“Greetings, Earth…

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“…I come in peace!”

Thank you God for Pope Francis.

If you want an interesting profile on the new pope, try this – it’s from 2005.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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41 Responses to “Greetings, Earth…

  1. “Greetings Earth…I come in peace…and grant you a plenary indulgence”!

    • Schütz says:

      Yeah, isn’t he nice?

      You have to get over that word “indulgence”, Pastor Mark. In the words of another Lutheran Pastor who is now in communion with the Bishop of Rome, it simply means “something that is really good for your soul”.

      • David, as it presently stands, there are no Lutheran pastors in communion with Rome. And if the Pope is so nice, why doesn’t he grant a plenary indulgence every day?

        • Schütz says:

          But Pastor, but Pastor! He does!! Have a look at the extracts from the Manual on Indulgences on this ‘ere blog under “Other Stuff” in the top bar. Believe it or not, if you are in a state of grace (ie. been forgiven all your sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ through going to confession very recently and receiving Holy Communion), you can receive a plenary indulgence for reading the bible for half an hour (and joining in prayer with the Holy Father by praying for his intentions). Isn’t that an evangelical thing to do?

          • “Isn’t that an evangelical thing to do”.
            Well, not while the power of the indulgence is attributed partly to the merits of the saints, David. In the Lutheran Church, as you know, one can obtain complete remission of the guilt, condemnation and punishment due for sin through absolution granted on account of the infinite merits of Christ. Now THAT’S evangelical!

  2. Stephen K says:

    So glad, David, you have (correctly) omitted the ordinal ‘I’.

    • Tony says:

      And no sign of any +!

      • Schütz says:

        :-)

        Seriously, lets forget the “ordinal ‘I'”? Okay? Queen Elizabeth (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was never referred to in the history books as Queen Elizabeth I until Queen Elizabeth II came along. And Queen Mary is never called “Queen Mary the First” , not is Queen Anne called “Queen Anne I”.

        So. No “Pope Francis I” UNTIL we get a “Pope Francis II”.

        • Tony says:

          Quite right, David (the first?).

          Although it’s an important part of the burgeoning narrative of Francis that he is ‘the first’. New names for Popes don’t come along that often … or Jesuits … or South Americans …

  3. Gareth says:

    The Pope seems to have forgotten his mozzetta and pectoral cross

    • I suspect this Pope will be ‘forgetting’ quite a few things Benedict re-introduced, Gareth. I can’t imagine him in red shoes or ermine lined camauro, for example, but we shall see.

      • Schütz says:

        As I was discussing with my parish priest, we can live without the trimmings, as long as we get the full meal. And me thinks that we will.

        • Stephen K says:

          Oh, David, you’re such a groupie! It’s almost contagious!

        • Peter says:

          The early signs are certainly good David except possibly for one thing.I suspect many of us are looking for further reform of the liturgy but,as Fr.Z has pointed out, Jesuits are not known as great liturgists.Pope Francis may prove us wrong.Let’s hope so.

          • Schütz says:

            Ah yes, well. That was just the topic of conversation between myself and my parish priest. We were of the opinion that it would be inconceivable for Pope Francis to actively undo the Benedictine reforms. Somethings – like red shoes and mozzettas – don’t matter much, but things like the crucifix on the altar and kneeling for communion are more serious. I didn’t get to watch tonight’s mass with the Cardinals, but I guess it is a case of “watch this space”. Simplicity is one thing. Reductionism is another. But, as Fr Z. advised on a recent blog post, I am not going to get into an argument with the Holy Father before I even know what he is up to. And probably not even after that. Docility in a Christian is a “good thing”.

          • Stephen K says:

            Well, Peter, I acknowledge your sense of foreboding about liturgical reform, which I read as being in the restorationist direction. However I don’t think this is the only or the most accurate way of looking at things and think that to think of your religion through a filter of liturgy is part of the problem.

            I understand how liturgy is so central to religion: it is the water from the well, so to speak. One dies of thirst without water. We need it. But I think it’s wrong to see it as the most important thing, which comes across in your comment.

            It’s not a goal but a restorative. What we exist for, what we live for, what we must be focused on, is love, in all its myriad Christian ways: forebearance, generosity, patience, courtesy, respect, sharing one’s food and clothing with the needy, sharing one’s talents with the needy, asking nothing in return.

            Most of us, I hazard a guess, shrink from such a radical way of living. No doubt partly because we lack the prudential wisdom to know how to do so for greatest benefit. But partly because we are afraid to let go and be spontaneous in joy and confidence in God. I include myself here.

            The liturgy is important in context, and aesthetics plays a large part in thinking and feeling the language of the spirit; but we must always guard against “fiddling while Rome burns”. A gilt chalice is a token to the reverence and quality we should express towards God, from one angle, but a glittering reproach while a single child starves – from another.

            If you are so worried about the state of liturgical reform, then let liturgy be your apostolate and don’t expect everyone else, especially the new bishop of Rome, to create a vast liturgical empire to your specifications. That the higher-ups concern themselves with integrity and humility and service rather than obsess over power and obedience in the manner of earthly princes, is or must be considered a blessing (or a bonus!)

            You think liturgy is bad and needs more trad reform? You have no idea perhaps of what it was once like and how it felt, once. Relax.

            • Peter says:

              I happen to believe Stephen that the liturgy is the centrepiece of church life and I know that I am not alone in this.
              If the liturgy is sloppy everything else will eventually fall apart.
              You have made a whole raft of assumptions about my comment without the slightest evidence for making them.
              You really are just an uninformed and arrogant clown.

            • Stephen K says:

              Well, Peter, in saying you think that the liturgy is the “centrepiece” of church life you are in effect agreeing with my reading of you that you see your religion through the filter of liturgy and that it is in your mind the most important thing.

              So why you think my assumption(s) have no evidentiary basis is a mystery to me.

              What is not a mystery to me is the fact that you appear unable to engage with the points I was making about the relative significance of liturgical reform compared to other possible priorities, but prefer to call me names.

              Well, to the extent that our gracious host allows you to continue to do so, you may well continue in the same vein, but I am only disappointed that you could not come up with another response. I find blog rudeness hurtful.

  4. Ad hominem remarks are a poor substitue for argument, Peter.
    Aside from which, while you may disagree with him, Stephen is certainly neither uninformed or a clown, as anyone who reads his comments here can tell for themselves.

    While on the subject of liturgy, I just read an assesment of Francis by Greg Venables, Anglican Bishop of the Southern Cone, which includes Argentina, who knows Francis well. The bishop gave a very favourable assessment, and also mentioned that in joint worship services with the Anglicans the Cardinal would regularly have Bishop Venables take his part!

    • Peter says:

      Pastor Mark,Stephen may be well informed on many issues but he is not informed on this issue.For a start he does not know me from Methuselah.He is clueless as to my liturgical preferences and what I might be looking for in the way of liturgical reform.Yet he has seen fit to label me a trad and a liturgical empire builder(whatever that means).He has also concluded with no evidence that I think that the current state of the liturgy is poor.I don’t happen to think that at all.The state of the liturgy is pretty good,particularly compared to the dark days of the 1970’s and 80’s when do-it-yourself parish tea party liturgies flourished.Interestingly,the latest issue of Quadrant magazine contains an article by Cardinal Pell where,amongst other things,he says he would like to see further liturgical reform.I wonder does that make him a trad in Stephen’s eyes.
      Stephen does not regard the liturgy as the most important aspect of his spiritual life.That’s fine.His spiritual priorities and what works best for him is his business and I am not critical of that.
      However,I believe that telling me or anyone else for that matter,that having the Mass as the centre of your faith life is a problem is out of line.A lot of saints thought daily Mass attendance is a good thing.You have to get your spiritual strenghth to love others,attend to the needy,fight sin etc etc from somewhere.I get it from the liturgy.
      The fact that I mentioned liturgical reform in my comment to David indicates that I regard it is an issue of some importance and I don’t deny that I will be disappointed if it stalls.However,not for one second would I suggest that that Pope Francis must make it a priority of his Papacy.His priorities are obviously for him to decide.
      Finally,I should not have called Stephen a clown and apologise to him,bit I still feel his comment was both arrogant and uninformed.

  5. I will, David – thank you for the link as I always try to be accurate in my comments about Rome. But of course you know that my objectiosn to indulgences extends to the questionable theology behind htem, not just their freuqnsy of issue.

    • Schütz says:

      I personally believe that the theology of indulgences needs an overhaul – much like the overhaul Papa Benny gave purgatory (to which indulgences are linked – but we have discussed this before on this blog). I am convinced of the Church’s right and duty to grant indulgences, but not so convinced of the theological explanation. Here we have a parallel with the doctrine of male only priesthood. The practice and tradition are without doubt dominical, but (as Sara Butler points out in her book on the subject) there are good and bad theological explanations of the doctrine.

  6. Well, for a start, David, indulgences are not granted solely on the basis of grace but also of works, in as much as the works of the saints contribute to the treasury of merit. This is one reason why I cannot regard Catholicism as evangelical. At its heart, it is synergistic. Of course, you will reply that the works of the saints are themselves the fruit of grace. I wouldn’t necessarily argue with that, but that they are meritorious and that these “merits” are transferable to others is a specious form of reasoning.

    • Joshua says:

      They are meritorious, surely, because they are done “in Christ” by His members and by His grace: Christ’s work on earth in His own Person was obviously meritorious; and if the Apostle can dare tell us to fill up in our own lives what was lacking(!) in the sufferings of Christ, then does that not imply some gaining of merit, not in a foul Pelagian sense, but in the sense of the faithful being truly part of the Body of Christ?

      In any case, “synergism” would be, if I understand aright, an Orthodox understanding as well as a Catholic one: and it seems to me unlikely that the greater portion of Christians (those in communion with Rome and Constantinople) would go astray on these as on so many other issues, whereas a much smaller, lately-separated group would have rediscovered what the rest of Christianity had forgotten or corrupted.

      (I am aware that the concept of the merits of the saints, however, is not shared by the Orthodox; to some extent, I suspect that they oppose it and other Western views because they are Western views, rather than because of a deep-seated opposition to them, since their own prayers and liturgies are if anything more fulsome in their praise and petition directed towards the Mother of God and the Saints than those of the Latin West.)

    • Schütz says:

      Whether it is specious or not, the line of reasoning is indeed well worn, as you demonstrate from your rehearsal of it from both sides. For this reason I advocate a reinvestigation of the entire matter and a fresh expression of the substance of the faith.

      As for synergism, it is characteristic of Lutheranism to have a deep allergy to this word. I can only reply (as N.T. Wright recently did) that such an aversion to synergy (which is in fact nothing other than the active working of faithful human beings by the power of the Holy Spirit in harmony with the love and grace of God) is not evangelical because it is not biblical. In order to sustain such an aversion you must either ignore or interpret against their obvious meaning many texts of Scripture, an in particular the Gospels themselves.

  7. It is not the case that we Lutherans distort scripture to accomodate our allergy to synergism, David. Indeed, the allergy comes from scripture, which teaches that the natural man cannot receive the things of God without being born from above! [1 Cor 2:14, John 3 etc.] As you know, Lutheran theology describes man as spiritually passive in this event, contributing nothing. At all times thereafter the grace of God precedes the movements of man’s soul “without me you can do nothing” (John 15). Btw, it interests me that some of the greatest Catholic saints have expressed the same thought in their writings, although they formally subscribed to Catholic synergism.

    What about the texts that speak of the activity of man in spiritual things? The classical Lutheran manner of interpreting these texts is to speak of transitive and intransitive change. Objectively, God converts the sinner (transitive), hence the sinner subjectively turns to God (intransitive) (cf. John 6:44). The two terms refer to the same act, regarded from objective (Divine) and subjective (human) aspects. Only this distinction, or something like it, preserves the primacy of the grace of God in the spiritual life of man. Obviously, any thought of objective merit that God out of justice owes us is excluded from this approach. Not that God does not reward good works, ut the reward itself is extended from grace, since our works in this life are always imperfect. This is what evangelical theology looks like, David. NT WRight is not a very good guide to or critic of Lutheranism – as I have pointed out on my main blog, he views Lutheranism through the prism of his own distorted Anglican Evangelical upbringing. He really gives very little evidence of having wriestled with Luther at all.

    • I should rather have said that Wright’s Evangelical Anglican upbringing introduced him to a distorted view of Luther, which he has never managed to shake.

    • Schütz says:

      “scripture, which teaches that the natural man cannot receive the things of God without being born from above! [1 Cor 2:14, John 3 etc.]”

      Agreed. Catholic theology teaches just this. I may not have the nice scholastic words for it (you do tend to over define matters a little at times – never forget that the Spirit has a mind of his own and need not work according to our formulas), but essentially we would agree that if any man in any way has begun to receive the things of God it is because of the gift of God’s grace in his life. As you say, while we can distinguish theoretically the prevenient action of God on the “natural man” (what you desire to call “transitive”) from the human response to this grace (what you like to call “intransitive”), the two acts actually are the one act viewed from different perspectives.

      “Not that God does not reward good works, ut the reward itself is extended from grace, since our works in this life are always imperfect.” Again, agreed, as long as you add “apart from the grace of God.” Unless you are going to deny the power of grace over sin, God’s grace must be able to produce acts of perfect charity in the hearts of his reborn saints.

      “This is what evangelical theology looks like, David.” Aye, I knows. and it is what Catholic theology looks like too.

      “NT WRight is not a very good guide to or critic of Lutheranism – as I have pointed out on my main blog, he views Lutheranism through the prism of his own distorted Anglican Evangelical upbringing.” So you keep saying. On the contrary, I would suggest that he knows Lutheranism – or a certain kind of it – fairly well, but not Luther. In any case the important thing for me is that he knows Scripture – and he shows a willingness to allow scripture to determine his theology rather than vice versa.

      • Oh David, you can’t see the wood for the trees!
        “Catholic theology teaches just this”
        No it doesn’t, not while it teaches that man’s free assent is his part in initial justification (CCC1993).

        “the two acts actually are the one act viewed from different perspectives. ”
        Not in Catholicism, I must contend – Catholicism retains a certain spiritual ability for man even in his fallen state. What I call the “intransitive” action of man in spiritual actions, because effected by the grace of God acting upon him, Catholicism attributes ot man himself.

        ““This is what evangelical theology looks like, David.” Aye, I knows. and it is what Catholic theology looks like too.”
        Maybe in your mind…(pulling my hair out!) but not in official Catholic doctrine.

        “Unless you are going to deny the power of grace over sin, God’s grace must be able to produce acts of perfect charity in the hearts of his reborn saints.”
        Ah, you’re not going to force me into that corner, David. Of course I do not deny the power of grace over sin, it’s just that for a Lutheran perfection awaits the eschaton. Thankfully, God justifies the ungodly. In the meantime, our acts of charity remain imperfect, but God may reward them out of grace, not justice. ” So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'” Luke 17:10.

        “On the contrary, I would suggest that [NT Wright} knows Lutheranism – or a certain kind of it – fairly well, but not Luther. ”
        Well, we can meet half way here. Unfortunately, what he knows as “Lutheranism” is nothing of the sort – it is a caricature.

        • “In the meantime, our acts of charity remain imperfect, but God may reward them out of grace, not justice.”

          God rewards our acts of Charity, whether perfect or imperfect (not to mention acts of Faith and Hope), not out of (strict, commutative) justice (by which one renders to another what is due to him by strict right) but out of fidelity, by which one fulfills one’s promises. Merit in the Catholic doctrine of merit is not of the sort which is earned from, say, an employer as a wage by those who have a contract to work for him, but of the sort which is earned from someone who has made a promise to reward certain actions contingent on certain conditions being fulfilled by those who perform those actions and fulfill those conditions. You don’t seem to deny, and surely couldn’t deny, that God has made promises of rewards, but the problem for you then is that the concept of reward is a relative concept, and its correlative is the concept of merit. As for the quotation from St. Luke, keep in mind that merit is accrued not only by acts of supererogation, but also by acts of obligation, by doing one’s duty.

  8. “it seems to me unlikely that the greater portion of Christians (those in communion with Rome and Constantinople) would go astray on these as on so many other issues, whereas a much smaller, lately-separated group would have rediscovered what the rest of Christianity had forgotten or corrupted.”
    Please taken no offence Joshua, but that is precisely why I refer to the theology of merit as specious – having superficial plausibility but actually fallacious. How do we judge it as fallacious? Not by what seems right to us or the judgement of history, but by subjecting the doctrine to the judgement of Holy Scripture. Please see my response to David for more on this. The doctrines of grace have ebbed and flowed in the course of the church’s journey through time – see, for eg Augustine’s struggles with the Pelagians and the semi-Pelagian response to Augustine. The Western church of the day more or less adhered to Augustinianism at the Council of Orange II; in the East the semi-Pelagian theology of the Greek monastics won the day. As the Western church drifted into semi-Pelagianism, it brought forth various renewal movements which were essentially revivals of Augustinianism, the most successful of which is the Lutheran Reformation. This is a broad brush survey – there are nuances that time and space does not permit me to note..

    • Joshua says:

      Well I for one am very fond of taking an Augustinian view (as was the last Holy Father)…

    • Schütz says:

      Well, that’s one version of history, Pastor. I doubt if all would subscribe to it. My I suggest that one of the sources for the Catholic doctrine of “merit” is the liturgy – eg. the western canon and the collects -!and this goes back very early indeed and remains a constant in the west right up to the Reformation?

      • Now David – lex credendi lex orandi!
        We’ve been over this before – you’ll remember I can quote a Pope in my defence ;0).
        All sort of heresies can creep into the liturgy if it is not measured against the canon of pure doctrine.

        • Schütz says:

          Well now, I sat through an hour long lecture on this topic by a professor of liturgy from the university of Vienna the other day – and I am not sure we got it all sorted. One thing is for sure, in the history of the church the lex credendi lex orandi rule is generally not open to the sort of manipulation that allows much wriggle room to radical liturgical reformers acting upon whims of schismatic doctrine. When radical changes do take place in the liturgy (and we have a general aversion to such changes – past present and future) they can only be carried out by proper authority.

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