On Martin Luther: On Oct. 31, 1517 – 500 years ago this year – Martin Luther nailed his famous Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany. That was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which led to the split between Catholicism and the Reformers.
Many commemorations are planned between Roman Catholics and Lutherans for this fall. Pope Francis himself attended a major commemoration in Lund, Sweden, earlier this year.
A Vatican document devoted to Lutheran/Catholic dialogue issued earlier this year said that “Catholics are now able to hear Luther’s challenge for the Church of today, recognizing him as a ‘witness to the Gospel.’”
That’s quite a declaration! And a most welcome one. The document does not come out of thin air; it is the fruit of more than 50 years of high-level dialogue between theologians and leaders from both churches.
On Giving Money to Street People: Whether giving money to street people is wise is a matter of controversy. Instead, people in many cities are invited to give to an agency or program rather than directly to those who live on the street.
Pope Francis recently weighed in on the subject and stated that one should always give money to people on the streets. Even if they spend it on alcohol, this may be the only comfort they have.
But, isn’t this a waste of one’s money? Possibly. But, said Francis, we should examine our consciences about our own waste of money.
On Princes of the Church: I’ve always been irritated when cardinals are referred to as “princes” of the Church. I grew up addressing archbishops as “Your Grace” and bishops as “My Lord,” and the only Benedictine abbess I knew as a child was addressed as “My Lady.” More quaintly, priests were sometimes referred to as “Your Reverence.”
Pope Francis has several times told cardinals directly that they are not princes of the Church, but shepherds. They should not act like princes, their style of life should be modest, and they should live in simpler quarters.
On Deaconesses: The Catholic Church is always concerned never to do anything that would offend the theology and practice of the Orthodox Churches. On the matter of the ordination of deaconesses, however, the Orthodox Churches might be ahead of us.
Recently, the Patriarch of Alexandria appointed six deaconesses. The Patriarch is no minor ecclesiastic; he is, in fact, the head of the entire Orthodox Church in Africa.
The move follows years of discussion within the various branches of Orthodoxy on whether to reinstate the office of women deacons. Closer to home, this comes at a time when the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas is studying the matter.
As one who favors the institution of the diaconate for women in the Catholic Church, I think the decision of the Patriarch of Alexandria should give a boost to the current Vatican study about the diaconate for Catholic women.
On Liturgical Outlandishness: A video of the Archbishop of Palermo in Sicily riding a bicycle inside his cathedral wearing full vestments went viral recently. Outrage erupted in various corners, but the archdiocese did not seem to mind, as it posted the video on the Internet.
There are two problems with this sort of thing. The first is that it was consummately stupid. The second is that it drives the Vatican crazy, leading it to imagine that this sort of thing is widespread, and assuming that there are more such liturgical abuses in the Church than there really are.
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul Parish.