For more images of what a restored looking post-Vatican II Church will look like in the future, click here!
And certainly Pope Francis in his populist way eschews clarity. He is not the theologian or philosopher that Pope Benedict and Saint Pope John Paul II are/were. He presents himself almost like a simple country priest in the image of Saint John Vianney.
But what are the pre-Vatican II restorations of Pope Francis (most of which are populist) that will have a long term beneficial effect on the Church as we continue to walk forward, as this populist pope phrases it?
Here is what I see and I am sure the populace can see it too. And by presenting himself as a 1970's caricature, even progressive theologians are smiling or at least in denial about this:
Pope Francis weakness as a pope, which many would say is a strength
because it has rehabilitated the Church in the eyes of many, is his
off-the-cuff remarks. He talks too much and oddly enough talking too
much is the very thing he complains about the most in others
(projection). His off-the-cuff spontaneous gestures are confusing and I
understand how this angers those who prefer clarity from the See of
Peter. I am looking at the broad picture and how God brings good out of
less than perfect people and situations.
But the area where Pope
Francis is strengthening the foundation of the Church, which was the
area that was very strong in the pre-Vatican II Church is the following.
This will have long-term positive consequences and hopefully fruition
for the liturgy in the future:
1. He is very clear that the
Church is to be understood in the feminine. She is Holy Mother and Bride
of Christ. These terms were anathema for post-Vatican II theologians
and some bishops. The previous translation of the Mass into English
expunged such imagery. Why? Because it is too traditional and has
ramifications for the Sacraments of Holy Matrimony and Priesthood.
Making the Church neuter leads to the opening of making Matrimony and
Priesthood gender neutral. Thus the anthropology of the Church as
Female, Mother and Bride and Jesus as male, Father and Groom has very
important orthodox consequences.
2. He is emphasizing popular
devotions, once the bedrock of the pre-Vatican II Church and while
non-obligatory, would pack churches during the week and on Sunday night.
I'm thinking of Marian devotions, novenas of all kinds, Benediction of
the Blessed Sacrament, Stations of the Cross and the Holy Rosary and
their communal celebration but also private celebrations especially by
family groupings at home. Popular devotions disappeared very quickly
after Vatican II because theologians denigrated these as superstitious,
non-biblical and no longer needed as the Mass was in the vernacular and
they felt people attended devotions because these were generally in the
vernacular prior to Vatican II.
3. He emphasizes the Communion
of Saints and the devil, once bedrocks of Catholic preaching prior to
Vatican II that all but disappear afterwards.
4. He strongly
emphasizes indulgences which I doubt most Catholics formed in the
post-Vatican II era know anything about. Of course these are linked
closely to popular devotions.
5. His style of celebrating the OF
Mass even if on a card table looking altar in the chapel of his place of residence in the Vatican Motel Six is very austere and by the
book. He celebrates the Mass while facing the people in a very ad
orientem way. He elevates the Host and Chalice for a lengthy period of
devotion. This was anathema by theologians after the council which felt
it made the elevations too important and the Eucharist as an object of
devotion rather than consumption. I had seminary professors who made no
elevations whatsoever and did not genuflect either (who were perfectly
physically capable of doing so).
6. He has made as a center piece of his papacy the restoration of the Sacrament of Confession. He even uses the term that 1970's theologians denigrated, confession, not penance or reconciliation. He is not turning to general absolution whatsoever as theologians wanted in the 1970's, thus denigrating the popular term of confession and insisting on the names Reconciliation or Penance as these eschew auricular confession!
Keep in mind too that the vibrancy of the pre-Vatican II Church, which Pope Francis recently emphasized to the Germans comparing it to the Church in Germany now on life-support, was its populist approach. She acted as a dragnet and made sure that the majority of Catholics were at Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation and that they went to Confession and Holy Communion at least once a year, preferable during the Easter Season. Perhaps the majority of these Catholics were cultural Catholics, but at least the Church got them to church each and every Sunday. The post-Vatican II Church has failed miserably in this regard and turned the Church into an elite minority in the vast sea of Catholics.
Pope Francis emphasis on mercy is precisely to get back those who have absented themselves from the Mass and Confession. Catholicism now garners a minority of Catholics to Mass and confession from her own ranks. This was not true prior to Vatican II when the Church was truly vibrant.