalfari, 89, describes himself as an atheist. During the summer he posed a series of questions to Francis about atheism in an open letter. The pope responded to his questions in a lengthy opinion piece, with the simple byline “Francesco,” published in the newspaper on Sept.11.
“The most surprising thing he told me was: ‘God is not Catholic.’ I asked him what he meant, since he is the leader of the Catholic Church, and he told me that ‘God is universal, and we are catholic in the sense of the way we worship him.”
The opportunity to interview the new leader of the Catholic Church was enough to awe even a seasoned reporter.
“In 60 years of career as a journalist, I interviewed many important people, and I became friends with some of them. But I never thought I could feel I would become a friend of a pope.”
NBC News Claudio Lavanga, the Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Pope Francis said unless a new balance is found, ‘the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards’. Photograph: AGF/Rex Features
Pope Francis has set out his desire to find a “new balance” in the Catholic church, calling for greater involvement of women in key decisions and a less condemnatory approach towards gay people, divorcees and women who have had an abortion.
In a wide-ranging interview with an Italian Jesuit journal, the Pope calls for the Catholic church, the world’s largest Christian church with 1.2bn members, to face up to the need for reform. Offering a dramatic contrast to the traditional conservative approach of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Francis says the first reform must be one of “attitude”, adding that unless a new balance is found, “the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards”.
The Pope urges Catholics to show “audacity and courage” in their approach to people who, in the past, have been given short shrift by the church, including those who “do not attend mass, who have quit or are indifferent”.
Asked how he would respond to Catholics who are divorced or remarried or gay, he replies: “I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’, because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this.”
He goes on: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person … In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation.”
Upon his election in March, Pope Francis, or Jorge Mario Bergoglio as he was born in Buenos Aires to Italian parents, was presented as a new start for a church still reeling from paedophilia scandals as well as the Hitler Youth past that dogged his predecessor. But the extent of the shift that Francis represents is only now becoming apparent.
“I have never been a rightwinger,” the Pope says, admitting that when he was a younger man he had “an authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions” that led to “serious problems”.
“Over time I learned many things.”
The interview was conducted by Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal. He met the Pope three times in August, and his article, which was translated from Italian into English by a team of five independent experts, has been published in 16 countries.
Spadaro was treated to a rare audience inside the Pope’s private living quarters in the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican. The Pope has chosen to live in Room 207 in the Casa, rather than in the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace, because he disliked the inverted funnel of the space: “It is big and spacious, but the entrance is really tight. People can come only in dribs and drabs, and I cannot live without people.”
His living space is spartan and austere, with only a few things in it, including an icon of St Francis, a statue of the patron saint of his native Argentina, a crucifix and a statue of St Joseph asleep.
Asked by Spadaro the simple question: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?”, the new pontiff says: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
Pope Francis does not offer any concrete changes of policy such as a willingness to see women enter the clergy or a loosening of the church’s tough approach to contraception. But he does signal a radical change of approach from which solid reforms might follow.
On women, he begins by saying, quizzically, that he is wary of what he calls “female machismo”, because “women have a different make-up from men”. But he then goes on to say that he wants to “investigate further the role of women in the church … The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.”
He raises the example of a woman with a failed marriage behind her who has had an abortion. She remarries, has five children, and is happy. “That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life … We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible … We have to talk about them in a context.”
On gay Catholics, he adds flesh to the remarks he made in July when he said he would not judge a gay person seeking God. In the latest interview, the Pope adds that “God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”
In the course of the 11,000-word interview, the Pope also gives an insight into his personal tastes. He likes reading Dostoevsky and the German lyric poet Friedrich Holderlin, and has Alessandro Manzoni’s historical novel The Betrothed, which he has already read three times, by his bed.
He admires the paintings of Caravaggio and Chagall, and adores listening to Mozart and Beethoven interpreted by the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler. His favourite films are La Strada by Fellini and Roberto Rossellini’s wartime drama Rome, Open City.
What do the following have in common? Zacchaeus, St. Paul, St Augustine, Francis of Assisi, John Newton the hymnwriter, Francis Thomson the poet?
All had a firm conviction in the power of Christ to change people’s lives.
Zacchaeus – from quisling to follower of Christ
Saul – from persecutor to Paul the apostle
Augustine – from wastrel to holy man
Francis – from self-centred indolence to friar and saint
Newton – from slaver to hymnist
Thomson – from hopeless drunk to Christian apologist
All changed , all made new – like countless others before and since and yet to come – through the transforming power of Jesus Christ who makes all things new.
If you’ve looked at the Gospel according to St John even superficially, you will have noticed that it’s considerably different from the others.
It’s as if the author is seeing things from a different perspective. He seems to get behind the facts, giving them a meaning and significance that are eternal.
He sees in the actions of Jesus something that is forever true; something that is still happening – happening even now.
The first miracle to be recorded by John is the story of turning water into wine. Some versions of the Bible refer to this as the first of the ‘signs’ that Jesus did.
And John, who had had many years to contemplate on what Christ did – sees in it something of profound significance.
Dull ordinary water, common H2O can become rich rich wine, full of bouquet and sparklinmg with promise.
And if water can become wine, the ordinary man or woman can become something exciting and rich and effervescent.
John is trying to convey to us that whenever Christ comes into our lives, there enters into them a new quality which is like turning water into wine – new exhilaration.
But where’s the key to this? How does life become new?
I once heard this story – a man was preaching at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. There was only a handful of disinterested listeners there. But he preached on telling them about how marvellous Christ is.
A heckler interrupted him – ‘Here!’ he shouted ‘All this Jesus this and Jesus that…he’s been around for two thousand years and he’s done nothing for me!’
The preacher stopped and said ‘Friend, water has been around for several million years but by the look of your dirty face, it hasn’t done you much good either!’
Do you see it? You need CONTACT if all is to change in your life. You need contact if things are to become new.
And this contact? Look again at the story of the wedding at Cana. This is how Jesus revealed his glory says John, AND HIS DISCIPLES BELIEVED IN HIM.
Belief is the point of contact.
‘Behold, I make all things new’ says the risen and glorified Christ. Do you believe it? Can you dare believe it to be true?
Progressive Christian Channel
A few thoughts on fundamentalism
May 29, 2013 By Kevin Miller
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about fundamentalism in preparation for an upcoming project I’d like to do on Rene Girard’s mimetic theory. As part of the development process, I’ve been doing a series of presentations to help me workshop the material. I’ve never approached a documentary project in this way before. However, I’m finding the opportunity to “test drive” the content with various groups tremendously fruitful.
I’m keying in on the issue of fundamentalism, because I begin my presentation with a “state of the union” on religion. I note how in the mid-20th century, sociologists and other qualified observers predicted that the rise of modernity would lead to the demise of religion. They assumed that as we moved toward a more scientific “evidence-based” way of seeing the world, worldviews that took more of a magical or supernatural approach would simply fade away–or be overrun by a tsunami of evidence that revealed such worldviews to be rooted in illusion rather than fact.
Instead, 60 years later it appears like exactly the opposite has happened. Instead of going away, religion is louder, stronger and more violent than ever. Of course, everyone points to 9/11 as the wake-up call that fundamentalism isn’t going away any time soon. And one has only to think of the Boston Marathon bombing, the brutal attack on the soldier in London, the recent skirmishes in the southern Philippines or any number of other religiously motivated acts of violence that occurred over the past couple of months to realize that religion–particularly fundamentalist religion–is very much a force to be reckoned with in today’s world.
But does religious violence necessarily indicate a rise in religious affiliation? I find Rob Bell’s recent comments about evangelical Christianity especially enlightening in this regard:
I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told “we’re gonna change the thing” and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful.
So rather than defy predictions of religion’s demise, perhaps these violent outbursts merely confirm it. The last gasp of a dying institution. To invoke a Tolkien image, they are merely the flaming tail of a Balrog seeking to pull us down with it into the abyss.
As if to bolster this hypothesis, in North America at least, we are seeing a stampede for the exits when it comes to people’s willingness to identify with institutional forms of religion, especially Protestant Christianity. A lot was made of the recent Pew study which documented the rise of the “nones,” one-fifth of the American population who claim no religious affiliation. That’s not to say the nones don’t believe in God. Many of them do. Call them “spiritual but not religious.” But, like this guy, they are increasingly sceptical of institutionalized expressions of faith, which seems to portend that America is following the same path toward secularization that many European countries have walked.
So what does this picture tell us? Is religion on the rise or is it on its way out? At the risk of being annoying, I would say, “both.” Particular expressions of religion are certainly waning, and others are waxing. But the need to ground our identity in something that transcends our individual experience has remained constant.
Witness the trailer for the upcoming documentary The Unbelievers, for example. I find it intriguing that Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss have essentially adopted the means of “the enemy” to win people over to their cause. In this trailer, you see them preaching, proselytizing, marshalling celebrity endorsements and working out strategies to communicate their message more effectively to the broader culture. Hanging over it all is an apocalyptic tone, a sense that failure to fulfil their mission could spell disaster. Swap out the names and the ideas being communicated, and this could just as easily be a trailer for the next big release from Campus Crusade for Christ. This isn’t a criticism of Dawkins so much as an observation. How could it be any other way? Dawkins is only doing what every human feels an inherent need to do–ground his identity in a narrative that makes sense of the world, and then validate that narrative by getting as many people as possible to assent to it.
The important question is how we deal with those who disagree with our chosen narrative. This is where the spectre of fundamentalism rears its head.
After scouring the web for a good working definition of fundamentalism, I decided to go with “a violent reaction to modernity.” I prefer this definition, because it helps encapsulate the idea that fundamentalism isn’t so much a set of beliefs as a sense of inflexibility in terms of how those beliefs are held. This means everyone–even Richard Dawkins (even me!)–can potentially fit into the fundamentalist category.
However, I think fundamentalist atheism differs from other forms of fundamentalism in one key regard: rather than a reaction against modernity, it seems to be more of a reaction against post-modernity–the idea that there could be more than one plausible explanation for reality, and that perhaps even our perception of reality is itself a social construction, always in need of revision. (Of course, many Christians resist this idea as well.) People like Dawkins talk about moving people toward an evidence-based view of the world. But what qualifies as evidence? That determination can only be made by referencing your worldview. For example, a Christian may accept a personal revelation gained through prayer as evidence of God’s existence. Someone of Dawkins’ ilk will dismiss such “evidence” as nothing more than a psychological projection. Same phenomena, different explanation, because according to each worldview, certain lines of inquiry or explanation are necessarily excluded.
The problem is, a worldview is nothing more than a set of improvable philosophical assumptions. We tend to believe our worldview is based on evidence, but I think it’s more accurate to say a worldview is a set of non-negotiable moral or intellectual intuitions that we have come to accept as facts. So when someone comes along and questions those assumptions or asks us to consider forms of evidence that our worldview has already excluded, it’s only natural to assume that person is cognitively or emotionally defective. How else could they dispute something so obvious?
So we attempt to educate such people, to win them over to our position. But when these dissenters refuse to surrender to the obvious supremacy of our view, we come to suspect that perhaps these people aren’t merely defective in some way, they may actually be evil. They know we’re right; they just refuse to admit it.
This raises an important question: How can we possibly resolve such disputes, especially when we can’t even agree on what qualifies as evidence? It’s like we’re speaking completely different languages.
Pluralism is one response. Live and let live. All paths are equally valid. There’s no need to decide. However, if all paths are equally valid, then all paths are equally meaningless. And the assumption that all paths are equally valid is itself a philosophical preference rather than a scientific inference. So even according to its own rules, there’s no need to grant it privileged status.
These questions could easily lead to paralysis, but I tend to be rather pragmatic. To me, the only important questions are: Which worldview(s) are most conducive to careful and accurate observation of the universe? Which worldview(s) yield the most accurate predictions? Which worldview(s) require us to accept the fewest improvable assumptions? Which worldview(s) yield the smallest number of unexplainable anomalies? Which worldview(s) minimize rather than exacerbate conflict? And which worldview(s) are the most receptive to change in light of new information? This doesn’t mean worldviews which fail to pass this test should be eradicated, but it is probably in the best interest of all if they are simply abandoned. (Of course, I say this fully realizing that all I’ve done here is articulate my own philosophical preference…)
However, as I think about it, perhaps this final question is the most important. It also leads to an even better definition of fundamentalism–a worldview that refuses to change in light of new information. By necessity, every worldview requires a certain degree of inflexibility. Otherwise it ceases to function as an explanatory filter. But when preservation and defence of our worldview becomes the end-all, be-all of our existence–when our worldview becomes an end in itself rather than a means to an end–we can be certain we have crossed over into a fundamentalist way of viewing the world.
Whether or not that leads us to become violent, it certainly leads to an impoverished existence. And I don’t care what your philosophical preference is, no amount of evidence can dispute that