Wednesday, May 15, 2013
POPE FRANCIS' AGENDA FOR THE REFORM OF THE CLERGY, BISHOPS AND PRIESTS?
We have no idea yet if Pope Francis is simply going to lead by words, exhortation, and example or if he is going to back up his words, exhortations and example by concrete directive and promulgations. We have had him for only two months or so and we're still trying to figure him out. He is clearly into the "reform of the reform" and moving forward with that, not backwards. However, for him it is not just a focus on the liturgy, but rather on the people of the Church beginning with bishops, priests and religious, in particular women religious who have moved into radical feminism which is inimical to true Catholicism and true religious life.
But listen to what he says about bishops and priests who give into the temptation of money and vanity in his morning homily at the chapel of his Vatican Motel 6 place of residence:
Pope Francis’ homily took its starting point from the passage in the Acts of the Apostles, in which Paul exhorts the elders of the Church of Ephesus to watch over themselves and all the flock, to be attentive shepherds, and guard against the “ravenous wolves” that would feed on the fold. “One of the ‘most beautiful pages of the New Testament’,” said Pope Francis, “[the episode] is full of tenderness, of pastoral love,” from which emerges a picture, “[of] the beautiful relationship of the bishop with his people.” Bishops and priests, he explained, are at the service of others, to preserve, build and defend the people of God. Theirs is, “a relationship of protection and love between God and the pastor and the pastor and the people”:
"In the [final analysis], a bishop is not a bishop for himself. He is for the people, and a priest is not a priest for himself. He, [too], is for the people: to serve [them], to nurture them, to shepherd them, that are his flock – in order to defend them from the wolves. It is beautiful to think this! When the bishop does this, there is a good relationship with the people, such as Paul the bishop did with his people, no? And when the priest [builds] that good relationship with the people, it gives us a love: a love [unites] them, a true love, and the Church becomes united.”
So , the Pope observes, “when a priest, a bishop goes after money, the people do not love him – and that's a sign. But he ends badly.” St. Paul reminds us that he worked with his hands. “He did not have a bank account, he worked, and when a bishop, a priest goes on the road to vanity, he enters into the spirit of careerism – and this hurts the Church very much – [and] ends up being ridiculous: he boasts, he is pleased to be seen, all powerful – and the people do not like that!” “Pray for us,” the Pope repeated, “that we might be poor, that we might be humble, meek, in the service of the people.” Finally, he suggested to the faithful that they read Acts 20:28-30, where Paul says, “Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. I know that, after my departure, ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. And of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.":
MY COMMENTS: What I appreciate the most about by late 1970's seminary training at St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore is that the good Sulpicians called us to what was described then for secular or diocesan priests as "Gospel simplicity and Kingdom of Christ values" They taught us basically what Pope Francis is teaching us, that priesthood is a vocation, not a career and that we as priests should live simple lives. One of our teachers, Father Howie Bleichner stated that we should not become "playboy" priests, meaning not so much sexual activity, although that certainly is implied, but that we shouldn't be the center of attention, bringing to ourselves the praises of people and seeking the glory and comforts of this world especially in fancy restaurants, expensive vacations, the best clothes and finest cars.
Of course in the 1970's priests and religious had basically lost their identity and were trying to live as the laity which has led to the crisis that Pope Francis recognizes today.
Prior to Vatican II, a priest or religious in vowed poverty only needed a small closet for their clothes. Sisters had perhaps two or three habits at the most and night clothes. I don't think they had anything else. A small closet was too big for all the things they owned.
For diocesan priests who take no vow or promise of poverty, the salary we made prior to Vatican II was for necessities only. A small closet was all that was needed as priests most of the time wore their collars everywhere except for recreation.
That has all changed. In pre-Vatican II times, priests and religious were placed on a pedestal and accorded treats so to speak because it was clear that for the most part they lived lives of simplicity and frugality. So they got some perks. Most priests were very grateful for these but never courted them, others were quite the "courters" of the laity's wealth not for the needs of the parish and its ministry but for their own needs, fine restaurants,exquisite vestments which they personally owned and took with them when they departed the parish and fancy vacations that most laity could ever afford on an every summer basis and now several times a year.
The Holy Father is not deriding bishops and priests who ask and beg for money for the good of the parish and its needs. He is chastising those bishops and priests who grow wealthy on the money of their parishioners and live lifestyles that are often better than most of their parishioners due to their exploitation of their parishioner's generosity for personal gain, fine restaurants and entertainment and fancy and frequent vacations to exotic locations.
How the Holy Father will bring bishops and priests back to a pre-Vatican II Gospel simplicity remains to be seen, but clearly doing so would be moving forward!