Potpourri Of Popery, Santa Lucia Edition

Links, links, links: there are several must-reads from the Holy Father today. First a few standards: Sunday's Angelus, in which he discusses dedicating a Church --about which he had more to say at the actual event:

The Holy Father spoke about the meaning of a sacred building as a house of God and house of men, and did so by referring to the rebuilding of the People of Israel, of the holy city of Jerusalem and the Temple after the return from exile. An external reconstruction cannot progress "unless the people as such are reconstructed first, if there is no operative common criterion of justice that unites all," Benedict XVI explained.
Today's Audience, continuing the series on the Church, he covers Timothy & Titus, will be here later. The two must-reads are these. Saturday the Pope addressed the Union of Italian Catholic journalists, for which I can't find a text yet (except Italian), but there's a very good account of it here. (Summing up: "secular" doesn't mean what you people think it means.)
The Church, the Pope reiterated, cannot intervene in politics, because that would "constitute undue interference." However, "'healthy secularity' means that the State does not consider religion merely as an individual sentiment that can be confined to the private sphere." Rather, it must be "recognized as a ... public presence. This means that all religious confessions (so long as they do not contrast the moral order and are not dangerous to public order) are guaranteed free exercise of their acts of worship."
Secondly, the Pope's address at the close of his meeting with Swiss bishops last month is here. I've already posted his homily in the mass with them and his address to the beginning of their meeting. He apologizes for not having prepared remarks or a Grand Discourse, but what he says seems grand enough to me. For those who wonder why the Pope doesn't swiftly clean house (one wag told me he could wish for a "German" pope!):

We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity. I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and '90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith -- a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.

Isn't that interesting? Coming from someone who knows those questions aren't unimportant and who isn't going to give way on them? (Plus I'm amused by the image of the religion reporters always approaching him with their utterly predictable "gotcha" questions.) He then turns to Augustine's insistence that God is logos and God is love. So faith is reasonable and can be transmitted through reason, but it doesn't all boil down to a mathematical equation:
this eternal, immeasurable reason is not merely a mathematics of the universe and far less, some first cause that withdrew after producing the Big Bang. This reason, on the contrary, has a heart such as to be able to renounce its own immensity and take flesh. And in that alone, to my mind, lies the ultimate, true greatness of our conception of God. We know that God is not a philosophical hypothesis, he is not something that perhaps exists, but we know him and he knows us. And we can know him better and better if we keep up a dialogue with him.

The fundamental task of "pastoral" care therefore: teaching people to pray
--and to do so personally, better and better.
Everything else --these "trivialities" that keep arising, springs from prayer --or lack of it. Why is our world hopeless, seemingly? Because it doesn't pray:
In St Thomas Aquinas' last work that remained unfinished, the Compendium Theologiae which he intended to structure simply according to the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, the great Doctor began and partly developed his chapter on hope. In it he identified, so to speak, hope with prayer: the chapter on hope is at the same time the chapter on prayer. Prayer is hope in action.
Only then does he turn to "morality," where he identifies a "split." The world does seek morality --but of a certain kind:

Modern society not merely lacks morals but has "discovered" and demands another dimension of morality, which in the Church's proclamation in recent decades and even earlier perhaps has not been sufficiently presented. This dimension includes the great topics of peace, non-violence, justice for all, concern for the poor and respect for creation. They have become an ethical whole which, precisely as a political force, has great power and for many constitutes the substitution or succession of religion. Instead of religion, seen as metaphysical and as something from above -- perhaps also as something individualistic --, the great moral themes come into play as the essential which then confers dignity on man and engages him.

This is one aspect: this morality exists and it also fascinates young people, who work for peace, for non-violence, for justice, for the poor, for creation. And there are truly great moral themes that also belong, moreover, to the tradition of the Church. The means offered for their solution, however, are often very unilateral and not always credible, but we cannot dwell on this now.

The big split, of course, comes with the so-called "life issues," because of a false --and ultimately incoherent-- understanding of freedom.
I believe we must commit ourselves to reconnecting these two parts of morality and to making it clear that they must be inseparably united. Only if human life from conception until death is respected is the ethic of peace possible and credible; only then may non-violence be expressed in every direction, only then can we truly accept creation and only then can we achieve true justice. I think that this is the great task we have before us: on the one hand, not to make Christianity seem merely morality, but rather a gift in which we are given the love that sustains us and provides us with the strength we need

He really wants the whole enchilada, this Pope! Speaking of which, perhaps this'll mean nothing to you cradle Cats, but for us former Protestants, here's a delicious little can of worms B16 opens in his opening remarks for that same meeting:

Two generations ago, it [faith]might still have been presumed natural: one grew up in the faith; in a certain way, faith was simply present as part of life and did not need any special seeking. It needed to be formed and deepened, but seemed something perfectly obvious.

Today, the opposite seems natural: in other words, that it is basically impossible to believe, and that God is actually absent. The faith of the Church, in any case, seems something that belongs to the distant past. Thus, even practicing Christians are of the opinion that it is right to choose for oneself, from the overall faith of the Church, those things one considers still sustainable today. And especially, people also set about fulfilling their proper duty to God through their commitment to human beings, so to speak, at the same time.

This, however, is the beginning of a sort of "justification through works": the human being justifies himself and the world, in which he does what clearly seems necessary yet completely lacks the inner light and spirit.

Luther as the author of "works righteousness." Heh. The cafeteria is indeed closed!