The Papacy at a Crossroads

In this candid interview, veteran Vatican observer Tracey Rowland shares her rare insights with Regina Magazine. An eminent theologian in her own right, Dr Rowland is Dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, Australia and author of Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Oxford University Press).

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI brings to an end an era. What was your reaction to the secular media coverage? In Australia we were hearing reports that some 5,000 journalists were in Rome waiting for the news.  My impression was generally one of amusement – for an organisation that is supposed to be irrelevant, the Church gets an enormous amount of front page publicity.  The papal conclave dominated the news for two weeks.

Can you comment on the presumption that the secular media shows regarding the ‘necessity’ of modernizing the Church? I did four radio interviews in Montreal a few days after the resignation of Pope Benedict.  People were very excited that Cardinal Marc Ouellet from Quebec was being discussed as a front runner.  The Mayor of Montreal  joked on TV that if Cardinal Ouellet was elected, the Vatican would be moved to Montreal. In every one of my interviews I was asked whether a new pope might change the Church’s teaching on contraception, the ordination of women and abortion.  I had to calmly explain that the pope is not an absolute monarch, he is a constitutional monarch.  Constitutional monarchs can’t do whatever they like, they can exercise power only within certain limits.  In the constitutional monarchies of the world these limits are set out in a constitution, or in the case of the United Kingdom, in constitutional conventions.  In the case of the papacy these limits are prescribed by revelation or what we call the ‘deposit of the faith’.  I referred to Pope Benedict’s final homily in which he said that the Church belonged not to him or to the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, but to Christ.  If Christ didn’t ordain women then the Pope can’t either.  The secular media find this very hard to understand but I think the constitutional monarchy idea helps.  Of course, when 1960s generation nuns get interviewed on television and say that they are in favour of the ordination of women, it causes an enormous amount of confusion.

Pope Francis receives Madagascar's transitional leader Andry Rajoelina at the end of a private audience in his private library at the Vatican on April 26, 2103.       Do you think that Pope Francis has a bigger challenge inside the Church than outside? Every Pope faces challenges from outside the Church.  The devil will cause trouble until the end of time.  But some Popes enjoy more internal unity. Pope Francis has inherited a situation where there is very little unity, so much so that Pope Benedict believed that only a younger, stronger man, could handle the problem.  While both John Paul II and Benedict XVI produced wonderful documents and homilies, their teaching was often blocked at various ‘middle management’ levels and never made it to grass roots or parish level.  There is still an enormous amount of confusion about Vatican II.  In some countries like Australia Catholic children spent 12 years at schools administered by the Church but unless they happen to be fortunate to be taught by someone who actually practices his or her faith and understands it, they are unlikely to be catechised.  They leave 12 years of “Catholic education” quite ignorant of what the faith is about.  This is often explained by the word ‘secularisation’.  Some people think that secularism is some kind of nasty force external to the Church which attacks it from without.  However secularism is a kind of heresy which arose within Christian countries when people within the Church thought that they could sever the ‘fruits of Christianity’ from actual belief in the Trinity and participation in the sacramental life of the Church.  As Cardinal Angelo Scola has written, only Christians can make the anti-Christ possible.  The anti-Christ is always parasitic about Christianity.  When Christianity becomes decadent, then all kinds of diabolical actions and people can flourish.  Pope Francis has inherited a Church weakened by decadence and disunity within and by several centuries of oppression from without.

Some note Francis’ simplicity and dedication to prayer with approval. Others fear that he will not support the Extraordinary Rite. What is your take on this? I don’t know what to predict because, unlike our previous two popes who were world class scholars with mountains of publications people could read their way through, this Pope rarely ever gives interviews and he has not published very much at all.  So one can’t trawl through public statements and scholarly articles to get an insight into the way he approaches theological issues.  There is also an old saying “as lost as a Jesuit in Holy Week”, meaning that Jesuits are not renowned for their deep liturgical sensibilities.  They are not Benedictines. My intuition is that he is not  someone who shares Pope Benedict’s liturgical sensibilities, but he might nonetheless take the view that so long as people attending the Extraordinary Rite are otherwise faithful Catholics, that he doesn’t really care about their ritual preferences.  Quite a few members of the hierarchy adopt Mao Tse-Tung’s maxim of “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom”.  In other words, while they may have no personal preference for the Extraordinary Rite, they acknowledge the sociological fact that significant numbers of people do prefer this Rite, and their attitude is that so long as people are actually going to Mass, their ritual preferences are a matter of legitimate choice.  The more bureaucratic types however don’t like pluralism, don’t like choice, because choice increases the demands of education and administration.  For example, when there are two Rites, seminarians need to be trained to say both.  I think that people who prefer the Extraordinary Rite need to make it very obvious to their local Ordinaries that they are on board with the Church’s official teachings, that they are otherwise involved in the life of the Church and that they are not insisting on attending the Extraordinary Rite in order to make a political statement about their opposition to the Second Vatican Council.  In short, they need to send a message that it is all about beauty and transcendence, not political resistance.

trowland3OUT-POSITIONED AND OUT-CLASSED:  Secular media coverage of the 2013 conclave was outshone by upstart US network EWTN – founded by Mother Angelica, a ‘nun with nerve’– and anchored by Raymond Arroyo and Colleen Carroll Campbell.

I recently saw a meme on Facebook that said, “Why is it that the Catholic Church doesn’t go crazy when they change heads of the International Society of Atheists?” Why IS it, do you think, that the Church seems a source of endless fascination for the secular media? I think that pop culture is extremely banal and as such it lacks pathos.  Drama doesn’t work well as drama unless the events which take place are of eternal significance.  Catholics believe that the Pope is Christ’s vicar on earth.  They believe that he holds the keys of St. Peter – to forgive sin in Christ’s name, no less.  The secular journalists find it fascinating because whatever it is, it is not boring.  It also satisfies the human need for tradition.  Modernity has been described as a culture of forced forgetting.  The memory of the Church however stretches back not only to the Incarnation, but to Creation, and her imagination reaches forward to the consummation of the world.  The Christian approach to time is liturgical.  As Cardinal Scola says, Christianity is the moment when the now meets the forever. 

We are living through a period in time when our general culture is really awful, really low, and we have to use our imaginations to think of a different way of being, to make friends with people who are not trapped in the culture of death, and to look after one another.  As the world becomes more and more ugly, Christians will start to stand out precisely because of their personal dignity and the beauty of their family life and then the task of re-evangelisation will become much easier. 

I think that initiatives like Regina Magazine are precisely what are needed.

The first time I attended an Extraordinary Rite Mass, I was struck by the drama of the moment of consecration.  I was at the Church of St. Eugene in Paris in the late 1990s.  It was before Summorum Pontificum but the priests were in Communion with the Pope and their local bishop.  It was not a Lefebrvist service.  The choir chanted the Sanctus which went on for some minutes over the voice of the priest who continued silently saying the Eucharistic Prayer.  Towards the end of the Sanctus the music became more and more dramatic, more like a fugue and then the priest held up the host, every single altar server fell completely prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary and the bells of the Church were peeled.  The figure of the priest was in part blurred by a curtain of incense and one could simply see a blotch of colour created by his vestments.  The only way this moment of consecration could have been any more dramatic would have been if an honour guard of officers had presented arms – something which was a tradition at Corpus Christi Masses.  No journalist watching this could have found it boring. In Sacramentum Caritatis Pope Benedict wrote that at the moment of consecration there occurs a kind of nuclear fission when the bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ.  Sometimes there are moments when the Church makes this nuclear fission palpable, and grace triumphs over despair.

In short, my answer is, the world craves an encounter with eternity, the world craves transcendence and this is what the Church has to offer when her officer class has not been overrun by philistines or people with psychological disorders in league with the devil.  Secular journalists are often people who yearn for transcendence and an experience of the infinite as much as anyone and they can see glimpses of it in the Church, notwithstanding all the blemishes.

“Pop culture is extremely banal and as such it lacks pathos.  Drama doesn’t work well unless the events which take place are of eternal significance.  Catholics believe that the Pope is Christ’s vicar on earth.  They believe that he holds the keys of St. Peter – to forgive sin in Christ’s name, no less.  Secular journalists find it fascinating because whatever it is, it is not boring.”

What do you see as the greatest source of hope? The many sources of hope include the numbers of younger women entering religious life, often in new religious Orders that are seeking to re-evangelise the countries of the Christian West.  If one thinks, for example, of the Sisters of Life in New York or the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Nashville or the Sisters of the Immaculata in Sydney, in every case the order is teeming with vocations and the young women are all highly educated, gracious in manner and otherwise highly marriageable.  They are not entering religious life to escape poverty and acquire an education.  They are not people with limited social options.  They are entering religious life because they really do want to be in a spousal relationship with Christ and spend their lives leading others to Christ.  Then there are the young Catholic families where both parents are fully across the teachings of Blessed John Paul II on marriage and family life and are doing their best to turn their families into domestic churches, notwithstanding the fact that most government economic and educational policies are stacked against them.  When I go to Mass and see a young family with several children, and see that the little girls look pretty with ribbons in their hair, and the little boys are made to stand back and allow their sisters into the pew ahead of them, then I think that the culture of death will not be victorious.  We are just living through a period in time when our general culture is really awful, really low, and we have to use our imaginations to think of a different way of being, to make friends with people who are not trapped in the culture of death, and to look after one another.  As the world becomes more and more ugly, Christians will start to stand out precisely because of their personal dignity and the beauty of their family life and then the task of re-evangelisation will become much easier.  I think that initiatives like Regina are precisely what is needed.

trowland4A GREAT SOURCE OF HOPE ARE THE NEW TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS ORDERS, teeming with vocations — and the young women are all highly educated, gracious in manner and otherwise marriageable.  They are not entering religious life to escape poverty and acquire an education.  They are not people with limited social options. They have a spousal love for Jesus.

 
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Australian Catholic children spend 12 years at schools administered by the Church, but unless they happen to be fortunate to be taught by someone who actually practices his or her faith and understands it, they are unlikely to be catechized.  They leave 12 years of “Catholic education” quite ignorant of what the Faith is about…”  Dr. Tracey Rowland

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Featured Pope Benedict picture Osservatore Romano with permission

Photo of Pope Francis by Stefano Spaziani with permission

 

What Our Readers Say About REGINA

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Rev. Anthony Patalano, Rector, Holy Family Cathedral, Anchorage, Alaska

What you are doing is WONDERFUL! I will offer several Masses for you and the success of REGINA.

 

Dr. Tracey Rowland, John Paul II Institute, Melbourne, Australia

This is fantastic!  I have been raving on about truth, beauty and goodness for a decade, and now finally someone has done what I have been arguing for in theory.  This is exactly what is needed.

 

Molly O’Donnell in Portland, Oregon

You are to be commended.  It is truly a work of art – interesting, informative, funny, human, thought provoking, real and the list goes on….  Congratulations!  I love the dedication to our beloved pontiff and agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments.  I also like that you addressed the issue of pornography which is so huge but generally swept under the table.

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First Communion, Roman-Style

In 155 AD – roughly 125 years after Christ’s death – St. Justin Martyr wrote to Emperor Antoninus to explain what Christians actually did during their rituals.  Christians were persecuted for their ‘atrocities’ and the Saint was appealing to reason, pleading for the Emperor’s clemency.

“On the day we call the day of the sun, all who live the country or the city gather in the same place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read…when the reader has finished, he who presides (priest) over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.

communion1communion2Then we all rise together to offer prayers for ourselves and for all others, wherever they might be, so that we might be found righteous by our life and actions. Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine to him who presides over the brethren.  He takes them and offers praise and glory to the father of the universe through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.

Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist, no one may take part in it unless he believes what we teach is true…”

 

St Justin and second century Christians were carrying out the wishes of their master, Jesus of Nazareth. 

In the two thousand years since, Catholics have carried out Christ’s command by celebrating the memorial of His sacrifice.  In so doing, we offer to the Father what He has given us – fruit of the vine and work of human hands – bread and wine, which by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, become the body and blood of Christ. Catholic children wear white because it is the Christian color worn for Sacraments.

(Secret Catholic Insider’s Note: In the tradition of his Catholic ancestors, when England’s Prince Charles is crowned, he will wear white – the ancient symbol of a Christian King.)

 

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A Parents’ Guide to First Holy    Communion 

Long after the party is on Facebook, your child will carry the memory of their First Holy Communion in their heart. Parents need to ensure that their children understand the high seriousness of the occasion and know the basic facts about the Faith when they take Holy Communion with Our Lord for the first time in their lives.

communion4Why age seven? For centuries, the Church has considered seven to be the “Age of Reason” – when a child can discern between right and wrong.

 Why First Confession? Confession – also called “Reconciliation” or “Penance” – is your child’s first experience with the great feeling of peace that Catholics have after they have unburdened their souls. Respect this sacrament, and teach your child to make a good confession.

For centuries, the Church has considered seven to be the “Age of Reason” – when a child can discern between basic right and wrong.

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(Photo courtesy of Victor Di Corcia)

 

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What can a young child have done that warrants this formal confession of sins? At the age of reason, children can understand a simple moral code – and they know when they have violated it. Also, the experience of seeing everyone go to Confession shows the child that we are all sinners – and that we are all forgiven because Jesus died for our sins.  Respect the Sacrament, and teach your child to make a good confession

What is an Examination of Conscience? Before the Sacrament, be sure they have quiet time to examine their conscience: http://www.ncregister.com/info/confession_guide_for_children/

Why wear white for Communion? White is the Christian color, worn for all first sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders — and even the crowning of Christian monarchs!

How is the Catholic belief about Communion different from other Christian traditions? This is huge. Catholics – along with all Eastern Orthodox, Maronite, Coptic and Syrian Christians – believe in Transubstantiation. This means that the bread and wine are transformed in their substance to the Body and Blood of Jesus, by the actions of the priest who consecrates them at Mass.

Why is this such a big deal? Once consecrated, the Host and Wine are regarded by Catholics as the Real Presence of Jesus. This is why the priest carefully consumes all of the consecrated Host and Wine.

Catholics – along with Eastern Orthodox, Maronite, Coptic and Syrian Christians – believe in Transubstantiation. Once consecrated, the Host and Wine become the Real Presence of Jesus.

How should children be taught to behave when they receive Holy Communion? Catholics behave with utmost respect in the Real Presence. When the Host and the Chalice are raised, we are absolutely silent, eyes fixed on the Sacrament. Children should take Communion on the tongue if at all possible. They should also be taught to fold their hands reverently, keep their eyes down as they walk and never to chew the Host.

More questions? Google the Catechism of the Catholic Church for Children, the Baltimore Catechism or the Catechism of the Good Shepherd.

The Homeschooling Goddess

Can You Homeschool?

by Dorothy Gill

You have no clue what it’s all about, or what a real homeschooling family actually looks like, but you’re pretty sure that they’re a strange breed of survivalist apocalypse- types who live off the grid behind their ‘No Trespassing’ signs.

After all, what else could possibly possess a family to say “no, thank you” to a free education provided just down the street, and instead take on the full-time responsibility of teaching their own kids — if it wasn’t for their paranoid anti-social tendencies?

You might be surprised to learn that the most frequently-cited priority of families who take this road less traveled is the happiness of their children.  I’m betting that you can relate to that one, so here’s a look at the top three myths about the whole homeschooling phenomenon.

MYTH #1: What about socialization?

If you are asking this question, then you have probably not met many homeschooled kids.  Or you have met them but did not realize it, because you were looking in vain for those rumored telltale socially-awkward clues.

As it happens, kids who do not spend the majority of their waking hours in the exclusive company of their peers end up being perfectly comfortable relating to and spending time with people of all ages.  (This is similar to what they will encounter in the real working world, after all, so you can rest assured that your kids will be well-prepared to take their place in adult society.)

If in fact you did notice anything unusual, it might be that you were surprised by the child’s polite, unaffected manner. Chances are you were greeted by name while being looked in the eye and offered a hand to shake — all from a smiling face that didn’t seem to hold you in any particular contempt for your adulthood.

Frequently, homeschooled kids’ self-confidence is not as vulnerable to pressure from their peers, and therefore they may well be more individual in expressing their style. This self-expression might manifest itself as anything from geek to fashionista, though chances are it will not mirror what you’d see on the local school grounds.

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 If you are asking this question, then you have probably not met many homeschooled kids.  

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You may also notice that homeschooled kids are generally happy. Even the teens. This is because being able to use their time more efficiently, having access to home-cooked nutrition three times a day, adjusting their study schedule to accommodate their sleep needs, and the absence of the daily social ostracism, cliques and bullying which are huge sources of stress in the life of ordinary teens actually ‘dials down’ the usual teenage surliness.

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You may also have noticed that homeschooled kids are generally happy. Even the teens. 

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MYTH#2: Most people are not capable of homeschooling their children

If you’ve ever wondered if you have what it takes to homeschool, there’s only one question you have to ask yourself: “Got kids?”  If you do, then you qualify. 

In fact, the education of children in the home, by their parents, in the company of their differently aged siblings, is the most natural environment for learning. 

There is no automatic barrier that materializes in the mind of a child at the age of 5 or 6 that renders void the parent’s heretofore competence in directing the child’s discovery of her universe.  And there is no ingredient more important in the education of children than love.  In this, a parent is more qualified than any credentialed stranger can ever be. 

By virtue of your vocation as a parent, you are already endowed with everything you need to successfully homeschool your children.

MYTH#3: Homeschooling means re-creating ‘school’ at home

‘Home education’ is a much better description of this work than ‘homeschooling.’  This is because schools are where you load a room up with same-aged children sitting at desks and attempt to teach them all the same thing at the same time. This requires text books that are designed to facilitate 45 minute instruction segments, punctuated by a bell.

There is no need to replicate this dubious environment at home.  With education (as opposed to ‘school’) as your goal, you have access to the world as your text book and the rhythm of family life as your school bell.   And your local library, community center, the internet and the dozens of online curriculum providers will provide as much or as little assistance as you could possibly need. This approach accommodates any budget, and allows you to custom-tailor your approach to each child’s needs.

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 With education (as opposed to ‘school’) as your goal, you have access to the world as your text book and the rhythm of family life as your school bell.

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So, have the courage of your convictions. Turn off the TV and video games, harness your kids’ creativity, direct their natural curiosity and let the learning begin.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dorothy Gill is the mother of four sons, ages 11 to 26 and she has been homeschooling since 1992.  She is active in her parish  and lives in Vancouver, Washington with her husband and three of her four sons.