Wednesday, June 12, 2013
IS THE HONEYMOON OVER FOR POPE FRANCIS? DOES HE NEED MORE THEOLOGICAL PRECISION AND MORE CIRCUMSPECT?
"Pope Francis has, since his election on March 13, spoken bluntly, honestly, with simplicity and candor, on many occasions, but never until now has he ignited controversy throughout the Catholic world with his now-trademark unscripted remarks.
Pope Francis ignited a storm of commentary this week following the unexpected publication of private remarks he made on June 6, five days ago, during an hour-long meeting with a group of Latin American visitors, representatives of men and women religious, in Rome.
This incident may mark a sort of "transition" in the young history of this pontificate, from a "honeymoon" period, lasting about 90 days, in which the Pope's refreshingly direct words have been greeted with appreciation and generally without criticism, to a period in which those remarks have begun to elicit calls for greater clarity and theological precision in order to avoid perplexity and confusion among the faithful."
The press has given its greatest attention to the apparent acknowledgment by Pope Francis that a so-called "gay lobby" in the Roman Curia in fact exists.
Here are the Pope's reported remarks in this regard:
"In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true... The 'gay lobby' is mentioned, and it is true, it is there... We need to see what we can do..."
Here, the Pope is speaking to Latin Americans about the Roman Curia in only the broadest of terms, almost as a sketch, a caricature.
He is speaking to Catholic religious who evidently perceive the Roman Curia as primarily a "cold bureaucracy" which attempts to impose an external form of Christian faith lacking in true inner fervor, in authentic belief.
And so Pope Francis emphasizes that this is a false understanding of the Curia.
That is his first point.
"There are also holy people, really," he says, as if counteracting an opinion that there are no holy people in the Curia.
And, in what seems almost a "stream of consciousness" way of speaking, he then qualifies what he has just said.
That is, even though there are holy men and women in the Curia, there are also those who fall short, who may be more like worldly bureaucrats than zealous saints.
This is the context of his mention of a "gay lobby."
The Pope uses this phrase because he knows it is familiar to his listeners as a sort of "catch-all" phrase summing up corruption in the Roman Curia and the leadership of the Church, especially because the phrase drew such press attention in February and March.
He uses this term less as a reference to a certain sexual inclination or behavior -- as some articles are now proclaiming -- than as an example of bureaucratic behavior in the Curia, of "currents" and "lobbies" more interested in the mutual reinforcement of their own authority and influence than in supporting the Pope, or Catholic faith and tradition.
What the Pope is fundamentally focused on is the need for all "currents" and "lobbies" in the Church, and especially in the Curia, to abandon a "lobby" mentality and to defend perennial, authentic, Catholic faith and practice.
The Pope then says he is not a "good administrator" and is relying on his group of eight cardinals to help him reform the Roman Curia.
And it must be noted that this entire process was set into motion by the courageous actions of now hidden Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who now lives in the Vatican gardens, praying for the Church, and his successor, Pope Francis.
MY COMMENTS: I too have enjoyed the Holy Father's candor and simplicity in his style of speaking and his homilies. But I have come to realize too that his words can be manipulated or interpreted in different ways by different people.
In his off the cuff remarks he seems to criticize those women religious groups which are many in this country, which are not getting any new vocations and have become old and stuck in a 1960's radical "renewal" that has led to their demise, but they still think they chose the right road because they collaborated about it and make a group decision and moved forward with their destruction.
Now they have lots of money in building and assets but no nuns and no real ministries that they themselves staff and in about 20 more years or less will be extinct. The classic definition of mental illness is thinking that if one does the same thing over and over again, they'll get a better result. These progressive groups of aging nuns and priests seem to fall in this category. Their experiment while not a malicious project at the beginning has failed dramatically and yet they are in denial about it and think if they can recapture the good old days of the post-Council fervor everything will be good again. Mental illness or senility?
But then the Holy Father mocks those who sent him over 3000 rosaries, meaning, I believe, that 3000 people prayed the Rosary for him. How could he discount this to others and mock them? He's the pope! He should be above this and be very careful how he communicates to others who then gossip about what they heard.
Robert Moynihan's take on the Holy Father's words of "gay lobby" are refreshing too although not completely clear.But Moynihan's take is very much what is happening in Catholic academia and in some religious orders, where they become a lobby against traditional Catholic morality and doctrine and push for gay rights to the exclusion of traditional Catholic morality and our teachings on chastity that apply to everyone regardless of sexual orientation and disorders of sexual orientation.
For example there are religious orders usually in academia that are "currents" and "lobbies" more interested in the mutual reinforcement of their own authority and influence than in supporting the Pope, or Catholic faith and tradition. That the pope says this is striking.
But the problem is how the pope is saying this and not saying it with authority but in a "gossipy" sort of way that undermines the papacy eventually.
Perhaps a well thought out letter (or encyclical, but I don't think it needs to be that formal) needs to come from the pope setting out his agenda, clarifying his remarks and maybe apologizing for speaking to frankly not realizing that every word he utters goes viral and not always to his benefit or the benefit of Holy Mother Church or her papacy, which does not belong exclusively to Papa Bergoglio. Pope Benedict had to eat crow a few times and did so with grace.