Blog Template Theology of the Body: Pope Benedict On, Again

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pope Benedict On, Again

As many of you know, the Holy Father flew to Australia this week to celebrate the 2008 World Youth Day with hundreds of thousands of Christ's young people. Their resounding theme is the text of Acts 1:8- you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses! One of my girl friends who is there emailed me as follows:

The people here in Sydney are fantastic. Lots of singing and dancing. Yesterday there was the Opening Mass at Darling Harbour. What an amazing sight to behold. Flags were flying, people praying, the power of the Lord really alive and kicking. We had our first Catechesis this morning in the parish where we are staying. Probably close to 500 young people. Very powerful. Still lots more to come!

From all reports, these young Catholics are having a powerful, joyful time. I am kicking myself for not being there, but you can follow the action at Dawn Eden's blog, among others.

...Many of you will also have heard about the Pope's rather ambiguous off-the cuff response to a reporter's question on the papal plane about Anglicanism's upcoming Lambeth conference. Several blogs are abuzz with the issue; but I think that the Holy Father simply had his mind and prayers on the hordes of his international children and their aspiring vocations awaiting him in Sydney-not on the rather self-important perpetual panic of Anglicanism- and perhaps did not think it necessary to be more precise, at that point, over the quandries of a local problem. The Pope's generous well-wishing of Anglicans in their ongoing conversations simply affirmed that 1) as stated in Apostolica Curiae, the successor of Peter has no "essential" or intrinsic ontological relationship with Anglican ecclesial or sacramental concerns; and 2) it (still) remains for the Anglican experiment to provide a way of life that is consistent with the Gospel, even if such a way were plausible outside of communion with the Petrine office (which the Catholic Church has always denied).

I am personally reading the Pope's generous, pastoral statement in light of his more definite statements on ecclesiology. In this regard, the Pope's very recent encyclical to Catholics in China speaks to the highly apropos issue of whether Catholic life is possible under validly ordained bishops who are out of communion with Rome. The Pope unequivocally concludes:

Catholic doctrine teaches that the Bishop is the visible source and foundation of unity in the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral ministry. But in every particular Church, in order that she may be fully Church, there must be present the supreme authority of the Church, that is to say, the episcopal College together with its Head, the Roman Pontiff, and never apart from him. Therefore the ministry of the Successor of Peter belongs to the essence of every particular Church "from within." Moreover, the communion of all the particular Churches in the one Catholic Church, and hence the ordered hierarchical communion of all the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, with the Successor of Peter, are a guarantee of the unity of the faith and life of all Catholics. It is therefore indispensable, for the unity of the Church in individual nations, that every Bishop should be in communion with the other Bishops, and that all should be in visible and concrete communion with the Pope.

...Likewise, the declared purpose of the afore-mentioned entities to implement 'the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic.'

...Communion and unity – let me repeat – are essential and integral elements of the Catholic Church: therefore the proposal for a Church that is "independent" of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

Letter to the Faithful of the Catholic Church in China, 2007.

So did Pope Benedict, one of the architects of the Catholic Church's Provision for leading tired Anglicans home, en route to instruct his international young people on Catholic evangelization, mean to affirm Anglicanism qua Anglicanism- as a separated and fully functional arborial "branch" of the Church Catholic in his statement this week?

Context people, context.