What does the pope want? Part II

We should not let Pope Benedict XVI’s visit be just another event sandwiched in between March Madness and the arrival of New England spring. Observers tell us that the United States is very important to Rome. By the standards of the rest of the globe, we are rich, powerful and the world’s dominant cultural force. Well over a fifth of the country is Catholic and growing.

Our 81-year-old scholar pope has prepared 17 speeches to deliver during his three-day visit to New York and Washington, D.C. -- one to the United Nations and 16 directed to his American audience.

In this column last month, we borrowed from John L. Allen’s excellent pamphlet, “10 Things Pope Benedict Wants You to Know,” and outlined five themes that Benedict XVI has been reiterating since he succeeded John Paul II. They are: God is love; Jesus is Lord; Truth and freedom are two sides of the same coin; Faith and reason need one another; and Eucharist is at the heart of the Christian life.

To get us ready fully to engage the pope’s message behind the media glitz of his visit, we will outline here the second five themes, from six to 10.

Sixth, the pope wants to dramatically underscore that the Church’s message [that is, Christ’s message] to the world is a positive one. That message will surprise many people on two counts. First, before becoming Benedict XVI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s job was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His was the first line of defense against theological error. He had to defend Catholic doctrine at a time when everyone from priest to parishioner seemed to be loudly defining their own versions of what the Church really is and how we should live as Catholics.

Second, many see our Church as a contrary force. We’re “against” gay marriage, a woman’s control over her own body, homosexuality [the love that has no name, but which people just won’t stop talking about!] and other contentious issues. On the contrary, since becoming pope, he has worked hard to get us to see that our faith rests on a deep “yes” and to move us beyond the hot-button “no” issues. He has continually reminded us that the “good news” of the Gospels is of God’s relentless love for us.

Seventh, the role of the Church is to form consciences and not political policies. In this our seemingly endless political season, it is useful to remember that God is neither a democrat nor a republican. As the pope sees it, his job is loudly and clearly to hold up moral principles, such as our individual responsibility to work to elevate the suffering of the poor. This is evidenced by the pope’s frequent directing our attention to the plight of Africans and the ravishes of the HIV virus. It was, therefore, no surprise to his intimates that when in 2006, the World Bank launched a 10 million dollar bond measure to immunize the children in poor nations, the very first bond was purchased by Benedict XVI.

Eighth, the pope is deeply committed to the revival of a strong Catholic identity. Since the Enlightenment and more recently with the arrival of a powerful secular culture, Catholics, like other Christians, have downplayed or abandoned those aspects of our faith, whether in our prayer life or our sex life, that didn’t quite “fit.” Our religious identity has been divorced from our public lives and is now a private affair.

One of the most observed meetings will be the pope’s speech to the leadership of Catholic colleges and universities, whom he has especially called to Washington. Nowhere has this loss of Catholic identity been more obvious and more detrimental than in the secularization of Catholic higher education. Colleges and universities that our grandparents and generations of priests and nuns sacrificed to build have been compromised on the altar of modernism. Instead of being intellectual centers of faith development, they have become poor and vulgar imitations of their secular counterparts. Worse, many have become centers of opposition to the pope’s teaching.

Ninth, the unity of Christ and the Church. It is increasingly common to hear people say that they love and admire Jesus Christ, but separate themselves from his Church. Their motto is, “Yes to Jesus. No to the Church.” They want to go to Jesus directly without the intermediary of the institutions of the Church with its rules, liturgies and bureaucracy.

The pope points out the clear and direct attempts Jesus made to establish his Church and prepare the Apostles to direct his family of faith. And like any human family, there are highs and lows, good periods and troubling periods. Good members of a family, however, are there both for glorious moments and the heartaches. So, too, with the Church. Benedict XVI tells us “Yes to Jesus means yes to his Church.”

Tenth, our pope is teaching us a lesson of patience. Edmund Burke, the 18th Century Anglo-Irish political philosopher said, “Example is the school of mankind and they will learn at no other.” While the first nine points above are found in Benedict’s writings, this tenth is found in his life, in his example.

After the death of John Paul II, many commentators led us to believe that our new pope would enter the scene like Christ cleansing the temple. We were told to expect Curia heads to roll and dissenting theologians sent scampering for cover. None of that has happened. Our humble and patient pope takes the long view. He is not about instant change, but about qualitative change in the hearts of the faithful.

Benedict’s visit is a special moment for the American Church. We should lend an ear.

Kevin and Marilyn Ryan edited “Why I am still a Catholic” [Riverhead Books, 1998] and live in Chestnut Hill.

Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...