Potpourri of Popery, Brazilian Edition


I think we have another pope who knows how to pope (as that farmer in Granger, Iowa famously said of John Paul the Great). I can't improve on the round-ups on B-16 in Brazil done here and here, which frees me to just give highlights. He seemed to be having a blast.

AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan
Above you see His Holiness hugging kids at a drug rehabilitation center known as the "Farm of Hope," sponsored by the Focolare Movement. He was very gentle with the recovering addicts. What impresses me about his tone is that he's not merely compassionate; he also sees purpose for their lives. This is more than just, "there, there, Dears":
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev 3:20). These are divine words which penetrate to the depths of our souls and shake us at our deepest roots.
At some stage in people’s lives, Jesus comes and gently knocks at the hearts of those properly disposed. Perhaps for you, he did this through a friend or a priest, or, who knows, perhaps he arranged a series of coincidences which enabled you to realize that you are loved by God. Through the institution which has welcomed you, the Lord has given you this opportunity for physical and spiritual recovery, so vital for you and your families. In turn, society expects you to spread this precious gift of health among your friends and all the members of the community.
Benedict went out of his way to be present to these folks, to the alarm of even his host:
Benedict ignored security measures to approach the recovering addicts, in an unexpected move that alarmed security agents and even Stapel.
'Police tried to stop him, and I did not agree either. But the pope is an authority. He can do whatever he wants,' Stapel told reporters.
The press is always pretending the Pope goes around telling people they're going to hell, but they didn't seem to notice much that here he really did it. Very gently, of course, but unmistakably, speaking to drug dealers:
I therefore urge the drug-dealers to reflect on the grave harm they are inflicting on countless young people and on adults from every level of society: God will call you to account for your deeds. Human dignity cannot be trampled upon in this way. The harm done will receive the same censure that Jesus reserved for those who gave scandal to the "little ones", the favourites of God (cf. Mt 18:7-10).
Maybe the press just doesn't recognize the reference. His homily at the mass opening the CELAM conference is beautiful. It's a rousing call to the Catholics of Latin America to be done with all their various -isms and -ologies and rediscover Christ.

The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by “attraction”: just as Christ “draws all to himself” by the power of his love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfils her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters! This is the priceless treasure that is so abundant in Latin America, this is her most precious inheritance: faith in the God who is Love, who has shown us his face in Jesus Christ. You believe in the God who is Love: this is your strength, which overcomes the world, the joy that nothing and no one can ever take from you, the peace that Christ won for you by his Cross!

This is the faith that has made America the “Continent of Hope.” Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not an economic system: faith in the God who is Love—who took flesh, died and rose in Jesus Christ—is the authentic basis for this hope which has brought forth such a magnificent harvest from the time of the first evangelization until today.

big snip, then this conclusion

If the beauty of the heavenly Jerusalem is the glory of God—his love in other words—then it is in charity, and in charity alone, that we can approach it and to a certain degree dwell within it even now. Whoever loves the Lord Jesus and keeps his word, already experiences in this world the mysterious presence of the Triune God. We heard this in the Gospel: “we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23). Every Christian is therefore called to become a living stone of this splendid “dwelling place of God with men”. What a magnificent vocation!

A Church totally enlivened and impelled by the love of Christ, the Lamb slain for love, is the image within history of the heavenly Jerusalem, prefiguring the holy city that is radiant with the glory of God. It releases an irresistible missionary power which is the power of holiness.

Then there was the Pope's address to the bishops at vespers in Sao Paolo cathedral, which some in the secular press described as "gloomy," and Fr. Z. described as HH beating the bishops black and blue. I wouldn't say that; I'd say rather it was the same message, but the Pope knows how to suit his style to his audience, and the bishops are capable of hearing red meat. It was a return to first principles, certainly. I find it realistic and hopeful, and if I were a bishop, I'd feel encouraged by it. Go to Fr. Z's links for highlights --I can't improve on his emphases. Finally, B16 delivered himself of a massive speech at the opening of the conference. In it he elaborates more concretely on the themes of his Cathedral speech. I'll have to study it more before commenting, but I'll cite for you the passage the press noticed in which he denounces Marxism & Capitalism.

In truth, just structures are a condition without which a just order in society is not possible. But how do they arise? How do they function? Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves; they declared that not only would they have no need of any prior individual morality, but that they would promote a communal morality. And this ideological promise has been proved false. The facts have clearly demonstrated it. The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction [my emphasis, ain't that interesting], but also a painful destruction of the human spirit. And we can also see the same thing happening in the West, where the distance between rich and poor is growing constantly, and giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.

Just structures are, as I have said, an indispensable condition for a just society, but they neither arise nor function without a moral consensus in society on fundamental values, and on the need to live these values with the necessary sacrifices, even if this goes against personal interest.

Interesting that he denounces Marxism outright and capitalism only insofar as it becomes unhinged from morality.
Where God is absent -- God with the human face of Jesus Christ -- these values fail to show themselves with their full force, nor does a consensus arise concerning them. I do not mean that non-believers cannot live a lofty and exemplary morality; I am only saying that a society in which God is absent will not find the necessary consensus on moral values or the strength to live according to the model of these values, even when they are in conflict with private interests.
Hard to seek the common good when we don't think there is such a thing, after all. And of course, he's not talking about imposing faith on anyone.

On the other hand, just structures must be sought and elaborated in the light of fundamental values, with the full engagement of political, economic and social reasoning. They are a question of recta ratio and they do not arise from ideologies nor from their premises. Certainly there exists a great wealth of political experience and expertise on social and economic problems that can highlight the fundamental elements of a just state and the paths that must be avoided.

But in different cultural and political situations, amid constant developments in technology and changes in the historical reality of the world, adequate answers must be sought in a rational manner, and a consensus must be created -- with the necessary commitments -- on the structures that must be established.

This political task is not the immediate competence of the Church. Respect for a healthy secularity -- including the pluralism of political opinions -- is essential in the authentic Christian tradition. If the Church were to start transforming herself into a directly political subject, she would do less, not more, for the poor and for justice, because she would lose her independence and her moral authority, identifying herself with a single political path and with debatable partisan positions. The Church is the advocate of justice and of the poor, precisely because she does not identify with politicians nor with partisan interests. Only by remaining independent can she teach the great criteria and inalienable values, guide consciences and offer a life choice that goes beyond the political sphere.

Hear him, ye bishops' conferences of the world!