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When meeting with the second-ranking official of the dicastery known for most of its history as the Holy Office of the Inquisition (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, CDF), one might not expect a relaxed and cheerful pastor.
One certainly does not expect to hear such pearls as, “We are not here to judge who is ‘really’ Catholic and who is not. We are all striving for holiness, but none of us has reached it. We offer people formation in the Catholic ideal, but everyone struggles with the real application of this in their life” or “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone!”
Yet, this is exactly what we got in the “grandfatherly” Jesuit Spaniard, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, Secretary of the CDF at Tuesday night’s inaugural Oasis in the City at the new location of the Lay Centre.
Equally reassuring of the man’s Christian heart was his reaction to the fact that the car service that had been arranged to get him to the Lay Centre was 45 minutes late, having left the Archbishop waiting for his ride, without any notice. Any normal person could reasonably expect to be irritated or upset. A typical “VIP” might have just given up and given up on us. More than a couple U.S. hierarchs I have encountered might have thrown a royal fit at such inconvenience. But when the archbishop finally arrived, he got out of the car laughing and waving away Donna’s profuse apologies as if they were not even needed: “These things happen all the time”, he says.
The bulk of his lecture was on the unsurprising CDF 2008 instruction Dignitas Personae, dealing with a range of bioethical issues including IVF, stem cells, and cloning. It was the questions afterword that brought some of the most interesting comments, including the two quotes above, the first being in response to a question about where to draw the line when someone (such as a politician) does not act or profess a view entirely commensurate with Catholic moral teaching on these complicated issues. Others challenged the Church’s insistence that “human life/personhood begins at conception” from a Thomistic framework which allows for a later development.
My Italian is not good enough to have followed the lecture in its entirety, but the conversation afterword was just as lively. Now if only all of our American hierarchy were as pastoral as this CDF honcho! (Yes, you read that correctly!!)
UPDATE: Didn’t realize the press was here too: http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=34844&cb300=vocations