Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pope Francis' Family

Since his elevation to the Chair of Peter Pope Francis has almost tripled the size of crowds attending papal audiences, Masses and other events in Vatican City. What explains this suddenly renewed interest in Catholicism? What need is Pope Francis meeting in people?
As is well-known, the Church was beset by allegations of scandal and mismanagement in its bureaucracy and its bank, its reputation besmirched by the sexual abuse scandal. John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter: "The dominant narrative about the Catholic Church today is 'rock star Pope takes the world by storm'….If that's not a revolution, at least at the level of perception, then we have never seen one." 

The revolution is seen in the Pope's decision to include a Muslim woman when he washed the feet of young offenders last Easter, and his instinctive hug for a man whose face was badly disfigured by disease.It is seen by his refusal to live in the papal apartment or to wear the regal clothes that go with his office. It is seen in his picking up the phone to call people out of the blue. It is seen by Pope Francis sayings:
·         "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
·         "It is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life... This defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right."
·         "With all the food that is left over and thrown away, we could feed so many. If we were able to stop wasting and start recycling food, world hunger would diminish greatly."

Of late the Holy Father has recruited eight cardinals to help him reform the Vatican bureaucracy and has acted to address mismanagement in the Vatican bank, and could be considering a revamping of the Synod of Bishops to give it real power and use it to help him rule the Church and eventually to give them the authority to make decisions themselves.
The Pope has also suggested that the power and authority concentrated for centuries in the papacy might be devolved to some extent, to conferences of bishops in countries round the world. Saint Thomas More would nod and smile. Francis has been praised for his warmth towards children and the poor, admirably seen in his recent trip to the Philippines.

Other reforms on the table, though not likely to be undertaken are an end to the ban on divorced and remarried Catholics from taking Holy Communion, perhaps a greater role for women in the Church. There will be no change to conservative teaching on fundamental issues such as homosexuality, euthanasia or abortion. Again, Mr. Allen: "We need people to see the real commitment to human flourishing that is ultimately at the core of these doctrines. What we are going to see on Pope Francis's watch is that he will put a beguiling human face on to the classic message." 

Pope Francis now has the world's attention, so let us pay attention, especially to the following news item, not likely to be covered in the mainstream media:

Manila, Philippines, Jan 16, 2015 / 04:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis took the opportunity during an address to families in the Philippines to praise Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical opposing contraception and affirming Church teaching on sexuality and human life.

The Pope spoke Friday to families gathered at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila during his Jan. 15-19 visit to the Philippines.

After discussing various threats to the family, including “a lack of openness to life,” he deviated briefly from his prepared remarks, transitioning from English to his native Spanish in order to speak from the heart about the subject.

“I think of Blessed Paul VI,” he said. “In a moment of that challenge of the growth of populations, he had the strength to defend openness to life.”

In 1968, Pope Paul VI released the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which upheld Catholic teaching on sexuality and the immorality of artificial contraception, predicting the negative consequences that would result from a cultural acceptance of birth control.

“He knew the difficulties that families experience, and that’s why in his encyclical, he expressed compassion for particular cases. And he taught professors to be particularly compassionate with particular cases,” Pope Francis said.

“But he went further. He looked to the peoples beyond. He saw the lack and the problem that it could cause families in the future. Paul VI was courageous. He was a good pastor, and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching, and from the heavens he blesses us today.”

Pope Francis’ comments come in the wake of Philippines president Benigno Aquino's signing a highly controversial reproductive health bill in 2013 that drew strong protest from local bishops and members of the faith.

The legislation requires government-sanctioned sex education for adults, middle school and high school students, as well as a population control program that includes fully subsidized contraceptives under government health insurance. The nation's bishops spoke out strongly against the measure.

Elsewhere in Pope Francis’ address, he spoke about the threats to family posed by natural disasters, poverty, migration, and a redefinition of marriage.

He called for “good and strong families to overcome these threats.”

“Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death,” he urged.

The Pope encouraged regular family prayer to hear and understand the will of God, as well as action to be prophetic witnesses in the world.

He deviated from the text of his remarks on several other occasions as well, speaking about his love for St. Joseph and the importance of dreaming within a family.

“When you lose this capacity to dream, you lose the capacity to love, and this energy to love is lost,” he said.

In addition, Pope Francis warned against an “ideological colonization” that does not originate with God, but that tries to destroy the family.

The Pope asked Christians to pray to St. Joseph for the wisdom to identify and reject ideas and initiatives that are driven by these false ideologies and threaten the family