Thursday, December 20, 2007

Whoa there!

Pius XII's case for beatification just hit a speed bump, courtesy of his current successor, Pope B16. Pius has been accused of being overly friendly with the Nazi government, having negotiated a concordat with it before becoming pope, and Jewish groups especially have protested his possible beatification. Quite wisely, the current pope is gathering a committee to do further research, according to Reuters.

The Pius XII controversy, however, indicates one of the problems with the current beatification process: Beatification/canonization has become some kind of stamp of approval--for a religious founder, a pope, what have you--instead of a reflection of actual devotion. JPII and Mother Teresa probably have legitimate causes, but Pius XII? Where are the faithful with a devotion to him? But I think some are pushing his beatification as a way to clear his name, which could be a disaster if it is ever discovered that he failed in some spectacular way during a critical time in history.

No matter what, you have to have compassion for the guy that was pope during those terrible years. But making him a saint is probably not the best strategy to show it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Compass review heads south

Caving to Bill Donohue's Catholic League, CNS has pulled the generally positive review its film reviewer gave The Golden Compass.

First Brokeback Mountain, now this. Glad I’m not reviewing movies for the USCCB! In both cases CNS reviewer Harry Forbes provided a thoughtful evaluation, commenting both on artistic/cinematic value and moral content. In both cases "someone" intervened to get the review pulled. You can find the story at the Baltimore Sun. Archbishop Edward O'Brien of that city expressed relief that the review had been taken down because it caused "confusion."

The review is still available for the time being at Catholic Online.

Funny clip from the “morally problematic” elements of the film, with which USCCB reviews always end: "The film contains intense but bloodless fantasy violence, anti-clerical subtext, standard genre occult elements, a character born out of wedlock and a whiskey-guzzling bear."

Since when is a “character born out of wedlock” morally objectionable? Though the whiskey-guzzling bear is enough to prevent me from seeing the film. Polar bears are suffering enough! As for the anti-clerical subtext, well . . .


Monday, December 10, 2007

Where angels fear to tread

With an election year nearly upon us, most commentators on things Catholic are focusing on politics and Catholic interactions with it, from abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage to health care and the war in Iraq. But there is an equally interesting debate going on right now, this one theological, about Catholicism and the significance of other world religions--and it can be just as bruising.

The latest casualty is Peter Phan, a Vietnamese American professor of theology at Georgetown, whose book Being Religious Interreligiously (Orbis) just got the doctrinal ding from the U.S. bishops' committee on doctrine. Outlined in a 15-page statement, the committee judged Phan's work deficient on three grounds: the uniqueness of Christ in the history of salvation, the place and purpose of other religions, and the uniqueness of the church as the "universal sacrament of salvation" for all people. Phan, a priest of Dallas, joins Jesuits Jacques Dupuis and Roger Haight on the list of Catholic theologians censured for being overly generous toward other religions.

What makes Phan's case interesting is that the US bishops are the ones dealing with it, rather than the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (We are still waiting to see if the CDF will weigh in.) Also of interest is the role that the August 2000 (and recently reaffirmed) CDF document Dominus Iesus is playing. Though issued "only" by the CDF, it is being relied upon to fill in the blanks left by Vatican II, which was silent on many of these interreligious questions--whether God wills other religions, for example. (Vatican II at least answered in the affirmative for Judaism.) But Dominus Iesus is still a document of the Curia--it's not even technically a "papal" document, though it does have Pope John Paul II's signature on it. It's a "declaration" of the CDF and doesn't quite carry the gravitas of a Vatican II document.

Still, it looks like trying to tackle the reality of religious pluralism is a recipe for rebuke. Too bad, too, since it's more necessary than ever.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I can't believe we're still doing this...

CNS coverage of the plenary indulgence for Lourdes, in case you want the plenary for the 150th anniversary of Mary's appearance at Lourdes. It’s ever so Catholic:

1. Option 1: Visit Lourdes any time between Dec 8 2007 and Dec 8 2008 (Immaculate Conception); visit the following four places, preferable “in order”: The parish where St. Bernadette was baptized; the Soubirous family home; the Massabielle grotto; the chapel where St. Bernadette received her first Communion. (Be sure and get the order down; the indulgence may not stick if you do it backward.) At each location the faithful should end their meditation by praying the Lord's Prayer, the creed and the special jubilee prayer or a prayer to Mary.

2. Option 2: Visit any public sanctuary, shrine or other worthy place dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes to receive the indulgence Feb. 2 (Feast of the Presentation) to Feb 11 (first apparition). Include prayers. There should be some communal service involved.

3. Option 3: Do it at home between Feb 2 and Feb 11. (!!) Presumably this is only for the sick and elderly who can’t make the trip. But it’s a nice touch.

At least Martin Luther can rest easy that the indulgence is not being sold. If they’d done it this way then, St. Peter’s never would have been built!

But I still can’t believe that we’re still talking about “temporal punishment due to sin.” (Incidentally, you can apply the plenary to the poor souls in purgatory.) Purgatory’s a nice idea and all—we’re always trying to make sure everyone gets a zillion chances at heaven—but sometimes I think we get too specific. I’m into Catholic exotica, but this stuff (private revelation) is all totally OPTIONAL after all (Lourdes at least, if not purgatory too).

But I guess it can’t hurt to run up to Leland and Ashland here in Chicago and grab the plenary--that's where the local Our Lady of Lourdes Parish can be found. Bases covered and all.

Of course, if the BVM appears to me, I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do…