Cross-centered Catholic renewal

In a Sistine Chapel homily, given to the cardinals who had elected him pope the evening before, the new bishop of Rome, reflecting on the dialogue between Jesus and Peter at Caesarea Philippi (Matt 16:13-25), challenged those who had just laid a great cross on his shoulders to deepen their own commitment to Christ crucified:

“…The same Peter who has confessed Jesus Christ says to him, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it. I will follow you with other possibilities, without the Cross.

“When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross and when we confess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

“I would like that everyone … should have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the blood of the Lord that was shed upon the Cross; and to confess the only glory—Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.”

That challenge to the cardinal-electors applies to every Catholic, as Preface I of the Passion of the Lord reminds us:

“For through the saving Passion of your Son,
the whole world has received a heart
to confess the infinite power of your majesty,
since by the wondrous power of the Cross
your judgment on the world is now revealed
and the authority of Christ crucified.”

Easter is the axial point of history: the moment when God demonstrates that his creative purposes have been vindicated—redeemed—such that the entire cosmic drama of creation, redemption and sanctification will be brought to its proper conclusion in the New Jerusalem, at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. No Easter, no Easter faith; no Easter, no Church; at Easter, history and the cosmos are re-ordered to the trajectory intended for them “in the beginning” (Gen 1:1). Still, the Church remembers throughout Lent that there is no Easter without Good Friday. Good Friday is not an accidental prelude to Easter; Good Friday is the essential, divinely-ordered gateway to Easter.

This has always been hard to accept, as we see from the dialogue at Caesarea Philippi to which Pope Francis referred in his post-election homily. We would have arranged things differently; we would have chosen another kind of Messiah—that theme runs like a bright thread throughout Lent, in the readings from the Old and New Testaments that the Church assigns to the liturgy during the Forty Days, so that the Church can ponder again the full panorama of salvation history. And as the Holy Father suggested in the Sistine Chapel, the temptation to deny the Cross is perennial; moreover, it is at the root of the Church’s failure to be the credible witness it must be, if the world is to be offered friendship with Jesus Christ.

There is much that needs reforming in the Church; and true reform, as I describe it in Evangelical Catholicism (Basic Books) is always Christ-centered and mission-oriented. True reform gives fresh expression to the truth of Christ crucified; true reform equips the Church for the more effective proclamation of Christ crucified. That expression and proclamation ought to be done with joy, for we are living on the far side of Easter. But Easter can never be emptied of the Passion and Death of the Lord; Easter faith must be faith built on an embrace of the Cross.

So in venerating the Cross on Good Friday, in the first Holy Week of a pontificate of reform and renewal, let the entire Church remember the truths expressed in what we may imagine as the first papal encyclical:

“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. … He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Pet 2: 21, 24).

COMING UP: Colorado bishops issue letter on the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life Congressional policies

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We, the Catholic bishops of Colorado, urge Congressional Representatives to support the Hyde Amendment and the Walden Amendment. We also ask the Faithful to sign The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) petition to lawmakers encouraging them to preserve the Hyde Amendment, which can be accessed at: NoTaxpayerAbortion.com, and to contact their Congressmen and women to support the Hyde and Walden amendments.

The House Appropriations Labor and Health and Human Services subcommittee recently passed a spending bill that strips protections for pre-born children, healthcare providers,and American taxpayers by excluding pro-life provisions, including the Hyde and Weldon amendments.

The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortion in most cases, except for rape and incest, has received bipartisan support since its inception in 1976 – including by pro-abortion administrations. Hyde is critical in saving lives. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that approximately 60,000 pre-born babies are saved every year because of the Hyde Amendment.[1] This is the first time in 40 years that the Hyde Amendment was not included in the annual appropriations bill[2] and failure to include pro-life amendments will only further increase divisions in our country.

The Weldon Amendment prevents any federal programs, agencies, and state and local governments from discriminating against health care practitioners and institutions that do not provide abortion services. It ensures that pro-life individuals and organizations can enter the health care profession without fearing that the government will force them to perform a procedure that violates their well-founded convictions. It has also received bipartisan support and was added to the appropriations bill every year since it was first enacted in 2005. [3]

Congress’ recent actions endanger the lives of pre-born children and infringe on the rights of millions of Americans who do not wish to participate in the moral evil of abortion. A recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll found that 58 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortions[4] and a 2019 Gallup poll shows that 60 percent of Americans think abortion should either be illegal or only legal in a few circumstances.[5]

The government should neither use taxpayer funds for the killing of pre-born children nor compel medical practitioners and institutions to violate their well-founded convictions. Congress must uphold these long-standing, common-sense bipartisan policies that promote a culture of life in our nation.

Human reason and science affirm that human life begins at conception. The Church objects to abortion on the moral principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with respect due to every human person. There has never been and never will be a legitimate need to abort a baby in the womb.

It is critical that Congress continue its long-history of supporting policies such as the Hyde and Walden amendments, and that all Colorado Catholics and people of good will make their voice heard in supporting these life-affirming policies.

Sign the petition to Congress here: www.NoTaxpayerAbortion.com

Contact your Congressional Representatives here: https://cocatholicconference.org/news/

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop of Denver

Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo

Most Reverend James R. Golka
Bishop of Colorado Springs

Most Reverend Jorge Rodriguez
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver