I don’t know how many blog visitors are football fans, and how many of you are looking in from your tailgate parties in various NFL stadiums right now. (Right!) For those who don’t believe that religion and sports intersect in the cosmos, there are many fewer atheists in the Michigan State University community after last night’s incredible turn of events.
I have cut back considerably from my high school and college days, when it was easy to make a day out of football. I generally watch parts of a late Saturday evening game, like last night’s Utah game, though I rarely reach the 1 AM finish. On Sundays the NFL makes things easier nowadays, as the dictates of advertising have pushed the “important” games to the supper hour (the “doubleheader” game) and now NBC’s Sunday night game, which is a great innovation in my opinion. So I generally don’t switch on a TV on Sunday till about 5 PM.
I like to keep part of Sunday, at least, in the spirit in which the day was invented. So after a workout and a blog entry, I keep the afternoon free for theological reading and study. (If the Buffalo Bills happen to be playing, I keep my IPad next to me in quiet mode to keep up in ESPN Live Cast.) It is on afternoons such as these that I have my best chance to survey editorials, articles, and opinion pieces. I saved two such pieces for today, both on the Synod of the Family. I have not posted much about the Synod in recent days because of its wide coverage in nearly all Catholic outlets, but I found in these two essays some remarkable insights about the issues being discussed and the intense angst among many about its outcome.
The first is a somewhat ominous assessment of the Synod to date by Father Thomas Reese, S.J., a giant in Catholic academics, writing, and journalism. His piece, “Five Reasons the Synod is Doomed to Fail,” appeared in National Catholic Reporter’s news website on Thursday. I hope you have an opportunity to digest this brief but pointed assessment. I call particular attention to Father Reese’s concern over an absence of experts at the meeting. Vatican II, as he himself observes, brought together many of the greatest theological minds of the twentieth century. Theological research has seriously declined after the Council because popes have chosen to make sexual ethics the “litmus test” of orthodoxy over the last several decades. The metaphor of CEO’s disengaged from their research and development staffs is extraordinarily timely.
The second piece is an NCR news story from Friday, an interview with Chicago’s Archbishop Blaise Cupich, one of Pope Francis’s appointments to the Synodal body. Bishop Cupich gave a press conference drawing from his long experience as a confessor. The gist of his remarks involve the power of conscience and the roles of the priest and the penitent in confession. I hasten to point out that the archbishop’s pastoral practice is neither unusual nor without precedent. Somewhere in my ancient transcript I have record of a seminary course in my history dealing with “internal forum” matters in the confessional or the counseling parlor, which is nearly verbatim to the pastoral philosophy expressed by the archbishop. That would be around 1972.
Please respond if so moved, and I will see you tomorrow for another flashback to Vatican II.