pope-francisThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 11 June 2015 to 28 July 2015.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Now is the time for a change in mindset and to stop pretending that our actions do not affect those who suffer from hunger.” @Pontifex 15 July 2015
  • “When everything falls apart, only one thing sustains our hope: God loves us, he loves everyone!” @Pontifex 17 July 2015
  • “The Church is called to be ever more attentive and caring toward the weak.” @Pontifex 21 July 2015
  • “The one who helps the sick and needy touches the flesh of Christ, alive and present in our midst.” @Pontifex 23 July 2015
  • “Christian witness is concrete: words without actions are empty.” @Pontifex 25 July 2015
  • “Dear young friends, do not be afraid of marriage: Christ accompanies with his grace all spouses who remain united to him.” @Pontifex 28 July 2015

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francis-reading

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 7 July 2015 to 12 July 2015.

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Homilies

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pauls-conversionThe book of Acts records St. Paul’s conversion in the following terms:

Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.

And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

And he said, “Who are you, Lord?”

And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus [Acts 9:3-8].

There are several interesting things here.

 

No Horse!

One is that there is no mention of St. Paul riding on a horse. You frequently hear people recounting how Paul was knocked off his horse at the time of his conversion, but this is an image that comes from art—not the Bible.

He isn’t likely to have been riding a horse, for at the time horses were more commonly used in warfare—such as for drawing chariots. They were not commonly ridden.

The passage doesn’t mention Paul riding any animal. He was likely travelling on foot, as suggested when the text simply says that he fell to the ground when the heavenly light flashed around him.

It’s also suggested by Jesus telling him to “rise and enter the city” (no mention of getting back on an animal) and by him being “led by the hand” into Damascus by his companions.

If he’d been riding on a beast (e.g., an ass), they presumably would have put him back on the animal and then led the beast—not taken Paul by the hand to guide him.

 

A Bible Difficulty?

Many people have commented on a Bible difficulty that arises from this passage when it says:

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one [Acts 9:7].

This is worthy of comment because, later in the book when Paul is recounting his conversion, he says:

Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me [Acts 22:9].

 

What did they see? What did they hear?

The difficulty that needs to be solved concerns what the men with Paul saw and heard.

The first is not difficult, for the two passages don’t contain any apparent discrepancy.

The first says that they didn’t see anyone and the second says that they did see light. There is no contradiction because one can easily see light without seeing a person.

What the men heard presents more of a difficulty, because the first passage says they were “hearing the voice” while the second says that they “did not hear the voice.”

That looks like a contradiction.

Is it?

 

Greek to You and Me

Whenever we encounter something that looks like a contradiction, it’s wise to check the original language, which in this case is Greek.

Examining the two passages, we find that both of them use the same two terms: akouō (hear) and phōnē (voice).

This means that we can’t solve the dilemma by appealing to the fact that the passages are using different terms, because they aren’t. They both use the same verb for hearing and the same noun for what is being heard.

That doesn’t mean we can’t resolve the discrepancy, though, because these terms have more than one meaning in Greek.

  • Akouō can mean hear, listen, understand, obey, know, and other things.
  • Phōnē can mean sound, tone, voice, cry, solemn declaration, etc.

Since we have a single author (Luke) writing both passages in a single book (Acts), a logical inference is that Luke probably meant the terms to be taken in different senses.

Are there two different senses in which the terms can be taken that would make sense of the passages?

You bet.

 

The Likely Solution

The most likely solution is that in the first passage, akouō is to be taken to mean “hear” and phōnē is to be taken to mean “sound,” while in the second passage, akouō is to be taken to mean “understand” and phōnē is to be taken to mean “voice.”

On this reading, Acts 9:7 says that the men were hearing a sound but didn’t see anyone while Acts 22:9 says that they saw light but did not understand the voice.

This would parallel John 12:28-29, where the Father speaks to Jesus from heaven and some in the crowd perceive it as thunder: They heard a noise, but they didn’t perceive it as an intelligible voice—the clearer perception being reserved for those God wanted to have it.

This appears to be the most probable solution. Thus some translations render the two passages like this:

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone (Acts 9:7, NIV).

My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me (Acts 22:9, NIV).

These translations are perfectly acceptable, as “hear” and “understand” are common meanings for akouō, while “sound” and “voice” are common meanings for phōnē.

 

Be Cautious Beyond This Point

While we have identified the probable solution, we should be careful not to press it too far.

Some have proposed that there is a feature in the Greek that makes the solution even more certain. According to some older grammars and commentaries, the verb akouō’s meaning changes in a way that is relevant here depending on the grammatical form of the noun that follows it.

In Greek, nouns take different forms, known as “cases,” depending on the role they play in a sentence (the same is true of nouns in Latin, German, Russian, and many other languages).

Two of these cases that Greek uses are known as the genitive and the accusative.

According to some, when akouō is followed by a noun in the genitive case, it stresses the hearing of the sound but not the understanding of it.

By contrast, these individuals hold, if akouō is followed by a noun in the accusative case, it highlights the understanding of the sound.

It so happens that in Acts 9:7 the noun phōnē is in the genitive case, and in 22:9 it is in the accusative.

This is then taken as evidence confirming the solution proposed above: In the first passage the companions are said to hear the sound while in the second they are said not to understand it.

The problem is that these claims are not at all clear from the way the verb is used in New Testament Greek.

Daniel Wallace, one of the foremost contemporary scholars of New Testament Greek, writes:

[I]t is doubtful that this is where the difference lay between the two cases used with akouō in Hellenistic Greek: the NT (including the more literary writers) is filled with examples of akouō + genitive indicating understanding (Matt 2:9; John 5:25; 18:37; Acts 3:23; 11:7; Rev 3:20; 6:3, 5; 8:13; 11:12; 14:13; 16:1, 5, 7; 21:3) as well as instances of akouō + accusative where little or no comprehension takes place (explicitly so in Matt 13:19; Mark 13:7/Matt 24:6/Luke 21:9; Acts 5:24; 1 Cor 11:18; Eph 3:2; Col 1:4; Phlm 5; Jas 5:11; Rev 14:2). The exceptions, in fact, are seemingly more numerous than the rule!

Thus, regardless of how one works through the accounts of Paul’s conversion, an appeal to different cases probably ought not form any part of the solution [Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 133-134].

We should thus be cautious of case-based arguments concerning the solution to this difficulty.

This does not mean, however, that we haven’t identified the correct solution. The most likely solution remains that the terms are simply being used in different senses in the two passages.

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pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 15 June 2015 to 6 July 2015.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “A great challenge: stop ruining the garden which God has entrusted to us so that all may enjoy it.” @Pontifex 2 July 2015
  • “That which gives us true freedom and true happiness is the compassionate love of Christ.” @Pontifex 4 July 2015

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Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 23 June 2015 to 30 June 2015.

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “In Confession, Jesus welcomes us with all our sinfulness, to give us a new heart, capable of loving as he loves.” @Pontifex 25 June 2015
  • “The Church is a mother with an open heart, ready to help all people, especially those who try the hardest” @Pontifex 27 June 2015
  • “How wonderful it is to proclaim to everyone the love of God which saves us and gives meaning to our lives!” @Pontifex 30 June 2015

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Somalia Child SoldiersRecently Pope Francis made some impromptu remarks about weapons manufacturers at a meeting with young people in Turin.

These were poorly misreported in the press and have resulted in a number of questions being asked.

First we will take a look at what he said and then look at some of the questions that have been asked.

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .

 

1) Where can I read the pope’s remarks in their entirety?

The Italian original is here.

At present, there is no official English translation, but Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, O.S.B. of Prince of Peace Abbey kindly provided me with an unofficial one of the part of his remarks dealing with weapons manufacturers.

You can read it here.

 

2) What did Pope Francis say?

In the relevant section of his remarks, Pope Francis begins by interacting with previous remarks made by a young woman named Sara.

He appears to be quoting or paraphrasing things Sara said, as indicated by quotation marks in the Italian original.

Here is the beginning of the remarks, with the apparent quotations from Sara in red:

And thank-you, Sara, a lover of theater.  Thank-you.

“I think of the words of Jesus:  to give one’s life.” 

We just spoke of this.

“We often feel a sense of distrust in life.” 

Yes, because there are situations that make us think:

“But, is it worth the trouble to live life this way?  What can I expect to get from this life?” 

At this point, Pope Francis begins to reflect on the subject of wars.

 

3) What does he say about wars?

Initially, he says:

We think, in this world, about wars.

At times I have said that we are living through the third world war, but by pieces.  Pieces:  in Europe there’s war, in Africa there’s war, in the Middle East there’s war, in other countries there’s war.

But can I put my trust in a life like that?  Can I trust world leaders?  I, when I go to vote for a candidate, can I trust that he won’t take my country to war?

If you trust only in men, you are lost!

At this point, Pope Francis makes his remarks concerning weapons manufacturing.

 

4) What does he say about weapons manufacturing?

In this section, Pope Francis interacts with an imaginary interlocutor who has investments in munitions, as indicated by quotation marks in the Italian original. He says:

This makes me think of something:  people, leaders, businessmen who say they are Christians, and they manufacture weapons!  This brings up some distrust:  they say they are Christians!

“No, no, Father, I don’t manufacture, no, no….  I only have my savings, my investments in the weapons factories.”

Ah!  And why?

“Because the interest rates are a little higher….”

And even being two-faced is hard cash, today:  to say one thing and to make of it something else.  Hypocrisy….

Having introduced the theme of hypocrisy in connection with war, Pope Francis then looks at three historical incidents in which political powers failed to intervene in the face of aggression taking place in the world.

 

5) What are the three incidents?

The first example is that of the Armenian genocide. He says:

But let’s take a look at what happened in the last century:  in 1914, 1915, in 1915 exactly.  There was that great tragedy of Armenia.  So many died.  I don’t know the number:  more than a million certainly.

But where were the great powers of the day?  They were watching from elsewhere.

Why?  Because they were interested in the war:  their war!

And those who die, they’re second-class persons, human beings.

The second example is that of the German Holocaust during World War II:

Then, in the thirties and forties, the tragedy of the Shoah [Holocaust].

The great powers had the photographs of the railway lines that bore the trains to the concentrations camps, like Auschwitz, to kill Jews, and also Christians, also Gypsies, also homosexuals, to kill them in that place.

But tell me, why didn’t they bomb it?  Interest!

The third example is that of Stalinist Russia:

And a little later, almost at the same time, there were the prison camps in Russia:  Stalin….  How many Christians suffered, were killed!

The great powers divided Europe among themselves like a pie.  So many years had to pass before arriving at a kind of “freedom.”

Pope Francis then makes a concluding remark on hypocrisy and weapons manufacturing.

 

6) What is his concluding remark?

He says:

There is that hypocrisy of speaking of peace and manufacturing weapons, and then even of selling the weapons to this one who’s at war with that one, and to that one who’s at war with this one!

After this, Pope Francis goes on to discuss matters other than war and weapons manufacturing.

 

7) How would you summarize Pope Francis’s remarks thus far?

The general sense of the pope’s remarks seems to be as follows:

In response to a young woman’s question about what we can expect from life, Pope Francis indicates that there are problems in the world and that we cannot simply put our trust in political leaders. They will let us down.

They may take our countries into war, even when they have said they will not. In fact, there are many wars taking place in the world today.

They may also look the other way in conflicts, for reasons of their own self-interest. This is shown by multiple examples from recent history where world powers self-interestedly looked the other way and failed to take action to stop immense oppression and murder.

Politicians may speak of peace, but they are often hypocritical in these ways. The same hypocrisy can manifest among people who—for reasons of financial gain—invest in weapons manufacturing without any concern about how those weapons will be used, as when they invest in arms makers who sell weapons to both sides in a conflict.

 

8) Did Pope Francis say that Christians can’t own a gun, such as for personal defense or for hunting?

He said nothing like this. Not even close.

His remarks are connected with war and the arms trade.

 

9) Did Pope Francis say that the use or manufacture of weapons is always wrong?

No, he didn’t say this, either.

In fact, he implied otherwise when he indicated that the Allies should have bombed the train lines to the Nazi concentration camps where the Holocaust was carried out.

Further, the Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges the just war doctrine, according to which warfare is legitimate in some circumstances.

As to weapons manufacturing, if weapons have legitimate uses, they have to come from somewhere.

If Pope Francis wanted the Allies to bomb Nazi-controlled train lines, he certainly expected them to get the bombs from somewhere, and in a world where people are willing to commit atrocities like the three he named, he would recognize the need the arms needed to resist such aggression.

 

10) Why didn’t Pope Francis say all that?

Presumably, for several reasons:

a) He was speaking impromptu.

b) The legitimate use of force could be inferred from his comments, as above.

c) He would expect his remarks to be understood in light of the established teaching of the Church. As he himself has said, “I am a son of the Church.”

d) Pope Francis has, on prior occasions, been open to use of force to stop “unjust aggression”, though he has cautioned against this becoming an excuse for unnecessary destruction or conquest.

e) He expects his remarks to be taken with what Benedict XVI referred to as “that initial goodwill without which there can be no understanding:” (Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 1, “Foreword”).

There is no credible reading of Pope Francis’s remarks that would make them an absolute prohibition on the use or manufacture of weapons.

 

11) What was he criticizing, then, in reference to people investing in munitions?

The hypocritical attitude of pretending to be for peace but by one’s actions displaying an indifference to the illegitimate use of weapons and warfare.

This is what unites both politicians who turn a blind eye to aggression and people who distance themselves from the manufacture of weapons (“No, no, Father, I don’t manufacture”) even though they invest in this for personal profit (“Because the interest rates are a little higher”) without concern for the moral dimension of arms sales, such as when a manufacturer amorally sells to both sides of a conflict (“then even of selling the weapons to this one who’s at war with that one, and to that one who’s at war with this one”).

This in no way means that the design, manufacture, or sale of arms cannot be legitimate—as it would be in the case of supplying the Allies bombs to use against Nazi-controlled rail lines or to oppose other forms of unjust aggression.

 

12) Did Pope Francis say that people act hypocritically in this way aren’t Christians?

No. Pope Francis knows that a baptized person who professes the Christian faith is a Christian, even if he behaves immorally.

The pope did not say that such people aren’t Christians. He remarked ironically, “They say they are Christians!”

This is a way of indicating a course of conduct that is inconsistent with Christian faith or morals. It doesn’t mean that a person isn’t a Christian, but that he is acting in a way that he shouldn’t act as a Christian.

One could make the same ironic remark about any Christian who is doing things he shouldn’t.

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On June 21, 2015, Pope Francis made some impromptu remarks regarding munitions manufacturers.

YOU CAN READ COMMENTARY ON THESE REMARKS HERE.

He made these remarks in the course of a meeting with young people in the Italian city of Turin.

The Italian original of this encounter is online here.

At the time of this posting, an official English translation is not available.

I would like to thank Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, O.S.B. of Prince of Peace Abbey for providing the following, unofficial translation:

PASTORAL VISIT OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO TURIN

ENCOUNTER WITH CHILDREN AND YOUTH

DISCOURSE OF THE HOLY FATHER

Piazza Vittorio

Sunday, 21 June 2015

[Translator’s Note.  There are two items on this page.  The first seems to be the Pope’s spontaneous remarks, casual in language, and lacking the “finish” of a prepared text.  The second item on this page is actually entitled “Prepared Discourse of the Holy Father.”  At this event, it seems that three persons— Chiara, Sara, and Luigi— spoke publicly before the Pope.  In the course of his words some parts appear in quotation marks.  My guess is that some of those parts are quotations of things the three earlier speakers said.  So it seems to me that the Pope must have had a printed copy of their speeches.]

[Jimmy's Note: I agree with Fr. Pedrano that some of the remarks in quotation marks appear to be things previously said by the young person Sara. The pope seems to be either quoting or paraphrasing her. I have put the items that seem likely to be by her in red type, below. The identification of these remarks is mine.]

FIRST ITEM: 

[The Pope begins]:

Thank-you to Chiara, Sara and Luigi.  Thank-you because the questions are on the theme of the three words of the Gospel of John that we heard:  love, life, friends.

SECOND ITEM:

[Several paragraphs later]:

And thank-you, Sara, a lover of theater.  Thank-you.  “I think of the words of Jesus:  to give one’s life.”  We just spoke of this.  “We often feel a sense of distrust in life.”  Yes, because there are situations that make us think:  “But, is it worth the trouble to live life this way?  What can I expect to get from this life?”  We think, in this world, about wars.  At times I have said that we are living through the third world war, but by pieces.  Pieces:  in Europe there’s war, in Africa there’s war, in the Middle East there’s war, in other countries there’s war.  But can I put my trust in a life like that?  Can I trust world leaders?  I, when I go to vote for a candidate, can I trust that he won’t take my country to war?  If you trust only in men, you are lost!  This makes me think of something:  people, leaders, businessmen who say they are Christians, and they manufacture weapons!  This brings up some distrust:  they say they are Christians!  “No, no, Father, I don’t manufacture, no, no….  I only have my savings, my investments in the weapons factories.”  Ah!  And why?  “Because the interest rates are a little higher….”  And even being two-faced is hard cash, today:  to say one thing and to make of it something else.  Hypocrisy….  But let’s take a look at what happened in the last century:  in 1914, 1915, in 1915 exactly.  There was that great tragedy of Armenia.  So many died.  I don’t know the number:  more than a million certainly.  But where were the great powers of the day?  They were watching from elsewhere.  Why?  Because they were interested in the war:  their war!  And those who die, they’re second-class persons, human beings.  Then, in the thirties and forties, the tragedy of the Shoah [Holocaust].  The great powers had the photographs of the railway lines that bore the trains to the concentrations camps, like Auschwitz, to kill Jews, and also Christians, also Gypsies, also homosexuals, to kill them in that place.  But tell me, why didn’t they bomb it?  Interest!  And a little later, almost at the same time, there were the prison camps in Russia:  Stalin….  How many Christians suffered, were killed!  The great powers divided Europe among themselves like a pie.  So many years had to pass before arriving at a kind of “freedom.”  There is that hypocrisy of speaking of peace and manufacturing weapons, and then even of selling the weapons to this one who’s at war with that one, and to that one who’s at war with this one!

[There are several more paragraphs of the Pope’s words on the page before the item entitled, “Prepared Discourse of the Holy Father.”]

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medjugorje-2012We are now in the period of waiting before the Holy See announces a decision regarding the reported apparitions at Medjugorje.

In recent days, several developments have emerged which people have examined to see what they might reveal about that decision.

One set of stories claims to know the decision reached by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .

 

1) What are the basic facts about Medjugorje?

Medjugorje is a town located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, part of the former Yugoslavia.

In 1981, several young people there began reported receiving apparitions of the Virgin Mary. This led to the development of a global movement around the reported apparitions, which are reported to be still-ongoing today.

INFO HERE.

Over the course of time, the bishops in whose territory Medjugorje lies have made various pronouncements in which they have not supported the authenticity of the apparitions. These can be found online here.

In addition, in 1991, the then-Yugoslavian bishops conference issued a report which concluded:

On the base of studies made so far, it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations.

This represents a negative judgment on the authenticity of the apparitions.

The report can be read, along with additional background, here.

In 2010, the Holy See formed a commission under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to study the subject.

That commission completed its work and turned over its findings to the CDF for evaluation.

Following the CDF determination, Pope Francis will then make the final determination of what, if anything, is to be done.

 

2) What are the new developments that have been reported in recent days?

There are several. They include:

  • A response by Pope Francis to a question put to him during a recent trip to the former Yugoslavia.
  • Remarks made by Pope Francis in one of his a daily homily.
  • Remarks that Pope Francis is alleged to have made in private, as reported in a new book.
  • Reports in the Italian press that the CDF has reached its decision on Medjugorje.

The last of these claims to deal with an official action, so we will look at it first.

 

3) What is being reported about the CDF and its decision on Medjugorje?

According to Catholic World News:

The CDF reportedly held a feria quarta meeting on June 24, at which the prelates discussed the findings of a special papal commission that had investigated the Medjugorje phenomenon. According to several Italian journalists—notably Vatican-watch Gianluca Barile—the CDF agreed with that commission’s finding that there is no evidence of supernatural activity at Medjugorje. . . .

The CDF, according to the Italian media reports, has essentially supported the judgment rendered in 1991 by the bishops of what was then Yugoslavia. The CDF will reportedly recommend that pastors should not sponsor or support events that presume the reality of the visions claimed by the Medjugorje “seers.”

However, the CDF will reportedly urge recognition of Medjugorje as a special “place of prayer,” in light of the numerous reports of intense spiritual experiences enjoyed by visitors there. Pilgrimages to Medjugorje will not be forbidden, provided that they do not center on the alleged apparitions.

 

4) How likely are these reports to be accurate?

It is difficult to say. The Vatican is a leaky place, as illustrated both by the VatiLeaks scandal and the recent leaking of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’.

It is certainly possible that Barile and his colleagues in the Italian press got ahold of a genuine and accurate leak from someone with knowledge of the CDF decision.

If so, they got ahold of the information remarkably fast, because the CDF supposedly made the decision on June 24th, and the Italian press was reporting on it within 24 hours.

It could be true.

On the other hand, the Italian media reports a lot of stuff that is inaccurate.

Also, there have been numerous false reports about Medjugorje over the years, including premature reports of a Medjugorje decision that were later retracted.

We may get further clarification on this issue if the Holy See Press Office chooses to comment.

If they do, it will be necessary to read their statement(s) very carefully to see what is and is not being said.

UPDATE: Vatican Insider claims that the CDF has not made a decision on Medjugorje and won’t wor some time. We still have no word from the Vatican Press Office, so we have conflicting accounts in the Italian press.

VATICAN INSIDER STORY IN ORIGINAL ITALIAN.

GOOGLE MACHINE TRANSLATION.

 

5) What is Pope Francis alleged to have said in private regarding the subject?

According to Te Deum Laudamus:

A pro-Medjugorje website in Brazil is reporting that Pope Francis, while in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day, made some rather blunt comments concerning Medjugorje, and about activities of the alleged visionaries.  The title of the post says a lot:  “Pope Francis says those who say they see Our ​​Lady have psychological problems and that the seers of Medjugorje lie to the people.”  . . .

The website discusses information revealed in a book by Father Alexander Awi Mello, who interviewed the Holy Father during his trip to Brazil.  The book, She’s my Mother: Encounters of Pope Francis with Mary” is published by Edições Loyola.

You can read the rest at Te Deum Laudamus, but basically the Pope is reported to have made skeptical remarks concerning the reported apparitions themselves without denying that there has been good connected with Medjugorje as well.

 

6) How accurate is this likely to be?

There is no way to know, but I wouldn’t suggest putting a lot of weight on this one.

There are too many reports of a pope saying something to someone privately (or even publicly) about Medjugorje that have turned out to be false.

It could be true, but the track record for this kind of report is not good.

 

7) What did the pope say in his recent daily homily?

According to the account on the Vatican web site:

“On this path”, Francis continued, there are also “those who always need newness from the Christian identity: they have forgotten that they were chosen, anointed, that they have the guarantee of the Spirit, and they search: ‘Where are the prophets who tell us today the letter that Our Lady will send us at 4:00 in the afternoon?’, for example, no? They live by this”. But “this is not the Christian identity. The last word of God is called ‘Jesus’ and nothing more”.

Some commentators have seen the dismissive reference to receiving a letter from Our Lady at 4:00 in the afternoon as indicating a dismissive attitude toward the claim of Medjugorje seers to receive messages from the Blessed Virgin on a frequent, even daily, basis at set times.

Thus Medjugorje.com states:

Our Lady usually appears for Her daily apparitions every evening in Medjugorje at 6:40 p.m. or at 5:40 p.m. Daylight Savings Time. Our Lady may appear to certain visionaries at a different time if they are traveling or for certain situations. When Ivan has his prayer groups on Monday and Friday nights, Our Lady appears to him at 10:00 p.m.

 

8) How significant is this as an indicator of Pope Francis’s attitude toward Medjugorje?

This is not the first time that Pope Francis has made remarks of this nature in his daily homilies.

According to the account on the Vatican web site, he said the following in a daily homily from November 14, 2013:

“Jesus tells us something quite interesting in this regard: this spirit of curiosity, which is worldly, leads us into confusion”. In the Gospel he says: “the days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Lo, there! or ‘Lo, here!’ … It is curiosity that leads us to listen to these things,” he said. “They tell us: the Lord is here, he is there, and there! But I know a visionary, a visionary who receives messages from Our Lady”. To which the Pope added: “Look, Our Lady is a Mother and she loves us all. But she is not a post woman who sends messages every day”.

In reality, Pope Francis said, “these novelties draw us away from the Gospel, from wisdom, from the glory of God, from the beauty of God”. And he added: “Jesus says that the kingdom of God does not come in a way that attracts attention”; rather, it comes through wisdom. “The kingdom of God is in your midst”, he said, and “the kingdom of God is this work, this action of the Holy Spirit who gives us wisdom, who gives us peace.”

Pope Francis thus seems to have a skeptical attitude toward claims of unusually frequent and predictable Marian apparitions (“messages every day,” “at 4:00 in the afternoon”).

He does not mention Medjugorje in this connection, but it is by far the most prominent Marian phenomenon reporting frequent and predictable apparitions.

At least on the face of things, this suggests a certain skepticism toward the Medjugorje reports.

That’s not to say that, when the final decision is made, Pope Francis will definitely reject the Medjugorje claims. If the CDF came to him with what it considered strong evidence in favor of them, he might accept that finding.

However, it does suggest that he might well approve a finding from the CDF against the reports of apparitions at Medjugorje.

 

9) What did the Pope say in the interview he gave when he visited the former Yugoslavia?

There has been a question about this because of a translation issue.

In Italian, Pope Francis began his remarks with the words “Sul problema di Medjugorje . . .”

Some commenters (at least in English) seized on the word problema as an indication that Pope Francis takes a negative attitude toward Medjugorje—that he views it as a “problem.”

When I heard this claim, I was immediately skeptical, because the word problema does not necessarily carry a negative connotation. It can, in fact, simply mean “issue.”

SEE, FOR EXAMPLE, HERE.

Saying, “Sul problema di Medjugorje . . .” need mean no more than “On the issue of Medjugorje . . . .”

This is, in fact, the interpretation offered in the Vatican web site’s English translation, which is now out.

 

10) What does the Vatican’s English translation say?

It reads as follows:

[Journalist] Silvije Tomašević:

Good evening, Your Holiness. As one might expect, many Croats came as pilgrims to Sarajevo, and want to know if Your Holiness is coming to Croatia… But since we are in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is also great interest concerning a declaration on the phenomenon of Medjugorje…

Pope Francis:

In regard to the issue of Medjugorje, Pope Benedict XVI at the time convened a committee presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini; there were other Cardinals, theologians and specialists on the committee as well. They did an investigation and Cardinal Ruini came to me and gave me the study they did, after many years of labour, I don’t know, maybe three of four years, more or less. They did a fine job, a fine job indeed. Cardinal Müller (Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) told me that he would be having a feria quarta (a meeting dedicated to this specific question) at the right time; I think it was done on the last Wednesday of the month. But I am not sure… We are close to coming to a decision. And then the results will be communicated. For the moment, all that is being done is to give guidelines to the bishops, but along the lines that will be taken. Thank you!

[Father Lombardi (i.e., the Vatican press spokesman) notes that the proposed feria quarta has not yet, in fact, taken place.]

 

11) What does this tell us about what the decision is likely to be?

Pope Francis was deliberately circumspect on the issue and answered by primarily talking about the mechanics of the process rather than what its result will be.

He also was not closely familiar with the present state of the matter, as he was mistaken about whether the meeting of the CDF had taken place.

However, the very end of his comments may be significant. According to the Vatican’s English translation, he said:

For the moment, all that is being done is to give guidelines to the bishops, but along the lines that will be taken.

If this translation is accurate, it would seem to signal the general nature of what the decision is likely to be.

Pope Francis refers first to what is being done “for the moment” and notes that this consists of “giv[ing] guidelines to the bishops.”

This appears to be a reference to a series of recent communiqués from the CDF to various bishops instructing them not to allow gatherings which presuppose the veracity of the Medjugorje apparitions.

These communiqués have been supportive of the 1991 Yugoslavian bishops’ conclusion and have included restrictions on having Medjugorje seers make appearances in parishes.

FOR EXAMPLE, SEE HERE.

AND HERE.

The significant thing is that Pope Francis appears to refer to these directives and then seems to indicate that they are “along the lines that will be taken.”

If this translation is accurate, it suggests that the eventual decision is likely to be at least a general reaffirmation of the position that has been taken in the recent CDF communiqués.

 

12) What should we do at this point?

Wait. Pray. Consider reports like these serenely and carefully, and be prepared to give open-minded and supportive consideration to the Holy See’s eventual decision—whatever it may be.

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francis-reading

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 24 May 2015 to 23 June 2015.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Encylical

General Audiences

Homilies

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “We know how unsustainable is the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “A decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “What is at stake is our own dignity.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “The world we have received also belongs to who will follow us. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Having a home has much to do with a sense of personal dignity and the growth of families. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “For indigenous communities, land is not a commodity, but a gift from God, a sacred space.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “We need an integrated approach to combating poverty and protecting nature.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “The culture of relativism drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Christian thought sees human beings as possessing a particular dignity above other creatures.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “There is an urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “By itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “We are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “It is possible that we don’t grasp the gravity of the challenges before us. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Each age tends to have only a meagre awareness of its own limitations.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “We continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “We should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “At times more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the equal dignity of human beings.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “A fragile world challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our power.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Every creature is the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “”Creation” has a broader meaning than “nature”; it has to do with God’s loving plan. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Each community has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “The present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “We need only to take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “The alliance between economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Economic interests easily end up trumping the common good.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “There is no room for the globalization of indifference. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Developed countries ought to help pay this debt by limiting their consumption of nonrenewable energy.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “A true “ecological debt” exists, particularly between the global north and south.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “To blame population growth, and not an extreme consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “We have to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “The deterioration of the environment and of society affect the most vulnerable people on the planet.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Climate change represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “”To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.” (Patriarch Bartholomew)” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “The throwaway culture of today calls for a new lifestyle. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “There is a value proper to each creature.” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “There is a need to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “There is an intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “We need a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “I invite all to pause to think about the challenges we face regarding care for our common home. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 18 June 2015
  • “Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 19 June 2015
  • “Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.” @Pontifex 19 June 2015
  • “An integral ecology includes taking time to reflect on our lifestyle and our ideals. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 19 June 2015
  • “Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life.” @Pontifex 19 June 2015
  • “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is not a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.” @Pontifex 19 June 2015
  • “The teachings of the Gospel have direct consequences for our way of thinking, feeling and living. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 19 June 2015
  • “The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs to buy, own and consume. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 19 June 2015
  • “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.” @Pontifex 19 June 2015
  • “Believers must feel challenged to live in a way consonant with their faith. #LaudatoSi” @Pontifex 19 June 2015
  • “God’s love is free. He asks for nothing in return; all he wants is for his love to be accepted.” @Pontifex 23 June 2015

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water-baptismThere is a classic passage in the final chapter of Mark’s Gospel, where we read:

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” [Mark 16:15-16].

Christians through the ages have seen in this passage a powerful statement of the importance of baptism. Taken at face value, it indicates that baptism is instrumental in salvation.

Or does it?

Some (though by no means all) in the Protestant community argue that this passage doesn’t do that. Let’s look at a few such arguments.

 

Jesus’ Statements and Logic

The first argument is based on the logical structure of what Jesus says. This will be clearer if we restate it more formally, using a few conventions of propositional logic.

In the example that follows, let us use the following conventions:

F = “John believes/John has faith.”

B = “John is baptized.”

S = “John will be saved.”

With these conventions in place, we can restate the relevant claims from Mark in the following form:

1)   If F and B then S

2)   If not-F then not-S

 

The Argument

Although many of our Protestant brethren, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Church of Christ members, and many Presbyterians are prepared to acknowledge that baptism has a role in imparting salvation, others do not. This viewpoint is principally found in groups that are popular in American Evangelicalism, including Baptists and many non-denominational Christians.

When they consider the above statements based on Mark 16:15-16, they might argue this way:

  • Statement (1) does not prove that baptism has a role in salvation. Logically speaking, it names two conditions (F and B) and says that if these two conditions are fulfilled in the case of a particular person then that person will be saved (S). This does not mean, however, that the two conditions are both necessary.
  • It might be that one of these conditions is not necessary. In propositional logic, you can name non-necessary conditions without affecting the truth of a statement.
  • For example, let B represent “John bakes a chocolate cake.” Chocolate cake baking is in no way relevant to salvation, but the statement “If (John has faith) and (John bakes a chocolate cake) then (John will be saved)” is still true. Perhaps baptism is in the same category as chocolate cake baking with respect to salvation.
  • In fact, statement (2) indicates that having faith (F) is the necessary condition, because Jesus says that not having faith will result in not being saved. He does not say the same thing about baptism. Therefore, baptism is not necessary for salvation.

 

How Irrelevant Can You Get?

It is true that, in propositional logic, you can name non-necessary and even irrelevant conditions and not affect the truth value of a proposition. In fact, you can name nothing but irrelevant conditions and still have a true statement. For example:

If (it’s Thursday at 2:00 p.m.) and (it’s raining outside) then (2 + 2 = 4).

This proposition is quite true, but the conditions of it being Thursday at 2:00 p.m. and it raining outside have nothing to do with whether 2 + 2 = 4.

What this shows us is that, while propositional logic can be a useful tool, it doesn’t always model human discourse well. That’s one reason that philosophers have explored ideas like relevance logic.

 

The Relevance Rule

A key aspect of human discourse is the commonly unstated but nearly universal implication that what you are saying is relevant to the topic at hand.

That’s why statements like the one above about 2 + 2 = 4 seem bizarre to us. If someone makes a statement to you that begins by appealing to the day and time and then to the weather, you will expect the conclusion they draw to be relevant to the time and the weather. If they suddenly conclude that 2 + 2 = 4 then you will be jarred, because that’s not the way that human discourse normally works.

You may wonder whether they are joking with you, by breaking the rule about relevance in discourse, or you may wonder whether they have very eccentric notions about mathematics, but either way, you have an in-built expectation that what they are saying will be relevant to the conclusion they draw.

The example of John baking a chocolate cake is similar. It’s the kind of example that one would make in an abstract discussion about propositional logic, but to appeal to this kind of reasoning when looking at normal human discourse would be rightly regarded as logic chopping.

Jesus would not name irrelevant conditions when telling people how to be saved, and especially not in a solemn statement like the Great Commission. In this, of all places, one would expect the implication of relevance to be followed.

In fact, if Mark had recorded Jesus saying, “He who has faith and bakes a chocolate cake will be saved” then that would give us reason to think that chocolate cake baking is relevant to salvation, and Christians down through the ages would have understood accordingly.

 

No Mention of Baptism in the Second Statement?

What about Jesus’ statement that he who does not believe will be condemned? Does this show that baptism is not relevant to salvation?

Strictly speaking, no. All the statement establishes is that faith is a necessary condition for salvation. It does not mean that baptism is not also a necessary condition.

For example, consider this pair of propositions:

  • If (you have eggs) and (you break the eggs) then (you can make an omelet).
  • But if (you don’t have eggs) then (you can’t make an omelet).

Either not having eggs or not breaking the eggs would prevent one from making an omelet. They are both necessary conditions, and the mere fact that only one is mentioned in the second statement does not mean that the other is not also necessary.

Indeed, it is proverbial that you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

Why doesn’t the text say something like “He who does not believe or is not baptized will be condemned?”

Presumably for two reasons: First, the relevance of baptism for salvation has already been stressed in the previous statement. Second, in an evangelistic context, faith is naturally prior to baptism.

In the first century, the apostles and other evangelists were going out and preaching the gospel for the first time, and so the great majority of converts were adults. As a result, they first came to faith and then were baptized on the basis of their faith—the same way adult converts to Judaism first came to faith in the God of Israel and then were circumcised.

Failing to have faith was thus a conversion stopper. If someone didn’t come to faith then they would not go on to be baptized (or be circumcised). It thus wasn’t necessary to go into the second condition if the first was not fulfilled.

The situation is like our omelet example. You must first have eggs in order to break them, and so if you don’t have the eggs, that of itself means you can’t make an omelet. There is no need to mention that not breaking them will also result in the inability of make an omelet, because the importance of breaking them has already been established in the first statement.

 

Mark 16 and the Logic of Baptism

The passage on baptism in Mark 16 thus supports the idea that baptism is relevant for salvation:

First, given the implication of relevance that is present in normal human discourse, Jesus’ first statement indicates that baptism is relevant to salvation.

Second, given the presence of the first statement and the fact that faith is logically prior to baptism in this context, the fact that only faith is mentioned in Jesus’ statement does not mean that baptism is not relevant.

One could mount additional arguments against this passage, and some Evangelicals do.

 

The Hard Cases Argument

For example, one might ask about hard cases, where someone has faith but is unable to be baptized (e.g., because there is no one available to do it, as with a person who comes to Christian faith in the midst of a solidly Muslim society). Would these people automatically be damned?

Not according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, which acknowledges that there are exceptional cases.

The same thing would seem to be true about the condition of faith, though. Few if any Evangelicals would be willing to say that all dying infants are damned on the grounds that they don’t have faith in Jesus.

If it is possible for there to be exceptional cases with regard to faith, and yet this does not make faith irrelevant to salvation, then the same thing can be true of baptism.

 

The Canonical Argument

An argument that some Evangelicals might find appealing would be to point out that our early manuscript evidence suggests that the part of Mark 16 where the statements about baptism are found were not part of the original version of Mark’s Gospel.

The majority of New Testament scholars—Protestant and Catholic, conservative and liberal—hold that Mark 16:9-20 was written later than the rest of the Gospel—either in the late first century or in the second century.

There are good reasons for this view, which is supported by Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth (see vol. 2, pp. 261-262).

If this passage was not in the original edition of Mark then one might argue that it does not belong in the canon and so does not have divine authority as Scripture.

 

Problems with the Canonical Argument

There are three problems with this view.

First, just because the passage doesn’t appear to have been part of the original version of Mark does not mean that it isn’t canonical. This is true regardless of whether Mark or someone else composed the passage.

Single authors can prepare longer and shorter editions of their own work. This happened, for example, when Jeremiah prepared a second edition of his own work, after an earlier, shorter version was destroyed by King Jehoiakim (Jer. 36:28). Similarly, some canonical books are the product of more than one hand, as illustrated by several of Paul’s epistles, which had input from other members of his circle (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1, 2 Cor. 1:1, Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:1, 1 Thess. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:1).

From a Catholic perspective, the Magisterium of the Church can settle the canonicity of the longer ending of Mark, but this would not be authoritative for Evangelicals, which brings us to the second problem.

Second, even if one were to grant that the passage is non-canonical (something which I do not grant), it would still be an extraordinarily early testimony to what the early Christians thought about baptism.

On this view it might not be divinely inspired, but it would be a very impressive piece of patristic testimony dating from the first or second century showing that the early Church recognized the importance of baptism for salvation. This, then, would need to be taken into account when interpreting the New Testament teaching on baptism, which brings us to the third problem with the canonical argument.

Third, Mark 16:15-16 is far from the only New Testament text indicating the importance of baptism for salvation. In fact, there are too many to go into here, but let’s conclude by citing just one, which is as explicit as one might wish on the subject:

Baptism . . . now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 3:21].

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