Thursday, April 21, 2005


I interrupt this homily blog with an entry about our new Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

The election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as the 264th Successor of St. Peter has orthodox Catholics rejoicing, and has driven the heterodox among us (not surprisingly) into a state of apoplexy!

May the Lord deliver them from their distress by changing their hearts.

Before the Cardinals gathered in Conclave, I wrote the following letter to our local newspaper, the Westerly Sun:

Now that Pope John Paul II has been laid to rest, speculation abounds concerning his successor.

Typically the pundits in the secular media offer the following comment in the midst of their reporting on the matter:

“According to recent polls, most Catholics want the new pope to be more liberal on social issues. They think he needs to change Church teaching on abortion, contraception, embryonic stem-cell research, women priests, etc.”

It needs to be made clear in this context that the pope is not a social innovator: he’s a guardian and a teacher! He is commissioned by Jesus Christ to guard the rich deposit of faith which has been faithfully handed down to him from the apostles themselves.

If he were to do otherwise (that is to say, if he were to change or modify any dogmatic teaching of the Church), he would invite upon himself the curse of Galatians 1! In that text St. Paul writes, “If we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel not in accord with the one we delivered to you, let a curse be upon him! I repeat what I have just said: if anyone preaches a gospel to you other than the one you received, let a curse be upon him!”

May God bless the Church with a new pope who will preach and witness to the truth as faithfully as did John Paul II, the man many of us now refer to as “John Paul the Great!”

Today I want to praise and thank the Lord for answering my prayer—which was certainly the prayer of every faithful Catholic prior to this Conclave:

Thank you, Lord, for giving us a shepherd who has served you so well in the past, and who is the living embodiment of that holy fearlessness extolled by Pope John Paul II—the John Paul who said to us so often, “Be not afraid!”

Thank you for giving us a leader who will show the skeptics within the Church that there is no contradiction between teaching the truth and acting in love.

Thank you for raising up a man who will not be afraid to condemn the moral relativism and hedonism that are fast eroding Western culture; a man who will build bridges with all people of good will; a man who will avoid the “curse” of Galatians 1, and be a powerful instrument of blessing for both the Church and the world.

Let me end this reflection with the words of Pope Benedict himself. These were spoken on October 7, 1999, at St. Peter’s Basilica, during the diaconal ordination of Fr. John Sistare and his classmates from the North American College in Rome:

“The blessed virgin teaches us what it means to be a servant. At the Annunciation she responded to God’s invitation by identifying herself as his servant and by giving herself to God’s plan, so that from her body Christ will be formed. Then, having become the Mother of God, her first action is to go in haste to serve her kinswoman, Elizabeth. Let us pray that she will intercede for you who will be ordained today so that you may follow faithfully the example of her servant-Son throughout your entire life of ordained ministry, and come one day to hear his words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matthew 25:21)

Pope Benedict XVI, today we offer this prayer for you, as you begin your work among us as the Vicar of Christ!