Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Pope clearly gets it

Not that that's much of a surprise. He's the Pope, after all.

Still, it was encouraging to see this report about his meeting with a contingent of Argentinian bishops where he basically told them to focus on people's souls, not on political activism:
After then encouraging them to stimulate "the practice of charity, especially among the most needy" in their dioceses, the Pope highlighted the importance of concentrating on "prayer as opposed to activism or a secularised vision of the charitable efforts of Christians. This assiduous contact with Christ through prayer will transform believers' hearts, opening them to the needs of others and so ensuring they are not 'inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but guided by the faith which works through love'".
It's good to see how Pope Benedict understands this, and even better to see that he wants to make sure that Latin American Catholics understand it, too.

In The Faithful Departed, Philip Lawler lays out the pitiful state of Latin America's clergy by recounting his friend's words about how Latin American lay Catholics think: "If you want to start a union, find a priest. If you want spiritual counsel, find a Protestant pastor." Not for naught was John Paul II so suspicious of Liberation Theology. If it doesn't outright teach people to look for salvation in this world (usually through social or political activism), it at least strongly encourages people to do so.

But that message directly contradicts the life and witness of Christ, who repeatedly taught that his kingdom was "not of this world", and that he doesn't give peace "as the world gives", who explicitly refused to accept any kind of political power (even running away from ardent followers if he had to), and who was killed in large part because he didn't bring political peace -- something 1st century Jews expected the legitimate Messiah to do.

But Christ's peace is in people's hearts, an infinitely more difficult place to achieve peace than in the world. His kingdom is in heaven, which is the ultimate reality, the "real world". It is for that world that the Church is supposed to be preparing people, and too many Catholics (often on the Left, but increasingly on the Right as well in the aftermath of nonsense like "compassionate conservatism") have lost sight of that fact.

No comments: