January 14-16, 2000
volume 11, no. 10
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|CATHOLIC PewPOINT editorial|
It is sometimes hard to fathom how readers who didn't vote in the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY poll held last year between Easter and Pentecost can be so insulted that their candidate didn't get listed and blame us profusely. It doesn't seem to matter that we repeated in every single profile in the introduction at the left of each profile that this list was chosen by over 23,000 votes on the internet. Since the time voting closed the number still surged to over 25,000. We only changed two people from that list and that came after research where we discovered they did not live their Faith and ergo, not eligible for the list. To protect them, we will not divulge the two people we bumped. The profiles we will take full responsibility for, but who was chosen came solely and exclusively from readers of the DailyCATHOLIC.
Many others have written us suggesting we put these profiles into a book so it can be shared with others, especially those who don't have the internet. We concur fully with that recommendation, but there's the little problem of expenses. If you know of an outlet who will print "Profiles of Encouragement - 100 influential Catholics of the Twentieth Century" we'd be grateful for any leads. Being strictly a non-profit ministry we unfortunately don't have a marketing department which can devote the time to researching and contacting publishers. If we did, we'd have two or three books that could be published in addition to the above. This includes our historical series "Barque of Peter" and "Where the Church is heading in the new millennium" on the state of the Church today. If anyone has any leads out there, we're all ears!
We're also all ears to our plethora of e-mails that flood in here. Keeping up with the massive correspondence responsibilities is no small task. Sometimes those ears get pretty red as in "fuming" when we see how some misinterpret the whole meaning of what we're about. One e-mailer was incensed that we should speak for the Church since we didn't stand outside each church in the United States and take this poll. Pretty difficult to do, wouldn't you say? Even the census bureau can't cover that kind of territory. Wouldn't it be great if the Church did have someone who could stand outside the door of each church in America and remind them what Catholicism stands for, what the Holy Father is saying and that we need to return reverence to our churches.
This coming Tuesday the Holy Father will open the fourth and final Holy Door for the Jubilee Year 2000. This one is at St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls and it is chosen to mark the beginning of the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which will culminate on the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the following Tuesday. This year, more than past years, the concept of Christian unity will have more bearing since many leaders from non-Catholic Christian faiths will join the Pope for this ceremony; Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox, etc. This follows the Joint Declaration of Justification signed at Augsburg on October 31, 1999 by the President of the World Lutheran Federation Bishop Christian Krause and the Holy See's representative Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. The signing took place 482 years to the day that the rebellious Augustine monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints Cathedral in this German town.
Quite possibly the celebration over reconciling this major hurdle was misinterpreted by both sides. Many Catholics thought the Church had changed its stance, compromised, if you will, her teaching on sola Fides and sola Scriptura. Protestants thought that with this signing the Church would admit indulgences were wrong. The confusion that ensued shows there is much education yet required to attain unity between Christian faiths. First of all, as Cardinal Cassidy pointed out, the Church did not change anything but rather reinforced what was decreed at the Council of Trent, called by Pope Paul III and concluded by Pope Pius IV and carried out by Pope Saint Pius V. We repeat, the Church has not changed its stance on its Doctrine! Conversely, German Protestants were under the assumption that Rome would do away with indulgences. Many Catholics already thought the Church had shelved indulgences but the Vatican came out with the special Jubilee Indulgences and yes, Virginia, indulgences are very much alive. And they should be. The problems stem from indulgences in the time of Pope Alexander VI to Pope Leo X who were not only lax, especially the former, but also abused indulgences for their own temporal gains. In studying history and the Pontiffs of that time we can empathize with Luther's frustrations. But the facts are he went about it the wrong way. Many say what other recourse did he have and they have a point considering the depravity and corruption in Rome at that time. Consider also the politics of those times and we can see the distrust and protests that ensued. What we're saying is that the Roman Catholic Church was not completely right back then and the Holy Father has admitted as much, asking reconciliation for any wrongs done.
Reconciliation is one of the most difficult things to reconcile because it's easier to forgive than forget. And the latter is what propells nations to war just as the devastaing wars that ensued following the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation and the bitter clashes between the papal armies and Catholic countries against the Protestan emperor Charles V and his growing cache of anti-Catholic allies. Now, nearly 500 years later, there are still problems forgetting. For generations Protestants have been led to believe that Catholicism is the religion of the antichrist, that anything papist is akin to bondage. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is famous for his comment, " There aren't one in hundred who hate Catholicism, but there are thousands who hate what they 'think' is Catholicism."
Pope John Paul II is doing all he can in reconciling with all faiths without compromising the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. He has gone into the belly of many non-Catholic countries and has been received warmly. We couldn't have a better ambassador. But there is much work to be done on both sides of the coin - Catholic and non-Catholic. One way we can work is to share Christ with all and not resent men and women who are preaching Jesus' Word to others even if they are not Catholic. A good first step has been taken by the United States Bishops Conference who have recommended Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a Christian martyr in recognizing men and women of all faiths who gave their life for Christ. Some critique his Baptist roots and questionable lifestyle but remember Saint Paul and Saint Augustine, to name just a few, led sinful lives before their conversion. Only God knows the heart. Who are we to judge? Look at the fruits he produced and how far understanding and love for African-Americans have come since his time.
On the Third Sunday of Easter the Holy Father will honor recommended Catholic and non-Catholic martyrs from around the world who were witnesses to faith as recommended by bishops from the universal Church. The Pope will do this in an appropriate setting - the Colisseum in Rome where thousands upon thousands of Christians gave their lives. They gave their lives because of love for Our Lord and all He taught and out of love for their persecutors and executioners early in the first millennium. Now in the embryo stage of the third millennium, we must recommit to their mindset and receive our brethren in love, not pomposity or a condemnation mode, yet at the same time we must firmly, but lovingly inform them of the truths of the Roman Catholic Church and stand tall in affirming it is the only way to salvation. It's not easy. After all, countless generations have been programmed to believe the opposite and convincing them takes the power of the Holy Spirit. That translates to us doing our part by praying and living our Faith. No better testament can be given than that. But it also means not attacking our misguided brethren but rather trying harder to understand where they are coming from and pray for their conversion to the One True Faith in God's time, not ours. Only He can make this possible by touching hearts and minds for the sake of souls. And so, during this upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we must do all we can in contributing our prayers and efforts. After all, before we can present ourselves before God, we must reconcile with our brother as Jesus counsels in Matthew 5: 23-24, "Therefore, if thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother has anything against thee, leave thy gift before the altar and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Yes, we have lots of work to do and very little time to do it in. Centuries of hurt feelings and resentments cannot be overcome in a few days. It takes a true and sincere heart on both sides and it begins with reconcilation for reconciliation is all about clarifying perceptions and clearing-up misconceptions. We have our perceptions of Who Jesus is and what He asks, and misconceptions on who He's addressing. Every Christian claims Christ as their own, yet how many are willing to share Him?
January 14-16, 2000 |
volume 11, no. 10
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