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Inculturation at Papal Masses; next, Poland and St. Faustina
National Catholic Reporter ^ | 8/7/2002 | John L. Allen

Posted on 08/13/2002 7:22:41 PM PDT by sinkspur

Press coverage of John Paul’s July 30-August 1 trip to Mexico turned mostly on his statement of support for the “legitimate aspirations” of indigenous persons, putting it in the context of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, as well as inroads among indigenous groups in Latin America by Evangelical Protestants. The media focus was thus political and inter-religious. This is entirely proper, but I confess that my optic was more intra-ecclesial. I was in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe for both the July 31 canonization of Juan Diego, to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe is said to have appeared, and the beatification August 1 of two Zapotec Indians, Juan Bautista and Jacinto de los Angeles, martyred in 1700. What struck me in both cases was the startling degree to which both liturgies were “inculturated,” meaning that they drew heavily upon the sacred traditions of the native cultures involved.

When the pope pronounced the words of canonization for Juan Diego, conch shells began to blow, and the hundreds of indigenous persons present began to shake rattles they had brought for the occasion. Then native music began to thump out, as 11 dancers in Aztec costume slowly twirled their way down a specially prepared runway. As they snaked their way towards the pope, incense was burned and candles lit, while flower petals were strewn in their path. Finally red confetti was fired over our heads. It was an electrifying moment, and left the people inside the basilica cheering like it was Game Seven of the NBA finals.

As we were filing out to catch the press bus, a colleague from one of the American TV networks, a non-Catholic, said to me: “Hell, if they did Mass like this all the time, I’d come!”

The next day was a repeat performance. The Nahautl, Zapotec and Mixtec languages, all spoken in the martyrs’ southern hometown of San Francisco Cajonos, were used during the liturgy. When the pope formally beatified Bautista and los Angeles, once again native dancers appeared on the runway, this time accompanied by a welter of indigenous brass bands from Cajonos and other nearby towns. Thousands of indigenous persons clapped, sang and swayed in time, as the dancers made their way toward John Paul.

Perhaps most remarkably, Indian women bearing smoking pots of incense brushed branches of herbs on the pontiff, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera and other prelates in a limpia, or purification, ceremony. The common Indian blessing is believed to cure spiritual and physical ailments by driving off evil spirits.

Anyone who follows the Vatican knows that one of its most protracted internal tensions is between Bishop Piero Marini, responsible for the papal liturgies, and Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, who runs the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The latter makes the rules; the former sets the tone through what happens when the pope himself celebrates. Medina tends toward a traditionalist, by-the-book stance, while Marini is more reform-minded.

The Mexican celebrations, with their unapologetic embrace of elements of native worship, reflected the Marini imprint. But the $64,000 question is, whose side is John Paul II on? He signs Medina’s documents and yet celebrates Marini’s liturgies, so some accuse him of trying to have it both ways.

As a general rule, I suspect John Paul tolerates this tension as an exercise in pendulum governance, giving a little bit here and a little bit there, never letting any wing of the church feel too alienated. On this theory, the pope sees not a contradiction but a dialectic.

While such inconsistency can be maddening to observers trying to figure out what the church stands for, I dare say if you look closely, most pontificates embrace seeming contradictions. It was John XXIII, the beloved reformer, whose 1959 Roman synod forbade priests from driving cars or going to the cinema, and who decreed in his 1962 apostolic constitution Veterum sapientia that only Latin be used in seminaries. It was Paul VI, the “pope of the council,” who gave us both the new Mass as well as HumanaeVitae. How to explain this? John XXIII once quipped that he had to be pope both of those with their foot on the accelerator, and those with their foot on the brake. Such a view of papal responsibilities sometimes makes for a muddled approach to policy, but perhaps also for a kind of balance over time that prevents the whole thing from spinning apart.

On the issue of indigenous elements in Christian worship, however, I have two bits of datum suggesting the pope’s heart is with Marini — one theological, the other anecdotal.

The theological reason is the way John Paul has developed the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) on other religions. Vatican II for the first time spoke positively of other religions, saying that not infrequently they contain “elements of truth and grace.” Yet the Council did not resolve the question of how those “elements of truth and grace” got there. As Karl Rahner wrote, “The precise theological value” of non-Christian religions “was left open.”

The question at the close of the council was: Are the truths of other religions simply evidence of a universal human yearning for God, a kind of “natural religion?” Or are they inspired by God’s Holy Spirit as part of a salvation history more complex than we had previously imagined?

John Paul II has answered this question, defending the second, more progressive hypothesis: that God, through the person of the Holy Spirit, “inspires” at least some elements of other religions.

Consider this line from a radio address to the peoples of Asia, Manila, Feb. 21, 1981: “Even when for some he is the Great Unknown, He nevertheless remains always in reality the same living God. We trust that wherever the human spirit opens itself in prayer to this Unknown God, an echo will be heard of the same Spirit who, knowing the limits and weaknesses of the human person, himself prays in us and on our behalf.” Or this, from the pope’s annual address to the curia on Dec. 22, 1986, this time defending his inter-religious summit in Assisi in October of that year: “Every authentic prayer is called forth by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every person.”

One could go on multiplying examples (by one count there are at least 50 such statements). As Jesuit theologian Jacques Dupuis writes in his recent book Christianity and the Religions: From Conflict to Encounter: “The peculiar contribution of Pope John Paul II to a ‘theology of the religions’ consists in the emphasis with which he affirms the operative presence of the Spirit of God in the religious life of the ‘non-Christians’ and in their religious traditions.”

That’s the doctrinal reason I believe John Paul liked what he saw in Mexico. He believes those sacred dances, rites and gestures come from the Spirit and hence have a place in Christian worship.

My anecdotal reason?

I had a pair on binoculars with me, and I kept my eyes on John Paul on day two as the native dancers and mariachi bands did their thing. There was little response at first, but as the performance built up a head of steam, I saw the pope smiling broadly and tapping out the rhythm of the music. As papal endorsements go, it was indirect — but unmistakable.

* * *

Speaking of the Mexico leg of John Paul’s journey, one bit of subtext was whether Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, would be present. Maciel is a Catholic celebrity in Mexico, and on John Paul’s four previous journeys he has been a leading actor. This time, however, Maciel faces highly public charges of sexual abuse from several former members of the Legionaries, and there was speculation as to whether he would be exiled from the papal orbit.

On the day of Juan Diego’s canonization, I tried asking local organizers if Maciel were present. They had no idea. I asked four Mexican journalists, each one of whom proffered a different opinion. After attempts to spot him through binoculars failed, I tried a different tack, calling a Legionary friend in Rome. He declined to respond.

That night I headed off to a press conference at the Inter-Continental Hotel scheduled for 6:00 p.m., to ask Monsignor Guillermo Ortiz Mondragón, the designated spokesperson for the papal visit. 6:00 p.m. came and went, and no Ortiz. I enlisted the help of several very polite young men who had been stationed in the hotel to help journalists. After a half-hour, one came back with the news that his sister “swore” she had seen Maciel at the basilica. When I informed him this was not sufficient, he returned to the hunt.

Eventually they produced Ortiz. I put my question to him, and he responded: “I have heard nothing about Maciel being here, and I’m sure I would have heard if he were.” It was a curiously non-definitive response.

The next morning, I rode to Mass in the company of a member of the papal entourage. I asked about Maciel, and he was finally able to resolve the question: “Maciel was in the front row yesterday,” he said, referring to the Mass for Juan Diego. “I said hello to him myself.” I then asked if Maciel had greeted the pope, and my source, who was in a position to know, said he had.

However low profile, I believe Maciel’s presence at the Mass, and his greeting of John Paul, can only be seen as a show of support from the pope.

Two footnotes.

A major newspaper recently printed a story saying that Maciel was “expected” to travel in the papal party. I don’t know exactly who held this expectation, but I was on the papal plane and Maciel was not there. Just to be sure, I asked Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican spokesperson, on August 5, and he confirmed that Maciel did not travel with the pope.

Second, about those helpful young men … it turns out they were students at Legionary schools. The press operation for the pope’s trip was run by prominent Mexican members of the lay branch of the Legionaries, called Regnum Christi.

* * *

If you were tuned into the Italian press for coverage of the Mexico trip, you would have been following a dramatic “assassination attempt” against the pope.

It was certainly a riveting story. The only flaw is that it wasn’t true.

What happened is this. A fourteen-year-old Mexican, Erick Angel Hernandez Gomez, fired a BB-pistol out the window of his family’s apartment on the afternoon of July 31, along the route John Paul was to take from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the papal nunciature. The shots were fired well before the pope went by. One pellet slightly grazed a Mexican police officer, though it did not cause a wound. The boy was briefly arrested, then released into his parents’ custody when it became clear he hadn’t meant to harm anyone. (The judge called the boy’s action “a stupid joke”).

An Italian news agency, however, reported that the pope had been fired upon and that a Vatican security agent had been hit. With that, the chase was on. Italian reporters on the trip got urgent calls from their editors, demanding accounts of “panic in Mexico City” — despite the fact that a couple of steps out the hotel door was enough to prove that there was no such panic.

The lesson is not to be seduced by dramatic news flashes in the middle of a breaking story until confirmation emerges. This time it was the Italians, but it’s hardly a geographically limited temptation.

* * *

John Paul’s next journey outside Italy will take place August 16-19 in Poland. Fans of the papal resignation hypothesis have long been licking their chops over this trip. Why go now? Why for only three days? Could it be to announce John Paul’s long-rumored exit from the papal stage, then spirit him off to a monastery?

I seriously doubt it, though events could always prove me wrong.

In fact, there is a precise motive for the visit, with a deep resonance in John Paul’s spirituality. He is going to dedicate the new Sanctuary of Divine Mercy at Lagiewniki, outside Krakow. It is named for a devotion to God’s mercy launched in the early 20th century by a Polish nun named Faustina Kowalska, whom the pope canonized on April 30, 2000 (making her the first saint of the new millennium).

Faustina believed that Jesus had appeared to her in 1931with a message of mercy for all humanity. Her spiritual director commissioned an artist to render a painting of Jesus as he appeared in her visions, which has become the well-known image of Jesus with two rays of light streaming from his heart. (The red ray represents the blood that flowed from Christ’s side when struck with a spear on the cross, the white the water). Her 600-page diary of the visions is known as Divine Mercy in My Soul. She devised various prayers and spiritual acts to support this devotion before dying in 1938.

Faustina has long been an important figure in the life of John Paul II. As an underground seminarian during World War II, he was influenced by Kowalska’s diary. When he became archbishop of Krakow, he began the process of her beatification, which he brought to fruition as pope.

John Paul’s devotion to Faustina has critics. Some see her quasi-apocalyptic insistence on human unworthiness as excessive. Others object to the way the pope placed the divine mercy feast on the second Sunday after Easter, hence “disrupting,” according to some liturgists, the Easter season. (Especially given that Easter is supposed to be about the joy of resurrection, not our constant need for mercy). Still others say the pope shouldn’t use his office to foist his personal spirituality on the rest of the church.

Those may all be valid points, but I still think there’s something to like about the Faustina story.

For almost 20 years, from 1959 to 1978, Faustina’s diary and her divine mercy devotion were officially banned by the Holy Office, today’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Working from what is today recognized as a faulty Italian translation of her diary, the Holy Office decided that Faustina’s private revelations were quirky and effectively silenced her movement.

It was thus a minor bit of defiance for Archbishop Karol Wojtyla to open canonization proceedings on October 21, 1965, for someone whose lifework was still officially censored in Rome. The Vatican’s ban on Divine Mercy Devotion was finally lifted on April 15, 1978, and in short order Wojtyla became pope. His 1980 encyclical Dives in Misericordia is heavily influenced by Kowalska’s thinking, in its own way reminiscent of how certain documents of Vatican II were inspired by figures censured under Pius XII.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has argued that its documents and disciplinary decisions participate in the “ordinary and universal magisterium,” which over time becomes the infallible teaching of the church. This may be, but as the case of Faustina shows — as did that of Padre Pio, also canonized by John Paul after having been disciplined several times during his life by Rome — only time can tell whether any given decision of the congregation really reflects that magisterium or not. In other words, even the Holy Office nods.

* * *

Two weeks ago, I described an interview I conducted with Fr. Peter Gumpel, the man responsible for the sainthood cause of Pius XII, about the book The Popes Against the Jews by David Kertzer.

Professor Kertzer was kind enough to respond, and among other points he boiled down the argument of his book into one paragraph. I asked his permission to reproduce it here. Kertzer wrote:

“The Nazis were behind the Holocaust, and the Nazis were also anti-Christian and anti-Catholic. But their ability to carry out the Holocaust depended on mass grass-root hostility to the Jews, and as I try to show, the Catholic Church played a significant (though far from exclusive) role in fueling these hatreds.”

Stated that way, there perhaps is not as much distance between Kertzer and Gumpel as one might imagine, since Gumpel allowed in our interview that anti-Jewish sentiments expressed in organs such as L’Osservatore Romano and Civilità Cattolica may have reinforced prejudices against Jews in early 20th century Europe.

I suppose the real argument (not necessarily between Kertzer and Gumpel, but among students of the issue in general) is not whether the church played a role in shaping anti-Semitism, but whether it has sufficiently acknowledged that role, repented for it, and insured that it does not recur.

TOPICS: General Discusssion
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Comment #101 Removed by Moderator

Comment #102 Removed by Moderator

To: Goldhammer
You do what a lot of frustrated neo-Catholics do when they can't win an argument--start calling names. How is it paranoid to point out the obvious? Is it or isn't it novel to pray with voodoo priests, to kiss the Koran which curses the Trinity, to pour libations out in the Togo Forest?
Sure it's good p.r.--but it also gives scandal and appears to violate the First Commandment. It certainly was shocking.

As for Vatican I--it was important for the constraints it placed on the Pope as well as for its declaration on his infallibility when he makes ex cathedra pronouncements. The Pope, after all, isn't God. He can't make something immoral that isn't, such as a resistance to his own command if it is clearly unlawful. The Pope is committed by the papal oath to GUARD tradition, not destroy it, to PROTECT the deposit of faith, not help dismantle it--under pain of his own excommunication. And Vatican I clearly states the Holy Spirit is only promised to him to do just this: to Guard the faith as it was handed down from the apostles. He has NO protection from the Holy Spirit for novel doctrines.

The Pope, through inattentiveness or carelessness or disinterest, has allowed quite a few men with dossiers of sexual abuse to be consecrated. He has allowed quite a few apostates to be consecrated as well. He recently knowingly gave the red hat to a man who questions the reality of the Resurrection and the divinity of Christ. So why was he so determined in the Econe situation to deny Archbishop Lefebvre the right to consecrate? He knew the prelate was old and had no successors and needed someone to ordain traditional priests. Didn't the Church need new priests? Wasn't the Econe producing them in abundance? Weren't they devout men and totally orthodox men loyal to the Church and its teachings? Of course they were-- even the Vatican had admitted as much. But they were also TRADITIONAL men. They were trained to say the TRADITIONAL Mass-- which no pope had the audacity to actually proscribe officially and which was still perfectly legal. So it was their traditionalism he obviously wanted to dismantle. But this was wrong and a violation of his own oath of office in which he unambiguously promised to protect tradition and not to alter it, nor to join forces with those who oppose it.

What part of this is so hard to understand? The fix was in. The Archbishop's stubborn refusal to go along with modernist changes which were radically altering the faith was a rear guard defense of traditionalism which modernists could not tolerate. It was an attack against the Church as it had existed for two millenia before Vatican II. It was in the way of the revolution and the new religion.
103 posted on 08/19/2002 6:21:13 AM PDT by ultima ratio
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To: Goldhammer
The following Roman canonists have publicly declared their finding that the excommunication of Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX bishops were null and void:

1. Castillo Cardinal Lara, J.C.D., President of the Pontifical Commission for Authentic Interpretation of Canon Law.

2. Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

3. Alfons Cardinal Stickler, former Prefect of Vatican Archives and Library.

4. Count Neri Cappaloni, D. Cn L., eminent canon lawyer who has argued many cases before the Apostolic Signatura, canon law professor at the University of Florence.

5. Fr. Patrick Valdini, J.C.D., Dean, Faculty of Canon Law at the University of Paris.

6. Dr. Karl-Theodor Geringer, J.C.D., University of Munich

There are a host of others. I am just scratching the surface--these are the most public.
104 posted on 08/19/2002 7:06:29 AM PDT by ultima ratio
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To: Goldhammer
You write, "The purpose of Lefebvre's consecrations was to fuel a schism indefinitely."

This is absurd on the surface. In fact, hard as it is for you to believe, no schism took place. I know you, and other Novus Ordonians, want to believe one took place. But the Archbishop only consecrated to continue his canonically approved priestly order--which he knew was targeted for extinction by the modernists. His bishops did not take the place of other bishops. He did not create a parallel church, in other words.

105 posted on 08/19/2002 7:17:09 AM PDT by ultima ratio
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Comment #106 Removed by Moderator

To: Goldhammer
Your citation of Cardinal Lara proves my point. The consecration of bishops were not schismatic acts. The Cardinal attempts to claim that the supposed schism was only formalized by Rome, that the schism was already a fact. What a load of baloney!. The very definition of schism--which Michael Davies points out in his brilliant study "In Defense of Archbishop Lefebvre"--is found in the INTENTION of the accused person, not in the Curia at Rome or even in Canon Law. The Cardinal here is purporting to know as certain that the Archbishop intended to break with the Church. This is patently false. As Davies points out, every schism involves an act of disobedience, but not every act of disobedience involves schism. The willingness of Rome to think the worst is a clear indication that it carried an animus against the traditionalism of Lefebvre. No other prelate has been so treated before or since by this pontiff.

What is astonishing, however, was Lara's grudging admission that the canons themselves do not prove anything--he must resort to supposed intentions about which he can have no inside knowledge--only Lefebvre knew what was in his heart. Rome therefore over-reacted by FORMALIZING something it did not know legally or with certitude--how could it, especially against every statement of the Archbishop proving he remained submissive to the Pope--despite his consecrations, achieved for the good, he believed, of the Church itself.
107 posted on 08/19/2002 3:51:28 PM PDT by ultima ratio
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Comment #108 Removed by Moderator

To: Goldhammer
I lied? He himself said the canons did not apply! Reread the passage. To say after the fact that even though they do not apply, they are still legitimate is ludicrous, even for a modern-day Cardinal. It's enough for me that he admitted the canons do not apply. Because the rest is absolutely certain--the Archbishop's intentions were honorable and never in his wildest dreams envisioned schism. It is Rome that is duplicitous, first pretending the canons applied--even citing them!--and then back-tracking when it is clear they did not! Not to mention the smear campaign against a saintly man that continues to this day.

109 posted on 08/19/2002 6:16:05 PM PDT by ultima ratio
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To: Goldhammer
So now suspension a divinis is schism? Come again? This is your argument? Do you know the history of this "suspension"? He was given no chance to even plead his case. In the light of the hundreds of bishops around the world who refuse obedience to the pope--you will forgive my cynicism if I think Rome was railroading the good Archbishop. I'm still waiting for the same treatment for Kasper who denies the Resurrection and was rewarded with a red hat! Or Weakland who routinely told the Pope where to get off in between conning his diocese to pay off a lover. Lefebvre, on the other hand, supported the old Mass. Can't have that--
110 posted on 08/19/2002 7:12:25 PM PDT by ultima ratio
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Comment #111 Removed by Moderator

Comment #112 Removed by Moderator

To: Goldhammer
Thanks for sharing Cardinal Lara's letter, explaining the excommunication. I also agree with you that the "belief of necessity" argument is bogus, but for the sake of argument I conceded that point to create the "loophole trump", for IMHO the SSPX, and the dissension and disunity that they inspire is most definitely harmful to souls.
113 posted on 08/19/2002 10:26:14 PM PDT by St.Chuck
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Comment #114 Removed by Moderator

Comment #115 Removed by Moderator

To: Goldhammer
You say, "If Lefebvre wanted to do good he would have obeyed authority." But this is true only if authority had asks him to do what was good. It did not. No one should obey authority if it asks him to do evil--even if that authority is the pope. (Cf. Summa Theologica, 11a, 11ae, Q.39.) In this instance the Pope's command was tantamount to destroying the traditional priesthood, a very great evil. This is basic moral theology.

116 posted on 08/20/2002 2:46:58 AM PDT by ultima ratio
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To: Goldhammer
You write, "No amount of rational analysis means anything to an SSPXer." What rational analysis? You cite over and over canon laws which Cardinal Lara himself declared do not actually apply--then you call ME irrational? If the act of disobedience is not the same thing as schism--where is the demonstration of schism? Schism by definition resides in the INTENTION of the one accused. Where is there proof of this? What he did was retain traditional Catholicism with all its teachings and practices. If that seems like a parallel church to some in Rome, it is because Rome has strayed so far from authentic Catholicism.
117 posted on 08/20/2002 2:59:24 AM PDT by ultima ratio
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To: Goldhammer
Cardinal Lara said the act of consecrating bishops was not in itself schism. But this was precisely what the so-called "excommunication" was based on! To backtrack and say that Rome really meant this to apply to a former case of non-submission is absurd, especially when you examine the history of that bogus suspension--totally based on hear-say, without affording the archbishop the right to defend himself or any attempt whatever to hear the Archbishop's side of the story. It was a railroad-job! Then it was used as an excuse for declaring a schism had been formally incurred, when the consecrations themselves, after the fact, didn't appear to stand up under the scrutiny of canon law scholarship. This would be like piling up traffic violations and declaring they add up to murder! What is obvious to anyone who is fair-minded is that Rome wanted Lefebvre crushed because of his traditionalism, period. The rest is as fake as a three-dollar bill--by Cardinal Lara's own admission.

Why not read Michael Davies' defense of Archbishop Lefebvre--or are you afraid the truth might be too disillusioning? Of course asking some of you to be open-minded and fair about this is useless. You don't question anything Rome does, but strain at the gnat and swallow the camel whole. I ask again, how is it so many apostate and/or actively gay prelates are free to withhold submission, to openly disobey, to carry-on their well-known abuses without interference from the Vatican whereas Archbishop Lefebvre alone was singled out for reproof and even declared schismatic? And why do you suppose it is Rome who now seeks to heal the breach? The SSPX feels no qualms of conscience whatever over this. It is Rome who has the bad conscience for using its immense authority so unjustly.
118 posted on 08/20/2002 3:35:56 AM PDT by ultima ratio
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To: sinkspur
Optional Memorial of St. Faustina, 10-05-02
119 posted on 10/05/2002 8:51:12 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: JustPiper
120 posted on 07/07/2003 1:21:04 PM PDT by Coleus (God is Pro Life and Straight and gave an innate predisposition for self-preservation and protection)
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