Benedictions: The Pope in America

Benedictions: The Pope in America

“What is truth?” Some post-papal thoughts

Pontius Pilate famously asked that question and the Gospel of John provides the answer, as did Pope Benedict XVI in recent days, most notably in his talk to young people at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie in New York:

“In seeking truth, we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ.”

Indeed, the brightest thread running through the pope’s talks and homilies was truth, and the need to be confronted by truth, and to see truth, and to find truth–and find it in Christ. For believers–and that would include just about every Catholic at the stadium masses and other events, as well of those who could not get inside–the pope’s statements are self-evident. They are a useful and salutary reminder of a basic teaching, and not especially controversial, though certainly worthy of much reflection. A fine starting point is a post titled “Veritas” by Peter Nixon over at the Commonweal blog.
The challenging yet uncontroversial content of Benedict’s talks contributed then, in part, to the intent focus on Benedict as a person–on how kind and congenial he seemed, how pastoral and reassuring he was in meeting with victims of clergy abuse and speaking out about the scandal. Neither Benedict nor his predecessor, John Paul, had said or done anything about this gaping wound in the church for more than six years, and the catharsis was welcome.
But the focus on truth and the exhortation to believe in Christ more truly and live as a Christian more truly reminds me of the story about a pagan in the ancient world who was interested in becoming Jewish. He went to the Jewish sage Hillel and challenged him to explain the entire Torah while standing on one leg. Hillel agreed, and said simply: “That which is hateful to you, do not unto your fellow.” In other words, the Golden Rule.
“That is the whole Torah,” Hillel said. And he was right. But he was also wise. “The rest is the explanation,” he added. “Go and learn.”
In a sense that is where we are after the pope’s visit. He explained the faith but provided few directions for the church. He called for unity in Christ, but did not give many explanations about how to find that unity. For many, that is more than sufficient. In fact, a great many Catholics–and non-Catholics–will simply be happy to see that the panzerkardinal is not the panzerpapst, and that the Catholic Church seems to be in good hands.
But I suspect stronger reactions to the pope’s visit will break down along the lines of those who see the churchs (and the world’s) problems as traceable to a weakness of faith, and thus best healed by an exhortation to greater faith, and those who see the church itself as in need of repair. The former category will feel affirmed, the latter may be ambivalent.
For them, the lack of direct discussion of the priest shortage that makes evangelizing so problematic, or the role of women who make parishes run and Catholic families the “domestic church,” or accountability of bishops, or the laity who did so much to bring the abuse scandal into the open and force this moment of catharsis, or the Iraq war, or social justice issues, or global warming, or the death penalty, or any one of a number of issues raises the big question going forward: What now? How does the church tackle these issues effectively and still find the unity that Benedict rightly enjoined? (Truth be told, the pope was often so conceptual in his talks that many lament he did not say more on abortion, or much of anything on contraception or homosexuality or divorce.)
Two posts from the New York Times’ fine stable of papal bloggers seem emblematic of the divide. One was Peter Steinfels’ lament that the pope’s talk to Catholic educators–what was billed in the pre-trip build-up as a showdown–was actually a “missed opportunity” to clarify certain issues. Another might be Alejandro Bermudez’ take titled, “A few Good Men and Women.” To wit:


“I have repeated this so often that I risk being tedious: the Pope is a minimalist…He hopes many non-Catholics will come to the Church attracted by the “Splendor of Truth.” But he does not count on that happening. (snip) Will he be the one identifying who is or who isn’t a good Catholic? Nein. He knows better. He will let American Catholics go to the waters. And each one will take their side in history by the way they drink it.”

There is more to unpack here, and I’ll try as I sift through the coverage and the blogosphere and Benedict’s homilies this week.

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posted April 21, 2008 at 10:59 pm

The Catholics in the United States now know the feeling associated to the words, “We have a Pope”. Pope Benedict XVI was simply amazing.
What joy to be a Catholic. Rest in peace John Paul, the Catholic church is in fine hands and spirit.

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posted April 22, 2008 at 2:59 pm

Jesus Christ answered the quextion quite nicely. “I am The Way, The Truth, The Life, no one can come to the Father but through Me.

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posted April 22, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Dick: Quoting Almighty God at the coronation of Mary: “We wish for nothing to be conceded to man that does not pass through your hands.” I am convinced that the best path to Jesus is through the hands of His Mother. My response to Benedict XVI visit is given below’
When the world is about to run out of rope,
Our Holy Father comes to laud Christ our Hope.
In God we trust our Founders once agreed.
Now licentiousness is becoming the creed.
Killing children is our greatest blight.
It has now become a legal right.
In the image of God, man is conceived.
Secredness of life must then be believed.
World peace is an idealistic goal,
unless prayer becomes everyone’s role.
The Church he built is our Lord’s bequest.
That all might be one was His request.
Peace is not a United Nations obsession
Discord has long been its obvious profession.
While they ignore basic human rights,
peace cannot be in their target sights.
In our world, peace will never be sustained,
while evil and terrorism are retained.
Life is a test to save our immortal soul.
Benedict XVI extols the acceptable role.

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posted April 24, 2008 at 2:45 am

Benny canned the Magisterium and Roman Catholic Cathecism by saying that “In seeking truth, we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ.”

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posted May 5, 2008 at 4:52 pm

It would have been wonderful to hear the Pope speak of Jesus Christ the King of Kings more while he was speaking on national television. The point of knowing Jesus Christ and serving Jesus Christ is to profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour over all who believe in him. The message of Jesus Christ is very simple Jesus died and was crucified for our iniquities and our trangressions. For sin which we were born into as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience toward God. Jesus came to redeem all of mankind back to the Father those of mankind who believe in Jesus Christ and on him for what he did at the cross will be saved. Those who don’t will not. It is sad that the Catholic churches highest authority on the very issue of Jesus Christ “supposedly”, the Pope does not speak about Jesus Christ, did not profess Jesus Christ on television, did not talk about Jesus Christ on television, did not feed the people listening with the “Words and Wisdom” of Jesus Christ and God the Father but merely spoke of human rights tolerance and many other wordly issues and ungodly traditions as if he was running for president. It would be hard to make an argument that he was talking about God at all. If you do not believe me, I am not the final authority, Jesus Christ Is and he left us the Bible, which is our road map to salvation. In 1 john 2:15 it says, “do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Vs.16 for all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life-is not of the Father, but of the world. Vs.17 and the world is passing away and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God obides forever.” It’s too bad that our quote unquote religious and spiritual leaders are’nt leading us in spiritual and biblical things at all. They are trying unsucessfully to be just like the world and just like the world, they are lost. The bible speaks of the blind leading the blind and that they together will fall into a ditch. If you don’t want to be lost and following lost leaders, then you must study your Bible. You must make God and the Son of God Jesus Christ the very focus of your and center of your life. To be saved from perdition one must only confess Christ as Lord and Saviour. After that one must ask God for revelation and wisdom which the Holy Spirit the very life giving force of God will give to those who ask. The Bible say in Romans 3:10 “As it is written: there is none righteous, no not one; vs.11 there is none who understands, none who seeks after God. vs.12 they have all turned aside; they have togeter become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. vs.13 there throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; vs.14 whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. vs.15 there feet are swift to shed blood; vs.16 destruction and misery are in their ways; vs.17 and the way of peace they have not known. vs.18 there is no fear of God before their eyes.” These few verses depict God’s view of all mankind without the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. For in Romans 3:23 the Bible states clearly “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” However, God shows us how we can be redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ who was cursed for all mankind and hung on a cross as a sacrifice for all of us in the world who believe on him for salvation. That he would taste death so that we would not have to. Now I’m just a regular man with a regular life my words are not my words they are the words of God through the Holy Spirit which dwells inside of me. But, if I know what I know by studying and praying to God for wisdom then why doesn’t the Pope do the same? That is the issue here. The most important thing for people to understand is that Jesus Christ died for their salvation. not just so they could call upon God like God is a geanie, waiting to make their wishes come true. The Pope is no more important in God’s system than anyone else. People just think he is. But, to God he is just another dirty, rotten sinner just like you and me who needs salvation when he dies.
Thank you Jesus for being perfect and obedient to God and for the salvation you bring to those who believe in you. Amen!

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posted May 14, 2008 at 9:31 am

Scott: If you think all you have to do for salvation is say you believe in Jesus, you are in for a severe shock. The church Jesus built is the authority over the Bible, and Jesus clearly said that “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you do not have life in you.” Only the Catholic Church has the authority to change bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ. Outside that Church, salvation is impossible. I do not challenge you or what you may believe, I am only affirming the doctrines of the Catholic Church. If I were you, I would make it a point to study those doctrines well before you decide who to believe. Your salvation depends on it.

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