Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Interracial marriage, same-sex "marriage", and the Catholic Church

Many advocates of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples compare belief in natural (or traditional) marriage to anti-miscegenation laws (laws forbidding marriage between interracial couples).   Although I believe those making the argument believe the laws are on similar footing, the truth is, they are not.  In other words, the reasons for the anti-miscegenation laws are not at all the reasons for Proposition 8 and similar laws.  The underlying assumption against the argument is that there is a group of people who don't like some other group of people (e.g. gays or blacks), and want to deny those people the right to love whom they wish.  As I explain below, this is far from the truth.

Consider this: the Catholic Church opposes redefining marriage, and it also opposed anti-miscegenation laws, and essentially for the same reasons, but the opponents of interracial marriage are not necessarily the same supporters of natural marriage today.

In the 19th century and into the early 20th century, the philosophy of eugenics became very popular among many secularists (and, to be fair, many Christians as well).  It was the ideology that led to the holocaust, and was popular among everyone from the KKK to Margaret Sanger (foundress of Planned Parenthood).  In the United States, this took the form in the belief that if a white person has a single drop of non-white (especially black) blood, the white bloodline becomes impure.

Keep in mind, too, that there was a great stigma against having children outside of wedlock.  This stigma is virtually non-existent today.  Thus marriage was seen, properly I might add, as being the vehicle for which children are conceived and born.  If an interracial couple were to get married, especially a white person to a non-white person, this would threaten the bloodline of white people and ultimately the white race as a whole.

In laws forbidding interracial marriage ,the definition of marriage (a union between a man and a woman designed to produce children and raise a family) was never changed. Rather, certain men and women were forbidden from marrying each other, because of the philosophy of eugenics.

What about same-sex couples?  The effort to allow same-sex couples to marry necessarily involves a redefinition of marriage, so that children become impossible.  Adoption does not count into this formula, nor does barrenness.  Barrenness is a disorder that can often be remedied (and is often discovered after marriage) but there is no remedy that can naturally produce children in same-sex couples.

Rather, homosexuality is more comparable to impotency between opposite-sex couples.  In the Catholic Church, if either partner is unable to perform the sexual act in order to consummate the marriage, that marriage is not valid.  In other words, sexual impotency at the time of marriage is a barrier to a valid marriage, because the conception of children is impossible.  Likewise, a couple who enters into marriage intending not to have children, ever, do not enter into a valid marriage.  (Are you beginning to see the consistency in reasoning here?  The key is children: is it possible to naturally conceive children, or at least engage in the sexual act that would allow one to be open to children, without any unnatural barriers?)

In other words, the Catholic Church opposed anti-miscegenation laws because they prevented worthy men and women marrying each other on the basis of the wicked philosophy of eugenics, but it opposes same-sex "marriage" because it redefines marriage in a way that excludes children from the sexual union.  In both cases, the meaning of marriage is attacked by worldly philosophies that will pass from one age to the next.

Catholic Church and Interracial Marriage

What was the first court ruling that said laws banning interracial marriage (miscegenation) were unconstitutional?  If you said Loving v. Virginia, you're wrong.  It was Perez v. Sharp in 1948.  This case was not just a case of personal freedom, but religious freedom.  The case was heard by the Supreme Court of California, which held that the anti-miscegenation laws of the state violated the Federal Constitution.  

Andrea Perez, a Mexican-American legally classified as "white", wished to marry Sylvester Davis, a "negro," in the Catholic Church.  The Church held no objection to their marriage, as they were well within their canonical rights to marry one another. Justice Edmonds, in his concurring opinion, held that their religious rights were violated since the Church was willing to marry them.  In effect, the state was preventing them from receiving the sacrament they had every right to receive.

His comments (citations deleted):
I agree with the conclusion that marriage is "something more than a civil contract subject to regulation by the state; it is a fundamental right of free men." Moreover, it is grounded in the fundamental principles of Christianity.
 And later:
Reasonable classification, therefore, is not the test to be applied to a statute which interferes with one of the fundamental liberties which are protected by the First Amendment. The question is whether there is any "clear and present danger" justifying such legislation, and the burden of upholding the enactment is upon him who asserts that the acts which are denounced do not infringe the freedom of the individual. In the present case, the respondent does not claim that there is any clear and present danger justifying the restrictions imposed by sections 60 and 69 of the Civil Code. In 18 states, including New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, where about 10 per cent of the Negroes of the United States reside, there are no such limitations. The population of California, to a large extent, is made up of people who have come to it from other sections of the country, and if there are undesirable consequences of interracial marriages, the challenged legislation is an ineffective means of meeting the problem
The basis for opposing interracial marriage was eugenics, not protection of natural marriage.  Theories of eugenics were condemned by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (written in German rather than Latin, directly in condemnation of what was happening in Germany under Hitler).

He says (emphasis added):

8. Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community - however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things - whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.
And continuing...

17. The peak of the revelation as reached in the Gospel of Christ is final and permanent. It knows no retouches by human hand; it admits no substitutes or arbitrary alternatives such as certain leaders pretend to draw from the so-called myth of race and blood. Since Christ, the Lord's Anointed, finished the task of Redemption, and by breaking up the reign of sin deserved for us the grace of being the children God, since that day no other name under heaven has been given to men, whereby we must be saved (Acts iv. 12). No man, were every science, power and worldly strength incarnated in him, can lay any other foundation but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus (1 Cor. iii 11). Should any man dare, in sacrilegious disregard of the essential differences between God and His creature, between the God-man and the children of man, to place a mortal, were he the greatest of all times, by the side of, or over, or against, Christ, he would deserve to be called prophet of nothingness, to whom the terrifying words of Scripture would be applicable: "He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh at them" (Psalms ii. 3).
18. Faith in Christ cannot maintain itself pure and unalloyed without the support of faith in the Church, "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. iii. 15); for Christ Himself, God eternally blessed, raised this pillar of the Faith. His command to hear the Church (Matt. xviii. 15), to welcome in the words and commands of the Church His own words and His own commands (Luke x. 16), is addressed to all men, of all times and of all countries. The Church founded by the Redeemer is one, the same for all races and all nations. Beneath her dome, as beneath the vault of heaven, there is but one country for all nations and tongues; there is room for the development of every quality, advantage, task and vocation which God the Creator and Savior has allotted to individuals as well as to ethnical communities. The Church's maternal heart is big enough to see in the God-appointed development of individual characteristics and gifts, more than a mere danger of divergency. She rejoices at the spiritual superiorities among individuals and nations. In their successes she sees with maternal joy and pride fruits of education and progress, which she can only bless and encourage, whenever she can conscientiously do so. But she also knows that to this freedom limits have been set by the majesty of the divine command, which founded that Church one and indivisible. Whoever tampers with that unity and that indivisibility wrenches from the Spouse of Christ one of the diadems with which God Himself crowned her; he subjects a divine structure, which stands on eternal foundations, to criticism and transformation by architects whom the Father of Heaven never authorized to interfere.
Pius XI says that all races are equal before God.  Christ, a Jew, came to save all, Jew and Gentile.  We must never raise our racial, cultural, or political identity above God, lest we commit a form of idolatry.  It was in this spirit that Miss Perez and Mr. Davis proceeded, knowing that laws banning their marriage are never just.  Later in 1967, eleven bishops in states that still had these laws joined together in an amicus curiae brief in the case that ultimately eliminated anti-miscegenation laws, Loving v. Virginia.

So if you're married to a person not of your race, thank the Catholic Church!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The slow fade.

One of the greatest errors non-believers (and many believers) have fallen into is the belief that sinful actions are those things that we naturally want, and are therefore good for us, but an oppressive church seeks to restrict solely for the sake of maintaining power and control.

So, the thinking goes...

  • ...fathers and mothers do not deserve respect in themselves, because respect must be earned, not given freely.
  • ...children are a choice, not a gift.
  • ...opposition to contraception and abortion is an invitation to poverty.
  • ...opposition to homosexuality is an opposition to love.
  • ...opposition to adultery, pornography, and other forms of sexual perversion opposes our natural, animal desire for sex.
  • ...opposition to stealing presupposes that we have a right to private property, which we don't.
  • ...opposition to stealing is opposition to the first lesson we learned as a kid, to share what we have.
  • ...opposition to stealing keeps hungry people in poverty under penalty of sin.
  • ...opposition to lying is unreasonable.
  • ...opposition to lying would have gotten Jews arrested during the Holocaust.
  • etc. &c et cetera.
Holding to this belief is like standing on your head and insisting that gravity forces things upward.  The natural order of a righteous life is what leads to happiness.  Sin is the perversion of that order and deceives us into thinking that the fleeting biological moments of pleasure are equal to the spiritual and biological happiness that is the result of a virtuous life.

Consider sexual immorality.  I hold that this is truly the central sin of our age for other sins like lying, stealing, and murder break off of it like spokes on a wheel.  One need only watch an episode of the daytime soaps to see this.  Sin is the cause of much of our plagues that cause us tremendous suffering.  A couple that waits until marriage to engage in intercourse, are both virgins when married, and never commit adultery will not contract AIDS or any other STD unless some other sin, like rape, enters the picture.

The solutions we propose are mind-numbingly absurd.  Rather than manage our passions like rational creatures, we find work-arounds to hopefully not contract disease.  Billboards, doctors, and pundits tell us that we can't trust our lovers, and that we must use condoms lest they give us a disease.  It always amuses me to see people who panic if a piece of food falls on their dinner table, but have no qualms about swapping bodily fluid with someone who may have a deadly or painful illness that could be passed onto them.

Consider pornography.  The internet and cable TV have brought pornography into nearly every home.  It is being consumed on a nightly basis for often hours at a time.  There are often secret rituals that involve the use of pornography.  One spouse will find a way to keep the other from finding out about the pornography.  It is a standard feature in web browsers now to have private browsing that doesn't save the history or cookies, lest you forget to clear it all.  Lying.  Deception.  Barriers.  And we wonder why marriages fail.

Alcohol is the second most abused drug in America.  Pornography is the first.  How well would our society function if every household had a never ending supply of free alcohol in it?  Millions more would become alcoholics.  Hangovers would become our normal mode of operation, until we are perpetually curing ourselves with the hair-of-the-dog.  Yet this is exactly what we have done to ourselves with pornography.

Here's a comment on the above video: 
S. Craig

I am sitting here alone in an apartment, now separated from my wife and 3 children after 25 years of marriage. It began by walking away from the Lord....and the slow fade began. I am working on myself, my relationship with God and praying that his will would be done here. I am scared, but need to "trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight" Proverbs 3, 5-6 Please pray for us all. Thanks
There are millions more just like S. Craig.  But many tell us that the walk away from the Lord is the way of enlightenment.  If enlightenment means not being able to trust people, having relationships fall apart, contracting diseases, and being addicts, I will take the foolishness of happiness any day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why we need Sacred Art more than ever

Since the Second Vatican Council, much debate has centered around the liturgy, and much less on the loss of art in our churches.  Perhaps this is because the people who dismantled our liturgy are the same ones who stole our art and buried it underneath the new parking lot.  I wish to make the case for bringing this art back.  We need it now more than ever.

We live in an age that is increasingly visual.  The average American over the age of 2 watches about 37-40 hours of TV a week.  Over 5 hours a day.  We spend as much time at work as we do in front of the TV.  On our way to and from work, we are bombarded with visual ads on huge billboards, in subways, on sides of buses, on the backs of other cars, and just about everywhere else we can imagine.  At work and at home we spend even more hours at the computer, often while watching TV.

When we consider both the type of images -violent, sexual or pornographic images, and images designed explicitly for the purpose of manipulating our decisions, such as to buy something- and the sheer number of these images that we see, it is more important in this age than ever that we readjust our eyes to that which is holy.

Pornography is rampant in our society.  More and more people are accepting it as a normal form of entertainment.  In Houston (where I live), it is nearly impossible to drive around the city without seeing ads for sex shops, or the sex shops themselves.  Strip clubs abound, and visiting them is seen as a right-of-passage for young men and bachelors about to tie the knot (there are very few worse ways to set a marriage off on the wrong course from the get-go).

As more and more lay Catholics and clergy accept pornography as something normal, it is clear that pornography is a spiritual HIV, attacking those white blood cells, faithful Christians, in order to work its evil so that more women and children are abused, more marriages fall apart, and more men and women become addicted to sex and lose their jobs over pornography addictions.

Getting pornography out of our personal lives is often not an easy task.  Addicts will tell you that even after months or years of not viewing pornography, many images still live on in the mind.  I first became exposed to pornography in the 7th grade on the internet, and I can still recall very vivid details of some of the first pictures I saw.

I don't think we need to start taking Matthew 18:9 hyper-literally and gouge out our eyes.  The first step in removing pornography from your own home, besides throwing out any videos & magazines and deleting all your bookmarks, is to place at least one image of the Blessed Virgin in your home, preferably near wherever it is you normally look at pornography (computer, TV, etc.)  As a Church we cannot force people to such things, but we can return Sacred Art to our churches, thereby gradually cleaning the mind of filth and replacing it with the sublime.

Today's semi-iconoclasts tell us that we shouldn't have too much art in our churches. "Let us stick with a statue or two, maybe a modern painting, and some felt banners.  Oh, and if there must be a crucifix, let's at least make it a "resurecifix."  Too much art makes the church look rich and alienates the poor."  Beneath this assertion is a most pernicious presupposition, namely, that art is only for the rich.  It doesn't belong to the poor, the semi-iconoclasts assume, but to museums where you have to pay for admission and where there are exclusive parties for those wealthy aristocrats whose names are inscribed upon the walls of the museum and under the paintings prefixed by the words, "From the private collection of".

Art is not only for the wealthy.  It is for the poor and the middle class.  It is for all humanity, and the Church makes it accessible and free to all.  This is most especially true of Sacred Art.  It not only glorifies God (as is its primary purpose), but it raises the soul to God in a beautiful expression of worship and humility.  Sacred art instructs the ignorant, especially the illiterate, in the Bible, the life of Jesus, and the lives of the Saints.  We teach our children with pictures before we teach them with words.  The first books we give to a child are picture books, with little or no words.

Furthermore, Sacred Art affirms the worth of the human soul.  The souls of plants, animals, and other biological life forms are mortal.  When the body dies, the soul perishes with it.  Although animals vary greatly in intelligence, they do not make art.  Ants and termites make complex mounds, spiders weave beautiful webs.  But these are an extension of the brush of the Divine Artist, they are not works of art from the animals themselves.  Unlike humans, ants, termites, and spiders are not co-creators with God.  Only humans paint paintings, sculpt sculptures, and write books that express the joys and sufferings of an immortal soul.

Art is for everyone, rich or poor, man or woman, young or old, believer or unbeliever, sinner or saint.  It glorifies God, raises our souls to God, instructs our minds, and purifies our hearts.  Let us return Sacred Art to our churches, so as to begin a new Catholic renaissance, ecclesiae et orbi!

Mary the Morning Star

 Q: Why do Catholics call Mary the “Morning Star”? There are only two people in the Bible given this name: Jesus, the true Morning Star, and Satan, the false “morning star.”

A: Jesus and Mary are both correctly called the Morning Star, but in difference senses. Mary is called so only in relation to Christ, who is described in this theology as the dawn. The morning star precedes the dawn and is a harbinger of it. It is a symbol of hope that morning is coming. Thus Mary is the Morning Star in that by accepting, in faith, that these things “shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord” (Luke 1:35), she came before Christ as a herald, being the first bearer of the Good News both to Elizabeth and to us. Christ, however, is the Morning Star in that He is His own prophet, telling us of His glorious second coming. He Himself is the sign that death was defeated by His death and resurrection, that sin will be wiped from the world, and that every tear shall be dried (cf. Rev. 22:16).

Praying to [with] the Saints

Before I say anything, I wish to say something to Catholic apologists who insist on saying that we pray with rather than to the Saints. I understand where you are coming from. For Protestants, worship and prayer are synonymous; one is unable to pray without worshiping. Thus, some of you deny the charge that we pray to the Saints, and insist that we pray with them when we ask for their intercession. Although it is certainly true that we do pray with the Saints, denying that we pray to them causes more confusion. This is so for two reasons: 1) many Catholic apologists do speak of praying to the Saints, 2) prayer need not be restricted to worship. To pray means “to ask,” so, just as the word “prithee” or “I pray thee” means “I ask this of you”, so any form of supplication, be it to God, a Saint, or to the person sitting next to us is a form of prayer. That being said, prayer is generally expanded to mean all forms of communication and limited to mean communication beyond the visible world. But at times we might still speak of a pagan praying to a statue, a visible object (something Catholics do not and must not do!)
So, in this precise meaning of the term, a person prays when 1) addressing God, 2) addressing a Saint, 3) addressing a deceased loved one, 4) addressing Satan or another demon, 5) addressing any kind of “spirits”, 6) holding a séance, 7) &c. Clearly, some forms of prayer are acceptable, others are not. The question in the issue of praying to the Saints is whether or not it is acceptable. Protestants who are beyond the “Mary-worship” mentality are the ones that are willing to discuss this debate, which is what I want to talk about today.
My question is: Is there a Biblical precedent for praying to the Saints?
I believe that there is. During a recent period of trial, I struggled with this question. Actually, I’ve struggled with it for years. I have never been comfortable with prayer to the Saints in my five years as a Catholic. That’s not to say that I haven’t had particular devotions over the years, but I have always been uneasy, never fully accepting in my heart that it was acceptable.
One night a few weeks ago, I spoke with Christ and asked Him whether it was acceptable to pray to the Saints. I asked, “Why shouldn’t we always go directly to God?” The question phrased by anti-Catholics is usually, “Why can’t we go directly to God?” That’s a complex question, meaning that it is phrased in such a way that a Catholic can’t answer it (compare it to questions like, “Do you still beat your wife every night?”) The fact of the matter is that we can go directly to God. The proper question is, “Why then should we bother with the Saints? Why shouldn’t we always go directly to God?” The apologist’s response to this is the value of intercession. Just as we can pray with others here on Earth and ask them to pray for us, likewise, we can ask the Saints to pray for us. The Saints do not distract us from God any more than asking my friends to pray for me does. And to use an analogy, suppose I want something from my brother. Would it be wrong to ask my sister or my mother to speak to him with me or for me?  Of course not.
The next problem is that while there is nothing wrong with asking those on Earth to pray for us, is there any reason to believe that those in Heaven can hear us? There is an obvious difference, especially in terms of our psychology, to calling a friend and asking her to pray for me, and getting on my knees and asking Mary to pray for me. The former person is bodily present, though mediated by a phone. The other is only spiritually present, if that. I can appeal to the fact that Mary and the Saints are united to Christ as am I, and that this spiritual unity, theirs being perfect, is enough for them to hear my prayers, but this isn’t convincing enough, since my unity with Christ is not perfect, and for this reason I can’t pray to my friend without actually calling her on the phone.
That night I was left unresolved. I prayed a prayer to Our Lady of La Salette, though it was hard for me to get it past my lips. I was unsure if I had sinned or not. I went to bed unresolved.
The next morning as I was taking a shower my mind returned to this issue. I asked myself, “Is there a Biblical precedent for praying to the Saints?” My first thought was 1 Samuel 28, where Saul visits the Witch of Endor and conjures the spirit of Samuel. But this can hardly be seen as an endorsement for praying to the Saints. If anything, it is a condemnation. (I do not think it is, for conjuring spirits is an attempt at controlling the divine, not being humble to it.)
Next, I remembered two verses in Revelation where the Angels and the Elders are said to present the prayers of the holy ones (or saints on Earth) to God. What we have in the verses below is a scene from Heaven. What we see is those in Heaven praying to God and offering them our prayers. The Bible does not say that they are merely prayers for us (I would never deny that those in Heaven can pray for us), but they are our prayers themselves. How did they receive these prayers? Did God receive them, hand them to the Angels and Elders, who then turned them into incense to offer back up to God? I suppose that is possible, but it makes more sense to me to say that we gave them our prayers, which they in turn present to God.
The first excerpt is from Revelation 5:
1I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.
2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?”
And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it.
Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it;
5 and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”
6 And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
7 And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
9And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
10“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
The book is a book of judgment; when it is taken, prayers are presented. What might these prayers consist of? Likely, prayers for mercy and justice. But most importantly, they are prayers of the saints, or “holy ones.” A saint in Biblical terms is any Christian. Paul uses it to speak of those in what we now call the Pilgrim Church or the Church Militant: those Christians alive and on Earth. The Elders present God with our prayers, they praise Christ and in doing so they pray for us (v. 10).
Next is Revelation 8:
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
3 Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.
4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.
5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
Again, we see the prayers being offered prior to judgment, and they are prayers “of the saints” offered to God by an Angel.
This is enough proof for me. There might not be a verse written by Paul that says, “And let us now ask the Holy Martyr Stephen to pray for us!” Instead, we have something more powerful: an image of the very act of intercessory prayer occurring in Heaven! Rather than telling us that Saints can hear our prayers and offer them to God, the Bible actually shows it to us! Let those who have eyes to see, see.

Vatican II on Mary

Assumpta est Maria in caelum. gaudent Angeli, laudantes benedicunt Dominum. … Mary has been assumed into Heaven. The angels rejoice; they bless the Lord, praising Him.
Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We celebrate the day that the Virgin Mary was taken body and soul into Heaven by her Son, Jesus Christ, at the end of her earthly life. In the East, it is known as the “Dormition of Mary”, that is, her “falling asleep.”
It is appropriate then, as the blog gets officially underway, to begin with a look at what Vatican II says about Mary.
I have encountered many who fear that the role of Mary in salvation history has been diminished in the name of the ecumenism which sprung forth out of Vatican II. I have not experienced this personally, for most faithful Catholics I know who are devoted to Mary are also devoted to true ecumenism. It is the false spirit of ecumenism, which Vatican II is often wrongly blamed (or praised) for, which causes priests and others to tell us that it is wrong to pray for the conversion of non-Catholics (especially Jewish people), that has led us to deny that which is distinctly Catholic. So perhaps the role of Mary has been diminished on account of this false ecumenism. I am ignorant of the state of Marian devotion before Vatican II, but I have no difficulty imagining that it was much better than it is now.
There are no other dogma which have bothered Protestants more than those regarding Mary. But that being said, some Evangelicals are cautiously gaining a greater appreciation for Mary. Timothy George, a Baptist minister, writes in FIRST THINGS:
“If Catholics need to be called away from the excesses of Marian devotion to a stricter fidelity to the biblical witness, evangelicals should reexamine their negative attitudes toward Mary, many of which derive from anti-Catholic bias rather than sound biblical theology. “
Progress with Evangelicals is being made, with special thanks to those who have remained faithful to the council’s teachings on Mary and ecumenism.
Before I delve into the documents, I want to clarify, for any confused Protestants, the difference between “assumption” and “ascension.” Mary, Enoch, and Elijah were assumed into Heaven. They were not taken their by their own power, but by the power of God. Christ, however, being God, ascended into Heaven by His own power. That is what differentiates “assumption” from “ascension”: one is “assumed” by means of another, but one “ascends” by means of himself. For a more detailed explanation of the Assumption, I recommend these two tracts at Catholic Answers: Immaculate Conception and Assumption and Assumptions About Mary.
The most significant thing about the council’s statements on Mary is where it is located. Rather than placing this section in a document of its own, the council fathers decided to include it as chapter VIII of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Thus what is said about Mary is not as important Mary qua Mary, but Mary qua the Church. It follows then that if our understanding of the Church is based upon our understanding of Mary, then to diminish the importance of Marian doctrines is to diminish the teaching regarding the Church herself.
So that brings us to the text itself. The easiest thing to do is to paste the document here and make comments within the text. I might change this depending on reader’s reactions. For brevity’s sake (it is still long), I am cropping the least important portions. Furthermore, I have omitted some references. Emphasis is bolded; my comments are in red.(Read all of Lumen Gentium at the Vatican’s website.)
I. Introduction
52. Wishing in His supreme goodness and wisdom to effect the redemption of the world, “when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, ..that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). … This divine mystery of salvation is revealed to us and continued in the Church, which the Lord established as His body. Joined to Christ the Head and in the unity of fellowship with all His saints, the faithful must in the first place reverence the memory “of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ” (Roman Canon).
53. The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the RedeemerThe ancient title of “Theotokos” (Mother of God) was used at the Council of Ephesus in 431 against Nestorius who claimed that Mary gave birth only to the human nature of Jesus and thus it was only the human nature that died on the cross, though it was probably in use before then. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is “the mother of the members of Christ . . . having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head” (S. Augustine, De S. Virginitate. 6: PL 40, 399)… Mary was immaculately conceived, i.e., she was conceived without the stain of original sin, but this does not preclude the need for redemption, rather, her redemption occurred in a special manner.
…54. Wherefore this Holy Synod, in expounding the doctrine on the Church, in which the divine Redeemer works salvation, intends to describe with diligence both the role of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body, and the duties of redeemed mankind toward the Mother of God, who is mother of Christ and mother of men, particularly of the faithful. It does not, however, have it in mind to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified. Those opinions therefore may be lawfully retained which are propounded in Catholic schools concerning her, who occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us (Cfr. Paulus Pp. VI, allocutio in Concilio, die 4 dec. 1963: AAS 56 (1964) p. 37).
II. The Role of the Blessed Mother in the Economy of Salvation
55. The Sacred Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament, as well as ancient Tradition show the role of the Mother of the Saviour in the economy of salvation in an ever clearer light and draw attention to it. The books of the Old Testament describe the history of salvation, by which the coming of Christ into the world was slowly prepared. These earliest documents, as they are read in the Church and are understood in the light of a further and full revelation, bring the figure of the woman, Mother of the Redeemer, into a gradually clearer light. When it is looked at in this way, she is already prophetically foreshadowed in the promise of victory over the serpent which was given to our first parents after their fall into sin (Cf. Gen. 3:15). Likewise she is the Virgin who shall conceive and bear a son, whose name will be called Emmanuel (Cf Is 7, 14; cf. Mich. 5, 2-3; Mt. 1, 22-23). She stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from Him. With her the exalted Daughter of Sion, and after a long expectation of the promise, the times are fulfilled and the new Economy established, when the Son of God took a human nature from her, that He might in the mysteries of His flesh free man from sin.
56. The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of His Son, so that just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life… I have heard it said that the Catholic Church and Christianity is inherently sexist because it sees women as the cause of all evil through Eve. There are several problems with that statement, not the least of which is that 1) Adam takes most of the blame in the New Testament, and 2) it ignores the basic theology of Mary as the “New Eve.” …It is no wonder therefore that the usage prevailed among the Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creatureWe see here confirmed the teaching that Mary never sinned. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the radiance of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is greeted, on God’s command, by an angel messenger as “full of grace” (Cf. Lk. 1:28), and to the heavenly messenger she replies: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk. 1:38). Thus Mary, a daughter of Adam, consenting to the divine Word, became the mother of Jesus, the one and only Mediator. Embracing God’s salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under Him and with Him, by the grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption. Rightly therefore the holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience….All the praise that is given to Mary is because she acted freely out of love of God. Although she was given special graces, these graces, as no graces do, took away her free will. She was not forced to bear Christ. If she had been, the Holy Spirit would have been a rapist of sorts! For this reason Mary is often called “our hope”, because she stands above all the other saints in her devotion to her Son.
…58. In the public life of Jesus, Mary makes significant appearances. This is so even at the very beginning, when at the marriage feast of Cana, moved with pity, she brought about by her intercession the beginning of miracles of Jesus the Messiah (Cf. Jn. 2:1-11). This scripture is often implored by apologists in defense of prayers to Mary and her intercession for us, because we see her actually effecting the actions of Jesus. In the course of her Son’s preaching she received the words whereby in extolling a kingdom beyond the calculations and bonds of flesh and blood, He declared blessed (Cf. Mk. 3. 35; 27-28those who heard and kept the word of God, as she was faithfully doing (Cf. Lk. 2, 19, 51). Mary is not blessed just because she is his mother, but because she is faithful to God. After this manner the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan (Cf. Jn. 19:25), grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to His disciple with these words: “Woman, behold thy son” (Jn. 19:26-27).
59. … Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin (i.e. the Immaculate Conception), on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory (i.e. the Assumption), and exalted by the Lord asQueen of the universe, that she might be the more fully confimed [sic] to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death. The coronation of Mary is church doctrine, but it is not formally defined dogma. Many hoped the Pope John Paul II would formally define it much like Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption, however, that never came to be.
III. On the Blessed Virgin and the Church
60. There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, “for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all” (1 Tim. 2:5-6). The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power.For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.
61. Predestined from eternity by that decree of divine providence…she is our mother in the order of grace.
62. This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until The eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and cultics, until they are led into the happiness of their true home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator. The role of a Christian, including Mary, to help others does not stop at death. We still pray for the good and salvation of those on Earth in Heaven just as we did on Earth. Christ is the Mediator in that He makes it possible for us to pray for one another and even have access to God. But that does not mean that Mary, or any of us, cannot be “mediators” in the sense that we intercede and advocate for one another.
For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. Just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by the ministers and by the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to His creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.
The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. It knows it through unfailing experience of it and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more intimately adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer. There is no worship of Mary allowed in the Catholic Church. Somewhere there are Catholics who, like Protestants, think that any prayers to Mary are equal to worship, so we must eschew those practices. These Catholics, in this regard, have abandoned Catholicism. There are probably Catholics who believe that devotion to Mary is a hang over from Mediterranean religions, or from the supposedly “angry Jesus” that developed in the middle ages. They may think that Vatican II discouraged Marian devotion, but that is clearly not the case. Mary is subordinate to Christ. There is no question about that. But, again, that does not mean that, as a servant of her Son, she cannot pray for others even while in Heaven.
63. By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ. For in the mystery of the Church, which is itself rightly called mother and virgin, the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion as exemplar both of virgin and mother. By her belief and obedience, not knowing man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the new Eve she brought forth on earth the very Son of the Father, showing an undefiled faith, not in the word of the ancient serpent, but in that of God’s messenger. The Son whom she brought forth is He whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren (Rm. 8:29), namely the faithful, in whose birth and education she cooperates with a maternal love.
We see here that Mary stands for the church. Mary, as mother, united herself to her Son by 1) accepting Him into her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, 2) literally bearing Him forth to the world, 3) uniting herself to His will and suffering by means of a shared life together. The Church, as bride, unites herself to Christ by means of 1) receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, 2) bearing Christ figuratively through missionary and charity work, and 3) uniting to His will through the Sacraments and to His suffering through persecution.
64. The Church indeed, contemplating her hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and faithfully fulfilling the Father’s will, by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By her preaching she brings forth to a new and immortal life the sons who are born to her in baptism, conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God. She herself is a virgin, who keeps the faith given to her by her Spouse whole and entire. Imitating the mother of her Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, she keeps with virginal purity an entire faith, a firm hope and a sincere charity.
What are some of the characteristics of a good mother? She loves her children, so this makes her patient, yet stern, she seeks to educate her children in what is true rather than false, and she seeks to protect her children from harm. The church does each of these through 1) discipline (both in the sense of practices and punishments), 2) teachings of the Magisterium, and 3) the Sacraments, which give us grace to avoid sin.
Perhaps a departure from Mary is one reason for a disregard in fasting, the imporance of excommunications, the controversial teachings of the church, and proper respect for the Eucharist and the use of confession. In fact, it seems to me that, historically, the Protestants who have the most hangups about Mary are the ones least likely to practice fasting and excommunications, are unlikely to believe that the church is a “teaching” (rather than a “learning”) church, and are more likely to have “ordinances” rather than Sacraments.
65. But while in the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she is without spot or wrinkle, the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin (Eph. 5:27). And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues….Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her exalted Type, and continually progresses in faith, hope and charity, seeking and doing the will of God in all things….
Some might read only the first half of the bolded sentence above and laugh, for clearly the Church has not reached perfection, right? Yes and no. We individual members of the Church are often quite horrid sinners. Thankfully, the holiness of the Church is not dependent upon the holiness of the members. The Church is perfect in the sense that the teachings of the Magisterium are guided by the Holy Spirit, do not change, and cannot err, and the Sacraments are means of grace by with God helps the individual sinful members attain holiness. If the holiness of the members were a prerequisite to having valid Sacraments or having the authority to teach infallibly, we would be in a catch-22 situation. Thankfully, God is more merciful than that. That is what that sentence means. That is how the Church can be perfect, yet still increasing in holiness.
IV. The Cult of the Blessed Virgin in the Church
“Cult” is a technical term in religion meaning a body of devotions or rituals. It does not have the negative connotation that Americans usually associate with it.
67. This most Holy Synod deliberately teaches this Catholic doctrine and at the same time admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered, and the practices and exercises of piety, recommended by the magisterium of the Church toward her in the course of centuries be made of great moment, and those decrees, which have been given in the early days regarding the cult of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, be religiously observed. But it exhorts theologians and preachers of the divine word to abstain zealously both from all gross exaggerations as well as from petty narrow-mindedness in considering the singular dignity of the Mother of God. Following the study of Sacred Scripture, the Holy Fathers, the doctors and liturgy of the Church, and under the guidance of the Church’s magisterium, let them rightly illustrate the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin which always look to Christ, the source of all truth, sanctity and piety. …
Devotion to Mary is to be fostered, but measures must be taken to keep it from being too extreme; it must always be Christocentric. Of course, there are some who will take this latter portion to mean that devotion should be stifled. Rather, what the council had in mind is to prevent the excess of devotion that reportedly occurs in places like India, where Catholicism is said to be sometimes indistinguishable from Hinduism.
V. Mary the sign of created hope and solace to the wandering people of God
68. In the interim just as the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected is the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come (Cf. 2 Pet. 3:10), as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth.
69. It gives great joy and comfort to this holy and general Synod that even among the separated brethren [Protestants and others] there are some who give due honor to the Mother of our Lord and Saviour, especially among the Orientals, who with devout mind and fervent impulse give honor to the Mother of God, ever virgin. The entire body of the faithful pours forth instant supplications to the Mother of God and Mother of men that she, who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers, may now, exalted as she is above all the angels and saints, intercede before her Son in the fellowship of all the saints, until all families of people, whether they are honored with the title of Christian or whether they still do not know the Saviour, may be happily gathered together in peace and harmony into one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity.
Each and all these items which are set forth in this dogmatic Constitution have met with the approval of the Council Fathers. And We by the apostolic power given Us by Christ together with the Venerable Fathers in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and establish it and command that what has thus been decided in the Council be promulgated for the glory of God.

Mary, you were Assumed into Heaven, pray for us!
May the Lord bless us and keep us, deliver us from evil, and bring us to life everlasting, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Patriarch Bartholomew

I am very pleased to read that the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, will be attending the papal inaugural Mass.  Bartholomew is considered the "first among equals" among the Orthodox Churches.  This move is extremely significant.  The Patriarch of Constantinople has not attended the inaugural Mass of the pope since the Great Schism in 1054.  This move supports my expectation that in the next few decades, significant progress will be made in West-East dialogue.  The year 2054 marks the millennial anniversary of the schism.  Expect a major accord of some kind to occur then.

Pope Francis has ties to the eastern churches.  In Argentina, he was the ordinary for Eastern Catholics (Eastern Catholics are Catholics with many of the same traditions and customs as the Orthodox Churches, but are in union with the Pope).  The Gospel at the Mass will be proclaimed in Greek, the historical language of the East, instead of Latin, the historical language of the West.

Here is what Jimmy Akin says about this:

One should not view this as the pope dissing Latin. They're going to be using lots of Latin in this Mass.
As papal spokesman Fr. Lombardi noted:
“Latin,” Fr. Lombardi said, “is already abundantly present in the other prayers and Mass parts.”
Furthermore, they announced:
The Gospel will be proclaimed in Greek, as at the highest solemnities, to show that the universal Church is made up of the great traditions of the East and the West.

Proclaiming the Gospel in Greek is not an innovation here. It's something they already do on special occasions to show the Church's universality.
So it's in accord with precedent.
It's also not surprising that they would exercise this option here since this is already a Solemnity (St. Joseph's day), since it's a very solemn Mass (a papal inauguration), since Pope Francis has for years been an ordinary for Eastern Catholics in Argentina (Greek being a primary liturgical language in the East), and--in an extraordinary ecumenical gesture that hasn't happened in almost 1,000 years--the Patriarch of Constantinople (Bartholomew I) is going to be attending.

Pope Francis' address to media: March 16, 2013

Anyone who's paid a minute's attention to the news following the election of Pope Francis knows that he is very much a different kind of pope.  At first glance, he seems to be a simple, reserved man who prefers the "low church" rather than the pomp and circumstance for which the Church is known.  Time will tell how accurate an analysis that is, and how far he goes to implement that vision.

Although we are seeing him behave very differently than a Papa Burke would have been, don't hold your breath expecting him to support gay marriage, abortion, or other pet issues of the left.  It's not going to happen.

Below is a transcript of his address to the media on March 16, 2013.  Francis is mindful that he is addressing many who are unchurched or unbelievers.  His words are carefully crafted to that audience.

I have bolded comments I wish to emphasize, and my comments are in red.

Address of the Holy Father
To Representatives of the Communications Media
Saturday, 16 March 2013
By Pope Francis
Dear Friends,
At the beginning of my ministry in the See of Peter, I am pleased to meet all of you who have worked here in Rome throughout this intense period which began with the unexpected announcement made by my venerable Predecessor Benedict XVI on 11 February last. To each of you I offer a cordial greeting.
The role of the mass media has expanded immensely in these years, so much so that they are an essential means of informing the world about the events of contemporary history.
I would like, then, to thank you in a special way for the professional coverage which you provided during these days – you really worked, didn’t you? – when the eyes of the whole world, and not just those of Catholics, were turned to the Eternal City and particularly to this place which has as its heart the tomb of Saint Peter. [What an elaborate way to refer to Rome.  He is reminding the reporters of the sacredness of the city.] Over the past few weeks, you have had to provide information about the Holy See and about the Church, her rituals and traditions, her faith and above all the role of the Pope and his ministry. [The reporters, unwittingly, have been engaged in some form of evangelism.]
I am particularly grateful to those who viewed and presented these events of the Church’s history in a way which was sensitive to the right context in which they need to be read, namely that of faith. [compared to those who have an agenda against the Church] Historical events almost always demand a nuanced interpretation which at times can also take into account the dimension of faith. Ecclesial events are certainly no more intricate than political or economic events!
But they do have one particular underlying feature: they follow a pattern which does not readily correspond to the “worldly” categories which we are accustomed to use, and so it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wider and more varied public. [And everyone wants to pigeon-hole the Church into their categories.]
The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails,[I can hear the traditionalists screaming and rending their garments.  Don't mistake what he is saying here.  The Church is human, but it is not merely human.] yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ [the Church is divine, as well]. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church’s life and activity.
Christ is the Church’s Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. 
Yet Christ remains the centre, not the Successor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre. [This is important considering the audience.  In a sceptical world, the Church is wrongly accused of putting the focus on herself rather than Christ.  I fear that this statement might be misinterpreted by liberals and traditionalists that he's signalling he would like to abolish the papacy.  That neither will nor can happen.  Rather, he is reminding us (as he explains below) that the Church means nothing without Christ.  Recall the words of St. John the Baptist (Jn. 3:30), "He must increase, but I must decrease."]
Christ is the fundamental point of reference, the heart of the Church. Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist or have reason to exist. 
As Benedict XVI frequently reminded us, Christ is present in Church and guides her. In everything that has occurred, the principal agent has been, in the final analysis, the Holy Spirit. [Despite changes, he's indicating continuity with Benedict.]
He prompted the decision of Benedict XVI for the good of the Church; he guided the Cardinals in prayer and in the election.
It is important, dear friends, to take into due account this way of looking at things, this hermeneutic, in order to bring into proper focus what really happened in these days.
All of this leads me to thank you once more for your work in these particularly demanding days, but also to ask you to try to understand more fully the true nature of the Church, as well as her journey in this world, with her virtues and her sins, and to know the spiritual concerns which guide her and are the most genuine way to understand her. Be assured that the Church, for her part, highly esteems your important work. At your disposal you have the means to hear and to give voice to people’s expectations and demands, and to provide for an analysis and interpretation of current events. Your work calls for careful preparation, sensitivity and experience, like so many other professions, but it also demands a particular concern for what is true, good and beautiful. 
This is something which we have in common, since the Church exists to communicate precisely this: Truth, Goodness and Beauty “in person.” It should be apparent that all of us are called not to communicate ourselves, but this existential triad made up of truth, beauty and goodness.
Some people wanted to know why the Bishop of Rome wished to be called Francis. Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis De Sales, and also Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story.
During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend!  When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me.  
And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected.  
And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don't forget the poor!” 
And those words came to me: the poor, the poor.  
Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi.  
Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi.  
For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?  He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!
Afterwards, people were joking with me. “But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…” And someone else said to me: “No, no: your name should be Clement.” “But why?” “Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!” These were jokes.  
I love all of you very much, I thank you for everything you have done. I pray that your work will always be serene and fruitful, and that you will come to know ever better the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rich reality of the Church’s life. I commend you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, [I think every action he's taking is for the cause of evangelization to the world. St. Francis is (wrongly) quoted as saying, "Preach always; use words when necessary."  The maxim that we should preach with our action as well as our words is a good one, even if St. Francis never said it.  Pope Francis, it is clear, is doing both.] and with cordial good wishes for you and your families, each of your families. I cordially impart to all of you my blessing. Thank you.
(In Spanish)
I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing.  Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!

Robert Moynihan reflects on the "silent blessing."

And then Francis did something which surprised everyone, pleased many, and shocked a few.
The moment had come for him to impart to all of us his Apostolic Blessing, but he did not do this in the usual way.
In fact, he made no exterior gesture at all. He did not lift his hand, he did not move it in the form of a blessing, and he did not speak "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" out loud.
He said, in Italian: "I cordially impart to all of you my blessing. Thank you." And then, in Spanish, he explained as follows: "I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing. Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!"
And with that, he turned and left.
One of my colleagues turned to me and said, "Where was the papal blessing?"
"He gave it silently," I said. "He blessed us silently, without presupposing anything. He was trying to be respectful of individual consciences. This is not a purely religious gathering."
"But it still seems like something is missing," my friend said. "No blessing!"
"But there was a blessing," I said. "We just could not see it. It is like what Ratzinger used to say, that in heaven, in the presence of God, there will no longer be any external rites or rituals to signify our worship, all those things will pass away, because the perfect will have come..."
"But are we already in heaven?" my friend replied.
"No," I said. "But can't we believe we are on the way?"
But my friend still was not satisfied. "I would have liked to have received a blessing from him," he said.
"You did," I said.
There will be more time in the future to reflect more deeply on these questions, which of course also have a relation to the liturgy. For the moment, it is enough to say that Pope Francis, also in this matter of giving a silent, not a public blessing to the journalists, did something without recent precedent, which is providing all of us with cause for meditation and inward conversion.
And that is what should be our thought at this time, just as Cardinal Hummes told Pope Francis as the vote total rose: "never forget the poor." We should never forget our own need for conversion. We should be converted to Christ. We are ever in need of deeper conversion.
This is what Pope Francis is calling us to, if we can but hear him...