A headline and a non-headline: The pope's 'mini-Magisterium'

A headline and a non-headline: The pope's 'mini-Magisterium'

Pope Francis prays at the guest house chapel

There was Big News and little news out of the Vatican today.

The Big News grabbed the headlines: Pope Francis told the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation that he should “act decisively” with regard to cases of sexual abuse by priests, “continuing along the lines set by Benedict XVI.”

This should be done “first of all by promoting measures for the protection of minors, as well as in offering assistance to those who have suffered abuse, carrying out due proceedings against the guilty, and in the commitment of bishops' conferences to formulate and implement the necessary directives in this area that is so important for the Church's witness and credibility.”

“The Holy Father assured that victims of abuse are present in a particular way in his prayers for those who are suffering.”

I’m not even sure what all this means. The first thing to note is that the information came in a statement by the doctrinal congregation after the papal audience. The second thing is its defense of the retired Pope Benedict and his handling of abuse cases.

More specifically, the reference to the “commitment” by bishops’ conferences to “formulate and implement” necessary directives touches on unfinished business. In 2011, the doctrinal congregation issued a circular letter that required every bishops’ conference in the world to develop guidelines on handling allegations of abuse. It would be interesting to see a progress report on that project.

The little news

The lesser news from the Vatican came, as usual, in Pope Francis’ homily at his morning Mass in the Vatican guest house.

Today’s theme was the name of Jesus. The pope related a story from his days as archbishop in Buenos Aires:

"A humble man works in the curia of Buenos Aires. He has worked there for 30 years, he is the father of eight children. Before he goes out, before going out to do the things that he must do, he always says, 'Jesus!' And I once asked him, 'Why do you always say' Jesus '?' 'When I say' Jesus '- this humble man told me - I feel strong, I feel I can work, and I know that He is with me, that He keeps me safe.'”

The pope continued: “This man never studied theology, he only has the grace of baptism and the power of the Spirit. And this testimony did me a lot of good too, because it reminds us that in this world that offers us so many saviors, it is only the name of Jesus that saves.”

Pope Francis went on to say that “in order to solve their problems many people resort to fortune tellers and tarot cards. But only Jesus saves and we must bear witness to this! He is the only one.”

I find these morning homilies fascinating, a kind of mini-Magisterium. They are not really part of the pope’s official pronouncements, but thankfully Vatican Radio is there to report on them.

The other day the pope spoke about how important it was to resist the temptation of constant complaining in the face of life’s disappointments. A few days earlier, he talked about the destructive power of gossip.

I hope someone is transcribing these sermons. They are always linked to the readings of the day, and seemed designed to provide food for thought at a very accessible level. Frequently, they underline how pastors can learn from people who have never had formal theological training.

13 comments (Add your own)

1. Deacon John M. Bresnahan wrote:
It is important to pay attention to even the "mini-magisterium" as an exercise in and sign of unity in the Catholic Church. Somewhere in the New Testament it says that the followers of Christ were of one mind and one heart.Thus working toward that goal through the preaching ministry of the pope is truly a Biblical virtue.

Fri, April 5, 2013 @ 12:11 PM

2. Dominic Gabriel wrote:
Just beautiful.


Fri, April 5, 2013 @ 12:24 PM

3. Sr. Rose wrote:
Nicely expressed, John, the "mini" especially because it is so accessible to everyone.

Fri, April 5, 2013 @ 2:51 PM

4. Jose Ybarra wrote:
Someone should collect Pope Francis pastoral sermons and put them in a future book for the spiritual and pastor benefit of Priests and lay people.

Fri, April 5, 2013 @ 5:40 PM

5. D.A. Howard wrote:
When the pope makes ANY public statement in his capacity as pope, they fall into the Ordinary Magisterium

Fri, April 5, 2013 @ 5:40 PM

6. Douglas kraeger wrote:
The Cathechism of the catholic Church reads 2668 "The invocation of the Holy nme o Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. CCC2666 reads "But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS... The name "Jesus" contains all: God and man and the whole ec onomy of salvation.....His name (Jesus) is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. John 17:12 " When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me." When we pray the name "Jesus", we join with god the father, God the Son and God the Holy Sprit as they each say "Jesus" eternally and nothing more. CCC65, CCC102. So let's all pray with God and all his saints in heaven where partial knowledge has ceased (CCC 314) in His name, Jesus.

Fri, April 5, 2013 @ 9:36 PM

7. Nathan wrote:
D.a. Howard, as you know, there are different levels of authority within the magisterium, so while anything a pontiff says publically as pope is important, we wouldn't want to give the impression that an off the cuff statement in a homily is of the same weight as an Encyclical (or even that all parts of an Encyclicals are of the same weight as each other!) Catholic Answers magazine recently had a great article on this very topic. God Bless!

Sat, April 6, 2013 @ 8:23 AM

8. Jackie Rose wrote:
What a beautiful man !

Sat, April 6, 2013 @ 10:06 AM

9. Mike Paul wrote:
Jesus, the name the angel gave him before his birth, means savior. In this name is contained the essence of who the Son is and what he came for, to seek and save the lost, to give his life as a ransom for the many, not to condemn but to show mercy, to assure that none may be lost but that all may come to eternal life. God's merciful oove poured out for the salvation of the world through the blood of his son on the cross.

As the old protestant hymn says, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there is something about that name..."

I love this pope.

Sat, April 6, 2013 @ 10:14 AM

10. Linda wrote:
I have been so hoping and praying that someone would take up the task of translating all of Pope Francis' homilies and transmit them immediately so that we may have the benefit of receiving his thoughts and teachings on the Word on an ongoing daily basis.

Sat, April 6, 2013 @ 10:29 AM

11. Ed Roberts wrote:
Thank you Jesus for our church.

Sat, April 6, 2013 @ 11:32 AM

12. RAnn wrote:
Welcome to the Catholic Blog Directory. I'd like to invite you to particpate in Sunday Snippets-A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts iwth each other. This week's host post is at http://rannthisthat.blogspot.com/2013/04/sunday-snippets-catholic-carnival.html

Sun, April 7, 2013 @ 9:29 AM

13. Anna wrote:
@JoseYbarra: I've actually been doing that. More so because i read them at the end of my working day, but I do have everything in one file, alongside wee cross references that aid my own reading. Hope someone else is doing this professionally.

Tue, April 9, 2013 @ 12:49 AM

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