Analysis by Oswald Sobrino, J.D., M.A., who has published in New Blackfriars (U.K.), Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Answer, New Oxford Review, CatholicExchange.com, and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. He is a lay graduate student at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. © 2002-06 Oswald Sobrino.
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Saturday, October 29, 2005More on Special Counsel Abuse of Discretion
Here is a link to another blogger who reprints two Oct. 25th N.Y. Times Op-Ed articles that share my basic viewpoint on the abuse of discretion we have seen in the case brought by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. What is amazing is that ultra-liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof agrees with the view that the Special Counsel has overstepped common sense and reason in his quest. I feel somewhat vindicated when someone as liberal as Kristof agrees with my view of the Libby indictment.
Update: You can read the text of the indictment at this Washington Post link. The indictment basically lists instances when Libby allegedly found out from other government officials that Valerie Wilson worked for the CIA and then lists allegedly intentional false statements in which Libby says that he was merely discussing this fact with reporters as information he learned from other reporters. That appears to be the crux of the case: Libby covered up the true source of his information. The jury will decide if that allegation is true.
But my evaluation goes beyond this narrow issue and goes to the wider and more meaningful legal context: whatever disclosures of Mrs. Wilson's job status were made by Libby were not crimes in the first place--and the prosecutor agrees because he did not so charge Libby. So we have alleged false statements about alleged conduct that was not a crime. It seems to me that you prosecute false statements if the facts being covered up add up to a crime or, as in Clinton's case, are material to the central issue in a sex harassment case, as was true in the Paula Jones civil lawsuit (namely, Clinton's predator pattern of behavior). That's why the law requires that the false statements be material.
In other words, whether or not Libby first learned about the woman's job status from a government source or from reporters--or even if he was the first government official to make the disclosure--makes no difference as to how we legally evaluate any disclosures of classified job status. In my view, that means that, even if Libby lied about whether his source of information was a government official or a reporter, the false statement is in reality and common sense immaterial because our knowing the exact source of Libby's information is not sufficient or necessary for making the disclosure of classified information a crime. No matter how you first learn about classified information (whether from a govt. official or someone else), if you knowingly disclose what you know to be classified then you have a crime, even if others have already disclosed it beforehand. Otherwise, once one person commits the crime of disclosing classified information, we give free rein to others to spread the disclosure with impunity because the cat is already out of the bag.
So, again, we have an indictment for alleged false statements about conduct that was not a crime in the first place. In common sense language, that means the alleged false statements are immaterial. But in the myopic world of legal minutiae that ignores the wider legal and factual context, the prosecutor views it is as technically material because the information was helpful to the investigation (just about any circumstantial information can be deemed helpful to any investigation!). Hence the indictment for allegedly false statements about conduct that was not criminal. We don't need to wait for a jury trial to reach that conclusion. In biblical language, it's called straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. The camel swallowed here is that there was no criminal conduct to lie about in the first place. What's the prosecutorial rationale here? To punish Libby for forcing the prosecutor to jail the N.Y. Times reporter he spoke to about Wilson and all the bad press that engendered? It makes you wonder.
Friday, October 28, 2005"Bush's Best Week in Two Months"
As usual, the MSM gets the situation completely wrong. As noted concisely and masterfully at the always interesting RealClearPolitics.com, this has been Bush's best week in two months. With the Miers withdrawal, conservatives are again united. Notice that the debate over Miers was an intra-Republican debate. The Republican Party is the majority party. The Democratic Party was irrelevant to the Miers debate. It will be irrelevant to the confirmation of the next Supreme Court nominee.
The second thing to notice is that apparently Karl Rove will not be indicted. The leakers involved in the CIA Leak case--how ironic that the investigation itself is riddled with leaks directed specifically to the N.Y. Times, one of whose reporters was involved in the CIA Leak case-- have indicated that only Lewis Libby, the Vice President's chief of staff will be indicted. Few outside the Beltway know who Libby is. As someone who makes it a habit to follow the political news closely, I only recently focused on who Libby was. That means precious few have any idea at all about who he is. But Karl Rove is far better known and thus far has escaped indictment, if the ironic leakers to the N.Y. Times are correct. So, politically, Bush comes out pretty well today in the legal arena, as far as we know at this moment in time.
But there is a deeper problem revealed by what appears to be unfolding today. We have a federal prosecutor who for almost two years has investigated the odd CIA leak case and apparently has found no substantive crime thus far: so far there are no indications that anyone at all-- or at least anyone of any significant rank and power in the White House-- will be charged with unlawfully revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent. That a bigwig in the White House revealed the covert identity was what the whole investigation was about in the first place. That's what made the headlines. If the legal leakers close to the investigation are correct, the prosecutor has found that there was no such crime in the first place by a major White House figure or is still searching, after 22 months, for the very elusive, real substantive crime by a big name at the White House. So then, with the grand jury deadline in sight, the prosecutor turns to what a prosecutor can always turn to: charges of misleading the grand jury. In other words, where there was apparently no substantive crime by a political celebrity in the first place, the investigation itself has spawned a crime. The tail is wagging the dog.
There has been a lot of talk praising the prosecutor for being apolitical. That was never my concern. My concern was not whether the prosecutor was influenced by politics, but whether he is influenced by ego. The temptation to bring some charge, any charge, in order not to look foolish or inept for spending almost two years pursuing much ado about nothing is a real temptation, not because of politics, but because of professional ego and vanity. We are all influenced by such factors, even brilliant apolitical prosecutors. It is a human reality. The real story of prosecutorial brilliance today would have been to see a prosecutor stand up and say that there was no real crime in the first place and that he was not going to waste further time and money on pursuing ambiguous charges easily harvested from the investigation itself or any other investigation, for that matter. Such an announcement would have been genuine, eye-opening brilliance, but that would have required no professional ego. It is far easier, as we all know, to be apolitical than to be humble. Our legal system needs more humility, but don't hold your breath waiting for it. The nature of the beast attracts big egos, nurtures big egos, and sometimes creates big egos in otherwise humble and decent people. We need more humility in the legal system, but law schools and courtrooms rarely encourage that.
Update: As anticipated in the above post, the special prosecutor indicted no one for revealing the identity of a covert agent. There was no case. But, as also noted above, the prosecutor--like a surgeon determined to operate even if the patient no longer requires an operation--proceeded to find something for which to indict someone for the sake of having something to show for a lengthy investigation that turned up nothing. And, contrary to speculation that the prosecutor might indict several people, he indicted only one person. The same analysis I give above, namely, that the prosecutor in effect abused his discretion by searching for some crime, any crime, in an investigation that came up empty, is replicated in an opinion piece in the Saturday, Oct. 29th edition of the Washington Post. Here is the link.
Thursday, October 27, 2005Paradigm Shifts
Ever since philosopher Thomas Kuhn published years ago his landmark book on the structure of scientific revolutions, speakers and writers have loved to speak of "paradigm shifts." I recently heard an audio tape in which best-selling author Stephen Covey of the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People predictably spoke about changing paradigms. The paradigm motif reminds me of how Jesus in his parables referred to cultural realities that his audience was familiar with in that time and place. Some parables speak of the shrewdness of a merchant or of a steward about to be fired--references that remind us of the plethora of books and tapes on business leadership, like those of Stephen Covey, in our own time. In a way, we can use the talk of "paradigm shifts" that is so embedded in our American culture to speak to our culture and to ourselves about the import of the Catholic paradigm.
The examples and applications are profuse. For example, I recently reviewed a book on the charismatic renewal by the preacher to the papal household. This particular book in effect calls for a paradigm shift in how many Catholics view their faith experience. The book calls for the unleashing of the grace granted in the sacraments through a process of again invoking the Holy Spirit in deeper conversion. This call is a paradigm shift for many Catholics who may focus instead on discrete acts of piety or devotion apart from such a deeper conversion in the Holy Spirit.
Another example takes place in the always controversial arena of sexual morality. Recently, I became aware of an incident at a public state university where female college students on campus were handing out condoms to anyone walking on campus as part of "Sex Awareness Week"--as if anyone in modern America needed to become, somehow, more "aware" of sex! What paradigm were these young women operating from in their actions? We can call it the paradigm of recreational sex. Under this very common paradigm, sexual acts are seen as having no effect on character. Instead, sexual acts are seen as mere biological functions that just need certain precautionary measures to ensure "safety."
Of course, in great contrast, the Catholic paradigm sees sexual acts as highly definitive, highly momentous, and dramatically defining moments for a person's character, integrity, and future. The Catholic paradigm would be to have a "Character Awareness Week" in which people were challenged to see how all acts, and especially sexual acts, can have a dramatic effect on character. The girls should have been handing out the Gospel, instead of condoms. The Gospel parables and sayings would have challenged and provoked true awareness and thinking, instead of deceiving the public that recreational sex was "character-safe."
We can also see the significance of these two just described, conflicting paradigms in a wider context. For example, some people, including Catholic Americans, just can't seem to spot the reality of scandal anymore. Let's be clear and define scandal as the presentation of serious sin as if it were not serious or significant and thus making it appear acceptable and innocuous to others. We see it all the time in our culture: the family invites the sexually cohabitating partner of one of their children over for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner thus legitimizing what is not legitimate. Some even expect spouses to socialize with the former sexual partners of their current spouse, as if they were socializing with mere friends from the past. Again, as in the case of the incident at the state university, the paradigm we see is one in which sexual activity has no moral significance. The Catholic paradigm is extremely different: what is momentous must not be trivialized. I suggest that human nature, whether Catholic nor not, whether Christian or not, offers the same paradigm for the importance of sexual activity as the Catholic paradigm does.
Finally, let me speak of a paradigm that is even more prevalent than the recreational sex paradigm and is in my view a pillar of the recreational sex paradigm: the American paradigm of materialism. The materialism paradigm says that we are our income. The most important thing is not a chaste daughter or son, but a "successful" daughter or son who gets a high income job, preferably by the route of prestigious academic achievement. When income and social prestige become the single most important things about a person, then we can see why things like sex become trivial in the culture. The culture will fight tooth and nail for a tax deduction or a capital gains break, but cares not a whit about virginity. Again, the Catholic paradigm is, in contrast, that one's character is the single most important thing about a person because it is the person and is the key to the person's destiny.
When you see so many strange things happening around you or accepted by so many, even some who claim to be Catholic, ask the paradigm question: what is the paradigm behind the activity or the custom or the assumptions involved? Once you define the paradigm, then you can decide if you want a paradigm shift, if, as Covey also says, you want to rewrite the script--or, to use the old-fashioned word, a conversion.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005Rome Synod Concludes
Below is the reprint of the Vatican Information Service (VIS) article on some of the propositions adopted by the recently concluded Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in Rome, as the Year of the Eucharist is closed. Of special interest is the proposition on divorced and "remarried" Catholics. As I read it, this proposition makes clear the Church's view that such persons, while not allowed to take Holy Communion, are otherwise fully welcome to participate in the liturgy and in the life of the Church. There is also an interesting hint of further work to be done in exploring the bases for declarations of nullity in the current pagan situation in Western countries where many are married in the Church who either have no idea of the Church's teachings on marriage and sexuality or reject those teachings. The other propositions described are, of course, worthy of our interest also. Notice the emphasis on reviving the use of Latin in the training of priests.
Here is the reprint:
SYNOD FATHERS' PROPOSITIONS
VATICAN CITY, OCT 25, 2005 (VIS) - As announced yesterday, given below are some of the 50 propositions presented to the Holy Father for his consideration as he prepares the Apostolic Exhortation for the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The synodal assembly was held in the Vatican from October 2 to 23, 2005, and had as its theme: "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."
THE LITURGICAL REFORM OF VATICAN COUNCIL II (Proposition no. 2)
"The synodal assembly gratefully recalled the beneficial influence that the liturgical reform implemented following Vatican Council II has had for the life of the Church. This reform has highlighted the beauty of Eucharistic action, which shines out in the liturgical rite. Abuses have occurred in the past, nor are they lacking today though they have to some extent diminished. However, such episodes cannot darken the beauty and validity of the reform which still contains unexplored riches, rather they call for greater attention to 'ars celebrandi,' in which a privileged place must be given to 'actuosa participatio'."
EUCHARIST AND THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE (Proposition no. 7)
"It is of vital pastoral importance that bishops in their dioceses promote a decisive revival in teaching the conversion that arises from the Eucharist, and that to this end they favor frequent individual Confession."
"The Synod strongly recommends bishops not to allow the practice of collective absolution in their dioceses, save in the objectively exceptional circumstances laid down in John Paul II's Motu Proprio, 'Misericordia Dei'."
"In this context, it is also necessary to dedicate more profound study to the dimensions of penance already present in Eucharistic celebration, in particular the penitential rite, so that people may experience true moments of reconciliation therein."
SHORTAGE OF PRIESTS (Proposition no. 11)
"The centrality of the Eucharist for the life of the Church means that the problem of the great shortage of priests in some parts of the world is felt very acutely. Many faithful are thus deprived of the Bread of life. In order to meet the Eucharistic hunger of the people of God, who are often forced to go without the Eucharistic celebration for considerable periods, it is necessary to implement effective pastoral initiatives.
"In this context, the Synod Fathers affirmed the importance of the inestimable gift of ecclesiastical celibacy in the Latin Church. With reference to the Magisterium, especially to Vatican Council II and to recent Pontiffs, the Fathers requested that the faithful be given adequate explanation of the reasons for the link between celibacy and priestly ordination, in full respect for the tradition of the Eastern Churches. Some reference was made to 'viri probati,' but it was decided that this was an untenable hypothesis.
"Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that, in offering the Eucharistic gift to all the faithful, the Christian quality of the community and its force of attraction have a decisive influence. It is particularly important to encourage pastors to promote priestly vocations, ... raise awareness among families, ... ensure (by bishops, with the involvement of religious families and maintaining respect for their charism) a more even distribution of the clergy, encouraging the clergy itself to a greater readiness to serve the Church wherever the need arises."
DIES DOMINI (Proposition no. 30)
"As a fruit of the Year of the Eucharist, the Synod strongly recommends that significant efforts be made to ensure that the 'Dies Domini' be valued and experienced by the entire Church. It is necessary to reaffirm the central position of Sundays. ... Truly, Sunday is the day in which, with others, we celebrate the Risen Christ, a holy day consecrated to the Creator, a day of rest and of openness."
"Through catechesis and preaching, Christians must be given the opportunity to meditate on the 'dies Christi' as the day of the resurrection of the Lord and, hence, as a feast of liberation, a day given as a gift during which to savor the goodness of the Kingdom of God."
"It is our hope, then, that the Day of the Lord may also become the day of Christians, respected by all society as a day of rest from work."
"Although Saturday evening is actually part of Sunday (First Vespers), and it is acceptable to fulfill the Sunday precept with a vigil Mass, it must be remembered that it is the day of Sunday itself that must be sanctified, that it may not remain 'empty of God'."
THE USE OF LATIN IN LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS (Proposition no. 36)
"In celebrating the Eucharist during international meetings, which are becoming ever more frequent today, in order better to express the unity and universality of the Church it is proposed: that the (con)celebration of Mass be in Latin (except the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful), the prayers of the tradition of the Church should also be recited in Latin and, where appropriate, Gregorian chants be sung; that priests, beginning in the seminary, be trained to understand and celebrate Mass in Latin, as well as to use Latin prayers and to appreciate the Gregorian chant; that the possibility of educating the faithful in this way not be overlooked."
DIVORCED AND RE-MARRIED CATHOLICS AND THE EUCHARIST (Proposition no. 40)
"In keeping with the numerous pronouncements of the Church's Magisterium, and sharing the anxious concern expressed by many Fathers, the Synod of Bishops reaffirms the importance of attitudes and a pastoral actions that express attention and welcome towards divorced and re-married faithful.
"According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, they cannot be admitted to holy communion, being in a position of objective contrast with the Word of the Lord which conferred on marriage the original value of indissolubility. ... Nevertheless, people who have divorced and re-married still belong to the Church, which welcomes them and follows them with special attention that they may cultivate a Christian lifestyle through participation in Mass (though without receiving communion), listening to the Word of God, adoring the Eucharist, prayer, participating in community life, confidential dialogue with a priest or a master of spiritual life, dedication to living charity, works of penance, and educational commitment to their children. If, then, the nullity of the matrimonial bond is not recognized and objective conditions arise that render cohabitation irreversible, the Church encourages them to commit themselves to live their relationship in accordance with the law of God, transforming it into a firm and faithful friendship; thus they will be able to return to the Eucharistic table, receiving the attention laid down by time- honored ecclesial practice. But such relationships should not be blessed, so as not to create confusion among the faithful concerning the value of marriage.
"At the same time, the Synod hopes that all possible efforts be made both to ensure the presence, pastoral character, and correct and swift activity of ecclesiastical tribunals for causes of the nullity of marriage, and to dedicate further study to the essential elements of the validity of marriage, also bearing in mind the problems emerging from the profound anthropological transformations of our times, by which the faithful themselves risk being conditioned, especially given the lack of solid Christian formation."
ADMISSION OF NON-CATHOLIC FAITHFUL TO COMMUNION (Proposition no. 41)
"On the basis of the communion of all Christians, which the single Baptism already accomplishes though not yet completely, their separation at the Lord's table is rightly felt as being a source of pain. As a consequence, from both within the Catholic Church and from our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, the urgent request often arises for the possibility of Eucharistic communion between Catholic Christians and others. It must be made clear that the Eucharist does not designate and effect only our personal communion with Jesus Christ, but above all the full 'communio' of the Church. We ask, therefore, that non-Catholic Christians understand and respect the fact that for us, in accordance with the whole of biblically-founded tradition, Eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion are intimately connected, and thus that Eucharistic communion with non-Catholic Christians is not generally speaking possible. Even more so is ecumenical concelebration to be excluded. However, it should be made clear that, with a view to personal salvation, admitting non-Catholic Christians to the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick, in certain particular situations and under specific conditions, is possible and even to be recommended."
THE EUCHARIST AND MIGRANTS (Proposition no. 45)
"The Synod, thanking those committed to this field, invites all bishops to exercise their pastoral care towards migrants. These faithful must be welcomed as members of the same Body of Christ, whatever their race, status or condition, especially in Eucharist celebrations. Christ's charity impels other local Churches and institutes of consecrated life give generous help to dioceses that welcome large numbers of migrants."
EUCHARISTIC COHERENCE OF CATHOLIC POLITICIANS AND LAWMAKERS (Proposition no. 46)
"Catholic politicians and lawmakers must feel their consciences particularly aroused ... by the heavy social responsibility of presenting and supporting iniquitous laws. There is no Eucharistic coherence when legislation is promoted that goes against the integral good of man, against justice and natural law. The private sphere and the public sphere cannot be separated, placing oneself in a position of contrast with the law of God and the teaching of the Church, and this must also be considered in Eucharistic terms. In applying this guidance, bishops should exercise the virtues of courage and wisdom, bearing in mind actual local situations."
THE SOCIAL DIMENSION OF THE EUCHARIST (Proposition no. 48)
"Christ's sacrifice is a mystery of liberation that calls out to us. It is in the commitment to transform unjust structures and to re-establish the dignity of man, created in the likeness and image of God, that the Eucharist assumes in life the significance it has in celebration. This dynamic movement opens up to the world: it questions the process of globalization which not infrequently increases the gap between rich countries and poor countries, it denounces the political and economic forces that dilapidate the earth's resources, it reiterates the grave requirements of distributive justice in the face of inequalities that cry out to heaven, it encourages Christians to commit themselves and to work in political life and social activity. ... Those who share in the Eucharist must commit themselves to creating peace in our world, which is marked by violence, war and, especially today, by terrorism, economic corruption and sexual exploitation. The conditions for building true peace are the restoration of justice, reconciliation and forgiveness."
Tuesday, October 25, 2005Impregnable Virtue
I, like many others, am often shocked (but not surprised), bewildered, and troubled by the manifestations of evil around us. We read and are told about actions and behavior that are so irrational and self-destructive that we are reminded that Satan does in fact exist and is at work in the world. No one but Satan could concoct the disturbing, twisted, and labyrinthine scenarios of evil lived by so many in the past and in the present. But there is also another aspect that we must remember: where there is even one virtuous man or woman, there is victory.
I recall sitting late one evening in a church alone in a pew gazing at the tabernacle some distance away. I then heard someone coming into the church. It was a young woman. I asked her if she was closing up the church for the evening. She said that she was there for a "visit." She then proceeded to walk right up to the tabernacle (it was in an approachable side niche) and to kneel, unabashedly, on the floor before it for what seemed a significantly long period of time. She then sat down in the closest pew to the tabernacle and continued praying. She also seemed to be reading what she brought with her. After I finished my own praying, I left quietly.
Let the world be sunk in corruption--that one woman, so to speak, "redeems" it all. It reminds me of the story of Abraham's negotiating with God to spare Sodom if even only a handful of good people could be found within its gates. In the midst of so much bewildering evil, when we see virtue manifested so openly and so naturally, as I saw in the young woman, unselfconsciously kneeling before the tabernacle, we know that God has indeed won the battle. Her gesture was natural and authentic, not artificially pious or ostentatious. Satan has indeed done his worst to so many for so long, and yet virtue still stands.
The power of authentic virtue is so great that so many bent on propagating evil are quite fearful and disdainful of the Virgin Mary. She stands forever as the vessel completely full of God's favor. Her shining reality--not just example, but living reality still living today--rebukes all the evil spirits and all the minds confused by evil spirits. There is a better way. Look to the handmaiden of the Lord. Look to the virtuous ones around you and know that Satan, for all his complex efforts and temporary success, does not have the last word, even in this age. God is always infinitely greater than the worst Satan can concoct and invent in his malignantly innovative creativity.
Monday, October 24, 2005Sober Intoxication of the Spirit
That is the title of a just published collection of talks by the longtime preacher to the papal household of John Paul the Great and now that of Benedict XVI. His name is Father Raniero Cantalamessa, a Capuchin priest from Italy. Focus on this fact: in the Vatican, the papal preacher is a Catholic charismatic. An intellectual, a university professor, a theologian named to the prestigious International Theological Commission (von Balthasar was a member at one time), Fr. Cantalamessa came to the U.S. and was "baptized in the Spirit" while attending a charismatic event in 1977. The term "baptized in the Spirit" can be confusing for Catholics who immediately think: what about the Sacrament of Baptism? Wasn't that the crucial first moment to receive the Holy Spirit? Yes. So it is good, in my view, to go back to the original Greek: Baptism in the Spirit means Immersion in the Spirit. It means unleashing the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit granted in the sacraments of the Church, especially Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, and Confession but also all the other sacraments.
The papal preacher muses near the end of the book:
I have even thought that Providence might have placed me in my particular role precisely so that I could humbly testify to the heart of the Church about the rumblings of Pentecost, which in various forms are going through the body of Christ and which constitute a great sign of hope in the midst of all the trials that the Church must still go through in our day.
Cantalamessa, Sober Intoxication of the Spirit: Filled with the Fullness of God, translated by Marsha Daigle-Williamson, Ph.D. (Servant Books, 2005), p. 160 (emphasis added).
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is no longer a side-show: he's Catholic, he's a Franciscan Capuchin like Padre Pio, he's a first-rate theologian, the last and current popes wanted and want to hear him preach regularly to them and their Vatican collaborators, he's responsible and balanced. It's time to pay attention. Forget the stereotypes and misconceptions and read closely because the Spirit is on the move.
Here is a sampling of what to expect in the collected talks. The unifying theme, title, and motif of the book come from Pope Paul VI's repetition of the following words from St. Ambrose during a world congress of charismatic renewal in 1975: "Let us drink the sober intoxication of the Spirit with joy!" In Latin: Laeti bibamus sobriam profusionem Spiritus. From the early, misty past of the Church Fathers comes the exhortation to drink from the Spirit soberly and joyfully. This renewal is for the whole Church of Christ: "We don't want to be 'our own little church' but to be in the Church!" (p. 18). In the same vein, Cantalamessa urges humility among charismatic Catholics: "We should not think of ourselves as 'charismatics' in the sense of being people gifted with certain powers, but rather in the sense of being servants of the Spirit" (p. 36).
And the renewal has an analysis for the state of large parts of the Church in Western countries:
In the past, when the environment around the [sacramentally baptized] baby was Christian and full of faith, the child's faith could develop, even if it was slowly. But today our situation has become even worse . . . .
Cantalamessa, p. 47.
Stated in a more theological way, the "outpouring [of the Spirit] actualizes or, in other words, renews Christian [sacramental] initiation" (p. 41). The fact is that a sacrament "can be valid and legal but 'unreleased' . . . . if its fruit remains bound, or unused, because of the absence of certain conditions that further its efficacy" (p. 42). And so today
rarely, or never, do baptized people reach the point of proclaiming 'in the Holy Spirit' that 'Jesus is Lord!' And because they have not reached that point, everything in their Christian lives remains unfocused and immature. Miracles no longer happen. What happened with the people of Nazareth is being repeated: Jesus was not able to do many miracles there because of their unbelief (see Matthew 13:58).
Cantalamessa, p. 47.
So it is not a matter of replacing the sacraments but rather of unleashing the power of the sacraments through continuous conversion. The papal preacher is a prophetic voice calling us to unleash what we have received. In fact, the renewal emphasizes the sacraments and leads Catholics back to the sacrament of confession: "The sacrament is the place in which pardon is proclaimed, celebrated, and certified by the Church. . . . For the crowds at the first Pentecost, the sacrament was obviously baptism; for those of us who are already baptized, it is the sacrament of reconciliation" (p. 143).
In the moral life, the Holy Spirit changes everything:
He presents people with a different face for God: a God who is an ally, not an adversary; a good Father who did not even spare even His own Son for them; a God, in short, who shows them favor. They understand that God has given the commandments for their good. A new feeling springs up in their hearts, that of
Cantalamessa, p. 120.
Here is the bottom-line: "The Holy Spirit has raised up the charismatic renewal chiefly for this: to rediscover and proclaim that Jesus is Lord" (p. 131). And so let me end with Fr. Cantalamessa's very personal testimony of continuing conversion as he describes his experience in 1977 in the United States:
I received it [the outpouring of the Spirit] as a conscious renewal of my baptism, as a definitive, first-person affirmation of the "Yes!" and "I believe!" that others had said in my stead at the moment of baptism. It was like surrendering the reins of my life to Christ.
Cantalamessa, p. 161.
The author of those words is not preaching to a basement prayer group somewhere in Kansas or New Jersey: he preaches regularly, as he has done for about 25 years, since 1980, in the Vatican to the Vicar of Christ and his closest cardinals. Here is a link to his website.