Friday, January 10, 2014

"Nothing Has Changed"

Cardinal DePaolis engineers reform of the Legion of Christ

I happen to believe the reform of the Legion of Christ is a critical signpost for meaningful reform for the entire Church because the Legion is a distilled microcosm of everything that's wrong with the macro institutional Church.  The results from the next six weeks, while the Legion's General Congress is in session, may turn out to be a very critical period for the legacy of Pope Francis as any kind of reformer.  If the Legion reform is nothing more than the smoke and mirrors it seems to be at this point, then Francis' reform image will take a big hit.  If Catholics can't get meaningful reform of one relatively small religious congregation that just happens to embody all the worst institutional abuses the Catholic Church has to offer, then what hope is there for the Church itself?  Not very much.

A second thought I've had is described in a post Bill Lyndsey wrote this morning on Bilgrimage.  In it Bill makes a pertinent observation about the oft repeated inability of this pope to foster changes in Church teaching:

"Because my field of study as a Catholic doctoral theology student was the history of Christian thought, I'm aware of how ill-grounded are almost all claims that historically conditioned teachings and practices are set in stone. The teachings and practices of the Catholic church have always changed. They have changed much over the course of Catholic history.
And they'll continue to change, no matter how much those who have everything invested in announcing that it's impossible to change church teaching try to reassure us that they're fixed for all eternity."

Unfortunately for any chance of doctrinal reform, Pope Francis has this to say this very morning during his now recommenced daily Masses at Casa Sanctae Marthae as reported on the Vatican Radio website:

  “Faith,” Said Pope Francis, “means confessing God – the God who revealed Himself to us, from the time of our fathers down to the present: the God of history. This we recite each day in the Creed – but it is one thing to recite the Creed heartily, and another [merely] to parrot it, no? I believe, I believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe – but do I believe what I am saying? Is this a true confession of faith or is it something I says somehow by rote, because it is [the thing to say]? Do I believe only halfway? Confess the Faith! All of it, not part of it! Safeguard this faith, as it came to us, by way of tradition: the whole Faith! And how may I know that I confess the Faith well? There is a sign: he, who confesses the faith well – the whole Faith – has the capacity to worship God.”

Sigghhh. To be honest I'm not sure what to make of these statements.  It's hard to tell when the translation uses the word Faith,  if Francis is referencing just the Nicene Creed or the entirety of the catechism. In any event, it's a stretch of epic proportions to state one must confess the whole Faith in order to have the capacity to worship God.  I've met lots of people capable of worshiping God without much more than a thimble full of ability to confess the whole Faith.  I think Jesus referred to this as having the faith of a mustard seed, and those seeds are almost microscopic.  Maybe Jesus' use of the word faith is different from Francis' or maybe the English translation of Francis' homily is poor, but I don't get the sense Francis would necessarily nod his head in agreement with Bill Lynsey's observation that Christian thought develops, and has developed, and will continue to develop, and isn't stagnant at all.  Or if Francis did agree with Bill, it's a safe bet some Vatican spokesperson would tell us no matter what Francis said, he didn't mean it in the way the press wrote it. Nothing has changed.
"Nothing has changed."  That I'm afraid will wind up being the some total of the reform of the Legion.  It almost has to happen that way, because as I wrote earlier, the Legion is a microcosm of everything that's wrong with the macro institution. 


  1. Really, nothing has changed, only the Pope has changed, but the rest, Vatican Structure and Leadership is in the same place. The atmosphere has a bit changed in the entire church, I think. He isnt worst than JPII and BXVI, it's a small step, I have better feelings about him than about the others 2. The effect is Make up? maybe. We should wait for more changes, I hope.

  2. Everything does change eventually even the Legion of Christ, but that does not mean we will see much good change in this organization now. It has been too much of a cash cow for the Vatican.

    I agree very much with Bill Lindsey that any group including the RCC is in flux and always changes their beliefs. The church calls these beliefs doctrines. History proves it but like people there will always be change. This is one reason that the idea of relativism being bad is preposterous. We as finite individuals can only understand a small amount of truth. We have knowledge that is relative to the circumstances.

    The church has been rather quixote in its fight against relativism and modernism. Modernism was a real clash with the idea that beliefs could not change. People not only believed that they could find the truth but they could prove that truth when all the facts were known. Modernism was an outgrowth of the scientific method. We developed scientific laws that eventually needed to change as we found ourselves in relatively different circumstances. I believe that this is one of the reasons that Einstein called his great equation a theory in that he knew some one might one day be able to learn from it and change it. When Newton discovered his great laws of gravity, we humans could not even conceive a world without gravity. We are now in the post modern era that tells us that we can know only bits of truth. We can always discover more of truth.

    I recently took a course in theoretical astrophysics through the Great Courses program and found plenty of reasons to be awed and spiritual. I think many people that begin to understand much of science have a good chance to be humble spiritualists. This is not true of doctrinaire omnipotent thinking. People that are "too" religious give up their ability to allow themselves to either grow emotionally or spiritually. It takes a certain amount of arrogant and omniscient thinking to define any truth as infallible. For at least a thousand year the belief by RCC leaders that they could define infallible truth was and is nothing more than the feelings of omniscients and omnipotence and as in all boarder line thought it can and often does cause a lot of harm. The RCC with these omnipotent beliefs of infallibility of their own "fixed doctrine" has done much more harm than good. For with this illusion they can not learn from their own mistakes nor from their own experience. Experience is our greatest life long teacher!!

  3. The teachings of the Catholic Church cannot change because they are the truth of the human person, the truth of God, and the truth of the relationship between the human person and God. Peripheral human conditions change with time, but the essence of man does not - and of course God does not change.

    All teachings of the Church have been given before the death of the last apostle called Public Revelation or the Deposit of Faith. It is the job of the Church to protect that.

    To say that Church teaching changes, one holds that there is no truth but merely human opinion.

    God gave us truth, which is a share in His own light, not merely our own ideas. He loves us more than to see us imprisoned in that (yes, freedom comes from God's truth, not the creation of our own minds).

  4. And how do you know that God does not change? Could it be that we humans don't WANT God to change? Could it be that we are more comfortable controlling God when we know that God stays in the box that we have created? Of course, we cannot control God. We can delude ourselves into thinking that we can.

  5. Daneagle and Jim, Sounds different to me! The more our minds encircle some knowledge, the larger becomes the circumference of uncertainty. So the idea that there is "sure" thought is a good thing but the idea that we can know all The Truth about any one subject is very poor. As time goes by with good sense and learning from experience we can penetrate tiny more amounts of uncertainty and learn tiny more amounts of truth. It has been calculated that we could know only about 4% of the information about our own galaxy. There are at least hundreds of millions of galaxies out there and possibly even more universes than ours.

    We are now just finding out that the universe is mostly made of dark energy and dark matter (or gravity) and we know little to nothing of this phenomena. Yet the church once dogmatically taught that the son rotated around the earth and that man was the central part of the universe. Well, things have changed and even though it took the Church over 300 years, even JP II finally had to admit that teaching was indeed wrong.

    The idea that a man or an institution can have full Truth about anything is omnipotent thought and a psychologic symptom of group or individual pathology.

  6. To address your issue of God changing or not, God as God is infinite - He is pure actuality without the potential to be anything greater or different. Such a being cannot change by its (His) very nature.

    To understand this, we must look at what we mean by "God."

    The physical universe or any other finite thing is not God. God is not a huge being in the universe, or outside of the universe parallel to it - rather He is the very ground of existence itself. Finite things *have* being in a limited and possessive sense, but God *is* the sheer act of being itself. He is Pure Being. That is why His name is "I Am" - Exodus 3:14.

    With things in the universe, they can possibly not exist or be different from what they are - we see this in how things come into existence and go out of existence and change. This is what is meant by what we call *contingency.* Now a contingent being must have an explanation for why it exists and why it exists the way it does rather than otherwise.

    The ultimate explanation must be in a being that is not contingent, but *necessary.* A necessary being cannot not exist and cannot be other than what it is - what we call "God." Therefore bringing us back to our original statement that God is purely actual without the potential to be anything different (therefore infinite), therefore establishing His changelessness.

  7. Again Jim, the idea of God is not a new one has evolved to different ideas before and after Christianity itself and the idea that we could even know if God is capable of change is weak to say the least. Perhaps The Infinite Being is always in flux or change, we finite beings can not know. We can only make false claims of The Truth when in fact we can only know a bit of truth. You see are minds are smaller when compared to God to the neurological systems of an ant when compared to us. It is only or attraction to omniscient belief that causes us to believe that we can really know much of a the Great Infinite Existence that we call God or Yaweh. Let us begin to humbly recognize our Institutions limited understanding of what it calls "fixed doctrine" or The Truth.

  8. Church teaching changes because man's conception of himself changes and evolves. Jesus is quoted as saying there were things the Apostles could not understand in their lives but the Spirit would make them known. Many things have been made known since Jesus left this reality.

    God did give us light. He also gave us crystals with which to refract the light and see that light is made up of many colors and that there is a deeper truth to light.

    Man used to conceive of himself as the Center of a Universe dedicated to mankind. We now know that particular ray of light has billions of different facets existing in a multiverse. God may not change in essense, I have no way to know, but I do know our relationship to and with God has changed profoundly and a little humility is in order.

  9. Dennis I often wondered if EPBenedict was not well grounded in quantum physics. Well, actually I wondered how well educated he was outside the confines of theology. His attacks on relativism were not particularly nuanced given that quantum physics has shown we are instrumental in creating our own reality and that therefor everything can be considered 'relative' in it's core expression and completely dependent on when we choose to observe a given wave/particle.

    My hope is that eventually the Church can get on board with Teilhard de Chardin rather than regurgitating Aquinas and Augustine--or trying to jam our current understanding of the cosmos into those old wineskins.

  10. Yes, Pope Francis has certainly raised the hope quotient and that is a danger in itself. I completely agree with his attempts to turn the Church into being about the poor for the poor because the People of God is made up with far far more poor than it is the wealthy or the middle class. What I wish he would do is ask how much the Church itself has contributed to keeping the poor poor. If he can really ask that question it is in those answers we will see institutional reform. And I don't mean just materially poor. Spiritual poverty is probably the bigger concern and I attribute a lot of that poverty directly to the Institutinal Church's fixation with keeping the priesthood of the Council of Trent in tact and unchanged.

  11. Not too mention it reduces God to the level of our own capacity for knowledge. Our brains are most likely not the only example of self aware sentience in the multiverse.

  12. The "direction of the Jesuits" at least 15 years before 1982 was down; there are now more ex-Jesuits in North America than Jesuits and the average age is mid-50s.
    It's (roughly)the same issue with nuns; why bother to listen to a group that's got such an old (and White and middle class) membership? For groups that claim to represent "the future of the Church", this profile is bizarre.
    Either they're both doing something wrong or their claims to "Celebrate Diversity!" ring hollow.

  13. The Jesuits are as much a victim of their history as is the Roman Catholic Church itself. Their oath to popes as different as Pius IX from Pope Francis almost demands that they be ambiguous and ready to jump "for" an issue under one pope and "against" it under another pope. Do Jesuits really have a soul of their own that can credibly be honest? (I'm only asking.) Sycophancy has its price.