During the 2001 Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who’d suffered through a lot of synodal speechifying and small-group discussions over the years, made a trenchant observation: “Jesus Christ didn’t intend his Church to be governed by a committee.” Indeed.
I once knew a Congregationalist minister — Yale Divinity School graduate, decorated World War II chaplain, veteran campaigner for then-unpopular liberal causes — of whom it was said (sometimes by himself) that “David Colwell so fears God that he fears no one else.” It was a striking statement, redolent, perhaps, of the Jonathan Edwards (“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”) School of American Protestant Homiletics. But the source of this man’s fearlessness was rather different than that of a man I was just coming to know when David Colwell and I were friendly jousting partners on questions theological and political.
ROME — Even the greatest enthusiasts of the present pontificate might not assert that Pope Francis has an inspiring liturgical style. Like the old-school Jesuit he resembles in many ways, the Holy Father is rather flat liturgically: typically expressionless, sometimes downright dour, he gets through the business at hand in a workmanlike way. Yet at the consistory for the creation of new cardinals on October 5, Pope Francis showed real emotion when, after bestowing the red biretta and cardinalatial ring on the emeritus archbishop of Kaunus, Lithuania, Sigitas Tamkevicius, S.J., the Pope seemed to shed a tear or two as he drew the new prince of the Church into a prolonged embrace and shared a few words with him.
ROME. With his liturgical memorial (October 11) falling on the fourth full day of the Special Synod for Amazonia, which sometimes seems bent on recycling every tried-and-failed nostrum from 1970s, it was inevitable that certain portside Catholic commentators would continue their effort to spin Pope St. John XXIII into a smiley-face, chubby Italian grandpa whose approach to the future of the Church was somewhat Maoist: “Let a thousand flowers bloom!”
One of the curiosities of the 21st-century Catholic debate is that many Catholic traditionalists (especially integralists) and a high percentage of Catholic progressives make the same mistake in analyzing the cause of today’s contentions within the Church — or to vary the old fallacy taught in Logic 101, they think in terms of post Concilium ergo propter Concilium [everything that’s happened after the Council has happened because of the Council]. And inside that fallacy is a common misreading of modern Catholic history.
This past June, I was in the Munich area for four days, giving a public lecture on Evangelical Catholicism and doing a lot of media interviews. My hosts were exceptionally gracious, but it was also obvious that the Catholic Church in what was once Germany’s most intensely Catholic region is in terrible shape.
Out on the Kansas plains, he was just turning 21 when the Second Vatican Council promulgated its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) and its Decree on the Pastoral Office of the Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus).
Today’s first reading is from an explication of the academic program of the reconfigured Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences by Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, the institute’s rector (translation provided by the institute):
The eminent sociologist Peter Rossi was a world-class punster whose scholarly accomplishments fed a sometimes-whimsical view of the human condition — in which, Rossi memorably observed, “there are many ironies in the fire.”
Consider this sequence of events, familiar to some but evidently not to others: