Category Archives: Theology

The International Theological Commission meets with Pope: God “has gifted us with a reason in harmony with his nature”

The Pope met yesterday with the members of the International Theological Commission in plenary session, a bi-annual meeting, though I think the Pope only meets in a plenary session with the ITC once a year. I am familiar with several members of the group and I can attest to their diligent and honest work in theology for the good of the entire Church. The work of the ITC deals with some of the most interesting theological and philosophical questions these days. The ITC is working on questions of theological methodology, the question of one God for the 3 monotheistic religions and question of the Church’s social doctrine in the context of Christian doctrine. The ITC documentation is published in various languages and useful for one’s own theological reflection. There are several important points the makes about the vocation of a theologian and the nature of theology. He reminds us, namely, that a theologian does not work in a solitary way, that faith and reason are intrinsically linked and that theology is outward thinking and acting. Benedict XVI’s address to the ITC follows:

I receive you with joy at the end of your annual
plenary session. I would like first of all to express my heartfelt gratitude
for the words of homage that, on behalf of all, Your Eminence, in his capacity
of president of the International Theological Commission, addressed to me. The
work of this eighth “quinquennium” of the commission, as you
recalled, addresses the following very weighty topics: theology and its
methodology; the question of the one God in relation to the three monotheistic
religions; the integration of the social doctrine of the Church in the wider
context of Christian doctrine.

“For the love of Christ impels us, once we
have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He
indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians
5:14-15). How can we not make our own this beautiful reaction of the Apostle
Paul to his encounter with the risen Christ? In fact this experience is at the
root of the three important topics on which you reflected in your plenary
session that has just ended.

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What the Pope really said about condoms…

If you want to know what Pope Benedict XVI really said about AIDS and condom use, you will want to read Chapter 11, of Peter Seewald’s interview of the Pope in Light of the World,  “The Journeys of a Shepherd,” pages 117-119:

On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on AIDs once again became the target of media criticism. Twenty-five percent of all AIDs victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on AIDs. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many AIDs victims, especially children with AIDs.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

Christian faith breaks myth that the totality of state gives hope & gives humanity a true and good world-view

Getting to the point of thinking more intelligently and from a Christian point of view about the feast of Christ the King and its relevance today, I think we ought to consider what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) said about politics and human dignity viz. faith in Jesus Christ.


On early Christianity
& the state:

“The state is not the whole of human existence and does not
encompass all human hope. Man and what he hopes for extend beyond the framework
of the state and beyond the sphere of political action. This is true not only
for a state like Babylon, but for every state. The state is not the totality;
this unburdens the politician and at the same time opens up for him the path of
reasonable politics. The Roman state was wrong and anti-Christian precisely
because it wanted to be the totality of human possibilities and hopes. A state
that makes such claims cannot fulfill its promises; it thereby falsifies and
diminishes man. Through the totalitarian lie it becomes demonic and
tyrannical.”

The Christian world-view stands for an authentic hope for humanity
in being happy in this world:

“The Christian faith destroyed the myth of the divine state, the myth of the
earthly paradise or utopian state and of a society without rule. In its place
it put the objectivity of reason… True human objectivity involves humanity, and
humanity involves God. True human reason involves morality, which lives on
God’s commandments. This morality is not a private matter; it has public
significance. Without the good of being good and of good action, there can be
no good politics. What the persecuted Church prescribed for Christians as the
core of their political ethos must also be the core of an active Christian
politics: only where good is done and is recognized as good can people live
together well in a thriving community. Demonstrating the practical importance
of the moral dimension, the dimension of God’s commandments — publicly as well
— must be the center of responsible political action.”

Joseph Ratzinger’s (Benedict XVI) Church, Ecumenism & Politics (San Francisco: Ignatius 1988).

Christ the King

Sunday marks the final Sunday of the liturgical year with the Solemnity of Christ the King. Pope Pius XI established this feast for us in an encyclical Quas Primas, to help us to recognize the reality of the Lord’s kingship over the universe. The Lord’s kingship is not one of an arbitrary use of power or an arrogant rule of peoples or a subjugation of the dignity of man and woman. The Lord’s kingship extends over all peoples based on the Divine Love and Communion of the Blessed Trinity. Here is a paragraph from Quas Primas to help our prayer.

Christ the King on cross detail.JPG“If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and
on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right
subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear
that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our
minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed
truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should
obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should
spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone.
He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as
instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words
of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God” (Romans 6:13).


Pope Pius XI
December 11, 1925

Confronting the Devil– one of the Church’s greatest needs

With last the announcement last week about a study session of the new Rite of Exorcism seemingly many peoples’ interest in the devil and evil soared. But I wonder if we all know the implications of having an interest in the “devil and evil” means. What it means is that we are in a spiritual battle with evil, a fact that is being spoken of more and more.


The Servant of God Pope Paul VI addressed the issue in a General Audience on November 15, 1972. What he said in 1972 remains so very true today:

What are the Church’s greatest needs at the present time? Don’t be surprised at Our answer and don’t write it off as simplistic or even superstitious: one of the Church’s greatest needs is to be defended against the evil we call the Devil.

The papal address is not long and it covers topics of a Christian’s vision of the universe, the mystery of evil, seeking answers to our questions, the biblical witness to evil and the Devil, the Devil’s ability to tempt us, the peril of ignoring the Devil, the presence of diabolical actions and what our defense against the Devil means. Read what Pope Paul said.

Two Standards Loyola.jpg

In his meditation of the second week of the Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius of Loyola presents to us “On the Two Standards” telling us we are faced with making a choice: “The one of Christ, our Commander-in-chief and Lord; the other Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature.” Loyola places in front of us the choice of how we are going to live our lives, either for Christ or against Christ, either for good, or for evil. Why sell our soul for money, power and fame when the Lord offers us a life that’s attractive and beautiful through the virtues of spiritual –and possibly in actual poverty, contempt for worldly honor and humility against pride? Poverty, whether spiritual and/or actual, obedience and humility are virtues that lead to all other virtue and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.


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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]yahoo.com.
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