|EPBenedict should have been given his due, since this encyclical reads as if it's it's mostly his dew.|
Lot's going on today in the world of Roman Catholicism. The Vatican has announced that both John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized late this year. Maybe Pope Francis is agreeing to this so he will have a better idea of what the right hand is doing in relationship to the left hand. Or maybe it's a symbolic way of handcuffing the right and left hands together for all eternity. Personally I can't believe that John XXIII ever cared if he was canonized, but I can believe John Paul II certainly did. Hence he did away with the Devil's Advocate and reduced the number of miracles, changed the mandatory waiting period, and canonized more saints during his pontificate than the combined totals of all other pontificates. JPII most certainly set the stage for him to receive Catholicism's version of the Eagle Scout badge. What ever.
The other news was the release of what is being called Pope Francis' first encyclical, but is in reality Pope Benedict's final encyclical. It is not a product of four hands. More like two and a half hands. Readers can access the English translation here. This is very much Joseph Ratzinger's work. There's a few tweaks that stand out as something Francis might write, and I suspect he may have added the final paragraphs on the Virgin Mary. I suspect that because this encyclical is noticeably devoid of any recognition of the feminine input in faith and salvation history. The paragraphs about Mary strongly come across as an add on/after thought. In the other 80 some pages, women's role is mentioned strictly in relationship to procreative marriage--a total of one paragraph. Augustine alone gets the equivalent of about five or six paragraphs.
I will have more to write about this encyclical in the coming days, but I do want to hi lite one thought that is very prevalent through out this encyclical. It's the well developed notion that Faith is defined and passed on through light and sound, through vision and hearing. God is light, God speaks, are ideas that figure prominently. Where the encyclical really fails, at least as far as I'm concerned, is the almost total lack of reference to touch. Touch, the one sense perceptive ability that makes material reality so unique. The one perceptive ability that is manifested solely in the Second Person of the Trinity. The one perceptive ability that the Church has never come to terms with because one of it's pinnacle expressions, at least as far as love is concerned, is in sexuality.
I've really found this refusal to meaningfully touch on touch somewhat ironic in a Faith that claims God incarnated in Jesus. Why would God incarnate if it wasn't partially to experience the reality of a material universe which allowed for a whole new method of receiving and knowing love and of giving and receiving knowledge of God. So much of what Jesus did revolved around his touching, not just his speaking, and not just the seeing of him. Virtually all of the healing episodes describe him touching the one to be healed. The institution of the Eucharist is a touch phenomenon, a body to body experience....take and eat for this is my body, 'take and drink..this is the mystery of faith'. He didn't say 'pray and think' or 'look and hear'. He said 'eat and drink'.
This encyclical on Faith is as devoid of thought on touch as it is on women. I suspect that's not an accident, and even though it might not be consciously intentional, I think it points to the two seriously deficient aspects in traditional Catholic theology. It's lack of respect for women, and it's lack of respect for the fact we are all incarnated in a material universe and touch is critical to our well being. If a person thinks about it, the two things, touch and the feminine, are traditionally equated with temptation and sin. I found a great deal of interest in this encyclical, but the lack of awareness of these two realities was so glaring, I can't say I found much 'light'.