The Pope and the Threat of a New Evangelism

The Pope and the Threat of a New Evangelism

By Hwaa Irfan

I thought it was getting a little bit too quiet. Probably overwhelmed by the countless cases of pedophilia against Catholic priests around the world, but Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger (Latin: Iosephus Ratzinger) after all is no ordinary man. An active intellectual at the age of 83, Pope Benedict XVI, apparently an accomplished pianist, spends every day playing a classical piece by Schubert, Schumann or Brahms – hmm, an interesting combination. One may wonder what goes through his mind of such a conservative Christian who was:

• A member of Hitler Youth at 14
• Professor at the University of Bonn (1959 – 1963)
• Dean and vice-president of University of Regensburg
• Chief theological expert of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965)
• Co-founder of the theological journal Communio in 1972, now an important journal in Catholic thought
• Archbishop of Munich and Freising
• Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ( the Holy Office of the Inquisition)
• Cardinal-bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993,
• Vice-dean of the College of Cardinals in 1998, Dean in 2002,
• Titular bishop of Ostia.
• Close friend of former Pope John Paul II

As his fingers ripple over the keys of the piano, does he take strength from Johannes Brahms infamous sharp tongue, being well known for his own forthright speech. Is there a parallel between Pope Benedict XVI’s recent declaration: “a grave crisis in the sense of the Christian faith and the role of the Church,” and Brahms attitude towards his contemporaries when he declared “everything is in a state of ruin… Learning nothing is to blame… Neither Schumann, nor Wagner, nor I had a proper education. Talent, however, was decisive…” Both Brahms and Pope Benedict XVI were dissatisfied, and Pope Benedict XVI has repeated often his concerns with the Christendom. Unlike many Muslims who compromise and give into the notions espoused by various wings of secularism Pope Benedict XVI as Ratzinger declared at a religious gathering in St. Peter’s Basilica that:

    “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”

But as an intellectual is Pope Benedict XVI in touch with his flock, most of whom who do not attend church, that some of the reasons are to do with the Catholic Church itself? Where are the noble pure role models in the Catholic Church, noble and pure being the adjectives Schumann used after the death of Schubert. There are many pure and devout Christians outside of the Church who take their faith so seriously so as to explore it further through other means as in the many forms of modern day Gnosticism. Because they do not attend Church does it mean they do not take their faith any less seriously? The Church as in the Mosque represents a communality, an imperative in Islam that strenghthens the social fabric of the faithful, but whereas Islam in more inclusive of the kaleidescope of different levels of faith, and knowledge of that faith, can the same be said of Catholicism which imposes a a particular view of the world, becuase when Muslims take on that same narrow vision, it tends to alienate rather than enjoin.

Schubert, Schumann and Brahms turned to each other for musical inspiration and composition, and this is the nature of all those who seek excellence in their field. But seeking excellence which may have more to do with the institution of the Church as power on earth has less to do with faith and more to do with the problem that is plaguing most countries today, which are governments whose concern is for maintaining power and position, and not the needs of the people — the voters whom they are supposed to serve. Austria, the vanguard of Catholicism is pushing for a more liberal Church. With 6, 000.000 Catholics, Britain has a weekly church attendance of approximately a million. While Islam has been the battering ram with which to squelch any idea of faith and practice in favor of “…one’s own ego and one’s own desires,” relativism has indeed become the scourge that governments and international bodies like the U.N. have schemed to make manifest because it serves in their interests to do so. The people believing that this is what freedom is about are not going to uphold the tenants of Catholicism or Islam until they realize the mess they have gotten themselves and the rest of the world into. Prince Charles of Wales contextualized the problem so well that there is a clear dismembering of man from nature ignoring the fact that man is an intrinsic part of nature. This schism has been coming for a long time it is not new, even renowned psychotherapist, Carl Jung, recognized this at the turn of the 20th century when he said:

    “The individual who is not anchored in God can offer no resistance on his own resources to the physical and moral blandishments of the world. For this he needs the evidence of inner transcendent experience which alone can protect him from the otherwise inevitable submersion in the mass. Merely intellectual or even moral insight into the stultification and moral irresponsibility of the mass man is a negative recognition only and amounts to not much more than a wavering on the road to the atomization of the individual.”

Evangelism and the New Agenda

So here we are worse off than we were at the time Carl Jung said the above. American Catholics had hoped for more conservative action from Pope Benedict XVI when he first became Pope. He certainly seemed to live up to his nickname “God’s Rottweiler” when he disparaged liberalism within the Church, argued against Turkey being allowed into the E.U., Islam and Buddhism with the one exception being his relationship with Judaism:

    “I have expressed my own firm determination to walk in the footsteps traced by my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II. The Jewish-Christian dialogue must continue to enrich and deepen the bonds of friendship which have developed.”

In the “The Jewish People and the Holy Scriptures,” prepared by the Pontifical Biblical Commission approved by Pope Benedict XVI it states:

    “…the Jewish messianic wait is not in vain” and that Jews and Christians share their wait for the Messiah, although Jews are waiting for the first coming and Christians for the second”.

These same sentiments were expressed by the scholars of the religious right who formed the Fundamentalism Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences who sort to counter the same fears of Pope Benedict XVI, that of the growing secularism through a militarism that aimed to stem the tidal loss of religious identity. Militant white Protestants in the South met their criteria as well as the radicals amongst Israeli Jews joining with George W. Bush in 2000 as the political vanguard of the Religious Right. George W. Bush won the election because of the evangelical vote, and the rest we know culminating in the so-called war on terrorism. Of those voters 71% were evangelical Protestants who believed in Armageddon, and approximately 55% of those who voted for Bush believed in Armageddon. Author of The End of Days:
Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount,
Gershom Gorenburg who moved to Israel wrote:

    “If there is any place in the world where belief in the End is a powerful force in real-life events, it’s the Holy Land. The territory today shared and contested by Jews and Palestinians is the stage of myth in Christianity, Judaism and even Islam… The impact of such belief on a complex national and religious struggle had received too little attention. It underlies the apocalyptic foreign policy promoted by many on the American religious right: support for Israel based on certainty that the Jewish state plays a crucial role in a fundamentalist Christian script for the End. In Israel, belief in final redemption has driven the most dedicated opponents of peace agreements. Among Muslims, expectation of the final Hour feed exaggerated fears about Israel’s actions in Jerusalem. Belief in the approaching End has influenced crucial events in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Time and again, it has been the rationale behind apparently irrational bloodshed.”

So when Pope Benedict XVI speaks of:

    “… creating a new body with the aim of promoting a renewed evangelism,” in countries that are going through “progressive secularization of society”

It is with trepidation given the level of insecurity that exists in the world currently, given the steps that Israel and the U.S. are taking to provoke Iran, and the region in general, I ask what kind of evangelism. The Catholic Church still has a legacy in massacres like the one which took place in Rwanda in their evangelical zeal, and I doubt very much that this is the best way to increase faith and devotion.

We all have dreams, but when they concern other people, and those dreams do not have the conditions to make those well intended dreams manifest, that it is best to remember that both Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Issa (Jesus) began with a handful of believers, and left the faith to do the rest; but no:

In the 2007 Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization laid down by the body Pope Benedict VII was responsible for prior to becoming Pope (the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it states:

“Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to proclaim the Gospel, calling all people to conversion and faith (cf. Mk 1:14-15). After his resurrection, he entrusted the continuation of his mission of evangelization to the Apostles (cf. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15; Lk 24:4-7; Acts 1:3): “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21, cf. 17:18). By means of the Church, Christ wants to be present in every historical epoch, every place on earth and every sector of society, in order to reach every person, so that there may be one flock and one shepherd (cf. Jn 10:16): “Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15-16)”.

Pope Boniface VIII – Unum Sanctum
November 18, 1302

This Papal Bull brought forth by Boniface VIII stated the Papal Throne’s power over all men and the Divine origins of that very same power. It was somewhat a response to Philip le Bel’s refusal to accept Boniface VIII Papal supremecy.

Unam Sanctam

Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles proclaims: “One is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only one, the chosen of her who bore her,” and she represents one sole mystical body whose Head is Christ and the head of Christ is God.

In her then is one Lord, one faith, one baptism . There had been at the time of the deluge only one ark of Noah, prefiguring the one Church, which ark, having been finished to a single cubit, had only one pilot and guide, i.e., Noah, and we read that, outside of this ark, all that subsisted on the earth was destroyed.

We venerate this Church as one, the Lord having said by the mouth of the prophet: “Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword and my only one from the hand of the dog.” He has prayed for his soul, that is for himself, heart and body; and this body, that is to say, the Church, He has called one because of the unity of the Spouse, of the faith, of the sacraments, and of the charity of the Church.

This is the tunic of the Lord, the seamless tunic, which was not rent but which was cast by lot . Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: “Feed my sheep” [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him . Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not bei ng the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John “there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.”

We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: “Behold, here are two swords” that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: “Put up thy sword into thy scabbard”. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered for the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: “There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God”, but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.

For, according to the Blessed Dionysius, it is a law of the divinity that the lowest things reach the highest place by intermediaries. Then, according to the order of the universe, all things are not led back to order equally and immediately, but the lowest by the intermediary, and the inferior by the superior. Hence we must recognize the more clearly that spiritual power surpasses in dignity and in nobility any temporal power whatever, as spiritual things surpass the temporal.

This we see very clearly also by the payment, benediction, and consecration of the tithes, but the acceptance of power itself and by the government even of things. For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgment if it has not been good. Thus is accomplished the prophecy of Jeremias concerning the Church and the ecclesiastical power: “Behold today I have placed you over nations, and over kingdoms” and the rest.

Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: “The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man”.

This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven” etc., [Mt 16:19]. Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God, unless he invent like Manicheus two beginnings, which is false and judged by us heretical, since according to the testimony of Moses, it is not in the beginnings but in the beginning that God created heaven and earth.

Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

Farndale, B. What Happened to God’s Rottweiler

Phillips, K. “American Dynasty“. Penguin Books, U.S. 2004

Pope Launches Team to ‘Re-Evangelize’ the West

Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican. Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization

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