Sunday, 27 November 2022

Good Heavens: it's all about Lubich!

Clearly 'the public', that is, those who are not 'internal members' of the Focolare movement - including the Vatican, the Catholic hierarchy and the movement's adherents - have no idea what level the personality cult around Chiara Lubich can reach.  I suggest that everyone takes a look at this piece on YouTube:

Here, to marlk the 50th anniversary of the Focolare Movement a song is sung to Chiara Lubich in person ('Paradiso, Paradiso - dedicated to Chiara Lubich'), where it is said that it is not enough to thank Chiara Lubich merely in this life for her gifts (Jesus in the midst, love for pain, etc.) but we need all eternity to thank her.  According to authentic Christian doctrine,  heaven is based on the beatific vision - that is, seeing God 'face to face' in the words of St Paul.  But if, for the focolarini, heaven consists of thanking Chiara for all eternity,  this is perilously close to suggesting that Chiara is God.  Something clearly does not add up.  In this video, with these words, the singers seem almost in a trance,  beside themselves.  The lyrics are packed with theological problems, presenting Lubich as a kind of mediatrix.  For example, 'if we can live with Jesus in our midst we owe it to you': it seems that Chiara 'gives' Jesus.  If Protestants reject the idea common to the majority of Christians (Catholics, Orthodox, Eastern churches etc.) of the Virgin Mary, how come they accept Lubich as mediatrix?  Meanwhile la Lubich sits there in the audience lapping it all up.

Then take a look at this sculpture of Mary, Mother of the Church in the Focolare movement's international centre in Castel Gandolfo (former papal audience hall donated to Chiara Lubich by ardent admirer 'Saint' John Paul II.

Pere Pierre Vignon, a French priest and canonist, former ecclesiastical judge of the provinces of Lyon and Clermont-Ferrand, wrote of this piece of sculpture: 

The ideal of Chiara was embodied in 1987 by the great sculptor Benedetto Pietrogrande (1928-2019) in the chapel of the Castel Gandolfo convention centre in the group sculpture Mary, Mother of the Church.  The 'Mother of the Church' has the features of Chiara Lubich and everyone is at her feet. You can recognise the faces: Igino [co-founder], Chiaretto [co-founder], the first focolarine, not forgetting Pope John Paul II. It is impossible to deny, by invoking the creative freedom of an artist who cast in bronze the programme Chiara gave to her movement, that he did so consciously, while the 'saint', still alive, accepted the sculpture without protest. One might suspect that not only did she allow herself to be idolised, but that she herself promoted this attitude...In the group Mary, Mother of the Church in Castel Gandolfo, Chiara Lubich is the centre from which Unity springs. Many cardinals and bishops have already celebrated mass before this 'mother of the church', so concrete and incarnate. Through this impersonation - that is, the action of deceiving by false appearances or mendacious assertions, of passing oneself off as someone or something one is not - we discover appropriation,  diminishing, disguised by the Ideal of Unity. Unity belongs to everyone and not only to Chiara Lubich. Why is it that from now on, in the Catholic Church, whenever there is talk of Unity, it is necessary to invoke Chiara Lubich, as though she possessed its exclusive charisma?...There should be no spiritual 'robbery' in the Church. Why, then, should we have to go through Chiara Lubich's spiritual motherhood in order to embrace Unity?...Did she not say that one day the Church would wake up to discover itself Focolare? For such an awakening, clueless as to how it happened, you'd need to be drugged first."

Santo Cielo: e tutto Lubich!

Si vede che 'il pubblico', cioe, quelli che non sono 'interni' del movimento dei Focolari - compresi il Vaticano, la gerarchia cattolica e gli aderenti del movimento - non hanno idea quale livello il cuilto della personalita di Chiara Lubich puo raggiungere. Suggesrico che tutti vedono questo brano su Youtube:

Qui si canta una canzone a Chiara Lubich ("Paradiso, Paradiso - dedicato a Chiara Lubich") dove si dice che non basta la tutta la vita per ringraziare Chiara Lubich per i suoi doni (Gesu in mezzo, l'amore per il dolore ecc.) ma ci vuole tutta l'eternita. Secondo la dottrina cristiana, il paradiso si base sulla visione beatifica - cioe vedere Dio 'faccia a faccia', come dice San Paolo. Ma se per i focolarini Paradiso vuol dire ringraziare Chiara per tutta l'eternita, suggerisce che Chiara e Dio. Qualcosa non non quadra. In questo video, con queste parole, i cantanti sembrano proprio esaltati, fuori di se. Le parole sono pieni di problemi teologici, presentando la Lubich come una specie di mediatrice. Per esempio, 'se possiamo vivere con Gesu in mezzo a noi lo dobbiamo a te': sembra che Chiara 'dona' Gesu. Se i protestanti rifiutono l'idea della stragrande maggioranza di cristiani (cattolic, ortodossi ecc.) della Madonna, come mai accettano la Lubich come mediatrice?

Di questo pezzo di scultura, ha scritto Pere Pierre Vignon, sacerdote e canonista francese, gia giudice ecclesiastico delle provincie di Lione e Clermont-Ferrand: "L'ideale di Chiara e stato concretizzato nel 1987 dal grande scultore Benedetto Pietrogrande (1928-2019) nella capella del centro congressi del Castel Gandolfo nel gruppo Maria, Madre della Chiesa. La 'Madre della Chiesa' ha le fattezze di Chiara Lubich e tutti sono ai suoi piedi. Si riconoscono i volti: Igino, Chiaretto, le prime focolarine, senza dimenticare Papa Giovanni Paolo II. Impossibile obiettare invocando la liberta creativa di un artista, che fondendo in bronzo il programma conferito da Chiara al suo movimento, lo ha fatto consapevolmente, mentre la 'santa', ancora viva, ha accettato la scultura senza protestare. Si puo pensare che non solo si sia lasciata idolatrare, ma che sia stata lei stessa a promuovere tale atteggiamento...Nel gruppo Maria, Madre della Chiesa di Castel Gandolfo, Chiara Lubich e il centro da cui scaturisce l'Unita. Molti cardinali a vescovi hanno gia celebrato messa davanti a questa 'madre della chiesa', cosi concreta e incarnata. Con l'impostura - ovvero l'azione di ingannare mediante false apparenze o affermazioni mendaci, di spacciarsi per qualcuno o qualcosa che non si e - scopriamo l'appropriazione, la sottrazione, mascherate dall'Ideale dell'Unita. L'Unita appartiene a tutti e non solo a Chiara Lubich. Perche d'ora in poi, nella Chiesa cattolica, ogni volta che si parla di Unita, bisogna invocare Chiara Lubich, che ne avrebbe il carisma esclusivo?...Nella Chiesa non c'e nessuna 'rapina' spirituale. Perche, allora, dovremmo passare attraverso la maternita spirituale di Chiara Lubich per avvincinarsi all'Unita?...Non aveva forse detto che un giorno la Chiesa si sarebbe svegliata focolarina? Per un tale risveglio, in cui non si sa cosa sia successo, bisogna essere stati prima drogati."

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

The disastrous hopes of Benedict XVI for new Catholic Movements (from 27 years of Archives)


All aboard the lean, clean, missionary machine

 Pope Benedict is a close friend of the new fundamentalist groups in the Catholic Church

By Gordon Urquhart

Saturday May 07 2005, 1.00am, The Times

AS CARDINAL Ratzinger, Benedict XVI frequently spoke of a Catholic Church — at least in Europe and North America — much reduced in numbers, a leaner, purer, more orthodox “remnant”.

It would be a mistake, however, to think he is talking of a return to the catacombs. Pope Benedict is one of the staunchest supporters of the so-called “new movements”, the fundamentalist, traditionalist groups which began in southern Europe and grew exponentially in the second half of the 20th century, particularly during the reign of John Paul II — Opus Dei, Focolare, Communion and Liberation (CL), the Neocatechumenate (NC), Charismatic Renewal and others.

If it was [Pope] John Paul who gave these groups authority through his enthusiastic backing, Cardinal Ratzinger was the architect of their permanent place in the Church, both by justifying them theologically and by ensuring that they received Vatican approval.

“Even if we are in a minority,” he has said, “our priority has to be proclaiming the message. In the early years of Christianity, Christians were few, but they made themselves heard. The movements have the missionary enthusiasm of those early years; even though few in number, they can encourage the life of the Gospel in the world.”

Ratzinger considered his first encounter with the new movements in the 1960s “a marvellous event”. For him they were comparable to earlier movements of the stature of Cluny, St Francis, St Dominic and St Ignatius.


Accounts of Benedict XVI’s life date his conversion from progressive to neoconservative from the student revolts of 1968*, so it is significant that he places the new movements in this context: “After 1968 there was an explosion of secularisation which radicalised a process that had been going on for 200 years: the Christian foundations were undermined. Therefore a clear identity of faith is necessary, inspired by a joyous experience of God’s truth. This leads us to the movements which offer this joyous experience.”

But the experience of many bishops around the world was very different. With their rigid views, strong-arm recruitment tactics and absolute conviction of acting under direct divine inspiration, the movements sparked conflict and division. The most common objections were that they were secretive, that they practised mind control and demanded blind obedience from members. A further accusation was that of anti-intellectualism — a charge often launched at pre-conciliar Catholicism. For many local bishops these elitist institutions were “churches within the Church”.

In 1995 complaints to Bishop Mervyn Alexander, then head of the Diocese of Clifton, about the Neocatechumenate movement, which had been operating in several local parishes for some years, reached such a pitch that he set up a public enquiry; as a result, the NC was forbidden to operate in the diocese.

The late Cardinal Basil Hume was also wary of the new movements, which he branded “fundamentalist”. Opus Dei was ordered not to recruit among younger teenagers. Hume sent NC candidates for the priesthood for ordination in Rome rather than have to accept them in his own parishes.


Cardinal Ratzinger had strong words for these actions against the movements by local bishops: “It is necessary to say loudly and clearly to the local churches and to the bishops that they are not allowed to indulge in any claim to absolute uniformity in pastoral organisation and plans. They cannot hold up their pastoral projects as models of how the Holy Spirit is allowed to work. Better to have less organisation and more Holy Spirit.”


If the movements caused division, Ratzinger seemed to be saying, so be it: “There can be no concept of communion whose supreme pastoral value consists in avoiding conflict.”

Under John Paul II, it was Ratzinger who came up with theological arguments for the movements, empasising the “co-essentiality” of the Church’s institutional and charismatic dimensions — the latter represented by the movements, which “cannot be derived from the episcopal principle (but) find their theological and practical support in the primacy of the Pope”.

The movements dovetailed with Ratzinger’s centralising view of the Church: all had their headquarters in Rome (or, in the case of Communion and Liberation, Milan) and, as members owed absolute obedience to their charismatic leaders, they could be mobilised from the Vatican at the drop of a biretta. According to Ratzinger, it was in these “various spiritual movements (that) the insertion of the laity in the Church is concretely realised”.


Ratzinger’s orthodox “remnant” can be considered to start with these groups. And the numbers? According to official Vatican figures in 1998, 200 million worldwide — small beer in comparison with the total number of Catholics but still significant, especially considering that they have reached this figure in a little over 50 years.

The movements are characterised by their high-profile events and their ability to mobilise huge numbers. When John Paul held a gathering for them in St Peter’s Square at Pentecost 1998, 800,000 members of the organisations attended. Records were broken again in 2002 at the canonisation of St JosemarĂ­a Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei, which drew more than a million followers.

This, then, is a force to be reckoned with, and not just on a spiritual plane. The members of these groups share a theocratic view of civil society and have demonstrated great skill in achieving power in the secular sphere. Opus Dei’s presence in the worlds of politics, the media and high finance is legendary. But the other groups are rapidly catching up.

Rocco Buttiglione, rejected as a commissioner by the European Parliament last year, for his conservative views on women and gays — is a founder member of Communion and Liberation and a leader of the CdU, an Italian right-wing Catholic party. He is also Minister of Culture in Silvio Berlusconi’s governing coalition.

In November 2001 the Movement for Unity, the political wing of Focolare, held a conference for the mayors of Europe — 700 of them — boldly titled “1,000 Cities for Europe”. The event was chaired by the President of Austria, the late Thomas Klestil, Focolare’s founder, Chiara Lubich, and President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, a staunch ally of Focolare.

In the political sphere the aim of all the movements is the same: to promote conservative legislation on matters concerning sexuality and procreation. Over the past few years, Focolare and Opus Dei between them managed to push a highly restrictive IVF Bill, known as Law 40, through the Italian parliament. In 1999 the movements claimed by their combined efforts to have swung a Portuguese referendum on abortion in the Church’s favour.

Closer to home, meanwhile, the attitude towards the new movements in the Diocese of Westminster has changed. According to Austen Ivereigh, spokesman for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Cardinal “welcomes the movements as a vigorous part of the modern Church”.


A Green Paper is being drawn up to study the future of the diocese in the light of falling numbers of priests. As part of this process, a meeting was held between the Cardinal, the Vicar General and representatives of the new movements. This was an historic moment: the first top-level contact in the diocese with all of these organisations, the aim being a greater contribution to diocesan plans.

The many NC [Neocathecumenal] seminarians studying at Westminster’s seminary, Allen Hall, will now be ordained in the diocese rather than being sent to Rome, as in Cardinal Hume’s day. In January Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said that he was entrusting a smart North London parish to Opus Dei — something that would have been unthinkable under his predecessor.

The message that Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger, spent years drumming home seems finally to have been absorbed: the local churches simply cannot afford to ignore the new movements — for these are indeed the “remnant”, the most effective body of committed Catholics in the Church today.

 *His colleague at Tubingen and the Second Vatican Council, the great theologian Hans Kung, has recounted how at a lecture that Razinger was giving at Tubingen in 1968, demonstrators entered the lecture theatre and grabbed Ratzinger's microphone. He was horrified and from that moment his switch to neoconservatism began.  Ther is an interesting comparison with another pope, Pius XII - who experienced something similar with communist demonstrators in Munich in 1919.  Even as late as the fifties when he had already been pope for over ten years, he was still having nightmares about this experience and still seeing a psychiatrist in an attempt to deal with it - and his hatred of communists characterised his papacy.