Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I too vacillate from perplexity to applause when it comes to Pope Francis. He is not consistent and is confusing. His words and actions are easily manipulated to be used against the Church by those who have their own agenda either in or outside the Church. I suspect Pope Francis read this article. Wearing the ornate papal stole for the Urbi et Orbi blessing may have been a result of it? Who knows?

From Rorate Caeli:
Doubts on the twists and turns of Pope Francis
Vittorio Messori
Corriere della Sera
December 24, 2014

I believe that honesty demands I admit it from the first: perhaps I am abusing the space given to me by my putting forth more than an article but rather what is a personal reflection. I confess that I would have willingly put off writing this, if I had not been asked to do so. Yes, I would have put it off, because my own (and not only my own) appraisal of this pope oscillates continually between support and perplexity, a judgment that changes according to the moment, or a particular occasion, or in relation to subjects that are discussed. A Pope who was not expected. For what it is worth, I was among those who were waiting for a South American and someone who is pastoral, someone with experience of everyday governance, a sort of balance for an admirable professor, a theologian too refined for certain palates, like the beloved Joseph Ratzinger. A Pope who was not expected, but who quickly, right from that very first “Buonasera” has shown himself to be nothing anyone could have forseen, so much so as to make some of the Cardinals who elected him to gradually change their minds about him.

This quality of “not knowing what to expect” continues, agitating the tranquility of the ordinary Catholic who is accustomed to not think too much about faith and morals and who has been exhorted to “follow the Pope”. 
Indeed, but which Pope? The one who gives daily homilies in Santa Marta, the preaching of a parish priest of the old days, with good counsel and wise proverbs, with even firm warnings to not fall into the traps of the devil? Or the one who telephones Giacinto Marco Pannella, who was in the midst of one of his innocuous fasts, and who greets him with “Keep up the good work”! when for decades the “work” of this radical leader consisted of and still consists of preaching that true charity lies in the battle for divorce, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality for all, gender theory and the like? 
The Pope who recently in a talk given to the Roman Curia sounded like Pius XII with conviction (but really like Saint Paul himself) defining the Church as “the mystical Body of Christ”? Of the one who, in the first interview with Eugenio Scalfari, ridiculed whoever might have thought that “God is Catholic”, as if the one, holy, apostolic Roman Church were an option, an accessory to somehow get to the Holy Trinity according to one’s personal tastes? 
The Argentine Pope who is aware, through direct experience, of the drama of Latin America that is on its way to becoming an ex-Catholic continent, with the exodus in mass of its people to Pentecostal Protestantism? Or the Pope who flies to embrace and wish good success to a dear friend, a pastor actually in one of the communities that are emptying out Catholic communities and doing so exactly with that proselytism that he condemned among his own flock?

One could go on, naturally, with these facets that appear—and perhaps truly are—contradictory. One could, but that would not be right for the believer. They know that they are not to see the Pontiff as an elected president of a republic, or like a king, the heir to another king. Certainly, in a conclave, those instruments of the Holy Spirit, within the context of faith, are the cardinal electors who share the limits, the errors, yes, even the sins that are the mark of all of humanity. But the one and true head of the Church is Christ himself, all powerful and all knowing, who knows a bit better than we do what would be the better choice as regards to his representative at this time in this world. 
This choice can appear disconcerting to the limited vision of those of us who live at this time, but that in the future, from an historical perspective, it will be revealed why this was the right choice. The one who really knows history is surprised and pensive when he discovers that –in the perspective of two thousand years, which is the Catholic perspective—every Pope, whether he is aware of it or not, has carried out the role he was meant to and, in the end, how things were meant to turn out. 

Precisely because of this awareness I have chosen, for my part, to observe, listen and to reflect without hazarding adopting opinions that are intemperate or even reckless. I go back to that question that has been cited too often out of its context: “Who am I to judge?” I am on the same plane as everyone else, just one man. I am not assisted by the “pontifical charisma”, the assistance that is promised by the Paraclete. And to the one who would want to judge, does not the full approval of the “Pope Emeritus” (so different in style, formation and understanding of what needs to be done), repeated many times, in speech and in writing, of what Francis is doing count for nothing?

It is a terrible responsibility for the one who is called today to respond to the question: “ How can we bring the message of the Gospel to contemporary man? How can we show that Christ is not a faded and remote ghost, but is the human face of that creator God who is Savior, who wants to give meaning to life and death to all?” There are many responses to these questions, often contrasting with each other.

Even if it counts but little, after decades of working within the Church, I may well have my own answers to these questions. I may well, I say: the use of the conditional tense here is obligatory, because nothing and no one makes me certain of having had a glimpse of the right way to go. Would I not be taking the risk of becoming perhaps like the blind man in the Gospels who wanted to lead others who were blind and all ended up in the ditch? 
And so, certain pastoral choices made by the “Bishop of Rome”, as he prefers to call himself, persuade me; but others seem to leave me perplexed, they seem to me to be opportunistic, even seeming to be of a brand of populism that generates an interest that is as vast as it is superficial and ephemeral. I might prefer that there be other matters with greater sense of priority and content that would in hope result in an apostolate that is more fertile. I should hope, I should think so, all in the conditional, I repeat, as a perspective of faith demands where even a lay person (as in Canon Law) can express his thoughts and concerns, as long as they are well considered and well motivated, on the ways and means of evangelization I will leave, however, the general strategy and, above all, the custody of the depositum fidei up to the man who came out from the conclave dressed in white. In any case, I have not forgotten how Francis himself recalled in that harsh address to the Curia that it is easy to criticize priests, but how many pray for them? I want to also remember that he, on this earth, is the “first” among priests. And so, I ask of all those who adopt a critical stance those prayers at which the world laughs, but which guide, in secret, the destiny of the Church and the whole world.

[Original version: Italian. Rorate translation by Fr. Richard Cipolla.]


Servimus Unum Deum said...

I don't know about you Father, but this post is similar to adding gasoline to fire around here. I'll check back periodically to see whose fire you stroked (good and bad.)

Anonymous said...

God is Catholic. True or false?

I say false.

Rood Screen said...

The papacy he describes sounds very similar to that of Pope Paul VI. Paul VI frequently sounded the alarm about misdirected efforts at Church renewal, while simultaneously permitting these very same developments. For better or worse, there's bound to be some confusion under such leadership.

Anonymous 2 said...

Once again, caveat lector: put on your critical thinking cap. Take the first point about Marco Pannella for instance. The article implies (intentionally or unintentionally) that Pope Francis called up Marco Pannella to encourage him in his “work” on the causes listed whereas he was really calling him up to encourage him on his prison fasts protesting the allegedly degrading and inhumane prison conditions and may not even have referred to Panella’s “work”:

At least the version of this article that is now posted here (the original Messori article in translation that suddenly popped up to replace the earlier version (was it by John Allen about the Messori article?) that was posted when I began drafting this comment) does refer to the “innocuous fasts.”

Rood Screen said...

Anonymous 2,

Thank you for your insights and sources, but I think the point of the article (of course, this is a post about another post about an article critical of several articles) is that the critical thinking, and review of original sources, you rightly advocate limits understanding of the pope to a relative handful of seriously interested souls. Forty years after his papacy, we're still trying to figure out exactly how Paul VI intended his words and deeds to fulfill the legal requirements of VCII. It will surely also take many decades for a few resolute individuals to understand Francis.

Gene said...

Francis Poppins (to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious")

All the things the Pope is saying make us say 'Oh-no-cious,"
If you spin his words enough they won't sound so atrocious,

All together now...

George said...

The person chosen to occupy the Chair of Peter is there until his life on this earth ends. He is not subject to being recalled. (One could speculate what he would do if enough Cardinals were to ask him to resign, but that would not be good use of one's time.). The positive thing to do is to pray for him and indeed for all priests. Pope Francis' way of operating is one of not being confrontational with those outside the Catholic faith. This is not a bad attitude to adopt, especially when dealing one to one with others, since it would do little if any good to take that approach. It is God acting in the Person of the Holy Spirit who converts. God is there always waiting and available for the sinner. It is up to a person to accept the gift being offered. God has made it so that we can co-operate with Him in the salvation of others and the very least we can do is not be a stumbling block. Being kind an gracious to others sets a good example and conversions can often begin with a small act. This is not something we can boast about since it is just we of the Faith allowing the Holy Spirit to act through us. Granted, the Holy Father has been contrarian and remonstrative with those of the Faith as he was recently in front of the Curia. Is this such a bad thing if it will cause us to reflect on how we are living out our Catholic faith? As far as moral issues such as terrorism and abortion and same-sex marriage, Pope Francis, as his predecessors did, has spoken out on these as one would expect from someone who has the moral authority to do so. There are those who would like to see the Pope personally and publicly confront world leaders on for example, the right to life issues, as did Pope St John Paul II. I understand that but I don't know that we will see that with this Pope. It could happen but from what we have seen and know of him so far, it is not his style.

Anonymous said...

"He is not consistent and is confusing."

All right then. Simple enough. WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION?

Templar said...

Gene, that may be one of your best poems ever.

As for Francis.....meh. In the corporate world he'd be a textbook example of the Peter Principle, although truthfully in his case one can successfully argue he had reached that level in Buenos Aires.

Anonymous said...

To Gene re Francis Poppins...
I have not laughed that hard in a long, long time. Thank you for that spoon full of sugar - it definitely helped the 'confusion medicine' go down! -Pgal