Tuesday, December 10, 2013


   The headline in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shouts, “Hierarchy asks Catholics for opinions.”  The article states, “[Pope] Francis in October called on bishops around the world to survey the faithful in advance of a special synod on evangelization and the family scheduled for next fall.” (M.J.S. 11-18-12)  Such a survey is in line with the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium that names the faithful the ‘People of God’ who receive the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (L.G. C.1,4. C.4,9.0)

   Is this simply a bait and switch con game?  Francis has said that the bishops overemphasize abortion, contraception, and gay marriage, but the survey focuses on these issues.  Lumen Gentium also states that the Church hierarchy in conformity with the pope is the ultimate and final authority. (L.G. C.III,18=21)  Infallible decisions have been made on the issues to be discussed at the Synod.  Rush Limbaugh and Sara Palin have been critical of the Pope.  This is an indication that Francis is on the right path, but did Rush and Palin push the panic button too soon?  Church doctrine will not be changed because of a survey.

    However, the pastoral response of the hierarchy may change as a result of the survey.  Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, emphasized the ‘pastoral slant’ of the Synod:  “It is not, therefore, a matter of debating doctrinal questions, but rather … how to effectively proclaim the Gospel of family in the times we are living, characterized by a clear and spiritual crisis.” (National Catholic Reporter, 11, 22, & 12, 5, 2013, p.8)  Does this mean that as ‘Benevolent Dictator’ Francis will bend a bit on the hot issues of politically right wing bishops such as Cardinal Dolan of New York?  Pope Francis could maintain the dogma and cite exceptions depending on circumstances and reference to the right of freedom of conscience.   He may also dust off the opinion of Thomas Aquinas and say that we should follow the natural law and do what is reasonable. (Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIa, q. 19, a. 4; cf. a. 9)  It remains to be seen, but Dolan may have hitched his carriage to the wrong horse. Will the position of the U.S. Bishops on Obamacare change? (See – “Behind the scenes bishops seek exit strategy,” National Catholic Reporter, 12, 6-19, 2013, p. 5)

   Nothing has been said about making the economic survival of families a concern for the Synod.  Church liberals and conservatives ignore the simple survival of families in a world of increasing income inequality and poverty, but the Pope has raised these issues and received press coverage from every vantage point.

   Let us remember, the first social encyclical expressed that the core of society, the family, was entitled to life – a living wage, and health care. (Rerum Novarum 34)   The living wage principle continues to the present.  Key to achieving a living wage and health care is the political support of a strong labor movement.  Leo XIII shocked the world by stating in 1891 that workers have the right to organize. (R.N. 36)  Pope John Paul II was ignored when he said in Laborem Exercens that labor unions are indispensible. (L.E. C. 4, 20) 

    In Centesimus Annus, John Paul II states that the social encyclicals are the ‘new evangelization.’ (C.A. Intro. & C. I, 4)  But for the Roman Catholic hierarchy and their liberal critics, doctrine on internal church rules on sex trump food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education as prior.   

Oscar – The Advisor - Rodriguez (The Politics of a Benevolent Dictatorship part 3)

   Pope Francis has appointed eight Cardinals as his most trusted advisors.  One of them is Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras.  NCR reports that the Honduran Cardinal serves as coordinator of the group. (National Catholic Reporter, 12, 6-19, 2013. p.12)  The direction of Church ‘reform’ will be greatly influenced by this Central American Cardinal.

    I interviewed Rodriquez for the Spanish Journal in October of 2006.  The Cardinal received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Lutheran affiliated Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rodriguez was clear that he favored ‘Liberation Theology’ and was also clear that he opposed trade agreements that exploited workers.  The Archbishop of Milwaukee, and future New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, attended the event.

   But questions about Rodriguez Maradiaga’s involvement in the 2009 military coup in Honduras are troubling.  Did Rodriguez support the coup?  Did he support the coup because the democratically elected president Zelaya had discussions with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela?  Questions about anti-semitism and a rigid position on church rules concerning sexuality have also surfaced. 

   The politics of Francis’ benevolent dictatorship may allow the Central American Cardinal Rodriguez to position himself on the side of the poor.  Rodriguez is from a poor and violent country, but he has lived a privileged life.  Still the question remains, what takes priority for the papacy and Church of Pope Francis?  The fact that there is a change in Church politics is a hopeful sign.

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