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September 13, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. There appears to be some speculation that Pope John Paul I was murdered during the Vatican Bank/Mafia scandal in the late Seventies, especially in the actions of Jean-Marie Cardinal Villot, who appeared shortly after the Pope’s death and essentially was responsible for cleaning and removing all possible evidence from the Holy Father’s bedroom. Your input, please. — R.B.K., via e-mail.
A. By way of background, Albino Cardinal Luciani was elected Pope on August 26, 1978, and he took the double name to honor his immediate Predecessors, John XXIII, who had named him a bishop, and Paul VI, who had named him Patriarch of Venice and a cardinal. When asked by Cardinal Villot if he accepted his election, Luciani responded, “May God forgive you for what you have done.” He had told friends before the conclave that he would decline the papacy if elected.
A humble and kind man by all accounts (his papal motto was Humilitas), he refused to wear the papal tiara and opted for a simple coronation Mass. His 33-day pontificate didn’t allow him to leave much of a mark. He spoke three times on the mercy of God, emphasized the practice of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and said that it was important to “try to be good and to infect others with a goodness imbued with the meekness and love taught by Christ.”
Two years before his election, Cardinal Luciani published a book entitled Illustrissimi (“To the Illustrious Ones”), which was a collection of often witty letters he had written over the years to such famous persons as Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton, St. Teresa of Avila, Goethe, King David, and Jesus as a way of relating the Gospel message to modern life.
While a bishop, Luciani had attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and said afterward that “the physiognomy and structure of the Catholic Church have been determined once and for all by the Lord and cannot be touched. If anything, superstructures can. Things that have not been determined by Christ, but were introduced by Popes or councils or faithful, can be changed, or eliminated today or tomorrow. Yesterday they might have introduced a certain number of dioceses, a certain way to lead missions, to educate priests; they might have chosen to follow certain cultural trends. Well, this can be changed and one can say, ‘The Church that comes out of the Council is still the same as it was yesterday, but renewed.’ No one can ever say, ‘We have a new Church, different from what it was’.”
As for your original question, there is no convincing evidence that Pope John Paul I was murdered. He died from a heart attack on September 28, 1978. Six years later, a man named David Yallop wrote a book, In God’s Name, suggesting that the Holy Father had been murdered and offering a list of six possible suspects. In 1989, after a careful investigation of his own, British author John Cornwell showed in his own book, A Thief in the Night, that Yallop’s theory was false, that there was no plot to kill the Pontiff, and that he died of natural causes.
In 2017, Stefania Falasca, a journalist and vice-postulator for the late Pope’s canonization, published a book entitled Pope Luciani: Chronicle of a Death. She revealed that the night before his death, John Paul I suffered chest pains, but ordered that his doctor not be called. The following morning, Sr. Vincenza brought him his morning coffee at 5:15 and left it as usual in the sacristy of his chapel. When she returned a short time later and found that the coffee had not been touched, she and Sr. Margherita Marin went into his bedroom and found him dead in bed. Sr. Margherita has testified that the original reports that the Pope was found by his two secretaries were not true.
His canonization process was officially begun in 2002 in the Italian Diocese of Belluno, where John Paul I was born, and more than 3,600 pages of documents were delivered to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in 2016. A year later, the members of the congregation found that the Pontiff had lived a life of heroic virtue, and Pope Francis gave him the title of “Venerable.” A miracle is necessary for beatification, and there is one under consideration involving a nun in Argentina.

Q. My grandson was brought up Catholic, but now goes to a Protestant church where he will be married in October. When our daughter got married in a non-Catholic church, my husband and I did not go to the wedding or to the reception. My question is whether we should do the same for our grandson and stay away from his wedding? — Name and State Withheld.
A. Your decision not to attend your daughter’s wedding was difficult but correct, and your instincts about staying away from your grandson’s wedding are also correct. Didn’t Jesus say that if we are not with Him, we are against Him? Do you want to stand before the Lord on Judgment Day and try to justify your actions by saying that you didn’t want to harm relations in the family? Keeping peace in the family at the expense of following the Gospel is a false peace, one that will never compel your grandson and his bride to come to grips with the danger of losing their eternal salvation.
Yes, this is a hard teaching, but it would be a disservice to faithful Catholics to water it down in order to avoid pain or hard feelings. Better pain and hard feelings now than for all eternity. The Church’s answer in these situations is that of Pope St. John Paul II, namely, to “make tactful and respectful contact with the couples concerned, and enlighten them patiently, correct them charitably, and show them the witness of Christian family life in such a way as to smooth the path for them to regularize their situation” (Familiaris Consortio, n. 81).

Q. The Gospel reading at Mass today startled me. It quoted Jesus as saying: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set / a man ‘against his father, / a daughter against her mother, / and a daughter-in-law against her / mother-in-law; / and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’ / Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:34-38). I guess I haven’t noticed this passage before, but it doesn’t fit the image of a loving and merciful Jesus. What do you think? — G.M., Massachusetts.
A. We think that this is one of those “hard sayings” of Jesus that people prefer to ignore because it demands a lot from them. Some people believe in what we call a “marshmallow Jesus,” a soft and gooey Savior who just wants us to be happy. These folks are shocked to hear about a Jesus who will say to those who failed to help the least of their brothers and sisters, “Out of my sight, you condemned, into that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!” (Matt. 25:41). They don’t realize that Jesus talked more about Hell than He did about Heaven.
These same folks are astounded to hear about a Jesus who condemned “acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, [and] an obtuse spirit” (Mark 7:21-22). And they are astonished to hear the statement that caught your attention.
But Jesus knew that there would be differences in families (see the previous reply) over such things as going to Mass, or living with someone without being married, or getting an abortion, or choosing to live a same-sex lifestyle, or marrying outside the Church, and that’s why He said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38).
Following Jesus in today’s culture means carrying our own cross — a cross of unpopularity, a cross of ridicule, a cross even of hatred in some cases. Isn’t that why Jesus chose such a horrible way to die — to show us how awful sin is and how much He loves us, even when we are sinners? That doesn’t sound like a marshmallow Jesus, does it? That’s the real Jesus, the one who wants us to be holy even if it means we’re not happy in this life, because He knows that great happiness awaits those who were loyal to Him on Earth, just as He was loyal to us when He died on the cross.

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