Wednesday, September 24, 2014
FOR WHAT IT IS WORTH, POPE FRANCIS PICKS SOLID PEOPLE FOR HIS APPOINTEES
But John Allen points out that the Holy Father, Pope Francis made some other appointments and these might raise a few eyebrows. Guess which ideological eyebrows?
For instance, there’s last Thursday’s appointment of Anthony Fisher as the new Archbishop of Sydney in Australia. A protégé of Cardinal George Pell, who today is overseeing Francis’ financial reform, Fisher is a Dominican theologian who would almost universally be seen as a conservative... Fr. Richard Umbers recently said that Fisher is “an exemplar of what George Weigel calls Evangelical Catholicism,” boldly committed to Catholic orthodoxy and impatient with “theological dishwater.”
John Allen also indicates that the press is focused on the women Pope Francis appointed to the International Theological Commission. But John Allen goes on to describe the men and women. Guess which ideological eyebrows will be raised?
Fr. Thomas Weinandy, for instance, is a Capuchin Franciscan who served from 2005 to 2013 as the chief of staff for the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine. He was instrumental in the bishops’ negative verdict on the writings of Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, a feminist theologian at Fordham. He was also a supporter of the Vatican’s investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the more liberal grouping of American nuns.
Sr. Prudence Allen, also from the United States, is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich. She’s the kind of nun unapologetic about wearing the habit, and in 2010 she publicly criticized progressive Catholic sisters who broke with the bishops by supporting the Obama health care reform despite abortion-funding issues. (My comment: When I saw Sister of Mercy, I thought of the LCWR version which is soon to be defunct because their youngest members are in their late 50's. But no, it is the Alma Sisters of Mercy. They wear a long habit with veil. They frequent the North American College in Rome and one of them is a nurse who gave me my flu shot while I was there. They are as solid as solid comes and traditional too! They are like the Nashville Dominicans!)
Tracey Rowland of Australia is close to both Pell and Fisher, and would be seen as among the leading intellectual lights of the “Evangelical Catholicism” movement to which Umbers referred. She writes frequently for publications with a conservative editorial bent, and is seen as an articulate defender of traditional Catholic doctrine.
Fr. Piero Coda is one of Italy’s best-known theologians and a member of the Focolare movement. He’s no ideologue, but back in 2008 he defended Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI against accusations by liberal doyen Hans Küng that they had betrayed the spirit of the reforming Second Vatican Council.
One could go, but these five examples make the point.
John Allen continues:
To be clear, all of these people are accomplished thinkers who are eminently qualified to advise the Vatican on doctrinal matters. It’s hard not to be struck, however, by the fact that they seem to come largely from one side of the street.
So, what gives? Is Francis suffering from multiple personality syndrome, or is there another explanation?
For one thing, in both the Fisher appointment and the ITC nominations, the driving force wasn’t the pope himself. Pell was the prime mover with Fisher, and the choices for the theological commission came from German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the doctrinal congregation, and his staff.
Yet Francis is a hands-on pope, and he wouldn’t sign off on these decisions if he weren’t aware of what they meant.
Perhaps the best hypothesis is that what Francis is really after isn’t a turn to the left, but a new balance. He’s said he wants the church to be in dialogue with everyone, and one way to accomplish that is to ensure a mix of points of view in leadership positions.
Pope John XXIII allegedly once said, “I have to be pope both for those with their foot on the gas, and those with their foot on the brake.” Though the saying may be apocryphal, the wisdom is spot-on, and Francis’ recent personnel moves seem to reflect some of the same thinking.
Among the other monikers the news business has invented for Francis – the “People’s Pope,” the “Pope of the Poor,” and so on – perhaps we’ll have to add one more if this keeps up: the “Pope of Balance.”