Pope Benedict XVI’s much-touted state visit to Britain last month tracked closely with the 32nd anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s election to the papacy, on October 16, 1978. The visit provided yet another opportunity to compare and contrast the personal and papal styles of the two men.
Essays in Theology
Charles E. Curran, Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values at Southern Methodist University, addressed the closing gathering of some 600 moral theologians from all over the world in Trent, Italy, July 27.
What follows in this week’s column is taken largely from an important Sept. 7 article in the National Catholic Reporter by Fr. Curran: “We cannot put our heads in the sand.”
Curran pointed out that a previous meeting in Padua four years earlier had effectively initiated the global processes of dialogue and interchange among Catholic moral theologians.
Those of us in the Roman Catholic tradition tend to be parochial in our appreciation of non-Roman liturgical and spiritual traditions.
For example, on Sept. 25 major portions of the body of Christ (but not the Roman Catholic church) celebrated the feast of St. Sergius of Radonezh, regarded as the greatest of the Russian saints and the patron of Russia itself. In fact, he has been referred to as the Russian Orthodox Francis of Assisi.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, previously archbishop of Quebec and primate of Canada, was recently appointed the new head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. On July 30 he became the Vatican official who makes the final recommendation to the pope regarding appointments to or within the Catholic hierarchy.
In mid-July the Vatican issued revisions to its internal laws making it easier to discipline predatory priests, but stating at the same time that ordaining women to the priesthood was as grave an offense as sexual abuse of minors by priests.
I keep hoping that one of these years the U.S. Catholic Bishops will issue a Labor Day statement that focuses on the church’s responsibility to practice what it preaches and teaches about social justice and human rights.
Such a statement would ground its message in the theology of sacramentality, that is, in the church’s call to be a credible sign and instrument of God’s presence and saving activity on behalf of the whole world.
When Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, then archbishop of Kraków, was elected pope in October, 1978, he was convinced that he had received a providential mission to lead the church into the Third Christian Millennium.
Pope Paul VI is a mixed figure in modern papal history. Conservative Catholics, who would ordinarily be favorable to just about every pope because of the central place the papacy occupies in the life of the Church, have reviled his memory — comparing him in a highly unfavorable way with their favorite pope of all time, John Paul II, whom they now refer to as John Paul the Great.
I began writing this weekly column in early July, 1966. It was long before all of my undergraduate students and all but a handful of my graduate students were born.
When I was a lot younger, we assumed that all popes, with the exception of the infamous Alexander VI, were great popes, like the ones who reigned during the 20th century.