God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

After weeks of silence..

After some time of silence and reflecting on the situation of the Roman-Catholic Church – reading through tons of articles, opinion pieces and so-called news I must admit that I am not so much surprised about discovering, that for quite a lot of prelates, bishops, priests and dignitaries their faith is rather formed by ideology and power play – I have seen and experienced too much in my own priestly life to not to know about the inner-workings of the church.  Living through a far too long pontificate of a Polish pope followed by brief intermezzo of a German one, trying to restore a church lived before the second Vatican council we were almost a paralyzed church when the “Buona Sera”of Pope Francis somehow gave a hint of a new dawn – and a new life-line for a cooled down church.

What surprises, even what I am nauseated by is the abuse of the abuse for power gains in my church today. The inability of the Roman Catholic Church to rid itself from the daemon of child abuse is hard to swallow. The inability to confront patriarchy and to deal with power and sexuality and the slow awareness that prayer, fasting and apologies are not good enough anymore takes its toll, but the keen abuse of this process to attack a pope and to resist reform is breath-taking.
Without shame those who under JP II and Benedict XVI have attacked anybody who dared to speak out or dared to voice concern about papal statements now have no problem themselves to ride one attack after another against the current pope.

Faith and religion seems for them to be an end in itself instead of a way to assist in fostering a relationship between humans and the divine – faith as a fixed and unchangeable instead of a fluent and intimate relationship, which needs the community of saints and sinners rather as a conduit. Or even clearer spelled out: church as a play field for exercised power and might instead of serving the needs of those we call faithful.

I guess like the world in general is at the end of an old area walking with all the challenges and somehow blindsided into a new chapter of human development, so also churches and especially the oldest player in the Christian field can not escape this shaping in the coming of the new dawn and realization what it means to be human and what is needed to tackle the challenges lying in front of us. So maybe the abuse of the abuse can be turned into a blessing in seeing clearer the mistakes and failures of the past and allow for walking forward with renewed trust that our lives have a meaning and that faith and religion is here to assist, to help and to allow the promised freedom, the magnificent freedom we are promised in the scriptures, to live a life to the fullest. Looking at it in this manner can be a liberation in itself and a starting point for a renewed church where tender love, endless hope and trusted faith as well as equality and dignity of all are at the forefront of what we believe in.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Not boring at all…

Who would have thought half a year ago that being a Catholic can bring so much excitement and development. And this until now without any change in substance of teaching. Who would have thought that a man from South America, not known to the public, which really had to goggle the name when announced on that very day of his election in spring this year, could turn the world upside down for many Catholics. A little bit scary for those on the conservative side and creating a new feeling of belonging again for those called more liberal.
First talk about mercy before you even touch on rules – mirror the unconditional love of God – don’t judge – see the signs of the times – transform you sermons into practical work going to serve the poor, the underdogs, those at the margins of society.

A pope, who recognizes that he himself is not without flaw, a pope who knows that he is standing in a row with all of us struggling to do the right thing in life. A pope who is not shy to speak his mind. And don’t worry, I am sure he certainly knows what he wants and there is certainly a sense for power and responsibility given to him through his election. The  decision to laicize Fr. Greg Reynolds in Australia shows that not all is hanging in the air and all rules are put aside. But what I love is that there is suddenly a difficulty to be “conservative” and “progressive” – the labeling seems not to fit anymore and fresh air is blowing the windows of the church wide open. The spirit of the II Vatican Council seems to have come back after a long and cold phase of perceived absence. What is scary is that those, who in the times of Benedict XVI called for penalties for those criticizing the pope now claim to have a right to take offense on what he is doing and preaching. And obviously it is scary to see how many in higher positions have changed tune over night. But maybe it is the spirit calling…

But on the positive side: this change of attitude allows again to think within the church, to feel part of the church, to enjoy being a Catholic priest. And for the work in the fields of HIV and AIDS it certainly opens the way to think again how to bring sciences and faith more together as two aspects on the path towards understanding God’s ways. No, it is not boring in our church and it feels good to know, that our church is progressing as God’s people in this world, bringing the gospel of God’s unconditional love through deeds of mercy and compassion into the hearts and minds of people.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Pope Francis and his interview

Pope Francis met with media

Pope Francis met with media (Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales))

I am amazed to see how much is written and talked about the interview, Pope Francis gave on his way back to the journalists being able to ask all sorts of questions. There was nothing new under this sun – when it comes to substance – but there was something new in tone. First of all I have never heard a pope taking the word “gay” in his mouth – homosexual was the term normally being used by church officials. Secondly I have never seen a pope being able simply to answer all sorts of questions without council and preparation, without going through the questions especially when they are tricky.

And seeing the reaction world-wide – with all kinds of interpretation depending which camp ones belongs to – it shows only one thing: how much the good people of the church and outside the church have yearned for a trace of humanity, humility and down-to-earth in the reaction and answers of the supreme leader of the Roman-Catholic Church. One can actually hear the deep breath taken and the gasp of relief that church is touching ground again. That in itself is amazing and moving.
For me there is no doubt that this pope is not to be framed by labels like “conservative’ or “progressive” – he seems totally to be himself and enjoying what he is doing. And he seems to be able to listen – but I am also sure he can be very firm when once made a decision.
Does that mean more openness in the church and within the church? Does it mean substantial change?  I am not sure – seeing how a conservative John XXIII has triggered quite some development within the church I just want to wait and see and simply enjoy what I am seeing and hearing, even if I don’t agree with everything said. I just want to enjoy that people start talking again positively about church.

Who had thought two years ago that a pope resigns? Who would have predicted that a pope talks about “gay” priests without flushing or feeling insulted? Who would have predicted a pop asking youth do “mess” around? So, let’s not over interpret everything he is saying or doing, but enjoying the fresh air he brought to millions of believers and surely to every priest and religious who works hard to live his or her vocation every given day.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Farewell to Pope Benedict XVI

“Why did you write not about the resignation of the pope?” I was asked frequently  – you have a blog as a priest, they argue and it must be of concern for me what happens in the church on the top-level of hierarchy.

Well, the are right, it is of my interest and I follow the events unfolding very closely. But there is so much written about the pope and the resignation and the consequences for the church – and most of them are clever people; so what should I as a simple priest say to an event commented from almost all angels of life.

Well, for those who are interested:
I was not surprised, Benedict XVI had always his own mindset and he remained the theologian and professor and in my humble view never took over by heart all the demands and challenges of being a pope. This was and is not his world. Studies and books and deep thinking is different from ruling, being almost seen above human beings, having to deal with politics, human failures, ordinary administration work and demands from all sides.
I guess this is anyhow for an elderly person too much to carry in our days. So for me, he made the right decision to step down after realizing that he has not the energy to deal with it all. I take my hat off that he tried, but my feelings are somehow ambivalent. Can I take on a duty I know I cannot fill out completely? Yes, people grow with their “job description” and this applies also to a pope in a certain way. But I cannot judge it, that is between him and the Lord.

I was not surprised but I believe his eight years changed the papacy for ever. His interviews about the use of condoms, his “Regensburger” comments on Islam, his dealing with the Pius X Society and the Latin mass,  his resignation – it all changes history and if you hear some comments of bishops and cardinals after the announcement – there are suddenly some nuances in comments which are very surprising to me. It somehow seems that the church has woken up in the 21st century realizing that the train of time has gone with such a speed that it is time to catch up and face the challenges of this new era. But on the other side one sees people  in the hierarchy still believing that the train of time has to be reversed and send back to its origin. The church is somehow split by now – not only between those who are called “conservative” and “progressive” but also those who think “European” and those thinking “global”.

Disappointment on his stance regarding Africa and HIV / AIDS – yes, I have to admit there is a lot of it. But on the other hand: Did we really expect him to change the teaching which seems to be for him one of the pillars to fight relativism, his beloved subject. And anyhow: change does come from the Holy Spirit who is part of the church and the world and who is not confined to any single person. Change comes through each and every single calling in this world and we should never expect all answers from the person occupying the throne of Peter. The community of the bishops and within this as primus inter pares the Bishop of Rome and the sensus fidei  – there the future of the church is lying and the hope for a recovery from the crisis we are in.

I am sure he tried his very best – and I am also sure he is humble enough to know that there have been made mistakes. Contra all assurance from him I believe that he was a lonely man in the Vatican, trusting only a handful of people and therefore sometimes lacking the possibilities to see all sides of a subject he was considering and deciding. But that might be the case for all high-profile people giving up their freedom for a calling, a duty or even for more power.

The only thing I put a real question mark is the ordination of his secretary to become a bishop. He did that in the knowledge that he steps down and somehow it feels wrong to me. In a world, where favoritism and nepotism regarding those supporting one seems to be normal in politics and economics there shouldn’t be a taste of it in the Vatican. For me anyhow a bishop is for the people and I cannot see why there are so many bishops in Rome in administration. Cardinal is a title and not necessarily attached to someone being e a bishop. So for me, it empties generally the meaning of the word “bishop” somehow.

So what do I make of the time of Benedict XVI – it was on one hand a tough time for somebody believing that changes are necessary into the future and not into the past – but on the other hand God is writing nicely even on uneven lines – so I hope and pray that the next pope is fit mentally and physically to face the challenges of the time and to convert the papacy and the administration in a way fit for the next centuries to come, proclaiming the value of a human being and all creation and that all and everybody is loved unconditional by God. For Benedict XVI I hope for a peaceful life as he wishes to live now and enough time for his studies and music and whatever he likes to do in his retirement.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

07.01.11 How many more “official” clarifications…?

Corrections are always also a sign who holds the power and how institutions are structured. And it is amazing to see how often Vatican departments now have commented and somehow clarified (or corrected?) the statement of pope Benedict XVI.

Here the latest from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – what is of interest to me that I have not heard of any to be seriously taken commentator who mixes the protection of life with the question of “pro-creation”.  Let’s be honest: There is nothing really new in the example of the pope; moral theology came to the same conclusion a long time ago. What is new is the fact, that even ordinary Catholics or priests are now allowed to say it without being threatened by those who deal with moral teaching like dogmatic teachings. Or  accused by those, who are scared to speak their mind because then there is no further career or the position is threatened.

We as the church always stand for the unconditional love of God and the protection of life. There is  no other Christian way….

“Light of the World”.  Regarding certain readings of the text.

Following the publication of the interview-book Light of the World by Benedict XVI, a number of erroneous interpretations have emerged which have caused confusion concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding certain questions of sexual morality. The thought of the Pope has been repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words – a meaning which is evident to anyone who reads the entire chapters in which human sexuality is treated. The intention of the Holy Father is clear: to rediscover the beauty of the divine gift of human sexuality and, in this way, to avoid the cheapening of sexuality which is common today.

Some interpretations have presented the words of the Pope as a contradiction of the traditional moral teaching of the Church. This hypothesis has been welcomed by some as a positive change and lamented by others as a cause of concern – as if his statements represented a break with the doctrine concerning contraception and with the Church’s stance in the fight against AIDS. In reality, the words of the Pope – which specifically concern a gravely disordered type of human behaviour, namely prostitution (cf. Light of the World, pp. 117-119) – do not signify a change in Catholic moral teaching or in the pastoral practice of the Church.

As is clear from an attentive reading of the pages in question, the Holy Father was talking neither about conjugal morality nor about the moral norm concerning contraception. This norm belongs to the tradition of the Church and was summarized succinctly by Pope Paul VI in paragraph 14 of his Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, when he wrote that “also to be excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.” The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought. On this issue the Pope proposes instead – and also calls the pastors of the Church to propose more often and more effectively (cf. Light of the World, p. 147) – humanly and ethically acceptable ways of behaving which respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meaning of every conjugal act, through the possible use of natural family planning in view of responsible procreation.

On the pages in question, the Holy Father refers to the completely different case of prostitution, a type of behaviour which Christian morality has always considered gravely immoral (cf. Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 27; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2355). The response of the entire Christian tradition – and indeed not only of the Christian tradition – to the practice of prostitution can be summed up in the words of St. Paul: “Flee from fornication” (1 Cor 6:18). The practice of prostitution should be shunned, and it is the duty of the agencies of the Church, of civil society and of the State to do all they can to liberate those involved from this practice.

In this regard, it must be noted that the situation created by the spread of AIDS in many areas of the world has made the problem of prostitution even more serious. Those who know themselves to be infected with HIV and who therefore run the risk of infecting others, apart from committing a sin against the sixth commandment are also committing a sin against the fifth commandment – because they are consciously putting the lives of others at risk through behaviour which has repercussions on public health. In this situation, the Holy Father clearly affirms that the provision of condoms does not constitute “the real or moral solution” to the problem of AIDS and also that “the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality” in that it refuses to address the mistaken human behaviour which is the root cause of the spread of the virus. In this context, however, it cannot be denied that anyone who uses a condom in order to diminish the risk posed to another person is intending to reduce the evil connected with his or her immoral activity. In this sense the Holy Father points out that the use of a condom “with the intention of reducing the risk of infection, can be a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.” This affirmation is clearly compatible with the Holy Father’s previous statement that this is “not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.”

Some commentators have interpreted the words of Benedict XVI according to the so-called  theory of the “lesser evil”. This theory is, however, susceptible to proportionalistic misinterpretation (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis splendor, n. 75-77). An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed. The Holy Father did not say – as some people have claimed – that prostitution with the use of a condom can be chosen as a lesser evil. The Church teaches that prostitution is immoral and should be shunned. However, those involved in prostitution who are HIV positive and who seek to diminish the risk of contagion by the use of a condom may be taking the first step in respecting the life of another – even if the evil of prostitution remains in all its gravity. This understanding is in full conformity with the moral theological tradition of the Church.

In conclusion, in the battle against AIDS, the Catholic faithful and the agencies of the Catholic Church should be close to those affected, should care for the sick and should encourage all people to live abstinence before and fidelity within marriage. In this regard it is also important to condemn any behaviour which cheapens sexuality because, as the Pope says, such behaviour is the reason why so many people no longer see in sexuality an expression of their love: “This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also 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” (Light of the World, p. 119).

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , ,

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