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Cardinal urged Church unity in speech to conclave before Francis’s election

By on Thursday, 8 August 2013

Cardinal Prosper Grech (CNS)

Cardinal Prosper Grech (CNS)

The last formal speech to the 115 cardinals who elected Pope Francis in March included reminders of the importance of presenting the Catholic faith in its entirety, the need to recognise the errors of Church members and the need for unity within the Catholic community.

Maltese Cardinal Prosper Grech, 87, was too old to vote in the conclave, but the 115 cardinals under the age of 80 asked him to enter the Sistine Chapel with them and offer a meditation before they began voting.

The text of the cardinal’s remarks was not released at the time, but the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has now published it.

Cardinal Grech, an Augustinian priest and expert on the fathers of the early Church, had told the cardinal electors that he was not there to outline the characteristics needed in a new Pope, but to use Scripture to reflect on “what Christ wants from his Church.”

First, he explained, the Church is called to proclaim the kingdom of God and the good news of salvation through Christ. “The Church does this presenting the Gospel without shortcuts, without diluting the word,” he said.

The cardinal warned that too many Catholics erroneously think that baptism and participation in the sacraments are not necessary because the Second Vatican Council recognised the possibility of “salvation even for those outside the Church.”

Too many Catholics, he said, do not know the teachings of the Church; “not only does an ignorance and lack of care about Catholic doctrine reign,” but also an ignorance of the basics of Christianity itself.

One of the biggest threats Cardinal Grech saw was a threat to the unity of the Catholic community. “Between ultra-traditionalist extremists and ultra-progressive extremists, between priests rebelling against obedience and those who don’t recognise the signs of the times, there always will be the risk of small schisms that not only damage the Church, but go against the will of God.”

Many Catholics, he added, seem to think that “progress in the Church is based on the degree of freedom given in the area of sexuality.”

As for mandatory celibacy for priests in the Latin-rite church, he said it is true that some Church disciplines can change, “but not every change means progress. One must discern if such changes work to increase the holiness of the Church or obscure it.”

One thing that definitely obscures the holiness of the Church, he said, is the sinful behavior of its members, particularly priests.

Cardinal Grech said it is true that in many parts of the world the Church faces literal persecution, but it also suffers attacks by the media. Persecution is part of the life of the church, he said.

However, he told the cardinals, the media also has publicised terribly true cases of clerical sexual abuse. In those cases, “the Church must humble itself before God and men and try to uproot the evil at any cost.”

Only with firm action against abusive priests and on behalf of the victims, he said, can the Church regain its credibility. “Today many people are not able to come to believe in Christ because his face is obscured or hidden behind an institution that lacks transparency,” he added.

  • Benedict Carter

    A mixture of the very good and the blindness of the modern Church.

    ” … the importance of presenting the Catholic faith in its entirety …”: sure, but it hasn’t been done for half a century, and I see no evidence of that changing. Instead, those who believe in a “new” Catholicism (which ipso facto isn’t Catholicism) are ramping up their efforts and they have a leader in Imbroglio.

    The blind bit comes in the sentence, “Between ultra-traditionalist extremists and ultra-progressive extremists, between priests rebelling against obedience and those who don’t recognise the signs of the times, there always will be the risk of small schisms that not only damage the church, but go against the will of God.”

    I am not sure what “ultra traditional” or “extremist” can possibly mean? Does he mean “Catholic”? For what ALL Catholics once were, the Traditionalist still is.

    What the others are (95%?) is something different. There is ALREADY an effective schism in the Church. It is already several decades old. It cannot be the Traditionalist who has caused it: he or she has merely held on to what ALL Catholics once held to.

    No. The schism is the work of the Revolutionaries. And it’s a work deliberately planned and executed too. You don’t topple a mighty edifice and an entire world-wide culture without some thought going into it.

  • AlanP

    I knew you wouldn’t be able to stay away for long!
    It is difficult to take issue with you without reference to particular points at issue (for example the question of religious freedom, on which we have differed). What you see as contradictions in doctrine, by picking on particular teachings from past encyclicals and comparing them with the teachings of Vatican II, I see as “development of doctrine”.
    Also, however much I disapproved of any particular Pope, I would not casually refer to him by his pre-Papal surname the way you do. Surely only a Sedevacantist would do that.

  • SimonS

    Diversity is, and always has been one of the Catholic church’s strengths. This includes a diversity of thought as well as practice.

    While it is clear that there is a substantial portion of diversity of people who consider themselves to be Catholic, whilst their positions don’t sit well with this, there is a distinct subset of Catholics who take it upon themselves to essentially declare that their interpretation of Catholicism is emphatically correct (and anything else is heretical).

    This lack of ability to acknowledge that their perspective on Catholicism is not the uniquely valid one is fairly unique to this subset of people, but it is very noticeable as they are a relatively small subset of the Catholic church, and clustered very strongly at one edge of the (valid) spectrum of Catholics.

    Extremist is overly harsh, but it certainly reflects a fundamentalism, which is similar to that of other (normally more undesirable) religious groups, in that it is nearly impossible for someone who holds any differing views at all to have a meaningful discussion with them.

  • Benedict Carter

    Unity in diversity is one thing. Latin Catholics, Maronites, Greek Melkites, Greek Catholics of Ukraine etc. Lots of others. All Catholics though.

    But there can NEVER be “unity in diversity of belief”. And that is exactly what we have now. Look at ACTA, the British dissident group which denies Original Sin and seeks to overturn the Divine Law of the Ten Commandments, let alone the Natural Law.

    This is schism and the Church already is in schism.

    As to extremism, are you equating the Traditionalist with the sort of man screaming “Allah u Akhbar” as he cuts off a man’s head, or blows himself up in the midst of a wedding party? If you are, you’d be plain plain mad, wouldn’t you?

    However, if you insist on calling as a pejorative “fundamentalist” one who seeks to avoid hell with all his might and gain Eternal Life, then I for one am happy to be called so.

  • Benedict Carter

    Your “surely” is not very sure at all Alan. In Italy, it’s very traditional to call a Pope “Papa Ratzinger” for instance. I don’t use the title “Pope” for Imbroglio because he himself refuses to use it, so “‘umble” is he.

  • AlanP

    His surname is actually Bergognio, I wondered whether you deliberately used the other word as it means a confused situation!

  • Benedict Carter

    Honestly, Alan, do you need to wonder?

  • SimonS

    I agree, and people or groups who reject that which is Catholic are not really Catholic. There is, however, disagreement on what is an essential tenet of Catholicism, and what is periphery – and I think that the so-called ‘ultra-traditionalists’ have a tendency of squashing more towards the dogmatic and essential end of Catholicism than is perhaps necessary.

    I was intentionally disavowing extremism as a label. It is worth noting, however, that it is more of a label of extent than substance – an extremist muslim shares the label with an an extreme Jain, the manifestations are very different, however. I have no interest in making those comparisons.

    I chose the term fundamentalist intentionally, as it is not perjorative – there are plenty of people who would describe themselves thus. Fundamentalists are, however, divisive within broader communities, such as the Catholic church, as they have a tendency to assume that their perspective is right rather than engaging with the reasons that others disagree with them.

    I am very aware that we have marked differences in our perspectives on life. I do not consider your perspective to be less valid than my own – rather I consider the reasons you disagree to be (potentially) interesting.

  • NatOns

    The Upper Room was hardly transparent, nor the drunk-sounding multi-lingual preaching under the Holy Ghost, nor indeed the First Council of the Church Fathers at Jerusalem .. all were obscure, hidden or sealed. It is not lack of ‘transparency’ – whatever that media notion is meant to convey (free access to personal and private data, if a head-line hungry journalist expresses interest in sniffing out a tale to tell, I guess) – rather it is the all too apparent lack of fidelity to the Faith, the rule of the Church, and the care of souls in need of protection that turns many worldly hearts from trust in the Catholic hierarchy. In this lack of trust for leaders who lead for the sake of leading .. on the part of the journalist, the abused, the onlooker .. is amply justified; for it is clearly not enough to issue apologies for abuse (that has been well know, properly documented then treated as over) after the event, with policies drawn up (to stop it happening again, until it does happen again) – well intended those these may be; this reactive movement is seen as defensiveness (rather than the staggering ineptitude that it really is), so a pro-active movement is called for .. to actually implement the Faith, its rule in the Church, and thus for the care of souls in need of protection (and in case the hierarchy do not understand what that entails, it means dedicating a huge chunk of their spare time to scrutinising their own household, its records, and not relying on a nice, neat, buff folder being set on their desk as ‘the answer’: never an easy task, I admit).

  • Mike

    It’s actually Bergoglio :-)

  • Kevin

    “First, he explained, the Church is called to proclaim the kingdom of God and the good news of salvation through Christ.”

    In his address to the Curia last Christmas, Pope Benedict spoke of “fundamental themes of this moment in history” in the following order:
    1. The family;
    2. The nature of dialogue among religions (which “does not aim at conversion”); and,
    3. A “brief observation” on proclamation (i.e. evangelisation).

    This seems to put secular concerns above religious mission. The family is in jeopardy precisely because, through so-called separation of Church and state, it is seen as a secular matter – as belonging to Caesar. Dialogue, meanwhile, never seems to give way to evangelisation.

    Cardinal Grech is right that proclamation should be the first priority, but is it in practice?

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    One of the biggest threats Cardinal Grech saw was a threat to the unity
    of the Catholic community. “Between ultra-traditionalist extremists and
    ultra-progressive extremists, between priests rebelling against
    obedience and those who don’t recognise the signs of the times, there
    always will be the risk of small schisms that not only damage the
    Church, but go against the will of God.”

    Bullseye.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    The blind bit comes in the sentence, “Between ultra-traditionalist
    extremists and ultra-progressive extremists, between priests rebelling
    against obedience and those who don’t recognise the signs of the times,
    there always will be the risk of small schisms that not only damage the
    church, but go against the will of God.”

    I am not sure what “ultra traditional” or “extremist” can possibly
    mean? Does he mean “Catholic”? For what ALL Catholics once were, the
    Traditionalist still is.

    Dear Ben, I would honestly love it if we could spend however many days together, in person, wherever, as would be needed to come to terms with each other on this central, and crucial topic ; and even moreso if the Church as a whole could do so.

    I don’t think the Cardinal has “attacked” Traditionalist Catholics, given that a Traditional Catholic can by definition hardly be an “extremist”.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    There is, however, disagreement on what is an essential tenet of Catholicism, and what is periphery

    This is an intrinsically Protestant-inspired analysis, and it is intrinsically false.

    The grammar and rhetorics of theological language leave one in no doubt whatsoever as to what is central AKA indefectible and/or Infallible AND of the Deposit of Faith ; and that which is pastoral, disciplinary, fallible, debatable, and NOT of the Deposit of Faith ; and then that which is peripheral per se, which is everything that is not necessary to Catholicism, which might include guitar-playing, the Kiss of Peace, group hugs, and so on.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Historical concerns are transient ; concerns of the Faith are Eternal.

    Pope Benedict XVI did not confuse the one with the other, and you are unlikely to be able to “correct” him on the basis of such a confusion.

  • SimonS

    I am sure that I would have no doubt as to what is central, what is pastoral, what is disciplinary etc., I am also sure that the same is true for you. I am somewhat less sure that the categorisations we would make would be exactly the same though! The principle is, however, good enough.

    I am perhaps more concerned about those who take their extrapolations from this body of faith as definitive, or who consider their (very traditional) practice of Catholicism (rather than doctrine) to be ‘correct’ at the expense of others. The different perceptions on how Catholic teaching should be applied to interactions with people who aren’t Catholic (or society more generally) can be quite contentious.

    More strongly, I was taking issue with Benedict Carters implication that 95% of people who consider themselves to be Catholic are in effective schism. If that is the case, the Church is not Catholic. There is a notable divide in most parishes, and most Catholics are not ‘ultra-progressive’ or ‘ultra-traditionalist’.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    There is a notable divide in most parishes, and most Catholics are not ‘ultra-progressive’ or ‘ultra-traditionalist’

    VERY FEW Catholics could be accurately described as being “ultra-traditionalist” ; FAR greater numbers could be so described as being “ultra-progressive”.

  • SimonS

    I would agree with that. Interestingly, I think the ratio is sometimes inverted online – I’m not really sure why that is.

    My experience, however, is that the progressive end of the spectrum is more integrated in the wider community. The causes, and generality, of that are debatable.

    ps. I think the word progressive in this context is peculiar. It makes an interesting pre-judgement of the direction of progress.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Interestingly, I think the ratio is sometimes inverted online – I’m not really sure why that is.

    This is a false impression, drawn from the fact that orthodox faithful Catholics and Traditionalist Catholics alike are VERY frequently falsely accused as being “ultra-traditionalists”.

    My experience, however, is that the progressive end of the spectrum is more integrated in the wider community. The causes, and generality, of that are debatable.

    I’ve no idea which “wider community” you’re really talking about, but if you’re talking about the atheists and pagans and other such non-Christians, the entire purpose of the “progressives” is to try and make Christianity into a worldly and fleshly religion that would appeal to these non-Christians and their fleshly desires, rather than focusing all their strength and all their soul in whichever manner of genuine mystical love for God and for His Christ and for His creatures.

    I think the word progressive in this context is peculiar

    It’s a word that the “progressives” have devised for themselves, and IMO is best always represented inside quote marks.

    They’re all of them Modernists anyway, and therefore heretics ; but not all Modernists are “progressives”, nor are all heretics, so the word still has its uses for distinguishing them from others.

  • Henry Cassar

    Bullseye indeed. And as a fellow Maltese I feel very proud that “our” dear Patri Prospero” Cardinal, as we maltese would say, was given this previlage at the time and that he delivered dead on target Enemies of the Church there always were and there will always be till end of time!

  • Tridentinus

    … and far greater numbers couldn’t care less.

  • Tridentinus

    When Pius XII answered the telephone he used to say, “Pacelli qui”, (Pacelli here).

  • Benedict Carter

    95% of modern Catholics practice and/or believe an actual protestantism.

  • SimonS

    If you want to believe that…

    If the ‘universal’ part of the Catholic church is to be considered, then it doesn’t seem realistically possible for 95% to be schismatic, which leads to either (a) they aren’t, or (b) the 5% are the schismatics [seems unlikely to be your view...], or (c) the Catholic church as such no longer exists.

    I am not sure which of these views you subscribe to, but I’m not sure I can take the view that the vast majority of people who consider themselves to be Catholic aren’t Catholic seriously.

  • Benedict Carter

    I don’t “want” to believe it, I DO believe it – because it is the truth. Who said anything about schismatics? The effective protestantism of the Catholic masses (all over the world I may add) is based on a deep ignorance of what the Faith IS – and this is 100% a deliberate product of the post-Council Church.

    We have been invaded and mostly conquered, Simon. This is the simple fact of the matter. Of course, the hope for the future lies in the “mostly”. The Church still exists, but in a remnant, not in the visible, institutional Church.

  • Seal

    Why are you always pandering with this guy?

  • Sarah

    This cardinal was anti Vatican II. If we still have the Latin Mass, the Church would have died a natural death by now! Hope Pope Francis will enlighten him.

  • SimonS

    If 95% of Catholics believe an “actual protestantism” then they are in effective schism…

    I am a loss to comprehend your apparent belief in conspiracy. To suggest that “a deep ignorance of what the Faith IS” was deliberate directly suggests that the majority of people in leadership positions in the Church went about their decision wasting with malice. To suggest that the Church has been invaded is to ascribe a substantial amount more effort to those, who are mainly apathetic, who disagree with the Church than is plausible – people who don’t believe in Catholicism are hardly likely to spend their life on modifying it in the way you imagine.

    Even if I were to accept your picture of the Catholic church (which I think is seriously over-dramatised), I would suggest that “never assume malice when incompetence or ignorance would do” is a much more helpful perspective. Especially as dealing with problems as you perceive them will involve interacting with the people you perceive to be the problem (and vice versa for that matter).

  • Benedict Carter

    “I am a loss to comprehend your apparent belief in conspiracy”.

    You are at a loss because clearly you are admitting your ignorance of the history of the first sixty years of the 20th century in the Church which have led directly (and deliberately) to its collapse in the subsequent fifty years.

    * Bella Dodd – read up on her
    * The New Theologians – read up on them.
    * The Alta Vendita – read up on that.
    * The letters of Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald.
    * Histories of the course of Vatican II written by men who were there.
    * Histories of the heresy of Modernism.

    And that’s just to get started. All available on the internet.

    This without doubt was a conspiracy. They DO exist you know. Don’t criticise those who HAVE done all the reading until you have done the same.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Even though I don’t agree with Ben on everything, and particularly when it comes to certain aspects of the post-Conciliar period, he is absolutely correct that there have been, and there continue to be, several actual conspiracies devised by various parties desiring the destruction of the Catholic Church as such.

  • SimonS

    Thankyou, Ben.

    I am afraid I will have to defer that reading to (at least) this evening, and break it up a bit. PhD writing comes first during the day…

    A couple of queries:

    Bella Dodd – as sensational as some of the claims seem to be, they don’t to me seem as big as some people shout about. As far as I can tell, the most dramatic are of the infiltration by ~1000 priests (and perhaps up to four cardinals). Horrific, but by all acounts small-fry cf. 400,000 priests and 80 cardinals…

    Alta Vendita – Although the Italian Carbonari sound a little crazy, I can find little evidence to support the notion that this document is representative of plotting throughout Masonry generally. I see very little beyond some retrospective readings elaborating on some similarities between what has happened and what some other people desired — hardly a causitive link.

    Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald – If my recollection is correct, he is the one who wrote letters to the vatican RE laicisation of abusers. I’m not sure this illustrates much other than opacity and face-saving in the hierarchy. Along with a bit of stupidity.

    RE the new theologians, and histories of vatican II, do you have any suggested reading material? Given the first three of your recommendations, I am a little suspicious that you are trying to point (subtly) in the direction of the invalidity of vatican II, I am hoping this is not correct?

    I have absolutely no doubt that you would not consider me a Catholic, and I have no intention of trying to persuade you that I am (I’m not convinced I can apply that label to myself any more, even if I still think the Church is a wonderful and fascinating organisation and body of people). However, I thoroughly enjoy attempting to understand other peoples viewpoints, and interacting with people who disagree with me strongly is one of the joys of being online. I hope you can take this interaction at face value.

  • Benedict Carter

    1,100 Communists placed into the seminaries IN THE USA ALONE – and we know from her, and from other sources, that many of these were ho Mo seXUals. Fr. Fitzgerald’s Servants of the Paraclete started to see priests cursed with this affliction for the very first time in the mid to late 1950′s.

    All ties up.

    Her evidence is backed up by statements made by ex-KGB and ex-Bulgarian secret police since 1991.

    It took me years to read all this, think and read some more. You comment after some hours?

    Not serious.

    Leo XIII – “Masonry – there is the enemy”.

    French Revolution?
    Spain/Portugal – extreme anti-Catholic Masonic governments?
    Mexico – Masonic State?
    British anti-Catholicism?
    American anti-Catholicism?

    So many examples and so much testimony from Masons themselves.

  • Benedict Carter

    Yes, Mr Lord – you agree with me but don’t, in your usual irrational manner. Your fence-sitting does you no honour at all. The opposite.

  • SimonS

    *sigh*

    I responded to explicitly state my ignorance of some of the material you referenced and/or query how it related to the point you were trying to make.

    I have as yet not made an attempt to locate or read further material – I am at work (writing). I love reading new material, and was hoping that you would be able to point more specifically to relevant sections – because the vast swathe of material you indicated is not something I am going to be able to process in a sensible timeframe for having a discussion.

    I am not clear that these bits of information do tie up as cleanly as you suggest – my first thought is that I need to go and see if there is any historical data on homosexuality in the clergy – but thankyou for the indication as to the context you were referring to Fr. Fitzgerald.

    I wouldn’t dream of attempting to critique such a broad body of writing without being familiar with it.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    These gratuitous insults are not attractive.

    I sit on no fence.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    “As for mandatory celibacy for priests in the Latin-rite church, he said
    it is true that some Church disciplines can change, “but not every
    change means progress. One must discern if such changes work to increase
    the holiness of the Church or obscure it.”

    The Personal example Jesus the Lord; his demand as in St.Luke : “…..WIFE” Luke 14:26;

    “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate
    his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and
    sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

    Example of Paul and many others….John…Mark……Timothy…MANY SAINTS….and MARTYRS…..(forget poor Peter if for some time if he carried his girl with him….)

    What about the young man whom The Lord called to APOSTLESHIP directly (like Paul) in person, the one who wanted to bury his Father…?

    As long as there are no joyous people to follow Jesus the Lord we shall have plenty of mere ritual performing priests…even their giving the WORD itself is only a ritual. No wonder many young and thinking people leave the Church with boredom and disgust. Why is Church disappearing in some places? Because of “Best of both the world” priests.

    WE NEED APOSTLES and not “mere” Priests. Only Apostles can proclaim God’s WORD

    and bring SALVATION to the World. JESUS THE LORD kept on promoting APOSTLESHIP……the seventy two……..

    Mary the Mother of the Lord was :THE QUEEN OF THE APOSTLES.
    Mary Magdalene “APOSTLE TO THE APOSTLES”.The Samaritan woman…

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • edsilvia

    We all agree very troubling times are ahead. Just as John stayed with Mary at the foot of the cross while his brothers scattered so should we. Peace