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Papal Poverty and Divine Irony
The Catholic Thing ^ | March 24, 2013 | Bevil Bramwell, OMI

Posted on 03/24/2013 11:33:43 AM PDT by NYer

The dictionary defines irony as “a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.” Well, the election of Pope Francis, first of that name, was certainly that.

The cardinal electors, most of whom rarely if ever see poor people, chose to be pope someone who has, day after day over many years. The cardinal electors, most of whom live very well indeed, chose someone who lives extremely simply, even cooking his own meals. The cardinals, most of whom do not even do very much to make sure that Church teaching is followed in their own dioceses, even by their own clergy, chose someone who does.

There are all kinds of religious in the United States, for example, who will now have to face a man who can vigorously follow the option for the poor while, at the same time, being entirely faithful to Church teaching. This will upset the old, dissenting applecart.

It will put the criticism of the Leadership Conference of Women Religion (LCWR) in context. (Of course, one wonders why only the LCWR was singled-out, since plenty of other groups need to be brought into line as well.). The critique of the LCWR members was for not maintaining a solid religious life while “serving the poor.”

There are male groups who are doing similar things, but they have considerably more leverage within the Church because many of them are clergy – and dioceses are strapped for clergy. Now, if Francis’ more faithful option for the poor becomes the new norm, then the clericalist emphasis will lose some of its strength and influence in diocesan decision-making.

And if there will be a new emphasis on the vow of poverty, there are also going to be many religious who will have to face up to a religious who can live extremely simply instead of spending all kinds of cash to surround himself with the trappings of the upper-middle class. Religious poverty is primarily obedience to live a life of poverty, both in order to follow Christ and also to identify with the poor around us. But as we know only too well, that kind of obedience has evaporated in many religious houses.

     Pope Francis attends a Vatican staff Mass

A big question Francis has raised is whether the ecclesiastical inertia that we have had to pay for and watch from the sidelines for so long is going to finally change. Roman complacency has come from the fact that the United States provides most of the Vatican’s funding. Let’s hope that changes under Francis.

The possibilities are wonderful. Catholic clergy might actually consider letting go of a validating lifestyle that seems to have been inherited from the landed British Anglican clergy of the nineteenth century. The passion for furniture and the good life might finally be separated from the vocation of being a Catholic clergyman. This is a change that has been overlong in coming. If it ever happens, will the seminaries get on board so that they do not pass on anachronistic expectations and external indications of having arrived as a clergyman?

The greatest possibilities following from the election of Francis seem to be in the direction of filling out the mission of the Church to the poor, all of the time. Saint Lawrence’s conception of the poor as the “treasure of the Church” has a real possibility of coming true. This is not to gainsay the excellent work that the Church does already. But now perhaps laity will be able to see that they are an integral part of the Church and not an add-on to the clerical church.

Of course, more laity are going to have to get involved – and be more deeply formed in the faith: maybe with some out-front leadership from the clergy this can actually happen. I have a figure in my head that roughly 15 percent of parishioners are currently doing all the outreach in their parishes. Imagine if that figure were to grow to 60 or 70 per cent!

This country would have a whole different outlook on things like abortion. Instead of abortion being an answer to a social problem, preventing the destruction of these “unwanted” souls could be the possibility for a whole new arm of charitable work through giving them homes and educations. People as such might be seen as valuable again – and not just when they reach voting age.

If the Church got itself re-organized around the Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, there are some real possibilities for following this pope and the many initiatives that he will undoubtedly start. In short, Pope Francis opens up possibilities not even imagined by the men who elected him. The Church can become much more authentically the Church and show the face of Jesus Christ to the world and especially these United States, a land that surely needs to see Him more clearly again.

TOPICS: Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture
Fr. Bevil Bramwell is a member of Oblates of Mary Immaculate and is Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University.

1 posted on 03/24/2013 11:33:43 AM PDT by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...


2 posted on 03/24/2013 11:34:04 AM PDT by NYer (Beware the man of a single book - St. Thomas Aquinas)
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To: NYer

3 posted on 03/24/2013 12:07:30 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (I'll raise $2million for Sarah Palin's presidential run. What'll you do?)
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To: NYer


4 posted on 03/24/2013 12:29:32 PM PDT by kitkat (STORM THE HEAVENS WITH PRAYERS FOR OUR COUNTRY)
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To: NYer


5 posted on 03/24/2013 3:41:31 PM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
sadly, that had unintended consequences, leading to





6 posted on 03/25/2013 12:34:49 AM PDT by Cronos (Latin presbuteros->Late Latin presbyter->Old English pruos->Middle Engl prest->priest)
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To: Cronos

Perhaps, but what would the world look like without the reformation? Would there be a United States as we know it? Almost assuredly not. Would we be where we are today technologically? I think you know the answer.

7 posted on 03/25/2013 7:37:58 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (I'll raise $2million for Sarah Palin's presidential run. What'll you do?)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Perhaps, but what would the world look like without the reformation?

Different, better in some ways. For instance the Reformation split Christendom just at the time when the Moslems conquered Constantinople -- if there had been a united Christendom, the Ottomans would have been pushed back

If there was a united Christendom then the Dutch would not have been slimy enough to throw out the Portueguese from Indonesia -- the Portuguese went out to convert and Indonesia would now be Christian, instead it remained a Dutch colony and not converted

There would have been no WWI as Prussia would not have been birthed as a separate state and hence there would have been no WWII

Would there be a United States as we know it?

Yes. The USA was formed by Anglicans primarily who were the largest bloc among the Founding Fathers (there were 2 Catholics too) and the ideals are based on ancient Greek ideals

Would we be where we are today technologically? I think you know the answer. -- yes, we would have been where we are today. See my post below

8 posted on 03/25/2013 9:29:54 AM PDT by Cronos (Latin presbuteros->Late Latin presbyter->Old English pruos->Middle Engl prest->priest)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
A common historical mis-statement by some posters is whether scientific breakthrough was purely or even lead by "Protestant nations"
Let's set the historical background first -- Europe in 1500. Population estimates taken from Internet Medieval Source book


Population (millions)

Position as a nation-state

British Isles


Until the end of the 100 years wars, it seemed that England and France would merge under one king.  When the English lost and were thrown out of Western France, that led to the consolidation of both England and France as nation-states with language unity.

However, Scotland still was independent and the Welsh chaffed under English rule.

Ireland is reduced to warring clans.

France & low countries


See above.  France emerges as the strongest nation-state, but is really an empire with the northern, “French-speaking” population around Paris ruling over the southern l’Oil areas.  The French had recently destroyed and conquered the Duchy of Burgundy


The low countries (Belgium, Netherlands) are part of Spain and remain so until 1600.  These were once the capitals of the Holy Roman Empire (Bruges was once a center of trade) and hence have a larger population, more trade and commerce.  

Belgium is part of Holland until 1830 even though it is completely Catholic.  In 1830 it fights and gets independence.

Germany & Scandanavia


No sense of nation-state until Napoleon and even then as nation-states like Hesse, Bavaria, etc. not as Germany (that only happens post WWI and more especially post WWII when Germans from Eastern Europe who have lived in EE for centuries are thrown out to Germany)

Scandanavia has a stronger sense of nation-states, but the Swedes are in union with the Geats (Goths) and the Norwegians and Danes are in a union.  

The strongest nation-state is Denmark. 

Sweden is close but will not develop it until the 1600s.  

Norway is still tribal as is Iceland and Finland

Switzerland is still part of the Holy Roman Empire and has no sense of a nation-state but is a loose confederation that have nothing in common except that they band together against common enemies.  This will remain the state of Switzerland until Napoleon conquers Switzerland and creates the Helvetic Confederation (and then adds it to France!).  Post Napoleon, there is consolidation, but Switzerland still has a large civil war and only gets some semblance of a nation state in the late 1800s



No sense of nation-state, but strong city-states.  This is the most advanced “nation” in Western Europe, with an advanced financial system, manufacturing, strong in agriculture etc.  Only it does not have a central government, which puts it in a bad position compared to France and Spain who interfere in the city-states.

Italy is not united until Garibaldi in the late 1800s.



Strong nation-states formed in opposition to the Moors.  Not very advanced economically as this is still very agricultural.  However, it is tied to the economically stronger Arab world and with the discovery of gold in the Americas, it will be the most powerful state for the 1500s -1680s until the rise of Louis XIV France



Under Ottoman rule, strong sense of nation-state, but no self-rule.  

Highly advanced economies in Greece and Anatolia, arguably most advanced in all of Europe.  

Romania, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bulgaria arespan> devastated by the Ottomans with many fleeing to the mountains.  Agriculture, culture etc. severely decline.

They are hit on two sides – by the Turks militarily and, because the Turks have a “millet” system where people of one religion are grouped together and the millet for all of these is Orthodoxy, the Bulgarians, Romanians etc. are kept under Greek Phanariotes.  Hence their culture declines while Greek culture thrives.



Still expanding south and east, conquering the Emirates of Kazan etc. This is still a barbaric state and remains so until Peter the Great.  It has a sense of purpose, but it’s purpose is Christianity as they believe they are the last Christian state and have a holy duty to push back the Moslems.  Economic and scientific development is poor as the focus is on war and agriculture – life is too hard and land too vast to develop like Western Europe.



Consolidating nation-state, however, more based on a confederacy as there are 4 nations here: Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenians (Ukrainians, Belarusians) and Jews.  This mixed with 4 different religions (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Judaism and Islam (Lipka Tartars)) means a very tolerant state – tolerance levels of these are not reached by Western Europe until the late Victorian era.



Strong nation state of the Magyars in Magyaristan (we English speakers give them an exonym of Hungary while they call themselves Magyar).  However, the Magyars (descendents of Finno-Ugaric warriors) are mostly ruling class and warriors, they import Saxons as merchants.  The native Romanians, Slovaks, etc are kept as serfs.  The state is one of war



Strong nation-state but at war with the Holy Roman Empire and Poland has given it a sense of insecurity.  It will eventually be absorbed by Austria-hungary.

The net effect is that before the reformation you essentially have only 5 viable "nation"-states. In orders of strenght of national identity:
  1. England
  2. Denmark
  3. France
  4. Spain
  5. Portugal
The financial positions of these countries do NOT change as part of the reformation. They remain more or less the same until the mid-1700s. In fact, the economic position of Germany declines due to the 30 years war and even worse, the Peace of Westphalia

1683, Battle of Vienna and 1701-1714 there is the War of Spanish succession -- THAT changes everything in Europe.. At the end of this, Spain and Portugal are in decline, France is the most powerful state and will remain so until 1812. the Ottoman Turks are in precipituous decline, Russia is expanding south and east rapidly and modernizing fast from an Asian monarchy to a more European-style feudal state. Germany gets consolidated into 4 majory states: Austria, Bavaria, Brandenburg-Prussia and Hesse-Hanover. The Swedes are now extremely powerful and in 50 years invade Poland and Russia (the Deluge) -- this destroys the commonwealth and even though it reforms it is never the same under the Swedish Vasa kings of Poland nor the Saxon kings of Poland. THe commonwealth is irrevocably headed for 1791 when Poland is carved up by Prussia, Russia and Austria.


Next, urbanization in Europe in 1800

As you can see, the heaviest urbanization has been in the triangle formed by London, Paris and Amsterdam


Scientific innovation --> I couldn't find an online map for this, but there are books available and there should be something online. however, I need to figure out the right google-words!

Anyway, scientific innovations leading the industrial revolution are exclusively found in these 2 countries:
    England (right from the north to the south)
  1. France (mostly in the north)
England is Anglican, France is Catholic. Germany is Lutheran and Catholic (60-40) and the Dutch republic is reformed. The latter two have their scientific developments but in sheer quantity they lag behind England and France. Scandanavia is Lutheran and has fewer scientific developments and mostly in Sweden or Denmark i.e. in the populated states). Eastern Europe and southern Europe are in the throes of war or recovering from their declines as powerful entites, so the developments are least over here.

So, the scientific developments are not exclusively any type of Protestant -- if anything, the industrial revolution is led by High-Church Anglican Britain and Catholic France.

But does religion have a role to play in this?

I would argue yes in the case of Anglicanism -- it is far less rigid in it's structure than either the CAtholic countries OR the Lutheran/Reformed state countries. While all the countries had state religions, Anglicanism was the most "flexible" -- you had near Catholics in the High-Church Anglicans and reformed in the "Low Church Anglicans", so religion did play a factor because Anglicanism was flexible compared to Catholicism, Calvinism or Lutheranism -- but what were the other factors?

The other factors are:
Which brings me to the second fact -- war and peace. England and France mostly fight on the periphery or on overseas territories. They are not fighting like Spain or Eastern Europe or Germany on their homelands. This means that the home populations have the peace to focus on science and economy.

Finally, the last factor -- success breeds success. By the Victorian era, the momentum of scientific discovery in England and France meant that smart people were encouraged to come to these countries as they knew they'd get opportunities. It's the same reason why silicon valley is the centre of IT research -- as we reach a critical mass of smart folks, this mass expands itself, absorbing smart people from elsewhere --> on a side note, check how many American nobel laureates were born outside the US and see how the key factor affecting our scientific growth is that we no longer have the super-critical mass of smart folks we once had
9 posted on 03/25/2013 9:30:59 AM PDT by Cronos (Latin presbuteros->Late Latin presbyter->Old English pruos->Middle Engl prest->priest)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
in fact, to your point Would there be a United States as we know it?

It might be interesting to remember that at the time the USA was getting it's independence, an older republic was having its life snuffed out by it's dictatorial neighbors

This republic was multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, created it's constitution in 1791, was religiously tolerant (Unitarians, Moslems, Jews, Orthodox, Armenians, Calvinists and Lutherans were free to not only practise but also to preach and proselytize in this majority Catholic nation) and had a republic in which unfortunately the votes had to be unanimous

This place was fervently Catholic. In 1680 it was the largest country in Europe bar Ottoman Turkey, bigger than France, bigger than the Holy Roman Empire (which in any case was a confederation), bigger than Muscowy.

That was the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. The rulers were mainly Catholic as were the bulk of the people.

So, no, the USA would have been formed in a Catholic land

Technological development as I showed above was not religion dependent -- in fact this was region dependent.

10 posted on 03/25/2013 9:42:23 AM PDT by Cronos (Latin presbuteros->Late Latin presbyter->Old English pruos->Middle Engl prest->priest)
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To: Cronos


11 posted on 03/25/2013 9:45:14 AM PDT by skinkinthegrass (who'll take tomorrow,$pend it all today;who can take your income,tax it all away..0'Blowfly can :-)
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To: skinkinthegrass; 2ndDivisionVet
Sorry skink, didn't get you?

I like history and what I note in the post is bits and pieces from various locations.

12 posted on 03/25/2013 12:25:16 PM PDT by Cronos (Latin presbuteros->Late Latin presbyter->Old English pruos->Middle Engl prest->priest)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
going back to hat would the world look like without the reformation? -- as I said above, it had the drastic effect that in 1683 the Protestant Calvinist Hungarian lords sided with the Ottoman Turks against their own Christian brethren (both Hungarian and Austrians and Polish and Croat etc)
13 posted on 03/27/2013 11:51:39 AM PDT by Cronos (Latin presbuteros->Late Latin presbyter->Old English pruos->Middle Engl prest->priest)
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