This is Vocaris Media, and you are listening to Thinking with the Church. In this edition: Part 1 of a conversation with a man who has dedicated his life to studying, praying, and working to achieve Christian unity.
Andrew J. Boyd – “A.J.” to his friends – is Adjunct Professor of Theology in the Rome program of the Catholic University of America, as well as in the Rome programs of Providence College and Assumption College.
He has taught short term courses through the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas – the Rome center founded in 1986 and dedicated to the formation of the laity and to the promotion of the lay vocation in the Church and in the world, which also works to promote Christian unity and to create opportunities for genuine encounter and sincere dialogue with people of other religions.
AJ has also worked with the sabbatical program of the Pontifical North American College.
We’d known of each other for some time before we met “in real life” at the inauguration of the KAICIID dialogue foundation in Vienna in 2015.
He is an extraordinarily thoughtful interlocutor – only, don’t let his soft-spoken demeanor fool you – he is capable of giving as good as he gets in any discussion.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Let AJ get us rolling with his take on what the ecumenical project is.
“Last Supper” by Vicente Juan Masip [Public domain], c. 1562, via Wikimedia Commons
That was Part 1 of a two-part conversation with ecumenist AJ Boyd.
We’ll bring you Part II next week.
There’s a story told among analytical philosophers – not that I traffic very much in such circles – about a theologian or divine who, one night at dinner in the college, pronounced, “The Church is One!” only to have one of his companions archly ask, “One what?”
Well, the Catholic Church has always thought – believed and taught – that there exists a single Church of Jesus Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him (cf. Dominus Iesus 17):
Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: “a single Catholic and apostolic Church”. Furthermore, the promises of the Lord that he would not abandon his Church (cf. Mt 16:18; 28:20) and that he would guide her by his Spirit (cf. Jn 16:13) mean, according to Catholic faith, that the unicity and the unity of the Church — like everything that belongs to the Church’s integrity — will never be lacking. (ibid.)
Indeed, one of the surprising things for me has been the discovery of how fervently Christians of other confessions also believe in the Four Marks: that the Church is indeed “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” – however different their understanding of what the marks indicate and what it means to profess them – because – I must confess – I cannot understand caring about the Marks at all and not being instantly and therefore Catholic. So this fellow, who grew up in CatholicTown, USA, and has spent almost the whole of his adult life in Rome, is on a pretty steep learning curve.
I am sure of one thing, though: it is for us, the baptized faithful of every confession and of every state of life in the Church, to live, pray, and work for the unity desired and promised by Christ Our Lord:
In treating the question of the true religion, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught: “We believe that this one true religion continues to exist in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus entrusted the task of spreading it among all people. Thus, he said to the Apostles: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt 28: 19-20). Especially in those things that concern God and his Church, all persons are required to seek the truth, and when they come to know it, to embrace it and hold fast to it”. (Ibid., 23, DH, 1)
In all this, “The revelation of Christ will continue to be ‘the true lodestar’ in history for all humanity. (Ibid.)” Dominus Iesus – a much maligned and deeply misunderstood document, supposedly one-sided and heavy-handed, ends with an almost mystical vision taken from the Fathers of the II Vatican Council.
“The truth, which is Christ,” writes Pope St. John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, “imposes itself as an all-embracing authority.” He goes on to say:
The Christian mystery, in fact, overcomes all barriers of time and space, and accomplishes the unity of the human family: ‘From their different locations and traditions all are called in Christ to share in the unity of the family of God’s children… Jesus destroys the walls of division and creates unity in a new and unsurpassed way through our sharing in his mystery. This unity is so deep that the Church can say with Saint Paul: ‘You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are saints and members of the household of God’ (Eph 2:19). – Ibid.
It’s not by accident, I think, that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger concluded his doctrinal note on the relation of the Catholic Church to other Christian Churches and ecclesial communities and other religions, with just these quotations from the then-recently-published Fides et ratio. It is as if he were recalling us to the task set for us by Peter in his first letter: to give a reason for the hope that is in us.
I’ve told the story before on this podcast, about how a friend once asked me why I am Catholic – or why, after all, I am still Catholic?
I am Catholic because the Catholic Church is true. The Catholic Church is the One Church founded by our Divine Savior, Jesus Christ, as the vehicle by which humanity is redeemed from sin and death, and restored to friendship with God. The Church is the efficacious sign of that friendship. I am Catholic because I would be reconciled to God, and to all my fellows, and at peace with all and every one, and the Catholic Church promises this. For now, I see this through a glass, darkly, in a darkness the brightest spots of which are often but the dimmest glimmers of hope – though I am told this is a hope, which does not disappoint. Why am I Catholic? Let me answer with Peter: where else shall I go?
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*********** Show Notes ***********
For the Common Declaration of the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, click here
The Assyrian Church of the East grew out of the Nestorian tradition, which affirms that Christ existed as two persons – one human and the other Divine, to which one of the exaggerated responses was Monophysitism – the idea that Christ had only one Divine nature, either because His human nature had been subsumed by His Divine nature, or because the Divine mind somehow replaced or supplied Christ’s human reason in the Incarnation.
Both Nestorianism and Monophysitism were condemned by Church Councils at Chalcedon et passim.
For more on Nestorianism, click here
For more on Monophysitism, click here
At 24:05, A.J. refers to the “Ravenna Document” – the framework agreement among the Catholic Church and several Orthodox Churches regarding – among other things – the taxis of the 1st millennium, according to which, “Rome, as the Church that ‘presides in love’ according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch (To the Romans, Prologue), occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos among the patriarchs.”
For a brief history of the modern ecumenical movement – especially the Catholic Church’s commitment to the movement in the wake of the II Vatican Council – see the summary from the US Catholic Bishops, here
Home » Posts tagged 'Ecclesiology'
Tag Archives: Ecclesiology
I was interviewed recently by Christopher Altieri, host of “Thinking with the Church”, a podcast series started by the philosopher/Vatican Radio reporter earlier this year. The conversation ranges over a variety of ecumenical questions for just under an hour. Please check out the rest of the series, too, if you enjoyed our conversation.
Pertinent both to the Pan-Orthodox Synod and yesterday’s post on the “Doctrine of Discovery”, albeit obliquely, is the concept of ‘continents’. I was first intrigued by international disagreement on this seemingly obvious issue during the Great Jubilee of 2000, when the logo was presented:
Within a sphere formed by black capital letters which read “Iubilaeum A.D. 2000”, on a background of a blue circle, representing the earth, there is a cross sustaining humanity on the five continents represented by doves of different colours. The cross is made up of the same colours as the doves to indicate the mystery of the Incarnation: Christ takes on our human condition, “becoming like us”. [emphasis mine]
Now, as any American elementary school pupil can tell you, there are seven continents: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.
But since the cross is sustaining humanity, the doves are meant to reflect the inhabited continents, excluding Antarctica (though i think that white dove would represent perfectly the home of the penguins). That still leaves one out.
Instead, the Vatican tends to take the position of the Latin Americans, that “America” is a single continent from Nunavit to Tierra del Fuego.
In deference to this ideology, in Italian, as in many romance languages, people from the United States are not called “Americans” (and the afore mentioned latinoamericanos would insist “we are all Americans!”), but are statunitense, literally, “UnitedStatesians”, which clearly does not work at all in English. However, Mexico is also a “United States”, as well as a dozen other countries which have been, at one point in their recent history, also officially called the “United States of Somewhere”, including Brazil. Only one country in the world has the word “America” in it’s name, however, so “American” is actually more specific to a country than is “United Statesian” – though i tend to avoid it now for diplomatic reasons.
If we take the definition offered by most dictionaries: “large landmasses separated by others by oceans or seas” it seems obvious, but it gets complicated, and explained succinctly and humorously by the internet’s great “explainer of things”, CGP Grey:
One thing is clear: there is no justifiable reason to treat Europe as a separate continent from Asia, as there is no water separating them (as there is between the Americas, and between Africa and Eurasia, or Eurasia and Australia, etc). At minimum, if you are going to combine the Americas, you cannot possibly consider Europe anything other than a subcontinent or a political-cultural identity.
So, there are clearly six: Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Eurasia, North America, and South America.
Now, how does it relate to ecclesiology? Well, Vatican II considered it a possibility to establish new patriarchates – really new particular ritual churches – and the Orthodox have already done so. Consider some of the ancient patriarchates, like the Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, etc. Why not a patriarch of Los Angeles and All North America, of São Paolo and All South America, etc.? At the least, it makes for a fun thought-exercise.
We are in the midst of an extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, called at the end of the celebrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, capping commemorations that started with the Year of Faith. For the last four years, the Church has marked this anniversary in a number of ways.
In October 2012, Pope Benedict presided over a solemn liturgy commemorating the opening of the Council, with Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Rowan Williams in places of honor at his side. Also honored during the event 16 Council Fathers, any of the approximately 3000 bishops who participated in at least one of the four sessions of the Council. (At the time, there were several dozen still living).
They were joined by eight Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, 80 Cardinals, 191 Archbishops and Bishops participating in the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, together with 104 Presidents of Episcopal Conferences from throughout the world.
Today, a few months after celebrating the anniversary of the close of the Council, there are about 35 living Council Fathers; 19 of whom lived through all four sessions.
In this Jubilee of Mercy, i repeat a proposal i first made during the Year of Faith:
Make the remaining Council Fathers members of the College of Cardinals.
At the least, those who were Council Fathers for all four sessions.
The senior-most, Bishop Jan van Cauwelaert, CICM, of Inongo, Congo has been a bishop for more than 62 years. The junior of those present throughout the Council is Seattle’s Archbishop emeritus Raymond Hunthausen, ordained bishop mere weeks before the opening of the first session. (Full disclosure: Hunthausen confirmed me)
Of the 35, four are already cardinals, Francis Arinze, Jose de Jesus Pimiento Rodriguez, Serafim Fernandes de Arujo, and Sfeir (of those, only Arinze was not at all four sessions of the Council).
So, that means 15 new cardinals, if only those from all four sessions, or 31 if all of them.
All are over 80, so none would be voting. This is not about who selects the next pope or appointing people whose work lies in the future.
This would be an honorary step, something to mark a half-century of episcopal ministry and leadership in the rarest and most solemn exercise of their ministry of governance over the universal church. This is about honoring the Council, and the entire church. A small, but symbolic gesture.
Most likely, most would not be able to attend a consistory to receive the red hat and ring, but simpler may be better.
I think it would be a nice way to close out the Year of Mercy, a final way to mark the 50 years of blessing brought by the Holy Spirit through the universal and extraordinary magisterium of the Church, expressly in a spirit of synodality.
Granted: any credibly accused of sexual abuse of children, covering up the same, or other similarly grave matters should be excluded.
You have probably heard by now that, while addressing 900 women religious (i.e., sisters) in Rome for the meeting of the International Union of Superiors General, Pope Francis was asked to study the question of women in the diaconate. He responded in the affirmative: He said understanding about their role in the early Church remained unclear and agreed it would be useful to set up a commission to study the question.
You may know my doctoral research is on the diaconate, through the lens of receptive ecumenism. So, while others, like Phyllis Zagano, Gary Macy, Aime Georges Mortimort, and Cipriano Vagaggini, have explored the topic of women deacons more directly, I do have something more than gut instinct to offer. Some quick facts and reflections
- The diaconate is the oldest order of ministry in the church, especially if you count the Seven in Acts 6 as deacons. They preexist both bishops and presbyters.
- The Seven in Acts 6 are not deacons, however. At least, not according to the Scriptures themselves. It was not until Irenaeus (c.130-202) that they are identified as such, perhaps by this analogy. At most, we can see in the Seven a prefiguring of the diaconate inasmuch as we see in the Twelve a prefiguring of the episcopate.
- In the New Testament, while diakonia/diakonos are used several times, there are various meanings. Only three times is it clear that we are talking about an office of ministry in the Church: Romans 16.1, Philippians 1.1, and 1 Timothy 3.8-12.
- In two of those three, women are clearly included as deacons.
- In those cases the same word, diakonos (s.) or diakonoi (pl.), is used for both men and women. The use of deacon for men and deaconess for women comes later, in the early to mid third century. (see below)
- Phoebe in Romans 16.1 is the first person named as a deacon in Scripture.
(Stephen, protomartyr, is never called a deacon in the New Testament!)
- 1 Timothy 3 details the qualities of bishops and deacons (no reference to presbyters/priests). Male and female deacons are both addressed in vv.8-13.
- Diakonia is ministry. Not “service” – at least, not if you mean “serving at tables”. “Service” works only if you recall that service is leadership, according to Jesus at the Last Supper. Diakonia is a ministry of servant-leadership, which is why it is a quality of bishops and deacons both.
Select Patristic sources:
(By no means exhaustive)
- “The bishop is the image God the Father; the deacon stands in the place of Christ the Son; the presbyterate succeeds the role of the senate of God or the assembly of apostles.”(Ignatius, c.110)
- The first mention of “deaconess” – a gender-differentiated term rather than just including women as deacons – as noted in the International Theological Commission’s 2002 study on the Diaconate, is in the Didascalia Apostolorum (c.250):
- “The bishop sits for you in the place of God Almighty. But the deacon stands in the place of Christ; and do you love him. The deaconess shall be honored by you in the place of the Holy Spirit…”
- The Apostolic Constitutions apply the concept of cleros (clergy) to the following, in order: bishop, deacon, presbyter, deaconess, subdeacon, cantor, reader.
- Jerome is famous for his disdain of deacons, complaining that they should not see themselves as more important than the presbyterate, the council of elders who advise bishops. However, he acknowledges that the reason for this misconception lies in the fact that deacons are paid more than presbyters, and have more responsibility in assisting the bishop.
While we all know that the Anglicans, Lutherans, and other churches and ecclesial communities born from the Reformations ordain women, even to the diaconate, many Catholics would be sadly uninterested because of the fact that while we recognize the real and effective nature of their ministry, we do not recognize the sacramental validity vis a vis apostolic succession in a juridical sense. This is insufficient reason to dismiss the reality or ecumenical importance of this practice in itself, but, for the sake of brevity, I will look East to where there is an undisputed view of the validity of orders: The Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and Assyrian Church of the East.
Surely they would laugh at us for even discussing the ordination of women?
- First, the Orthodox are clear on the distinction between ordination (cheirotonia) for “major orders” and consecration/blessing (cheirothesia) for “minor orders”.
- Ordination (cheirotonia) is conducted inside the sanctuary, while the blessing or consecration (cheirothesia) of minor orders (cantor, reader, subdeacon, etc.) was conducted outside the sanctuary.
- The deaconess is clearly ordained (cheirotonia), and conducted within the sanctuary. Not only is she ordained, properly speaking, but it is a major, not a minor order.
- The Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as the Orthodox Churches of Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Japan all currently have, or have recently had, ordained deaconesses.
- Due to early medieval development of the office, especially in the East, Deaconesses are now generally found in monastic communities (not unlike Orthodox bishops, who always come from monastic priests).
- In fact, even in the west, vestiges of this conflation of the offices of deaconess and abbess remain in that some orders of nuns are still invested with diaconal stole and other symbols of the office (e.g., Carthusians).
Contemporary Catholic Considerations:
- Pope John Paul II, in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, made it clear the Church cannot possibly ordain women to the episcopate or the presbyterate, because women cannot be configured to act in persona Christi capitis. In this case, acting “as Christ the head [of the Church]” narrowly means “priesthood” – presiding at Eucharist – not the more broad understanding of a ministry of ecclesial governance or pastoral leadership. He deliberately excluded the diaconate from this prohibition.
- Pope Benedict XVI opened the door for the ordination of women by changing Canon Law in 2009, with his motu proprio Omnium in Mentem. Following the logic above, he changed canons §1008 and 1009 to exclude the diaconate from being one of those ministries “configured to the person of Christ the Head”. This eliminates, or appears to eliminate, the need to be configured to the maleness of Jesus, as well.
- As the current prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, wrote in his book Priesthood and Diaconate, it is the unity of the three orders of ministry that would prevent women from being ordained to any one if forbidden from the other two. A clear demarcation – say, by developing a theology of sacramental priesthood that includes two orders and excludes the third – opens the door to different theologies of who can be ordained.
- Since we know little of the duties of a deaconess beyond the liturgical, principally assisting the bishop at full-immersion baptism and initiation, Müller and others object to the pastoral need for that exact same ministry today. In part, this is an objection to the compromise proposals of theologians like Walter Kasper, who suggested re-instituting the order of deaconesses as a non-ordained ministry, along the lines of the revival of consecrated virgins.
- One significant discussion is whether “deaconess” and “woman deacon” are the same thing. A popular post on the topic notes that both pope and prefect know that “the deaconesses of history ‘were not purely and simply equivalent to the deacons.'” Though this is not necessarily helpful, as women are not “purely and simply equivalent” to men, either. That makes them no less equal.
- Resulting questions include, are women ordained to the same order of diaconate as men, or are they ordained to a distinct order? If distinct, does that mean we have four ordained offices in the Church, not three? Were there historically two different realities: ordained women deacons and merely consecrated deaconesses (essentially a society of apostolic life, in contemporary terminology)?
- A critique to the Müller objections, however, is that he seems to suggest that deaconesses would have to be identical to their patristic-era form. But of course, this is contrary to the reality of all other ministries. If we went back to the earliest forms, with all three orders together, without historical development, it might look like this:
- The bishop would be mega-parish pastor and the only minister allowed to preside at Christian Initiation and Eucharist;
- The deacons (and deaconesses?) would be the senior (possibly, only) paid staff assisting the bishop, most likely to succeed him, and the career-path of choice for the ecclesial-minded;
- The presbyterate would be a consultative council of mostly older, married men whose career was secular and whose only responsibility is advising the bishop and his deacons.
In any case, the restoration of the diaconate called for at Vatican II (LG, 29) “reestablished the principle of the permanent exercise of the diaconate and note one particular form which the diaconate had taken in the past.” (ITC, Diaconate Study, 73). Moreover, this restoration is a work in progress:
- We still have a transitional diaconate to be suppressed. (Historically understandable, it makes as much sense theologically as a transitional presbyterate for deacon candidates).
- We still have people who think the main difference between deacons and presbyters is marriage and celibacy, respectively. I have heard people complain because the deacon kissed his wife while still in vestments/clerical suit; others still refer to a “lay diaconate” because, clearly, celibacy is the mark of clergy, not ordination!
- We still have people who think that the nature of the diaconate is to be a volunteer ministry performed by retirees.
- We still have people who think diakonia means “menial service” and forbid deacons from exercising their vocation to leadership in the church, even participating in governance in the offices that were once (in other titles) theirs exclusively, i.e., vicars general, episcopal, and forane.
- We still have a wide variety of formation programs for deacons, from requiring an S.T.B. or M.Div. (equivalent to formation for presbyters) to little less than certification for Sunday school catechist.
- We still have dioceses where deacons are not allowed to preach, or where deacons are forbidden from wearing clerical clothing (while seminarians are allowed to do so?).
And so on. We have a lot of theology left to work out. More importantly, a lot of theology in hand has yet to be put into practice, codified into law, or supported by structures. If this conversation and study of women in the diaconate helps with that, so much the better!
Q: What do you call a sleepwalking nun?
A: A Roamin’ Catholic!
A father and a son are seated at dinner having a steak on a Lenten Friday, when the boy makes a realization and says, “Some people don’t eat meat on Fridays because there is a separation of Church & Steak!”
Q: How does Moses make his coffee?
A: Hebrews it.
A man walks up to God ands says: “God, how long is a million years for you?”
God answers, “Oh… about a minute.”
Man: “And how about a million dollars?”
God: “About a penny.”
Man: “In that case, Lord, may I borrow a penny?”
God: “Give me a minute.”
A Franciscan, a Dominican, and a Jesuit discover the real tomb of Jesus, only to find his mortal remains still inside. Horrified, they each react differently.
The Franciscan says, “This changes our whole ministry, we cannot tell anyone!”
The Dominican says, “This changes all of our doctrine, we should not tell anyone!”
The Jesuit says, “Well, I’ll be damned, He did exist!”
“Jesus, get your butt out of bed! Morning mass starts in 5 minutes!”
If Eve sacrificed the future of the whole human race for an apple… what would she do for a Klondike bar?
A new monk arrives at an ancient monastery and sees all the monks copying texts. He goes to the abbot, slightly confused and asked him why the copy the copies rather than the original, because they could be copying the same mistakes.
The abbot , recognizing he has a point, goes to the storage room to find the originals. A few hours later, he is still gone, and the new monk sets out to look for him. He finds the abbot in the basement, holding one of the most ancient manuscripts in his hands, sobbing.
“What’s wrong? What happened?” the young monk asks, worried.
The abbot replies, tearfully, “The word is celebrate. Celebrate!”
A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, “What is this, a joke?!” (Insert laughter here)
Q: What made the priest giggle?
A: Mass Hysteria!
There are three things that even God does not know about the Church:
1) How many congregations of religious women are there?
2) How much money do the Franciscans have stashed away?
3) What do the Jesuits really think and what are they going to do next?
Three famous theologians have just arrived in Heaven, and they are all waiting outside of a room for a debriefing interview with St. Peter.
The first to go in is Walter Kasper, and he is called into the room. He is in there for about an hour, and when he comes out he has tears of joy and relief streaming down his face.
He is overheard saying to himself: “I was afraid I was wrong about so many things!”
The second is Hans Küng. After he is called into the room, he is in there for a few hours. When he comes out, he is shaking his head in disbelief, and he looks troubled.
He says to himself as he leaves: “I cannot believe I was wrong about so many things!”
The third is Joseph Ratzinger. He goes in with a portfolio of lecture notes penned while in retirement. He is in there for days. Finally, the doors open and St. Peter comes out, saying “I cannot believe I was wrong about everything!”
[Found in the archives of half-written posts, from shortly after the election of Pope Francis, the third anniversary of which we have just celebrated]
When your pastor retires, he is not called Father Emeritus John Smith.
Rather, Father John, Pastor emeritus of St. Whatshisname Parish.
When your bishop retires, he is not called Bishop Emeritus Sean Patrick Murphy.
Rather, His Excellency, Bishop Sean, Bishop emeritus of Brigadoon.
Or, His Eminence, Cardinal Sean, Bishop emeritus of Brigadoon
(if also has a Roman suburbicarian see, titulus, or diaconiae).
When the pope retires, he ought not be called Pope Emeritus Benedict.
Rather, His Holiness, Pope Benedict, Bishop emeritus of Rome.
From such a good ecclesiologist as Ratzinger, the style Pope Emeritus always struck a discordant note. He knows better than most that there is no office of pope, and therefore no emeritus pope, only the office of bishop of Rome to which the style of “pope” adheres. (Like the priest who is styled “father”).
Roman Pontiff emeritus, also offered in the official statement, never really took off, either (can’t imagine why…).
Turns out, it apparently was not his idea, and he would have been happy with “Father Benedict” (or Pope Benedict, since “pope” just means “father” anyway), as a style. This also recalls and reminds us of the practice that all clergy – bishop, deacon, presbyter – can be addressed as “Father”, not only the presbyterate.
That would have made a lot more sense: Father Benedict, Bishop emeritus of Rome.
I may not have uploaded last year’s!
Some Pharisees bring an adulteress before Jesus and ask Him what they should do with her, reminding him that the typical penalty is stoning. He calmly replies “let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” A single rock soars up our of the crowd and strikes the adulteress on the head,, knocking her senseless. Jesus’ initial look of bewilderment is quickly replaced with annoyed indignity as he shouts, “Mom!”
A priest had been hearing confessions all day and was really hoping to get out early so he could catch a playoff game with his home team. Ten minutes before game time, it had already been quiet for a while. Assuming there were no more people in line, the priest got up to go, happy that he would be able to catch the game after all. Just as he did so, he heard to door of the confessional creak open.
“Please let it be a little old lady who will only take five minutes” he prayed.
“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.” A low, gruff voice intoned. “It has been 24 years since my last confession.”
To which the priest replied, “Well, come back next year and we’ll celebrate your anniversary!”
Q: What is God’s favorite chord?
A Franciscan and a Dominican are walking together and encounter a river. Since the Franciscan is barefoot, the Dominican asks him to carry him across the water so he won’t get his shoes wet. Content, the Franciscan agrees. Mid-stream, though, the Franciscan pauses. “Brother,” he asks “Do you have any money on you?” The Dominican answers, “Well, yes, I have a few coins in my pouch”. The Franciscan replies, “What? My vows prevent me from carrying any wealth!”, and immediately throws the Dominican off his shoulders, getting him very, very wet.
Pope John XXIII was asked once, “How many people work in the Vatican, your Holiness?”
“About half,” he answered.
What happened at the first baseball game in the bible?
In the Big Inning, Eve stole first, Adam stole second, and Cain struck Abel out.
God sees Adam without a human companion, so he descends and tells Adam, “I will make for you a great partner. She will praise you, follow you, serve you, never question you or get in your way. She will bring pleasure and help expand the human race, ending your loneliness. It will only cost you an arm and a leg.”
Adam considers the offer and then replies, “What can I get for a rib?”
Q: How do you know the pope has primacy?
A: Easy, he’s a primate.
Q: Why do they wear goggles at the convent?
A: Because they are nunderwater.
A Dominican and a Jesuit die in a car accident. When they get to heaven, the gates swing open and a red carpet rolls out. Mary and Peter come out and embrace the Jesuit. Trumpets are playing and more saints arrive, including Ignatius and Francis Xavier. They usher the Jesuit in with singing. The gates swing shut behind him.
The Dominican is left confused outside. After a few minutes, an unfamiliar Dominican sticks his head out of a side door, saying, “Hey, you. Get in here.”
The Dominican asks, “How come I didn’t get the red carpet treatment?”
The other replies, “We get Dominicans in here every day, but it has been a couple centuries since the last Jesuit came right in!”
“Your Holiness, we have good news and we have bad news. The good news is that Jesus has returned, and he’s on the phone right now wanting to talk to you!”
“That’s wonderful!” Says the pope, “So what could be the bad news?”
“He’s calling from Salt Lake City…”
The Dominican, Jesuit, and Franciscan superiors general decide that it is time once and for all to put aside their differences and squabbling, and just ask God who His favorite Order is. So they dedicate an octave of prayer and fasting in silent retreat together, at the end of which spend a night in vigil at the altar in the chapel, beseeching God for an answer.
At the end of the vigil, in the still quiet hours of the morning, a sudden clap of thunder and a blinding light fill the chapel. When they can see again, the three notice a beautiful golden scroll atop the altar.
“My dear little Children, I love each of you equally and have endowed you each with different charisms for a reason. There are many gifts but only one Spirit – to be united in me does not require uniformity….” It goes on for some time extolling the virtues of each, and their particular place in the infinite design of God.
After moving each to tears, the scroll concludes, “Remember, my children, I have no favorites among you. Please put aside these questions, and go forth in love and service to each other.
Your Loving Father,
A Franciscan and a Jesuit were standing on a street corner when a man approaches them with a question. “Fathers, is it permissible to pray a novena to get a Maserati?”
“What is a Maserati?” Asks the Franciscan.
“What’s a novena?” Asks the Jesuit.
“The pope is taking suggestions on how to streamline the curia, improve efficiency, and weed out corruption. Any ideas?”
“Move the Vatican out of Italy?”
Today marks the second anniversary of the election of Pope Francis as bishop of Rome. They have been, without question, the two most hope-filled years in a lifetime of study and service of the Church. Most people, including most Catholics, have rejoiced in Pope Francis’ style, simplicity, and dedication to reforming the Roman Curia.
It made for a great 35th birthday present, very slightly anticipated!
Sadly, this is not a consensus feeling among the faithful, perhaps particularly among Anglophones in Rome and those in positions of authority in the Roman Curia. A couple weeks ago, on the anniversary of the first papal resignation in six centuries, this pithy post showed up in my newsfeed:
..Two year’s ago today, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.
Thus beginning the craziest two years of our lives.
Papa Bennie, we miss you. …
I respect Pope Benedict, perhaps even more so because of his strength of character, as witnessed by the resignation itself. His ecclesiology and personality were both strong enough not to buy into the false mythology of a papacy that is more monarchy than episcopacy, or that requires clinging to power rather than absenting oneself from service when no longer able to serve well.
We all find resonance with different leaders, whether bosses or politicians, bishops or popes. It is natural that some people will like one more than the other, but I have a hard time understanding those who claim to be “confused” by Pope Francis, or who think that the last two years have been difficult for the Church.
A recent conversation with friends revealed, of course, those not satisfied with Pope Francis: On one side, the traditionalists who were given the keys to the kingdom under Benedict are now back to being treated as a minority in the Church – which is only fair, as they are, but I can commiserate with the feeling. On the other, genuinely liberal Catholics tend to be unhappy with the Holy Father’s language on women, not sure whether referring to (lay and religious) women theologians as “strawberries on the cake” is meant to indicate that they are mere decoration, or something more appreciative.
Neither side is confused: they know clearly what they do not like. Whether I agree with either side, they know where they stand and I respect that. It is the commentators claiming “confusion” who are not to be trusted. There is nothing confusing at all about a gospel message of mercy and humble service.
Nevertheless, for the broad swath in between liberals and traditionalists, the last two years have been like fresh air after decades of sitting on a Roman bus, stifling because the old-school Italians refuse to let the windows open lest we get hit by moving air and therefore damage our livers. Somehow. (What is the ecclesiological equivalent of a colpo d’aria?)
If the Good Pope opened the windows of the Church at Vatican II to let it air out a bit, it seems much of the trajectory of the last decades has been, if not to outright close them again, to pile up so many screens and curtains that the effect is nearly the same. Francis has opened it again to let the light and fresh air in. Sure, the dust gets blown about that way, but blame it on those who let the dust gather, rather than the one who starts the spring cleaning!
To be fair, if not concise, the analogy would extend to Benedict having attempted the same, only to discover that he did not have the strength. (Though, after years of investing in multiple layers of curtain lace, you ought not be surprised at the surfeit of suffocating material you then have to remove to get at the ‘filth’ hiding in the darkness provided thereby. But I digress.)
I have little doubt that Pope Benedict will be a Doctor of the Church someday, and in addition to his massive corpus of theological writings, his act of spiritual humility and demonstration of truly sound ecclesiology by resigning as bishop of Rome will be the reason it happens.
I have lived through two of the greatest papacies in recent centuries, but if there has been a truly good pope in my lifetime, it is Francis. Two years is nowhere near enough, may he live for twenty more, sound of mind and body, and bring to closure the reforms started fifty years ago. It is perhaps our best hope for unity in the Church, which in turn is the best hope for an effective witness to the Good News.
With a class this week explaining the college of cardinals and other aspects of the Catholic hierarchy to some undergrads, in honor of the weekend’s consistory creating 20 new princes of the Church, I found a few helpful resources worth sharing.
The Vatican’s website has upped its game, in offering some new statistics on the College of Cardinals. You can find lists by name, age, or nationality. Graphs indicating the distribution of cardinals according to the pope that appointed them, the percentage of electors vs. emeriti, or how many serve in the curia. The graph below breaks down membership according to geographical region.
The independent Catholic-hierarchy.com has already updated its lists, which can be sorted by various values.
The incomparable CGP Grey offers some illumination in his clip “How to become pope”, meant for popular consumption.
There are of course more academic articles, historical sources, and ecclesiological treatises, plus reform suggestions that range from adding women cardinals to eliminating the sacred college altogether. There are interviews with the new cardinals (one reporter shared that Italian colleagues were getting bent out of shape upon realizing that some of the new wearers of scarlet did not speak a word of Italian beyond “ciao”.)
One thing I could not find was a map indicating where the cardinals were from. Something to give visual aid to the question of a more globalized Church reflected in a more globalized college. So I created one.
Click on the (scarlet) pins to see basic information about each cardinal.
Residential cardinals – that is, those cardinal-presbyters who are bishops or archbishops of dioceses around the world – are located according to their See.
Curial cardinals – mostly cardinal-deacons serving in the Roman Curia – are located according to their place of birth (and they represent 28% of the total electorate).
There are options to see retired/over-80 cardinals, too, also organized by curia or diocese. Their pins are a lighter shade of scarlet (cough… pink… cough).
A couple of immediate observations, beyond the overcrowding of Italy, were some of the wide open areas without any: No Scandinavian cardinals, none from easternmost Europe or central Asia. For China, only Hong Kong.
In the US, all but one of the diocesan cardinals are from the eastern half of the country, and that even counts the retirees. There is a small corridor from the great lakes to the north Atlantic coast that accounts for the overwhelming majority of North American cardinals, leaving one thinking it might be time to move some of those pins to the likes of Vancouver, Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis or Atlanta. Or, if we want to go peripheral, maybe Tucson, Honolulu, and Juneau.
Would love to hear thoughts,take corrections, or hear it has been used by other teachers.
Recently, I met with a visiting friend (who happens to be a canon lawyer) and we decided to sit in on Rome’s Theology on Tap, offered by some of the seminarians of the North American College to some of the study abroad programs that they work with for their “apostolates” (volunteer service giving them practice in some forms of ministry).
It is an interesting experience, to a professor of both U.S. undergrads and seminarians in Rome, because although neither the seminarians nor most of the undergrads present are in my classes, it still felt a little like I was listening to an oral presentation by one student that needed grading. I could not help myself.
The topic was “The Laity”. In fairness, my seat was in the back, so there were times it was hard to catch everything. But these are the points I heard:
- The Church teaches that priesthood and religious life (no mention of diaconate) are objectively a higher state than the laity. Subjectively, however, the universal call to holiness is equal for everyone in the Church.
- There is a difference between ministry and service. [Could not hear the definition]. Ministry is exercised only by the ordained. Lay people can only offer service. When you hear people talk about liturgical “ministry”, like a lector, this is really a service.
- The Lay Vocations are Marriage and Consecrated Life. Just as priests are committed to the Church, consecrated are committed to their communities, and married people are committed to each other.
- The Mission of the laity is exactly the mission of the whole church: Evangelization.
- [Missed something] You have the duty to correct your priests, professors, other leaders if you hear something wrong.
My canonist friend and I come from different cultures of Catholicism, but both have an ecclesial vocation, as lay people, in ministry and service to the Church. And while we had different objections to some of the points, we were in accord that, unfortunately, not everything represented well the Church’s teaching. The Church itself, of course, is not always consistently clear on this topic, which occasionally adds to the confusion.
First, he’s right on his penultimate point about the mission of the laity, which is the mission fo the Church. The laity are the vanguard of the Church’s mission, the clergy and other ecclesial ministers are there for support and leadership, but it is the laity whose first role is to go out into the world and get the real work of the Church done.
The final point might have been a reference to canon 212, by which all the faithful have the right, and are even obligated, to make their needs and concerns known to the Church according to their expertise. Consider this an exercise thereof to avoid similar mistakes by others.
Now the problematic points.Taken with a grain of salt, as i said, there was occasional cross-noise, so if i missed any clarifying comments or explanations to the points, the fault is mine.
The Church itself does not make use of this “objective”/”subjective” distinction in terms of a person’s state. All are equal in baptism. All are equally called to holiness, as he pointed out. Where there might be some confusion is in distinguishing the ways we participate in the One Priesthood of Christ. All who are Initiated (Baptized, Confirmed, Eucharist-ed) have a share in Christ’s priesthood. This is the universal priesthood, the priesthood of all believers. As priests, we are still equal. Lumen Gentium 10 says that these two kinds of participation in Christ’s priesthood “differ from one another in essence and not only in degree.” This seems to lend credence to the idea that one is higher. Avery Dulles, however, repeatedly pointed out it was better understood as “differing from one another in essence and not in degree,” that is, that they are different kinds of participation, but one is not higher than the other. Plus, we have only to look at scripture to see Jesus’ idea of leaders clamoring for a “higher status” – and it is not well received. Those called to leadership are called as servants.
Which goes to the distinction between ministry and service. As I missed something, its entirely possible he hit something right on, but the follow up was insufficient. The two words, in a Christian context, are both translations of diakonia. All ministry is service. Fair enough to say that not all service is ministry, but the distinction is not about ordained and lay, but about the nature of the service. Rather like the distinction between skills and charisms, wherein the later are always for the building up of the Body of Christ. Possible confusion comes from an infamous interdicasterial instruction that attempted to limit the term “ministry” to the ordained back in 1997, wherein this dichotomy was presented – yet every pope since (John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis) have referred to lay ministry, as have most bishops conferences and other documents of the curia.
Finally on vocations. Put simply, everyone has a vocation. There are hardly only two options for lay people, and in fact, the two mentioned were only one kind of vocation – relationship – which is also called a state of life. Everyone also has a vocation to ministry/mission and to spirituality, at least. Some of the faithful are called to marriage, consecrated life, celibacy or single life. Some of the faithful are called to serve the church’s mission in the world, some as ecclesial ministers. Some of the former take vows, some enter into a sacramental relationship, though not all. Some of the later are ordained, though not all. Not all celibates are priests, not all priests are celibate. Not all lay people are married, and not all married people are lay. When talking vocations, it is confusing to try and force the square peg of relationship into the round hole of ministry.
But, that is one of the services offered by seminary, correction to mistaken ideas about the people you are called to serve.