Daily Archives: October 6, 2008

Pope Benedict cites Luther in Weekly Audience: "And thus we are saved"

Okay, here is one that everyone seems to have missed (or have I just not been listening?).

In his weekday audience continuing the catechesis on St Paul on 24th September 2008, Pope Benedict favourably cited none other than Martin Luther himself – with approval!

From this gift of Jesus himself, Paul draws the most engaging and fascinating expressions of our relationship with Christ: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5: 21); “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8: 9). Worth remembering is the comment Martin Luther made, then an Augustinian monk, on these paradoxical words of Paul: “This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners, wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ is not Christ’s but ours” (Comments on the Psalms of 1513-1515). And thus we are saved.

Could anyone ever have imagined such a thing in times past! Of course, the doctrine of the “great exchange” is one of the core components of Lutheran spirituality – one which I continue to hold to very strongly – but in this passage the Pope does what Cardinal Kasper urged only a few days earlier, namely to “get to know Luther better and not just interpret him from his polemical writings, still less from a few sentences taken out of context”.

In my Reading Paul class (starting again tonight at 6pm at Mary Glowry House, 132 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy – all welcome!), while studying precisely the passage from Galatians 3 in which Paul says that Christ became a curse for us, I explained precisely this doctrine of “the great exchange” to the class, saying that in this Luther was certainly right.

But there is even more in this passage which the Pope cites than meets the eye – on the one hand it is a confession that our righteousness is not ours but Christ, yet (in Luther’s wonderful way of phrasing paradoxes) the righteousness of Christ indeed becomes ours.

Some time ago there was a rumour that the Pope would move to recind the excommunication of Martin Luther. As I said in the combox to the entry on Kasper’s recent comments, the excommunication of Luther ended with his death. But far more striking and significant than any symbolic recinding of a defunct excommunication is the way in which this Pope does not hesitate to quote the insights of the world’s most famous Augustinian with approval when he said or wrote things from which Catholic spirituality might also benefit.


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The Bible Day and Night: A Marathon Reading begun by the Pope…

Well, now, here’s an idea: a marathon reading of the Holy Scriptures from beginning to end.

Zenit reports:

Benedict XVI kicked off a Bible-reading marathon on Italian television, which he called a “fitting accompaniment” to the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God.

The Pope read from Genesis on “Bibbia Giorno e Notte” (Bible Day and Night), a program broadcast by RAI where the Bible will be read from beginning to end in various languages by nearly 1,200 readers.

The Pontiff’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will conclude the marathon Saturday, reading the last chapter of Revelation.

There is a website you can consult – in Italian – but here is the translation of the page by Google:

Sunday Oct. 5 to Saturday 11 October, the Basilica of Santa Croce in Rome Jerusalem to be the scene of an extraordinary event: the reading of the Bible, Old and New Testament, for seven days and six nights without interruption and comments.

Starting from an original initiative of a group of friends from Limoges lovers of the Bible, the initiative then repeated in other French cities and Mantua, Giuseppe De Carli and Elena Balestri have revisited the idea for Rai Vatican, creating a project that has found full and immediate membership from Fabrizio Del Noce on Rai Uno and Giovanni Minoli for Rai Educational.

The Bible is the book of the Word of continuous dialogue between God and man.

A confidential report that today seems to have lost: the clang of our world is no more place for listening and dialogue. From these considerations was born “The Bible day and night” to find the conditions of listening and thinking through reading the book par excellence, paradoxically so absent today and forgotten in our country.

Beyond the religious beliefs of each, the Bible is the reading that binds us together and in which we find a part of our cultural roots and the humanities.

To read the biblical passages will take turns over 1200 people of all age, social class and religion. But even non-believers may participate. The only condition is respect for the word.

This event was possible thanks to the participation convinced the Holy See, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Vicariate of Rome, the Holy Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Exarchate for Southern Europe, the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy the Bible Society in Italy. Assumes special significance for membership, the Jewish Bible, some members of Italian Jewish Communities, which will participate in the reading from a different place.

How important are the signers of large institutional starting with the City of Rome, the Lazio Region, the Province of Rome, the Ministry for Arts and Cultural Activities, the Ministry of Education, University and Scientific Research.

You can even watch it live, by clicking on the top right hand red button.

Maybe this could be a new devotion in the Church, akin to the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Maybe the two could be married into one event? How’s that for an idea? Any takers?

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When human beings take judgement into their own hands…

I have just been re-reading this passage from Spe Salvi in which Pope Benedict writes:

42. In the modern era, the idea of the Last Judgement has faded into the background: Christian faith has been individualized and primarily oriented towards the salvation of the believer’s own soul, while reflection on world history is largely dominated by the idea of progress. The fundamental content of awaiting a final Judgement, however, has not disappeared: it has simply taken on a totally different form. The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is—in its origins and aims—a type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history. A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God. It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested. Since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. If in the face of this world’s suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope. No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering. No one and nothing can guarantee that the cynicism of power—whatever beguiling ideological mask it adopts—will cease to dominate the world.

He then goes on to cite two philosophers, of the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. He could have added a contemporary English philosopher, John Gray.

This morning I listened to these two podcasts from the ABC’s Philosopher’s Zone, in which Alan Saunders interviews Gray about his books “Straw Dogs: thoughts on humans and other animals” (Part One) and “Black Mass: apocalyptic religion and the death of Utopia” (Part Two).

Philosophers Zone 28 June 2008 – John Gray at the Writers’ Festival – Part 1
Philosophers Zone 5 July 2008 – John Gray at the Writers’ Festival – Part 2

Gray’s theses in “Black Mass” line up surprisingly well with Pope Benedict’s idea about what happens when human beings decide to take God’s justice into their own hands.

What was new in the late 18th century was the idea that a society [which] may not be perfect but better than any that had hitherto existed, could be created by human effort, human will… from the Jacobins onwards you get the idea that humans can do this by themselves [ie. create Utopia], using often rather terrible means, because in the millenarium we’re thinking the best society, the good society, is preceded by terrible catastrophes, terrible conflicts, terrible cataclysms. This was carried on into secular thought. The Jacobins thought that terror could be pedagogic, people could be taught through being terrorised. And Lenin, who criticised the Jacobins and later on the French Communars on the ground that they were too weak-kneed, they weren’t consistent enough, didn’t kill enough people, also thought this, he thought terror was absolutely essential…

But the idea that terror can be used as part of an armoury of human instruments to produce an incomparably better society, has been adopted not just by Lenin, but by Mao and a whole variety of 20th century totalitarian dictators. What it always produces is an immense loss of life and incalculable numbers of broken lives which don’t end but are broken beyond repair by imprisonment, ill-health, separation from loved ones, and so on and so forth. It never produces the results that it’s intended to produce.

The old slogan, ‘You can’t have an omelette without breaking eggs’ misses out the fact that you can break millions of eggs and still not have a single omelette. And that’s in a way the history of the 20th century so that adamantly and categorically opposed to that kind of revolutionary Utopianism. But I take it as also though, as a secular translation of certain traditions. There are other traditions within Christianity which of course are opposed to this, the traditions of St Augustine of course right from the start in a way almost to start tried to defeat these apocalyptic trends or neutralise them in Christianity. But it’s a secular continuation.

In the course of this program, Gray makes the best case I have ever yet heard for why the US invasion of Iraq was wrong. And he seems to imply what Papa Benny was saying, that the Church, by insisting that “Justice” and “the Kingdom of God” can only come about through God’s own intervention and not by human force, actually protects society from the misplaced ambition of secular states to act as the final arbiter of justice.

You might also appreciate the position (atheistic) that Gray takes in the first part of the interview against the evangelical atheists such as Dawkins on the distinction between human and animal.

I understand and respect the beliefs of Christians and others who think that we’re categorically different because they believe that God has implanted souls in us, but not in other animals. I understand, I respect that. I have less respect and less understanding, well less respect and more understanding actually, of the beliefs of secular humanists who say ‘We’re radically different.’ Professor Dawkins who says ‘Humans alone can choose to defy the imperatives of their genes.’ Well where does this reading come from? Has this come from science, has it come from and is explained in Darwin if we have this feeling? Where has it come from? I don’t understand that at all, it doesn’t seem to me to be coherent if you think that humans belong with all other animals. So that’s one very powerful idea I got from Schopenhauer.

Very interesting.

Maybe John Gray might be a philosopher who is worth reading, even if he is not (in PE’s judgement concerning Neitzsche) the “only philosopher worth reading”.


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Archbishop Hart’s finest hour!

Whatever way the vote on the Abortion Law Reform Bill goes on Tuesday, when Archbishop Hart comes to looking back on his time of service as the pastor of the Catholic Church in Melbourne, he will be justified in regarding his stand against this bill as one of his most courageous actions. In his quiet but firm manner – he absolutely eschews any hint of political activism or roudiness – he has clearly stated the demands of justice and human dignity and called his people and indeed all Christian people and people of goodwill to prayer that this bill be defeated.

Yesterday, some 2500 people – Catholics mostly, but many others (I was in a pew entirely filled with Lutherans) – gathered together with Archbishop Hart, the auxiliary bishops of Melbourne, and Christian ministers of other denominations (see photo below) to lift their voices in prayer to our heavenly “Advocate”, the Holy Spirit (the Gospel for the day was John 14).

(Archbishop Hart leads yesterday’s Hour of Prayer – the ecumenical guests may be glimpsed seated behind the auxiliary bishops).

This event had a powerful effect on all who attended. When before has the Church ever gathered together like this in reaction to a law that had been proposed and passed by the Lower Chamber of our House of Parliament? What representative of the people in their wildest dreams would consider pushing through a bill about which members in the community held such deep reservations?

But if God was listening (and we are confident that he was), the media seemed rather more cool. While mentioned on the commercial TV news programs last night, the ABC carried not a mention of it. Again, a small mention at the end of an article in the Herald, and just this one sentence on the very bottom of a much longer article (admittedly front page) in The Age:

Earlier, 2500 packed St Patrick’s Cathedral for a service, led by Archbishop Denis Hart, urging the bill’s defeat.

The populist political rabble rouser in me is, admittedly, disappointed, but I think perhaps Archbishop Denis would be happy. He didn’t call us together yesterday to make a political point, but to plead our cause at the bench of a much, much more powerful tribunal than that of the Victorian Parliament.

(Archbishop Hart with the ministers of other Christian communities present at the Hour of Prayer. From Left to Right: Rev. Dr. Max Champion (Chairperson of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church of Australia), Rev. Dr. Ross Carter (Uniting Church), Rev. David Palmer (David Palmer is the Convener of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria Church and Nation Committee), Rev. Fr. James Grant (Anglican Church), Rev. John Hudson. Rev. Greg Pietsch, of the Lutheran Church, was unable to be present due to another event, but was represented by Marlene Pietsch)


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What does a REAL Catholic believe?

You don’t have to wonder any more, for now there is this: RealCatholicTV.com

From what I gather they’re not going into competition with EWTN, but are only a web presence. Take a look. Sign up for the free access. You might find it interesting. There is a nice little piece by Bishop Vasa, whom (as I have mentioned) I met at World Youth Day

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