Category Archives: Church (ecclesiology)

Arturo Sosa new Jesuit superior general

arturo-marcelino-sosa-abascalToday, under the power of the Holy Spirit, the 212 delegates of General Congregation 36 elected Jesuit Father Arturo Marcellino Sosa Abascal, 68, as the 31st Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Father Sosa is a member of the Venezuelan Jesuit Province. 
Until now, Father General Sosa served as the Delegate for the Jesuit Curia Community and the Interprovincial Houses & Works in Rome. Moreover, his service included being the Father Provincial during the Chavez government, a university president, and as the coordinator of the social apostolate. Sosa earned a doctorate in Political Science.
Known as the Black Pope, Father Sosa is elected for life. However, the last two Generals resigned due to age (Nicolas and Kolvenbach) and one before that because of health (Arrupe).
Father Sosa succeeds Father Adolfo Nicolas who resigned due to age (80 years old). Since the founding of the Society of Jesus in 1540 this is the 36th time for such a gathering of Jesuit leadership in a General Congregation (GC). The GC is only called to elect a new superior general and when the General decides that there are matters of greater moment to discuss for the good of the Church and the Society. At the end of 2015, there were 16,740 Jesuits in the world.
An interesting piece of news is that several superiors general are from the Americas at this time, among others: Jesuit (Venezuela), Benedictine Abbot Primate (USA), the Benedictine Abbot President of the Subiaco Cassinese Congregation (Colombia), Franciscan (USA), Daughter of Charity (USA), Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (USA), the Legion of Christ (Mexico)… not to be toped by by Pope Francis. The Americas make a significant contribution to the life of the Church at this time in history.

Holy Tradition

A question on the bible and the nature of Tradition always surfaces. Many of those who follow the Protestant line dismiss the intimate connection Tradition that the Catholics and Orthodox make viz. the bible. The magisterial reformers of the 16th century (Luther, Zwingli) led Christians astray by teaching that sola scriptura was a true doctrine taught by the bible. No such thing. What we now come to understand as sacred Scripture found in the publication called The Bible was developed by the Church… the Church did NOT come out of the Bible. History teaches us this fact. History that Evangelicals refuse to admit. The Church, therefore, predates the New Testament, and the Bible. Tradition trumps Scripture. After all, who decided what the Bible would be? The Church, in Council.

In defense of biblical tradition here is but one support: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Holy Tradition assists us in interpreting the words of sacred Scripture. One fact, Divine Revelation, which we accept with that faith which we owe to God alone, was completed with the death of the last Apostle, St. John. At the Council of Trent the Council Fathers taught:  Hence, too, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding. May understanding, knowledge and wisdom increase as ages and centuries roll along, and greatly and vigorously flourish, in each and all, in the individual and the whole Church: but this only in its own proper kind, that is to say, in the same doctrine, the same sense, and the same understanding. AND yet, it is also true to say that Tradition gives us a renewed sense of what we believe and hold to be True about our divinely revealed faith. Doctrine, according to the Magisterium develops but does not reject the Truth nor take up modernist teachings to explain what is revealed by the Lord. Offering an interpretation of John 16:12-13: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth,” Joseph Ratzinger speaks of  “livingness” of tradition through all the ages, and not merely at the time of the Apostles and that’s it.

In his Commentary on Vatican II’s document Dei Verbum, Joseph Ratzinger wrote:

The dynamic concept of tradition, with which the Council here develops its positive conception of traditio, was strongly attacked from two quite opposite directions. On the one hand, Cardinal Ruffini rejected it from his position of traditionally neoscholastic theology, but on the other, Cardinal Leger attacked it from an ecumenical standpoint. In spite of the sharp division in their general theological orientations, the arguments of these two Council fathers were astonishingly similar Ruffini firmly emphasized the idea of revelation being concluded with the death of the last Apostle, rejected the idea of including disciples of the Apostles among the origins of revelation, and opposed the idea of a living and growing revelation, for, in accordance with the text of Trent and Vatican I, he considered that this should be mentioned only in connection with a strong emphasis on the strict unchangeability of a revelation that had been concluded once and for all, with which he referred to an appropriate text by Vincent de Lerins, quoted at both Councils. In the concept of the schema, and especially in its emphasis on spiritual experience as a principle of the growing knowledge of revelation, he detected theological evolutionism, condemned as modernism by Pius XII. In another tone and with other reasons Cardinal Leger insisted on the same point, He found that the Schema, especially in its idea of progress, which seemed to refer not only to the knowledge of tradition, but tradition itself (Haec … Traditio … proficit), blurred the strict distinction between apostolic and post-apostolic tradition and endangered the strict transcendence of divine revelation when it was confronted with the statements and actions of the teaching office of the Church. The Cardinal was concerned that the Church should bind itself firmly to the final and unchangeable word of God, that does not grow, but can only be constantly assimilated afresh and cannot be manipulated by the Church. The Theological Commission considered the question carefully, but decided not to make any major alterations in the text. It pointed out that the clause ” … Traditio proficit” is explained by a second clause “crescit … tam rerum quam verborum perceptio“, i.e. the growth of tradition is a growth in understanding of the reality that was given at the beginning. (Commentary pp.186-187)

In another place Tradition is expounded upon in this manner by Pope John Paul II, in the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei when he about the error:

The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, “comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”.

Let me suggest reading a good and essential book: Joseph Ratzinger, God’s Word: Scripture, Tradition, Office (Ignatius Press).

Orthodox Abbot Tryphon offers this reflection on Holy Tradition which supports the proper interpretation of the Bible:

Many evangelical protestants see Holy Tradition as standing in direct contrast to Scripture, as though Tradition is always relegated to “the traditions of men”. However, there are numerous references in Holy Scripture to Holy Tradition. For example:

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4).”

It must be noted that in this instance, the oral word preceded the written word. hence becoming Holy Tradition.

In John 20:30-3, it is revealed, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book”, and in John 21:25, we read, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written”. One of my personal favorite passages regarding Holy Tradition is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

Holy Tradition is not apart from the Bible, but supports the proper interpretation of the Bible. Holy Tradition emanates from Christ Himself, and is expressed by the Apostles, the Holy Fathers, and the Church. The Fathers, in fact, are the very guardians of the Apostolic Tradition, for they, like the Apostles before them, are witnesses of a single Truth, which is the Truth of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Since Christ is one, unique, and indivisible, so also is the Church unique and indivisible. The Church is the incarnation of the incarnated God-man, Jesus Christ, and will continue through the ages, and even throughout all eternity.

Vincentians elect new superior general: Father Tomaz Mavric

Tomaz MavricThe Congregation of the Mission –the Vincentians– elected a new Superior General on Tuesday, 5 July 2016, succeeding Saint Vincent de Paul and most recently Father Gregory G. Gay who was elected Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission in 2004.

The Vincentians began their 42nd General Assembly at DePaul University in Chicago, the first General Assembly outside of Europe. You will know, among many others, Saints Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Elizabeth Seton and Blessed  Frederic Ozanam who form the Vincentian family.

Father Tomaz Mavric, 57, is the Twenty-fifth Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission and the Company of the Daughters of Charity.

A biography of Father Tomaz Mavric is posted here.

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Lateran BasilicaWe liturgically recall the dedication of the The Church of the Most Holy Saviour, Rome, is the cathedral church of Western Christianity. It is the Pope’s proper church. Dom Prosper Granger’s word remind us of the importance of this center, this home for all Christians. Honoring this church reminds us that we are an incarnational religion, that Christ Jesus has entered into our history, established a holy city –the Church– and has left us the sacraments mediated through the proclamation of the Gospel, the priesthood and ecclesial life. The church is not merely a building but a vital community of faith, truth and peace. It is the enfleshment of Beauty on earth.

The residence of the Popes which was named the Lateran Palace was built by Lateranus Palutius, whom Nero put to death to seize his goods. It was given in the year 313 by Constantine the Great to Saint Miltiades, Pope, and was inhabited by his successors until 1308, when they moved to Avignon. The Lateran Basilica built by Constantine near the palace of the same name, is the first Basilica of the West. Twelve councils, four of which were ecumenical, have assembled there, the first in 649, the last in 1512.

If for several centuries the Popes have no longer dwelt in the Palace, the primacy of the Basilica is not thereby altered; it remains the head of all churches. Saint Peter Damian wrote that just as the Saviour is the Head of the elect, the church which bears His name is the head of all the churches. Those of Saints Peter and Paul, to its left and its right, are the two arms by which this sovereign and universal Church embraces the entire earth, saving all who desire salvation, warming them, protecting them in its maternal womb.

The Divine Office narrates the dedication of the Church by the Pope of Peace, Saint Sylvester:

It was the Blessed Pope Sylvester who established the rites observed by the Roman Church for the consecration of churches and altars. From the time of the Apostles there had been certain places dedicated to God, which some called oratories, and others, churches. There, on the first day of the week, the assembly was held, and there the Christian people were accustomed to pray, to hear the Word of God, and to receive the Eucharist. But never had these places been consecrated so solemnly; nor had a fixed altar been placed there which, anointed with sacred chrism, was the symbol of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who for us is altar, victim and Pontiff. But when the Emperor Constantine through the sacrament of Baptism had obtained health of body and salvation of soul, a law was issued by him which for the first time permitted that everywhere in the world Christians might build churches. Not satisfied to establish this edict, the prince wanted to give an example and inaugurate the holy labors. Thus in his own Lateran palace, he dedicated a church to the Saviour, and founded the attached baptistry under the name of Saint John the Baptist, in the place where he himself, baptized by Saint Sylvester, had been cured of leprosy. It is this church which the Pontiff consecrated in the fifth of the ides of November; and we celebrate the commemoration on that day, when for the first time in Rome a church was thus publicly consecrated, and where a painting of the Saviour was visible on the wall before the eyes of the Roman people.

When the Lateran Church was partially ruined by fires, enemy invasions, and earthquakes, it was always rebuilt with great zeal by the Sovereign Pontiffs. In 1726, after one such restoration, Pope Benedict XIII consecrated it anew and assigned the commemoration of that event to the present day. The church was afterwards enlarged and beautified by Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII.

L’Année liturgique, by Dom Prosper Guéranger (Mame et Fils: Tours, 1919), The Time after Pentecost, VI, Vol. 15. Translation O.D.M.

Remembering John Carroll’s election

John CarrolToday is the anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Baltimore and the anniversary of a rather unique circumstance, the episcopal election of Father John Carroll (January 8, 1735 – December 3, 1815) as the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States of America. As bishop of Baltimore he set the stage for Catholicism’s vitality in the new nation.

So, on this date, 6 November 1789, by the pontifical brief Ex hac apostolicae, Baltimore was made the first diocese of the United States. Father John Carrol was elected the first bishop by the clergy in the USA by a vote of 24 out of 26. Pope Pius VI approved the election and he was consecrated to the episcopacy by Bishop Charles Walmesley, in England, on August 15, 1790.

Among his many accomplishments for the Church he was the founder of Georgetown University, held the first diocesan synod in 1791, invited the English Dominicans to serve here and established the Order of the Visitation. By 1804, the Holy Father entrusted the Church in the Danish West Indies and other nearby islands to Carroll; and by 1805 the Louisiana Territory became part of the Baltimore Province. In April 1808, Pope Pius VII established Baltimore as the first US archdiocese with suffragan diocese of Bardstown, Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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