Denver, Colo., Apr 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The biggest threat to priests is the temptation to be more immersed in the world than the Gospel, says Pope Francis in his newly translated book.
“For then-Cardinal Bergoglio, narcissism and worldliness are completely self-defeating to the purpose of why a priest becomes a priest,” the book's translator, Alejandro Bermudez, told CNA April 23.
“It's a total rejection of the reason why he decided to become a priest, and therefore these are some of the most destructive and damaging problems in priestly formation.”
The new book, “On Heaven and Earth,” is a conversation between Pope Francis and Abraham Skorka, a rabbi and scholar from Buenos Aires. It was originally published in Spanish in 2010, when the Pope was still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The book covers numerous topics touching on priesthood in today's world, including vocation, celibacy and the sex abuse crisis.
Bermudez, who is executive director of Catholic News Agency, said that though Pope Francis warns against worldliness in all Christians, “he makes a much more important point regarding the priests, because they have the duty to lead the Catholic community, and lead it in a completely selfless manner.”
“One might think that having a woman on the side is being worldly, but that is only one of the double lives that are usually mentioned,” Pope Francis said in the book. “There are those that seek to compromise their faith for political alliances or for a worldly spirituality.”
Pope Francis noted the 20th century theologian Henri de Lubac's comment that to be worldly is “the worst that can happen” to a priest. “If this were to happen throughout the Church, the situation would be much worse than those embarrassing periods with libertine pastors,” he said.
“Worldliness and the narcissism can become not only an attitude of individuals but of the whole community, and therefore you can have the whole leadership of Catholics – bishops, priests and lay leaders – involved,” said Bermudez.
This would “basically turn the Church into a narcissistic worldly operation, and it would be completely neutralized of any capacity to transform persons and the world,” he explained.
In “On Heaven and Earth,” Pope Francis discusses priestly celibacy with such phrases as “for now” and “for the time being.” This has led some to speculate that he will bring to an end to the Latin Church's tradition of unmarried priests.
However, Bermudez asserted that Pope Francis will do “absolutely nothing” to change the rules on married priests.
“That doesn't mean at all that he is soft on this, or even contemplating the possibility of not continuing the tradition of priestly celibacy,” the translator said. “The book in itself, his pastoral practice and his homilies all speak to the great appreciation he has of priestly celibacy.”
Pope Francis also said that “we can rule out that celibacy carries pedophilia as a consequence.” He noted that most sex abuse occurs in families and neighborhoods by those who have not taken a vow of celibacy.
“Now, when this happens, you can never turn a blind eye. You cannot be in a position of power and destroy the life of another person,” the Pontiff stressed.
“I do not believe in the positions that some hold about sustaining a certain corporate spirit so as to avoid damaging the image of the institution … Recently, in Ireland they uncovered cases that occurred for twenty years, and the current pope (at the time Benedict) clearly said: 'Zero tolerance with this crime.' I admire the courage and the straightforwardness of Benedict XVI on this point.”
Since his election as Bishop of Rome, Francis has reaffirmed the Vatican process established by Benedict for handling instances of sexual abuse by priests.
St. Paul, Minn., Apr 27, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The American Chesterton Society's thrilling experience of being in Rome during Pope Francis' election has led the group's leader to reflect on the connections between the Pope, G.K. Chesterton and St. Francis.
Pope Francis has “that Franciscan humility and he’s not afraid to do things that the world may consider foolish,” president Dale Ahlquist told CNA April 24.
“Even certain people in the Church are surprised by the things he's doing,” he added, citing Pope Francis’ washing the feet of prisoners and his decision not to move into the papal apartments.
Ahlquist said this similarity between Pope Francis and St. Francis is clear in Chesterton's biography of the saint, which presents him as “someone willing to be a fool for Christ, but also willing to be a mirror of Christ.”
He said he sees this characteristic “absolutely” reflected in the first month of Pope Francis’ papacy.
Ahlquist noted that he considers Chesterton “one of the great English writers of the 20th century” who was “very prolific and very profound.”
“He was an important Catholic convert who turned a lot of heads, being a major literary figure who converted to the Catholic faith.”
“I think his importance is as a defender of the faith and as someone who articulates traditional values in a very witty, and certainly appealing way,” Ahlquist said. “There’s something about Chesterton that just draws in his own enemies.”
Ahlquist recalled that he knew immediately that Pope Francis was “a Chestertonian Pope,” a reaction later supported by Pope Francis’ history.
As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was a member of an honorary committee of a conference for the Argentine Chesterton Society and celebrated a Mass for the conference. He owns several books by Chesterton.
Pope Francis’ March 13 election to the papacy coincided with the beginning of the American Chesterton Society’s March 13-23 pilgrimage to Rome. They followed in the footsteps of G.K. Chesterton, who made a three-month visit to Italy in 1929 for the beatification of the English Martyrs.
About 70 students and society members made the trip, which included an international conference with the Italian Chesterton Society.
“We had planned the conference and the pilgrimage for months ahead of time. It just so happened that we landed in Rome right in the midst of the new Pope,” Ahlquist said. “Everyone was thrilled.”
Students from Chesterton Academy, a private Catholic high school near Minneapolis and St. Paul, had a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” attending the new Pope’s installation Mass.
“They got to see the Pope from just a few feet away. They were absolutely thrilled,” said Ahlquist, a co-founder of the academy.
One girl said being in Rome was “the first time she had really internalized her faith...Coming to Rome was like coming home, but it also brought the faith itself home to them,” Ahlquist said of the students.
The International Chesterton Conference March 16 hosted about 150 people, mostly Italian. It focused on Chesterton’s writings on Rome and Italy as well as his past and present influence in the country, where there is “growing enthusiasm” for the writer.
Ahlquist suggested that this interest is rooted in the same features of Chesterton that have helped revive interest in the U.S., such as his “prophetic qualities”
“He seems to be describing exactly the problems that our modern society is going through, with a greater accuracy than some of the present commentators are,” Ahlquist said
He said Chesterton was a critic of “the attack on the family” and the “runaway big business and big government oppression of the common man.”
Chesterton also created “surprising interest” in the Catholic faith in “a world that is always ready to dismiss it.”
Washington D.C., Apr 27, 2013 (CNA) -
A survey commissioned by the U.S. bishops finds that almost 80 percent of Catholics support legal changes that allow immigrants to gain “earned citizenship” through meeting certain requirements.
“It is clear that Catholics understand the importance of this issue,” Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, said April 19 in response to the poll.
“As an immigrant church, Catholics from all walks of life understand the migration experience and accept the Gospel’s call to welcome the stranger.”
The survey, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs, found that 77 percent of U.S. Catholics support citizenship for immigrants who fulfill requirements like registration, paying a fine, paying taxes, and taking English classes.
Eighty-four percent of respondents agree that requiring immigrants to register with the government in order to remain in the country would improve national security.
Another 75 percent of respondents said immigration law enforcement should be focused on “humane values” that deport violent criminals but “finds ways to work with people who have come to find a better life.”
Most respondents said that border security and humane treatment of illegal immigrants are compatible and most agree that the Church has an obligation to help those in need, even if they are illegal residents. Additionally, most believe that immigrants are good for the economy, and most thought that enforcement-only policy focused on deportations is bad for family unity.
Sixty percent of Catholics who attend Mass weekly or more said that the immigration issue is very important to them.
The Catholic bishops have endorsed changes to immigration law, such as allowing an expansive “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants and expanding legal migration for low-skilled migrant workers.
Archbishop Gomez encouraged Catholics to ask their legislators to support “humane” immigration reform, saying this would “help our brothers and sisters come out of the shadows and become full members of our communities.”