A dispute over a papal decision of the 1850s
In First Things, Fr Romanus Cessario wrote a book review which sparked controversy. The book was a newly published memoir by Edgardo Mortara, who was born in 1851.
Mortara was born in the Papal States to Jewish parents. As a baby, he “fell ill and was judged to be beyond recovery by both doctors and parents”. His Catholic nanny secretly baptised him. Then the child recovered, and found himself as a baptised Catholic in a Jewish household.
After the parents refused to send Edgardo to a Catholic school, Blessed Pope Pius IX sent police to take the child from his parents and brought him up in the papal household. (Mortara later became a priest and always defended the Pope’s actions.)
When international protests broke out, Pope Pius said he had had no choice. There was reason in this, Fr Cessario said. “The requirement that all legitimately baptised children receive a Catholic educationwas not arbitrary. Since baptism causes birth into new life in Christ, children require instruction about this form of new life.”
Fr Cessario’s review provoked much anger. At Public Discourse, Robert T Miller called on First Things to retract it. Pius was a “good man”, and he doubtless believed he was doing the right thing. “But the excuses available to Pius are not available to Cessario and the editors of First Things. They ought to know better than to drag up this old nonsense,” Miller wrote. “What could possibly explain such an abrupt and bizarre departure from sound moral principles?”
In a response, First Things editor RR Reno agreed that the Mortara case was “a stain on the Catholic Church. Whatever one thinks about the efficacy of baptism, forcibly separating a child from his parents is a grievous act.” But he said he published the review because it challenges the modern Church.
“Today, Catholicism is not tempted to take up the sword and restore the temporal powers Pius IX possessed. Instead, we are riven by debates about divorce, remarriage and Communion. This week, a German archbishop opined that perhaps it is time for the Church to discuss the possibility of blessing gay relationships.
“These and other erosions of the faith,” Reno wrote, “suggest a crisis of confidence in God’s irrevocable deeds and our call to honour them with all our hearts, minds, and souls.” The Mortara case might have been a disaster, but we need to avoid “facile” responses.
Faith in the carriages of the Underground
It’s funny what you find on the London Underground, said KV Turley at ncregister.com. One sees people opening their Bibles, or a man saying the rosary while a “packed commuter carriage” politely ignores him.
Turley knew someone who “was considering … whether to enter a particular monastery at a resort town on the South Coast. He boarded an underground train only to see the advertisement in front of him telling him, in no uncertain terms, to go immediately to that same seaside resort on the South Coast. Soon after, he entered the monastery, and, decades later, remains there.”
✣ A village in Portugal celebrates Epiphany with an unlikely custom: encouraging children to smoke.
The two-day celebrations in the village of Vale de Salgueiro, near the country’s northern border, involve pipe music, dancing around bonfires and an elected “king” who hands out wine and snacks. Children as young as five are also given cigarettes.
Guilhermina Mateus,a coffee shop owner, told Associated Press: “I don’t see any harm in that because they don’t really smoke. They inhale and immediately exhale. And it’s only on these days, today and tomorrow. They never ask for cigarettes again.”
AP said the origins of the custom were unknown but it may be related to a pagan tradition celebrating rebirth.
✣ Amazon’s “personal assistant” Alexa has Catholic leanings, it has emerged.
American priest Fr Jason Signalness posted a video of himself on YouTube asking Alexa who founded various churches. Alexa, which responds to verbal queries and commands, replied that Martin Luther founded Lutheranism, that John Wesley started Methodism and that Joseph Smith was the founder of Mormonism.
Then Fr Signalness asked the device who founded the Catholic Church. The reply? “Jesus Christ.”
✣The week in quotations
One accident is enough to precipitate things Pope Francis on the risk of nuclear war National Catholic Reporter
They cried with joy when they saw me alive Archbishop Nassar of Damascus on the reaction of staff after a bomb hit his residence Message to ACN
I fear the reason many churches are locked is apathy Bishop Philip Egan catholicherald.co.uk
[Donald Trump] is channelling Archie Bunker without the charm Archbishop Wenski of Miami Crux
✣Statistic of the week
20% British non-believers who say they pray Source: ComRes
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