Voices from Russia

Sunday, 23 April 2017

23 April 2017. Benny Ratz Still Suckin’ Down the Sudz at Age 90


Here’s proof that Benedict XVI Ratzinger isn’t only hale n’ hearty, he still enjoys a good litre of brewski. Here, he greets a delegation from his native Bavaria on his birthday. Ninety-years-old and still goin’ strong… will he reach 100? Will he outlive Franky Bag o’ Donuts? Who knows? Maybe, Fr Guido Sarducci has the inside intel (“Finda the Pope in the Pizza”)…



Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Top Pope Ally Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga urges Vatican Doctrine Chief Müller to Loosen Up

00 Pope Francisco Bergoglio. 19.09.13


On Monday, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, an influential aide to Pope Francisco Bergoglio, criticised Vatican doctrinal watchdog Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller and urged the conservative prelate to be more flexible about reforms being discussed in the Catholic Church. Rodríguez, the head of a “kitchen cabinet” the pope created to draw up reform proposals, said that Müller… who opposes any loosening of church rules on divorce… was a classic German theology professor who thought too much in rigid black-and-white terms. In a rare public criticism amongst senior church figures, Rodríguez rhetorically addressed Müller in an interview with the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, saying, “The world isn’t like that, my brother. You should be more flexible when you hear other voices, so you don’t just listen and say, ‘Here’s the wall'”. Rodríguez, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, didn’t cite any possible reforms in particular, but said the pope’s critics, such as those upset by his attacks on capitalism, were “people who don’t understand reality”.

Former Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger picked Müller in 2012 to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the successor office to the Inquisition. Benedict ran that office as the powerful and feared guardian of Church orthodoxy for 24 years as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, until his election as pope in 2005. However, its influence waned under Francisco, who soon after his March 2013 election reportedly told visiting Latin American priests and nuns not to worry if the CDF wrote to them criticising what they were doing.

In an article in the Vatican daily last October, Müller firmly rejected growing demands for the Catholic Church to reinstate divorced and remarried Catholics as full members of the Church. At present, the Catholic Church excludes Catholics who divorce and remarry in a civil ceremony from communion because the Catholic Church teaches that Christ declared marriage an indissoluble bond. With divorce on the rise, more Catholics are asking Rome to show mercy for them. German bishops have been in the forefront of reform thinking and one archdiocese even published guidelines on how to readmit them, which prompted Müller’s article. The Vatican is due to consider reforming its rules on divorce at a worldwide synod of bishops next October.

Müller also strongly defended Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who reaped stiff criticism from German Catholics, earning the title “luxury bishop” in the media after it came out that he spent at least 30 million Euros (1.38 billion Roubles. 40.7 million USD. 45 million CAD. 46 million AUD. 24.5 million UK Pounds) on a new residential complex. Tebartz-van Elst’s grand plans were so far from the modest approach favoured by the Argentine-born pontiff that Rome sent an envoy to inspect his diocese and later sent him off to a monastery for a leave of absence pending a final decision. Rodríguez didn’t think Tebartz-van Elst would return as Bishop of Limburg and said that Latin Americans like himself and the pope found it hard to understand spending so much money for opulent features such as a 15,000-Euro (690,000 Roubles. 20,350 USD. 22,500 CAD. 23,000 AUD. 12,250 UK Pounds) free-standing bathtub, dryly observing, “For most people, a shower and a toilet are enough. They’re enough for the pope in his three-room apartment, too”.

20 January 2014

Tom Heneghan



Editor’s Note:

George Weigel is having conniptions, isn’t he? Boo-hoo! He and all the other righties are shown up to be “cafeteria Catholics” (they’re going to pick n’ choose what they’re going to believe… what a scream! They truly don’t like it when we turn their own wacko verbiage against them… watch ‘em squirm!). Francisco is turning out to be a real Albino Luciani (Pope John Paul I). Only this time, he didn’t die after a VERY short reign. As for me, I believe that Luciani died a very natural death, as his health wasn’t the best. I don’t favour conspiracy theories… sometimes, shit just happens, and there’s no cabal behind it (although the Curia IS a snake-pit full of ambitious and unscrupulous SOBs, to be sure… just as our First Families are, to be frank). Conspiracy theorists bore me… they should get lives… that’d take up their time, wouldn’t it?


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Sunday, 22 September 2013

Pope Francisco’s Church of Mercy isn’t a Church of Relativism

00 Pope Francisco Bergoglio. If you can understand it, it isn't God. 22.09


Editor’s Note:

I was looking for a more extensive treatment of Pope Francisco’s remarks. The Catholic right is cherry-picking them like crazy. You see, the pope’s remarks in toto are an unmistakable condemnation of their neocon and libertarian politics. However, watch American Catholics (including bishops) defy this gentle man from Argentina (they’ll find their dalliance with the Republican Party more pleasing than the teachings of Our Lord Christ). As a leftist, I applaud Francisco Bergoglio, and hope that he can combat the god-denying rot brought in by Timothy Dolan and his ilk. The very soul of the Catholic Church in the USA is at stake, and this Orthodox Christian wishes Francisco well. After all, his social stances are virtually identical to those of HH



In an extensive interview with a fellow Jesuit, Fr Antonio Spadaro, in the magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, and published simultaneously in many other Jesuit publications, Pope Francisco outlined the Church’s priorities, the importance of mercy, of going out and encountering wounded situations and people. The Church is “a field hospital”, welcoming divorcees, homosexuals, and people who’ve had an abortion. Many applauded a “revolution”, but in reality, it’s all in the purest tradition. He emphasised the importance of women in the Church and collegiality with the Orthodox. He said, “I’m a sinner upon whom the Lord has looked. Sometimes, the church locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the primary proclamation… Jesus Christ saved you. Above all, the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy”.

According to Pope Francisco, the “greatest need of the Church today” is to witness to mercy. He explained that, too often, the Church overly concerns itself with management and morality, and reaches out to the world by presenting a set of rules, “The church’s pastoral ministry can’t be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church aren’t all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry can’t become obsessed with transmitting a disjointed mass of doctrine, imposing it insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on essentials, on necessary things; this is what’s more fascinating and attractive, it’s what makes the heart burn with desire, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise, even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The format of the Gospel must be simple, profound, and radiant. Then, from this proposition, moral consequences flow”.

Thus, the pontiff confirmed what’s become his slogan since his election (indeed, since the conclave)… “Moving out” to “the existential and geographical margins”. He said, “Instead of being a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let’s also try to be a church that finds new paths, that’s able to step outside itself, and to go to those who don’t attend Mass, to those who’ve quit or are indifferent. Sometimes, those who quit do so for reasons that, if we properly understand and assess them, can lead to a return. However, that takes audacity and courage”. Some media outlets presented this statement as a “revolution”; they saw it as an “opening”, almost as a “repudiation” of the teachings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In fact, every missionary and every Christian should know that the proclamation of salvation offered by Jesus Christ comes first, then, catechesis (and doctrine), and, then, morals. It’s an error to emphasise only the moral teachings of the Church.

The real novelty of Pope Francisco, more than his doctrinal stance, is in his attitude. He said, “The first reform must be one’s attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue, and who know how to immerse themselves in their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God yearn for pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. I dream of a church that’s a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people, and accompany them like the Good Samaritan, who washes, cleanses, and cares for his neighbour. This is the pure Gospel. God is greater than sin is. Structural and organisational reforms are secondary… that is, they come afterward”. Anyone wishing to compare this attitude with past Church teaching should remember that John Paul II dedicated an encyclical to mercy (Dives in misericordia), whilst Benedict XVI placed witness to the mercy of God as the basis of human civilisation .

Even what he says about the Church’s attitude to the divorced, homosexuals, and people who’ve had abortions doesn’t present doctrinal novelty… it’s enough to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Francisco said as much himself, “We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires, I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who’re ‘socially wounded’; they told me that they felt like the church always condemned them. However, the church doesn’t want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro, I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I’m no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation set us free… it isn’t possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person”.

Once again, the Pope emphasised the attitude of openness, acceptance of the person, without first calling into question principles and rules, “We can’t only insist on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and contraceptives. This isn’t possible. I haven’t spoken much about these things, and some criticised me for that. However, when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in context. For that matter, the teaching of the church is clear and I’m a son of the church, but it isn’t necessary to talk about these issues all the time. I see clearly that the thing that the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after a battle. It’s futile to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about his blood sugar levels! You have to heal his wounds. Then, we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds… you have to start from the ground up”.

Another interesting aspect of the reform of the Church is what Francisco said about the certainty of faith. He noted, “In the quest to seek and find God in all things there’s still uncertainty. There must be such. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and some uncertainty doesn’t affect them, then, this isn’t good. For me, this is an important factor. If one has the answers to all the questions, then, that’s proof that God isn’t with him. It means that he’s a false prophet using religion for himself”. Some commentators saw this statement as confirmation that the pope is “one of us”, a “relativist”; finally, we can toast the fact that there’s no truth. Yet, Pope Francisco asked, “Is it relativism? Yes, if one misunderstands it as a kind of vague pantheism. It isn’t relativism if one understands it in the biblical sense, that God is always a revelation, so you never know where and how you’ll find Him. You can’t set the time and place of an encounter with Him”. In fact, the pope did nothing but emphasise a very traditional Augustinian doctrine, “If you can understand it, it isn’t God. You can’t box God up into an idea, in rules, in speeches, but you can encounter Him. One can encounter the Truth in history. We must enter into a journey, a quest, to meet God; we must allow God to search for and encounter us”.

Francisco explained the value of silent adoration before the tabernacle each evening to remember “what I’ve done for Christ”, but above all to enliven the consciousness “that the Lord remembers me”. Another point he touched upon was the role of women in the Church. The pontiff advocated a “theology of women in the Church” to give value to their specific contributions, even in places of responsibility, but he warned against “machismo in skirts”, the claims of some feminists who want to make women the same as men (“In reality, women have a different makeup than men do”). Immediately, some modish theologians applauded the possibility that “finally” we might have women priests. Yet, the pope said, “Woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops are. I say this because we mustn’t confuse function with dignity”. Therefore, the point is to find the specific contribution and dignity of the “feminine genius”, as John Paul II termed it, without locking up this discovery into a simple equivalence of functions.

Francisco mentioned a rather innovative point, of collegiality applied to the government of the Church and to ecumenical relations, saying, “I believe that consultation is very important. I don’t want perfunctory consultations, but real deliberations. For example, the consistories [of cardinals], and the synods [of bishops] are important places to make this interchange real and active. However, we must give them a less rigid form. The advisory group of eight cardinals, this ‘outsider’ evaluation group, isn’t only my decision; it’s the will of the cardinals, expressed in the general congregations before the conclave. I want to see that this becomes a real, not a formal discourse. We must walk together… people, bishops, and pope. We should live collegiality at various levels. Maybe, it’s time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops; it seems to me that the current method isn’t vigorous. This would also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them, we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of collegiality {does Pope Francisco mean what we Russians call sobornost and tserkovnost?: editor}. The joint effort of reflection, at looking at how the church was governed in the early centuries, before the breakup between East and West, will bear fruit in due time”. In this, somehow, Pope Francisco is a debtor to the visits and meetings of John Paul II with a great many Orthodox and the ecumenical work of Pope Benedict XVI, who asked the Orthodox Churches years ago to help him express the Petrine ministry in a manner acceptable to them and true to the tradition of the undivided Church.

It isn’t possible to summarise the vast wealth of this interview… there are issues such as the relationship between younger and older Churches, between theology and the people, between laboratories of thought and churches on the frontiers. For this, we invite the reader to refer to the complete text. However, one aspect is worth a mention… the personal attitude of Pope Francisco, of his heart, when he tries to describe himself, “I’m a sinner upon whom the Lord has looked”.  He spoke of the life of Blessed Peter Faber (1506-46), one of the first companions of St Ignatius of Loyola, so dear to him, “[His] dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté, perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions, but also capable of being gentle and loving.  My choices, including those related to day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, come out of a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing”.

Click here for the full text of the interview.

20 September 2013

Bernardo Cervellera



A Challenge for American Catholic Bishops after Pope Francisco Derided Church Emphasis on Sexual Morality… All the Rightwing Spin Doctors Came Out in Force

00 Jesus at the Republican Convention. 22.09.13

Timothy Dolan would’ve sided with the Republicans, NOT Jesus, had this actually occurred… do reflect on that…


In recent years, many American bishops drew a harder line with parishioners on what one could consider truly Roman Catholic, adopting a more aggressive style of correction, and telling abortion rights supporters to stay away from the sacrament of Communion. Liberal-minded Catholics derided the approach as tone-deaf. Church leaders said that they had no choice given what was happening around them… growing secularism, increasing acceptance of gay marriage, and a broader culture that they considered more and more hostile to Christianity. They felt that they were following the lead of the pontiffs who elevated them.

However, in blunt terms, in an interview published Thursday in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, the new pope, Francisco Bergoglio, called the church’s focus on abortion, marriage, and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away. Now, the American bishops face a challenge to rethink a strategy many considered essential for preserving the faith. John Green, a religion specialist at the University of Akron‘s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, said, “I don’t see how the pope’s remarks can be interpreted in any other way than arguing that the church’s rhetoric on the so-called culture war issues needs to be toned down. I think his language calls for less stridency on these issues”.

The leadership of the American church is composed of men appointed by Popes John Paul II or Benedict XVI, who made a priority of defending doctrinal orthodoxy. Over the last decade or so, the bishops worked to reassert their moral authority, in public life and over the less-obedient within their flock. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) warned Catholics that voting for abortion-rights supporters could endanger their souls. Church leaders in Minnesota, Maine, and elsewhere took prominent roles in opposing legal recognition for same-sex marriage in their states. Bishops censured some theologians and prompted a Vatican-directed takeover of the largest association for American nuns by bringing complaints to Rome that the sisters strayed from church teaching and paid too little attention to abortion.

Terrence Tilley, a theologian at Fordham University, said that Francisco wasn’t silencing discussion of abortion or gay marriage, but indicating that those issues should be less central, for the sake of evangelisation. However, he noted that bishops have independence to decide how they should handle local political issues, saying, “Although Francis is sending a clear signal that he’s not a culture warrior, that doesn’t mean the bishops will follow in lockstep“. Few of the American bishops who’ve commented so far on Francisco’s interview indicated that they planned to change.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore MD, head of the USCCB Religious Liberty Committee, said in a phone interview, “Issues do arise and we can’t always control the timing. However, every time I make a statement about one of these things I’ll certainly take another look at it and ask, ‘Does this really lead people back to the heart of the Gospel?’ That’s what he’s asking us to do. I think that’s a fair question”. Lori said that he expected no changes in the bishops’ push for broader religious exemptions from the contraception coverage rule in the Affordable Care Act. Dozens of Catholic charities and dioceses, along with evangelical colleges and others, are suing the Obama administration over the regulation. The bishops say the provision violates the religious freedom of faith-based nonprofits and for-profit employers.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco CA, head of the USCCB Defence-Of-Marriage Committee, said in a brief statement, “We must address key issues and if key issues are in the minds of those who are talking with us we will address them”. Christine Mugridge, a spokesman for Cordileone, said, “In San Francisco, these issues are very relevant to daily life for the people of this archdiocese. As long as the people of the archdiocese have particular talking points that are pressing upon them, the archbishop will respond to those talking points”.

Francisco, the first Jesuit elected pope, said in the interview, “We can’t insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods”. He said that the church should instead act like a “field hospital after battle, to heal wounds and to warm the hearts” of people so they’d feel welcome in the church. The day after the article appeared, Francisco denounced abortion as a symptom of a “throw-away culture”, in an address to Catholic gynaecologists. He encouraged physicians to refuse to perform abortions. However, in the interview last month, conducted in Rome by the editor of the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, Francisco said, “it isn’t necessary to talk about these issues all the time”. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York NY, president of the USCCB, said that he thought the pope was telling everyone… inside and outside the church… to focus less on polarising debates on sex and morals. Dolan said on CBS This Morning, “I don’t know if it’s just the church that seems obsessed with those issues. It seems to be culture and society. What I think he’s saying is, ‘Those are important issues and the church has got to keep talking about them, but we need to talk about them in a fresh new way’. If we keep kind of a negative finger-wagging tone, it’s counterproductive”.

During the 2004 presidential election, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis MO launched what was dubbed “Wafer Watch” when he said that he’d deny Communion to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a Catholic who supported abortion rights. Other bishops followed suit or suggested that abortion-rights supporters refrain from the sacrament. Benedict later appointed Burke head of the Vatican high court and elevated him to cardinal. By 2007, the bishops revised their moral guide for Catholic voters to put a special emphasis on the evil of abortion, so the issue wouldn’t be lost amid other concerns such as poverty or education. The document, called “Faithful Citizenship”, warned voters that supporting abortion rights could endanger their souls. In the 2012 campaign season, it was much more common to hear bishops warning Catholics that voting for a particular candidate would amount to “formal cooperation in grave evil”. Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria IL compared the policies of US President Barack Obama to those of Hitler and Stalin. At Mass on the Sunday before the presidential election, Jenky instructed his priests to read a letter saying politicians who support abortion rights reject Jesus.

Theologically-conservative Christians disagree over how much, if anything, needs to change in response to Francisco’s comments. Mark Brumley, chief executive of Ignatius Press, a theologically-conservative publishing house that Pope Benedict XVI chose as his English-language publisher, was among those who said, “I don’t see a major shift”. Just last week, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence RI said in an interview with his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed” that Francisco hadn’t spoken out about abortion. On Friday, in a statement responding to the pope’s remarks, Tobin said that he admired Francisco’s leadership, noting, “Being a Catholic doesn’t mean having to choose between doctrine and charity, between truth and love. It includes both. We’re grateful to Pope Francis for reminding us of that vision”.

21 September 2013

Rachel Zoll

Associated Press      

As quoted in the Star Tribune (Minneapolis MN)


Editor’s Note:

The pope’s remarks stunned the righties… they’re deer caught in the headlights. Of course, they claim that nothing’s changed. However, do note what Dolan (a known suck-up to the woollier factions of the GOP) said:

What I think he’s saying is, “Those are important issues and the church has got to keep talking about them, but we need to talk about them in a fresh new way”. If we keep kind of a negative finger-wagging tone, it’s counterproductive.

In short, Dolan found out that the Vatican doesn’t appreciate his smarmy schmoozing with the Republicans. After all, the GOP supports constant warfare, a rapacious Free Market, lawless libertarianism, Wild West gun laws, and out-of-control consumerism and individualism (that is, godless Neoliberalism in all of its sickening glory), all of which are EVIL according to encyclicals issued at Rome since the 60s (even Wojtyła and Ratzinger condemned the evil found in American me-first crapitalism). Note well that Dolan “got the message”. He’s going to pull in his horns, as are the other bishops. Mind you, Francisco’s not going to make them lose public face, but they’re going to have to watch themselves from now on. By the way, contraception and state-provided single-payer healthcare aren’t an issue. To put it bluntly, Catholic bishops in other countries haven’t put up the brouhaha that the American bishops have (part of it is a hangover from Irish-American Jansenism)… most of the Catholic Church lives in countries where contraception’s covered by national health insurance, and the RCs haven’t fallen into the sea.

Let’s be clear what the Catholic bishops were trying to do. They were attempting to use the police power of the state to enforce their policies, which ain’t kosher, no way, no how. The Catholic Church as a business and the Catholic Church as a religious body are two very separate things. Catholic hospitals employ thousands of people, many of whom aren’t Catholics. The Catholic Church can’t forbid them access to contraception… perhaps, a Catholic hospital could get an exemption in dispensing such, but only if there’s an alternative location easily accessible to dispense contraceptives to those who want them. That is, it isn’t an “assault on religious liberty”… indeed, the Catholic bishops’ position is the assault on religious liberty, as they claim that they can forbid all of their employees, both Catholic and non-Catholic, from having access to legal contraceptive materials. This was an open attempt on the part of the Catholic Church to use the state (through their greasy Republican pals) to enforce Catholic doctrine on non-Catholics. That’s a serious no-no… and Francisco saw it, and nipped it.

Never forget that the moral theology of Orthodoxy and Catholicism isn’t identical. Indeed, the areas where it differs the most are marriage and contraception. We allow divorce, the Catholics don’t, which means that the largest number of converts that we receive from the papists are those eaten up by the Catholic marriage mill. As for contraception, we allow it… full stop. We don’t agree with the papists on that at all. In general, oikonomia informs Orthodoxy… we’re simply not crusaders… either in the moral or literal sense of the word.

Francisco Bergoglio isn’t a clueless and drooling American culture warrior… he’s a Latin American who dealt with rightwing dictatorship first-hand. I do daresay that the righties amongst the American Catholics better wise up to that. Hats off to Pope Francisco… he knows how to discombobulate the right. I think that I’m not alone in thinking that…


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