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Church blame in the frame


Big Picture film festival flyerLast night I attended the opening night of the Big Picture Film Festival in Sydney. The festival is the brainchild of the Reverend Bill Crews who sees a place for film enhancing the community's commitment to social justice.

On the very eve of Pope Benedict's last day in office, the program included the Australian premiere of the American documentary about clerical sexual abuse Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa followed by a panel discussion with Tom Keneally, Geraldine Doogue and myself. It was a very confronting and draining night, particularly for me, the one Catholic priest in the audience.

Crews introduced the festival declaring that the common theme of all films chosen for the week was 'Hope'. For the next 90 minutes the audience took in the relentless and overwhelming portrayal of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church presented by producer Alex Gibney, focusing on the horrendous case of Fr Lawrence Murphy, who abused up to 200 children at a school for the deaf in Milwaukee.

Gibney then moves the camera to Ireland before returning to Boston and then zeroing in on the Vatican with with horrific case of Fr Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ.

At the end of such a cascade of abuse and cover up, what could one usefully say? We panellists identified four reservoirs of hope in the midst of all this putrid activity.

First was the dignity and persistence of the four deaf victims who persevered against the odds in outing Fr Murphy. They sought justice, compassion, transparency and safety for children in the future.

Second was the one priest who visited the home for the deaf decades ago, heard the children, and tried to blow the whistle on Fr Murphy.

Third was the realisation that everyone in the cinema had a heightened awareness of child sexual abuse. A generation ago, the community lack of awareness allowed abuse and cover ups to continue.

Fourth was the understanding that we are individuals with a plurality of associations. Some of us are members of a hierarchical, undemocratic Church, but at the same time we are members of a robust pluralist democratic society and citizens of a State which is founded on the rule of law.

We Australian Catholics know that our Church needs help from the State to ensure that the processes and structures are in place to arrest the incidence of child sexual abuse within our Church.

Moving from the screen to the Australian reality, the recent Whitlam Report into the case of Fr F and his two identified victims provides pointers for the work ahead for the Royal Commission.

In the movie, the Milwaukee police turned the victims away; the District Attorney's Office turned them away. That would be unlikely to happen today. In the case of Fr F, retired Justice Whitlam found the bishop of the day derelict in his pastoral duties. He also found that the magistrate was reckless, the prosecuting authorities too laidback, the police dilatory and the consulting psychologist out of his depth.

In the movie, the viewer is left uneasy and even outraged about the role of Church leaders all the way to the top when it comes to the case of Fr Maciel. It appears that even Pope John Paul II was at least negligent in failing to pursue the many allegations about Maciel. On the death of John Paul, the Vatican immediately ramped up the inquiries into Maciel. While Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, knew the problem, John Paul looked away.

Just a week ago, Geraldine Doogue and I appeared on a TV program with Archibishop Mark Coleridge who made the point that he was working closely with John Paul at the time the Maciel allegations first came to light and that it was clear that there was abuse to be investigated but that the Pope had thought the allegations simply reminiscent of the Communist smear campaigns he had experienced in Poland.

While the world waits for the election of the new pope to put the Church in order complying with the requirements of justice, compassion, transparency and safety for children, some of our most informed bishops like Coleridge and Cardinal Pell have belled the cat and told the media that government and governance of the Church have been wanting during the papacy of Benedict.

The temptation is to see notions such as justice, compassion and transparency as the preserve or obsessive concern of western liberals who don't go to Church anyway. These notions are much more universal than that; they are the contemporary, institutional rendition of gospel values.

The unaccountable hiddenness of Vatican clericalism has reached its use-by date. The God of the scriptures looks first to those deaf victims and decries the silence in the house of God.

Lets hope the Royal Commission can help us hear the voices that need to be heard for the good of us all, and for the good of the Church. And let's hope our cardinals elect someone who can insist on justice, compassion, transparency and due process within his own Curia.

Meanwhile we would all be well advised to take more seriously the notions of good and evil, grace and sin, repentance and forgiveness, individual complicity and sinful structures. Whatever our language or theological matrix, we need to own collectively what we could have prevented institutionally. We have a responsibility to call everyone including the pope to account, and not just after they resign. 

Frank Brennan headshotFr Frank Brennan SJ is professor of law, director of strategic research projects (social justice and ethics), Australian Catholic University, adjunct professor at the College of Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University. 

Topic tags: Frank Brennan, Big Picture Film Festival, Royal Commission, clergy sex abuse



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Existing comments

I cannot agree with Cardinal Pell's statement that child abuse is not the Church's biggest problem. Unbelief does not leave a trail of victims to match what these priests have done.

grebo | 28 February 2013  

"we would all be well advised to take more seriously the notions of good and evil, grace and sin, repentance and forgiveness, individual complicity and sinful structures" is the legitimate and to-the-end-of-all-time mission of every human being, but how can this be even discussed in the present climate where religion is not acknowledged for the good it has contributed to the march of human nature through the millenia. It might be necessary to point out the failures of clericalism - which is really an obscure term which could really be a "burning of the priests" cry, but nihilism also needs to be held to account.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew | 28 February 2013  

What a concise summary of what is the problem with the Church's response, over the years, to the abuse issue. The influence of clericalism is, unfortunately, still felt in the Church today. If we are truly Starting Afresh from Christ then hopefully some of the outdated, imperialistic and monarchical practices of the Church in Rome and at home might be changed. Hopefully, we will constantly ask ourselves how would Jesus have acted.

Robert | 28 February 2013  

With the utmost respect Frank, did you consider the ages, backgrounds & political inclinations of the most recently appointed cardinals? "Our Cardinals"? John Paul & Benedict have seen to it that real "REFORM" for the People of God is NOT possible for future generations. The word is FARCICAL!!!!

Andrew | 28 February 2013  

When you say that 'John Paul II was at least negligent in failing to pursue the many allegations about Maciel' don't you mean 'the Blessed John Paul II'? And is it not odd that ex-pope Benedict XVI, knowing the problem, and that 'John Paul looked away' should nevertheless have proceeded at breakneck speed to beatify the same?

Denis Minns | 28 February 2013  

"Meanwhile we would all be well advised to take more seriously the notions of good and evil, grace and sin, repentance and forgiveness, individual complicity and sinful structures. Whatever our language or theological matrix, we need to own collectively what we could have prevented institutionally. We have a responsibility to call everyone including the pope to account, and not just after they resign." These words are just too "nice", Father Frank. Whatever happened to "crime" and "punishment"?

Frank Golding | 28 February 2013  

'We have a responsibility to call everyone including the pope to account, and not just after they resign'. The problem, Frank, is that there is no way in which 'we' can bring them to account if 'they' chose not to answer the call, and it is highly unlikely that such a way will ever be found in 'an hierarchical, undemocratic Church'.

Ginger Meggs | 28 February 2013  

Current attitudes towards honesty and clarity make the secrecy of the Church in past decades look very bad. And it was. But it should be acknowledged that it was the custom of the time for all kinds of organisations to hide information that might damage their reputations. Individuals who dared to speak out were regarded as traitors and usually penalised severely. Thankfully there has been a widespread movement towards greater honesty and frankness in more recent years, but before making harsh judgements of past secrecy we should take the then surrounding circumstances and attitudes into account.

Bob Corcoran | 28 February 2013  

Ginger Meggs makes a necessary comment. In order to be able to enact the responsibility Father Frank accepts on our behalf in his last sentence, the Pope and Curia, the cardinals and bishops, and heads of religious institutes have to recognise us lay people as intelligent adult members of the Church. Apart from the brief open window of Vatican II, the role of the lay Catholic has always been to listen, believe and obey in matters of faith and morals. While our activity is encouraged in the excellent Church programs of education, care for the sick and the aged, and assistance for the poor, we are positively discouraged from critical analysis of Catholic Church teaching of faith and morals. No wonder people are leaving the Church in droves throughout the developed world. A basic tenet of education in Europe, North America and Australasia is development of independent thought, which necessitates critical analysis of what we are taught. Meanwhile, the hierarchy are struggling with how to come to terms with modernity, let alone Modernism. The Catholic Church needs a process in which lay people at the parish level are actively engaged in learning how to integrate what the Church teaches into our modern minds which are so well provided with the natural sciences, human sciences and awareness of religions and cultures different from our own.

Ian Fraser | 28 February 2013  

As always there are many people so ready to criticise the Catholic Church for the terrible wrongs of people who do evil and call themselves "Catholic" at the same time. The blame can be attributed to the so-called laity, clergy right up to the Popes of the New Theology. But the Catholic Church is sinless as was Her founder, Jesus Christ. Too many people are ready to blame the Church instead of those that preach another Gospel, calling themselves Catholic when they have already excommunicated themselves from the Truth of the Catholic Church and are keen to set up a One World Church based on Man's Law instead of God's Law. How can anyone depend on the State to help the Church when the State is complicit in making laws that go against Our Lord's Church. The legalisation of the State allowing abortion, contraception, IVF, divorce etc as well as not censoring the behaviour of sinners, who show all the traits of those whom Jesus condemned, that are constantly shown in movies, television, print media and radio, which encourages so much the most undesirable traits of human behaviour. We need a True Catholic Pope who is holy and wise who can stand up against the corruption of the modern world and the souls of every individual person whom Our Lord spilled all of His Precious Blood to redeem each and every soul from their sins, if only they would repent of their evil sinful ways. It is not easy to see the Light when the State allows such evil abominations to happen under the cover of (Man's) Law.

Trent | 28 February 2013  

If a commercial organisation had continued to a attempt to trade with the background of misdeeds now evident in the church they would have been forced out of business.If the Australian church is to be saved in a form younger people will embrace Australian Bishops have to face up to the task ahead with a stronger sense of purpose than has been evident in recent times.

Brian | 28 February 2013  

"The God of the scriptures looks first to those deaf victims and decries the silence in the house of God." It's been a momentous week for Catholics everywhere, and for the Church as a whole. The Church must now reflect deeply on the paradoxes of our faith. Perhaps this is also a time to reflect on Shakespeare's sublime words of Sonnet 34 and in particular: "The offender's sorrow lends but weak relief/To him that bears the strong offence's cross/Ah! but those tears are pearl, which they love sheds,/And they are rich, and ransom all ill deeds." Thanks for your writing this week Frank.

Pam | 28 February 2013  

'We have a responsibility to call everyone including the Pope to account and not just after they resign.' History shows that working within church structures to call leaders to account is a fruitless endeavor. Victims of abuse and their supporters have had to turn to the secular media and parliamentarians to raise their concerns and put pressure on the Church. Only when faced with the inevitable have our leaders 'welcomed'the current enquiries. With sexual abuse the critical issue in the Church today, we have a flawed conclave with cardinals, known for their lack of compassion and failure to act against abusers, able to vote. Cardinal Mahony will be there supported by most cardinals despite a petition of 10 000 against his attendance. Thanks Frank for drawing our attention to this devastating film and for your courage for taking part in the forum. There is a link to the film on Catholica. As a recently retired head of a large US Catholic publishing company wrote after viewing the film, 'Holy **!!*! I didn't think I could be shocked by this any more. I agree.

Garry Eastman | 28 February 2013  

The Church has huge problems which it has brought onto itself. The bishops are slow to realise this fully, and whether those gathering in Rome are up to the challenge is questionable, largely because they have been chosen specifically to hold the conservative line, and keep their heads collectively in the sand. There has been a failure of the last 3 papacies to take to heart or mind the basic call of Vatican 2 to be in dialogue with the best in the world, and to learn from its insights, as well as to try and evangelise this world and offer it humbly what it has received from Jesus Christ and the holy spirit. Instead the church has been fearful and through fear it has been repressive, more so internally than externally, but by being so it has lost a great deal of its credibility.

Eugene | 28 February 2013  

A good first step would be to open the 'selection process' to allow a broader spectrum of the faithful (not just clergy) to participate in the selection of bishops, including the bishop of Rome. As a start, how about the heads of religeous orders participating in conclaves, and synods such as the Anglicans use for the nomination of bishops? How else will we reincarnate Hercules, and his cleaning of the stables? We need not a breath of fresh air in the Vatican, but a gale. Change used to come slowly to the church, but that is no longer acceptable. The curia, and the bishops, have forfeited their claims to govern absolutely - they have betrayed the people they are meant to serve.

EdC | 28 February 2013  

Frank, you say: "Coleridge and Cardinal Pell have belled the cat and told the media that government and governance of the Church have been wanting during the papacy of Benedict". That seems a very kind interpretation of their comments to say the least; I've seen absolutely no indication from either bishop of their thoughts on the areas of governance requiring reform. I'd be grateful to learn of any admission from anyone in authority in the Church apart from the late Cardinal Martini SJ that, in his words, “The church must recognize its errors and follow a radical path of change, beginning with the pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals compel us to take up a path of conversion” and “The church is 200 years behind the times.“ A radical path of governance reform would include accountability based on transparency, collegiality, subsidiarity, and collaboration with the the people of the Church. One essential beginning is the removal of gender discrimination and the introduction of gender balance in the highest decision making forums of the Church, requiring the ordination of women and their accelerated promotion through the hierarchy.

Peter Johnstone | 28 February 2013  

I regard Frank Brennan as one of the few remaining clerics in the Catholic Church who truly understands what Jesus was asking of his followers.

Wayne McMillan | 28 February 2013  

Fr Frank, thank God that we have people such as you in the Church who have the courage to identify that we have sinful structures and to describe what the rest of the world knows so well: "The unaccountable hiddenness of Vatican clericalism has reached its use-by date." It is actually so far past the use-by date as to be ransid. The Church which seeks to follow The Way of Jesus needs to practice his messages. Our hierarchy need to both repent and reform.

Peter | 28 February 2013  

The cardinals elect one from there own. If this practice began with priests from each diocese electing one from among them, and the bishops electing cardinals from among their number we would slowly reform the church. It would truly be catholic because bishops would be elected from all sorts of charisma. The laity need to demand the reservation of a portion of the Thanksgiving fund to fund the needs of the laity. i.e. deputations to Rome.

Anne Schmid | 28 February 2013  

Fr.Brennan's analysis of our present day Catholic stormy waters and his thoughts regarding the future give some solid compass points for the hope so many of us hold for better Catholic days ahead. What bothers me about our concerns for obvious renewal needs within the 'past their use-by dates' aspects of the hierarchical short falls is that the rot is not only in the upper echelons of ecclesial governance but alive within our local(national) Church. There has been a sad lack of support for a few of our bishops who in recent years have courageously spoken out about the need for change and fresh outlooks but have faced not only the lack of support from their brother bishops but have been somewhat sent to Coventry within the hierarchical culture. Surely, we haven't become that un-Australian in the Roman Church that sticking up for your mates doesn't seem to matter any more. Maybe, I've got it wrong - these game bishops were wrong, disloyal or whatever and were not worth defending.

Paul Goodland | 28 February 2013  

Trent, it is not the Catholic Church which is being lambasted but the hierarchy, and very properly so. To describe Holy Mother Church as "sinless" ; perhaps you have another Mother in mind. I'm grateful for the Italian wag who commented thus: La Chiesa e una puttana, mai sempre nostra madre.

JR | 28 February 2013  

Trent, your 'sinless Church', like the 'Anzac tradition', is at best an intellectual concept, and more likely a idealistic myth fabricated and exploited for an earthly purpose. The church that we know is the material manifestation, warts and all. It's the popes, past and present, it's the clergy and religious, it's the people in the pews, it's the good and bad that it does and the good and bad that it ignores. And that is the church that, like all other human organisations, must to be called, and held, to account.

Ginger Meggs | 01 March 2013  

In the morning of that day on June 25, the authority informed the nursing staff taking care of Bishop Jia at the local hospital that a car was being sent to take the bishop home to Wu Qiu ??. In fact, the Chinese authority was forcing the bishop out of the hospital before the completion of his medical care. By noon, when his faithful still did not see him coming back, they began to inquire to the religious bureau about the reason for the delay. The religious bureau told them that the bishop was being sent for "education" for several days. The faithful had thought that the delay was due to the arrival of the Vatican delegation in Beijing because the authority has had a policy of taking the bishop away when there have been important people in town. If so, and inasmuch as the Vatican delegation has left China, Bishop Jia should have been released in consideration of his bad health. He is still in detention and his whereabouts are unknown. Bishop Jia is 72 years old and was ordained a bishop in 1980. He was previously in jail for approximately 20 years and has been under strict surveillance for many years. He takes care of approximately 100 handicapped orphans in his house. As far as we know, this is the ninth time that he has been arrested since January 2004. Joseph Kung, the President of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, said: "To kick a person out of a hospital and send him away for detention with his catheter still in place and without adequate medical care is obviously naked evidence of total violation of human rights in China.

Father John George | 01 March 2013  

Ahh, so that's why George Pell intervened to sort out St John's College in Sydney; it was so he could put it on his C.V. in his job application to be pope!!!

Bruce S | 01 March 2013  

Nel riferire l'incontro di Benedetto XVI con i cardinali nel quinto anniversario della sua elezione, "L'Osservatore Romano" ha scritto che "il pontefice ha accennato ai peccati della Chiesa, ricordando che essa, ferita e peccatrice, sperimenta ancor più le consolazioni di Dio". Ma c'è da dubitare che Benedetto XVI si sia espresso esattamente così. La formula "Chiesa peccatrice" non è mai stata sua. E l'ha sempre ritenuta sbagliata. Per citare solo un esempio tra tanti, nell'omelia dell'Epifania del 2008 egli definì la Chiesa in tutt'altro modo: "santa e composta di peccatori". E l'ha sempre definita in quest'altro modo a ragion veduta. Al termine degli esercizi di Quaresima del 2007 Benedetto XVI ringraziò il predicatore – che quell'anno era il cardinale Giacomo Biffi – "per averci aiutato ad amare di più la Chiesa, la 'immaculata ex maculatis', come lei ci ha insegnato con sant'Ambrogio". L’espressione “immaculata ex maculatis” è in effetti in un passaggio del commento di sant’Ambrogio al Vangelo di Luca. L’espressione sta a significare che la Chiesa è santa e senza macchia pur accogliendo in sé uomini macchiati di peccato. Il cardinale Biffi, studioso di sant'Ambrogio – il grande vescovo di Milano del secolo IV che fu anche colui che battezzò sant'Agostino –, pubblicò nel 1996 un saggio dedicato proprio a questo tema, con nel titolo un'espressione ancor più ardita, applicata alla Chiesa: "Casta meretrix", meretrice casta. Quest'ultima formula è da decenni un luogo comune del cattolicesimo progressista. Per dire che la Chiesa è santa ma soprattutto "peccatrice" e deve sempre chiedere perdono per i "propri" peccati. Per avvalorare la formula, si usa attribuirla ai Padri della Chiesa in blocco. Ad esempio Hans Küng, nel suo saggio "La Chiesa" del 1969 – cioè in quello che fu forse il suo ultimo libro di vera teologia – scrisse che la Chiesa "è una 'casta meretrix' come fin dall'epoca patristica la si è spesso chiamata". Spesso? Per quello che si sa, in tutte le opere dei Padri la formula compare una volta sola: nel commento di sant'Ambrogio al Vangelo di Luca. Nessun altro Padre latino o greco l'ha mai usata, né prima né dopo. A favorire la fortuna recente della formula è stato forse un saggio di ecclesiologia del 1948 del teologo Hans Urs von Balthasar, intitolato proprio "Casta meretrix". Nel quale comunque non c'è affatto l'applicazione diretta alla Chiesa della natura di "peccatrice". Ma in che senso sant'Ambrogio parlò della Chiesa come di una "casta meretrix"? Semplicemente, sant'Ambrogio volle applicare alla Chiesa la simbologia di Rahab, la prostituta di Gerico che, nel libro di Giosué, ospitò e salvò nella propria casa degli israeliti in pericolo di vita (sopra, in un'incisione di Maarten de Vos della fine del XVI secolo). Già prima di Ambrogio Rahab era vista come "prototipo" della Chiesa. Così nel Nuovo Testamento, e poi in Clemente Romano, Giustino, Ireneo, Origene, Cipriano. La formula "fuori della Chiesa non c'è salvezza" nacque proprio dal simbolo della casa salvatrice di Rahab. Ebbene, ecco il passaggio in cui sant'Ambrogio applicò alla Chiesa l'espressione "casta meretrix": " Rahab – che nel tipo era una meretrice ma nel mistero è la Chiesa – indicò nel suo sangue il segno futuro della salvezza universale in mezzo all'eccidio del mondo. Essa non rifiuta l'unione con i numerosi fuggiaschi, tanto più casta quanto più strettamente congiunta al maggior numero di essi; lei che è vergine immacolata, senza ruga, incontaminata nel pudore, amante pubblica, meretrice casta, vedova sterile, vergine feconda... Meretrice casta, perché molti amanti la frequentano per le attrattive dell'amore ma senza la contaminazione della colpa" (In Lucam III, 23). Il passo è molto denso e meriterebbe un'analisi ravvicinata. Ma per limitarci all'espressione "casta meretrix", ecco come il cardinale Biffi la spiega: "L'espressione 'casta meretrix', lungi dall'alludere a qualcosa di peccaminoso e di riprovevole, vuole indicare – non solo nell'aggettivo ma anche nel sostantivo – la santità della Chiesa. Santità che consiste tanto nell'adesione senza tentennamenti e senza incoerenze a Cristo suo sposo ('casta') quanto nella volontà della Chiesa di raggiungere tutti per portare tutti a salvezza ('meretrix')". Che poi agli occhi del mondo la Chiesa possa apparire essa stessa macchiata di peccati e colpita da pubblico disprezzo, è sorte che rimanda a quella del suo fondatore Gesù, anche lui considerato un peccatore dalle potenze terrene del suo tempo. Ed è ciò che dice ancora sant'Ambrogio in un altro passo del suo commento al Vangelo di Luca: "La Chiesa giustamente prende la figura della peccatrice, perché anche Cristo assunse l'aspetto del peccatore" (in Lucam VI, 21). Ma proprio perché santa – della santità indefettibile che le viene da Cristo – la Chiesa può accogliere in sé i peccatori, e soffrire con loro per i loro mali, e curarli. In giorni calamitosi come gli attuali, pieni di accuse che vogliono invalidare proprio la santità della Chiesa, questa è una verità da non dimenticare.

Umberto Eco | 01 March 2013  

JR,in reporting on Benedict XVI's meeting with the cardinals at the fifth anniversary of his election, "L'Osservatore Romano" wrote that "the pontiff referred to the sins of the Church, recalling that she, wounded and a sinner, experiences the consolations of God even more." But it is doubtful that Benedict XVI expressed himself in exactly this way. The formula "sinner Church" has never been his own. And he has always held it to be mistaken. To cite just one example from among many, in the homily for Epiphany in 2008 he defined the Church in a completely different way: "holy and made up of sinners."And he has always defined it in this other way with careful consideration. At the end of the spiritual exercises for Lent in 2007, Benedict XVI thanked the preacher – who was Cardinal Giacomo Biffi that year – "for having taught us to have more love for the Church, the 'immaculata ex maculatis', as you have taught us with Saint Ambrose." The expression "immaculata ex maculatis" is in effect in a passage of Saint Ambrose's commentary on the Gospel of Luke. The expression means that the Church is holy and without stain, although it welcomes within itself men who are stained with sin. Cardinal Biffi, a scholar of Saint Ambrose – the great fourth century bishop of Milan who was also the man who baptized Saint Augustine – in 1996 published a book dedicated to precisely this issue, with an even more daring expression in the title, applied to the Church: "Casta meretrix," chaste whore. This last formula has for decades been a commonplace for progressive Catholicism. To say that the Church is holy, "but also sinful," and must always ask forgiveness for its "own" sins. To confirm the formula, it is usually attributed to the Fathers of the Church as a group. For example, Hans Küng, in his book "The Church" from 1969 – perhaps his last book of real theology – wrote that the Church "is a 'casta meretrix' as it has often been called since the patristic era." Often? As far as can be determined, in all the works of the Fathers the formula appears only once: in Saint Ambrose's commentary on the Gospel of Luke. No other Latin or Greek Father ever used it, before or after. The recent fortune of the formula may have been fostered by a 1948 book on ecclesiology by the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, entitled precisely "Casta meretrix." In which, however, there is absolutely no direct application to the Church of the nature of "sinner."But in what sense did Saint Ambrose speak of the Church as a "casta meretrix"? Saint Ambrose simply wanted to apply to the Church the symbolism of Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho who, in the book of Joshua, sheltered and saved fugitive Israelites in her home (above, in an engraving by Maarten de Vos from the end of the sixteenth century). Even before Ambrose, Rahab was seen as a "prototype" of the Church. In the New Testament, and then in Clement of Rome, Justin, Irenaeus, Origen, Cyprian. The formula "outside of the Church there is no salvation" emerged precisely from the symbol of Rahab's house of safety.? So then, here is the passage in which Saint Ambrose applies the expression "casta meretrix" to the Church: "Rahab – who in type was a whore but in mystery is the Church – indicated in her blood the future sign of universal salvation in the midst of the slaughter in the world. She does not reject union with the numerous fugitives, more chaste the more closely she is joined to the greatest number of them; she who is immaculate virgin, without wrinkle, uncontaminated in modesty, public lover, chaste whore, sterile widow, fecund virgin... Chaste whore, because many lovers come to her for the delights of love, but without the contamination of blame" (In Lucam III, 23). The passage is very dense, and is worthy of closer analysis. But to limit ourselves to the expression "chaste whore," here is how Cardinal Biffi explains it: "The expression 'chaste whore', far from alluding to something sinful and reprehensible, is intended to indicate – not only in the adjective, but also in the substantive – the sanctity of the Church. Sanctity that consists just as much in adhering without wavering and without inconsistency to Christ her spouse ('casta') as in the desire of the Church to reach all in order to bring all to salvation ('meretrix')." The fact that in the eyes of the world the Church itself might appear to be stained with sins and struck by public disdain is a fate that harkens back to that of its founder, Jesus, also considered a sinner by the earthly powers of his time. And this is what Saint Ambrose says again in another passage of his commentary on the Gospel of Luke: "The Church rightly takes on the appearance of a sinner, because Christ also assumed the aspect of a sinner" (In Lucam VI, 21). But precisely because it is holy – with the indefectible sanctity that comes to it from Christ – the Church can welcome sinners into it, and suffer with them for their evils, and care for them. In disastrous times like the present, full of accusations meant to invalidate the very sanctity of the Church, this is a truth that must not be forgotten.

Game Theory | 01 March 2013  

My reference to chinese bishop was one among many illustrations to show that it is wrong to generalise and lambaste all bishops when many are in prison as martyrs for the faith

Father John George | 03 March 2013  

Mr. Meggs the RCC is the Mystical Body of Christ and no amount of human shortcoming [cf global confession boxes] can slacken or dumb down that cast-iron wrought reality.

Father John George | 03 March 2013  

Fr John George, the following is the love Jesus has for His Church Militant (Ecclesia Militans), comprising all Christians ( and not only ) on earth who are living; Christian militia, sinners and ex sinners, who struggle against sin, the devil and ...the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, and why : When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7)

Myra | 03 March 2013  

Hey Eugene His Holiness Pope John Paul in Full Vat 2 mode reached out to the world,evangelised and dismantled the Soviet Union,[according to Gorbachev!]Hardly your fearful church! Though Stalin once guffawed scornfully "and how many tanks has the Vatican?"

Father John George | 04 March 2013  

Game Theory, please consider a more accurate translation : Ma proprio perché santa – della santità indefettibile che le viene da Cristo – la Chiesa può accogliere in sé i peccatori, e soffrire con loro per i loro mali, e *CURARGLI. But precisely because it is holy – with the indefectible sanctity that comes to it from Christ – the Church can welcome sinners into it, and suffer with them for their evils, and *HEAL them.

Bernstein | 04 March 2013  

Eugene, Lumen Gentium chapter seven puts an end to any pretensions the church might have to a current perfection: The church...will attain it's full perfection only in the glory of heaven...the church already on this earth is signed with sanctity which is real although imperfect...the pilgrim church, in her sacraments and institutions, which pertain to the present time, has the appearance of this world which is passing...( LG,48 )

Game Theory | 04 March 2013  

When an internet forum starts referring to the church as the mystical body of Christ when a royal commission into sex abuse of minors is about to begin, that's when it's time to ask for a miracle!

AURELIUS | 04 March 2013  

NB: Chapter one: The Mystery of the Church - Lumen Gentium - chapter seven: The eschatological nature of the pilgrim church and its union with the church in heaven.( LG,48 )

Game Theory | 04 March 2013  

Aurelius a Royal Commission eclipses neither Scripture nor magisterium on essential nature of the church. Commission Acts will never have the formidable force of Divine Revelation. In the words of Pius XII, "If we would define and describe the true church of Jesus Christ -- which is the one, holy, Catholic, apostolic Roman Church -- we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression 'the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ' -- an expression that flows spontaneously from the repeated teaching of the sacred Scriptures and the holy Fathers." The betrayal of Jesus by Apostles and 2000 years of the sacrament of Confession and sinfulness has never recast the scriptural and the Christ given nature of the RCC. The Royal Commission is a mere inquest organ not forensic, as in a court of law, and has no hermeneutic authority whatsoever. over Scripture's eclesiological blue print,set in caste iron concrete.

Father John George | 04 March 2013  

I recently came across this simple prayer to the Virgin Mary - We turn to you for protection, holy Mother of God. Listen to our prayers and help us in our needs. Save us from every danger, glorious and blessed Virgin.

Bernstein | 06 March 2013  

BERNSTEIN-A FABULOUS PRAYER INDEED MY FAVE![Sub Tuum Praesidium] Early Church. Homage to Mary's holiness progressed further in the 2nd century with the conviction of her role as "new Eve" associated with Christ the "new Adam" (SS. Justin, Irenaeus). The art of the catacombs and the early apocrypha also bear witness to the increasing veneration of the Mother of Jesus; and as early as the 2nd century "born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary" was used in baptismal creeds. A Eucharistic anaphora in the Apostolic Tradition (traditionally attributed to Hippolytus of Rome) mentioned Mary. A manuscript fragment in Greek from the 4th century asks the "Mother of God" for protection—an ancient form of our "We fly to thy patronage, oh holy Mother of God" (Latin: Sub tuum praesidium confugimus ), which influenced in turn the medieval Memorare ("Remember, oh most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection …")..[NCE]

Father John George | 07 March 2013  

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