Monday, September 23, 2013
POPE FRANCIS: A CONSERVATIVE OR A LIBERAL
The photos in the previous post are from Spoleto where I spent the day on Sunday. Spoleto is the Italian city that the Spoleto Festival to Charleston, SC. I went with a priest from Charleston, Fr. Raymond Carlo, who wanted to see it. There is even a Hotel Charleston there. It was a splendid day, about two hours from Rome by train.
The divisions of the Church, and we are a Church divided since Vatican II, a wounded Church, a field hospital for sinners, is trying as hard as these groups can to spin the pope in their direction. They can't do it very well, though, because Pope Francis is an enigma. He can be all things to all people.
So this is my spin:
1. He is theologically conservative but in the middle; he is a middle of the road conservative. I hear much in him that I heard in the best of the theology courses I took in the seminary. I disparage the anti-authority mentality and iconoclasm I experienced in the seminary, but I was well trained in the best of the theology of the Church of that day and most of it was middle of the road and faithful to the magisterium.
2. What is different about Pope Francis compared to my 1970's spirituality is that he is a populist in terms of Catholic spirituality and devotion. He would have been ridiculed in my seminary in the 1970's for his love of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the "sugary" piety he has toward it, a piety that can rot your teeth, they would say. He would have been ridiculed for calling the Church, Holy Mother. He would have been ridiculed for promoting Eucharistic devotions, such as adoration and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. He would have been scorned for desiring popular devotions of all types, even though most of what he preached and teaches in this regard has a Vatican II foundation. His devotional life, apart from the actual sacraments of the Church, is "reform in continuity" and very much a recovery of popular devotions. He would have been scoffed at in the 1970's for this for in the 1970's the intellegentia of the Church threw all of this out and said only the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass were needed by priests and laity!
3. His pastoral theology is liberal, there is not doubt, but this is in the context of his conservative
theology. He knows what perfection is and what heaven will be like, but he knows sinners and what this world is like to live in with all its messiness. He wants people to go to confession and frequently and he wants good confessors that are lax or rigorists. He wants people to be faithful to Holy Mother Church, the Magisterium, the Blessed Mother and he wants them to know that the devil is out there to tempt them away from God and Church and all that is holy.
4. He is authoritarian and makes decisions to quickly. He is compulsive! He says he "was" this way in the past. He still is and this poses a danger to his Magisterium if he speaks too much off the cuff and without thinking of the various cultures of the world and political systems and the different ways each nation of Catholics has to deal with the dictatorship of relativism.
5. So I would say Pope Francis is a conservative in theology and Church teaching, not a moralist, and a liberal in pastoral theology without throwing out the Church's teachings one bit. He is a son of the Church and all this means. I think people confuse pastoral theology with a rejection of the Church's
moral teachings. This is not true for Pope Francis although it is for most liberals of the Church. That is a stark contrast.
This is what Pope Francis says about "thinking with the Church":
“The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God. This is the definition I often use, and then there is that image from the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ (No. 12). Belonging to a people has a strong theological value. In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.
“The people itself constitutes a subject. And the church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows. Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together. This is what I understand today as the ‘thinking with the church’ of which St. Ignatius speaks. When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit. So this thinking with the church does not concern theologians only.
We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.“This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people. In turn, Mary loved Jesus with the heart of the people, as we read in the Magnificat. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”
After a brief pause, Pope Francis emphasizes the following point, in order to avoid misunderstandings: “And, of course, we must be very careful not to think that this infallibilitas of all the faithful I am talking about in the light of Vatican II is a form of populism. No; it is the experience of ‘holy mother the hierarchical church,’ as St. Ignatius called it, the church as the people of God, pastors and people together. The church is the totality of God’s people.
“I see the sanctity of God’s people, this daily sanctity,” the pope continues. “There is a ‘holy middle class,’ which we can all be part of, the holiness Malègue wrote about.” The pope is referring to Joseph Malègue, a French writer (1876–1940), particularly to the unfinished trilogy Black Stones: The Middle Classes of Salvation.
“I see the holiness,” the pope continues, “in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity. I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius. This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.
“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be. You see, when I perceive negative behavior in ministers of the church or in consecrated men or women, the first thing that comes to mind is: ‘Here’s an unfruitful bachelor’ or ‘Here’s a spinster.’ They are neither fathers nor mothers, in the sense that they have not been able to give spiritual life. Instead, for example, when I read the life of the Salesian missionaries who went to Patagonia, I read a story of the fullness of life, of fruitfulness.