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Cardinal: Pope Francis looking to 'stir things up' before October synod

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 19th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien spoke last month about Pope Francis, suggesting the pope was looking to, in the Cardinals words, ""stir things up" before a scheduled October synod.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, who participated in the election of Pope Francis last year, told a gathering of seminarians and faculty at St. Mary's Seminary on Jan. 27, that Pope Francis may be looking to "stir things up and allow people to raise questions."

He added a caveat, saying "I don't think we're going to see a change in doctrine, but we will see a change in tone and we might see some disciplinary modifications." It should be clear what Cardinal O'Brien meant by those words. Pastoral emphasis and certain specific practices and procedures may indeed see some changes following the October synod.

The Cardinal explained that Pope Francis' dealings with the Roman curia as an outsider has likely influenced his view of that organization - and the very real need for reform. It is shaping his attitude towards how to approach specific reforms. Pope Francis has already appointed a team of cardinals to advise him on the path to reform.

Despite the slant on what reform might mean, which pervades news reports out of some pop media outlets, it must be made crystal clear that the reforms will not include doctrinal or dogmatic changes. The Church is not free to change Church doctrine or dogma, because it is not hers - it belongs to Christ Himself.

She can - and has - changed some disciplines, procedures and practices, as well as the pastoral and catechetical emphasis, over the two millennia of her existence. However, some of the pet subjects in some news reports are simply a projection of the agendas of those who write the stories.

For example, the priesthood is not a job, it is a vocation. No-one has a right to priestly ordination. Christ Himself established the ministerial priesthood and chose men for the office by His Divine design. He is the High Priest. This is doctrinal and dogmatic and cannot and will not be changed.

However, in the fullness of time as the Apostle Paul wrote, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word, became flesh. God chose a woman as the instrument of His Mercy and love in the Mystery of Incarnation.

The vital place of women in the life, ministry and mission of the Catholic Church is clear. The repeated teaching on the dignity of women as full participants in the ongoing work of the Lord through His Church is finding dynamic and important new and fresh expressions.

Their  increasing roles in lay leadership, religious life, as well as theologians, scholars and  institutional leaders grows in the Church and will continue to do so.

So too, marriage as between one man and one woman, open to life, formative of the family and forming the first cell of civil society - as well as the domestic church - cannot and will not be changed. It is revealed by the Natural Law and is an unchangeable part of God's plan for the human race. This is revealed by Jesus Himself in His teaching in the Gospels, pointing back to the Book of Genesis. 

An example of a new emphasis is the emphasis of Pope Francis on the love of preference which the Church owes to the poor, because the face of Christ is found in the face of the poor. This obligation of solidarity or fraternity, is receiving new emphasis. The Church is a Church of the poor and all believers owe an obligation to participate.

Cardinal O'Brien also referred to Pope Francis' interview with a prominent Italian atheist and journalist as evidence that the Holy Father is willing to go anywhere to share the Christian faith with anyone who will listen. "She [the Church] is always available to listen and always to extend mercy," the Cardinal said.

Pope Francis often compares the Church to a mother, and indeed, as a mother, she never deserts her children the Cardinal explained to the gathering.

Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action'...

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