Friday, July 19, 2013

Francis: the Pit and the Pendulum

A friend was in Rome for the novices and seminarians 'rally' with Pope Francis. He was very impressed especially with the numbers of young men and women in habits and cassocks on the Roman streets. He saw the rapturous welcome given to the Pope at the audience on the Saturday and at the more muted on at the Mass on the Sunday. He spent quite some time talking to English speaking student's for the priesthood, both members of religious orders and diocesan seminarians from the US, E&W, Australia and elsewhere, as well as Italian students.

He was impressed by the enthusiasm for, 'going out to the peripheries', though most admitted not to quite understanding what Pope Francis meant by it. What he said seemed significant was the enthusiasm they all seemed to have for Pope Benedict, under whom they had discovered their vocation. He said what surprised him was a deep sense of bereavement practically all seemed to express. Another priest told me a seminarian had said to him of Benedict's resignation, 'I feel bereaved, I feel my father has left me'.

There are many younger priests and lay people, who seem to share the bereavement of that seminarian, I do myself. After the death of a Pope there is a period of mourning, even cries of 'sancto subito', Benedict's departure was merely marked by the whirl of a helicopter and the closing of the gates of Castel Gandolfo. The three months of Francis' pontificate for many seems to be a going back 40 years to the time of Paul VI when everything was in flux and little was certain. It is not just the signs and symbols of Papacy, or even Liturgy shoes and vestments but theology of continuation that they signified, which is much more important. Francis' casting aside of these things and his preference for a style of forty years ago seems say something of his theological mind set.

Our faith teaches us that the Church is 'Inerrant', that the hell will not prevail against the Church, that the Holy Spirit leads the Church into all Truth, that Christ will be with us to the end of time, etc., etc. but then against that so much seems to be up for grabs. Everyone seems to accept the need for reform or renewal of the Pit which is the Curia, there is talk about decentralisation, talk even of Synodal government of the Church. There are suggestions that though the Catholic Faith, for example, on the nature of marriage is unchanging but that the discipline concerning how those who are in irregular unions could be dealt with on a more localised level. The same with how pro-gay, pro-abort politicians are to be dealt with, and other issues besides, which in fact might be just a recognition of what in fact actually is the real situation. Cardinal Burke might say one thing but local bishops, even Italian bishops, even bishops in the diocese of Rome say something quite different.

 At the end of JPII's regin there were two major theological trends, simply put, Ratzinger's based on centralisation and Walter Kasper's, (a development of Paul VI's rather stop start theology) based on localisation. Kasper, interestingly, was the first theologians quoted by Francis as Pope. The problem is that most of the Cardinal's including the 'Gang of Eight' are conservatives, whose conservatism goes back to their seminary days in the reign of Pope Paul VI.

Is this healthy for the Church? I don't know, it strikes me there is something disorienting and destructive of unity, in pendulums swinging in opposite directions with each Pope. Has Pope Francis the intellectual capacity, the courage and the charisma to do what is necessary but most of all the ability to hold the Church together while he does it? Let us pray he has.


quiavideruntoculi said...

Well said, Father. Thank you for having the courage and honesty to lay it on the line.

parepidemos said...

Dear Father Blake, What a depressing post. I pray that your spirits will lift soon. God bless.

Jon said...


I'm glad your bishop cut your blog loose, so to speak. Since then your posts have been less circumspect, and more straightforward and thought provoking.

You've expressed the ache of my heart precisely.

Woody said...

If memory serves, I said within a few days of his election that Francis is the second coming of Paul VI, God help us. Nothing since then has caused me to change my view, and this is not even to mention the travesty of Lampedusa, which in a nutshell provides more ammunition for the (neo-pagan) European Right view that the Church has become the enemy of European survival. iIt seems now that our task is to work even harder to become saints, and to practice Romanita.

August said...

The Eastern Orthodox are certainly more decentralized than we are, and yet their liturgies and doctrine seem to have fared well.
I suspect the instinct to a strong central leader has not served us well, for it is precisely the strong leader who can make sweeping changes to what we hold dear.

Jacobi said...

The post-Vatican II Church continues in grave danger.

We read a great deal about how the Church was badly served by the Renaissance Popes. But how much better have our recent Popes been?
We have had examples of naivety, vacillation, and reluctance to deal with vital issues. With Benedict, we had a good Pope who for reasons not explained, packed it in. Well perhaps he was exhausted by the cares and weight of office, but then so are a lot of people who decide nevertheless bite their lip and carry on. And our latest Pope, well time will tell. Strong and decisive leadership is yet to be seen.

As for devolving decisions to our present bishops, nothing will more quickly break up the Mystical Body of Christ into innumerable little factions than the divorced and remarried, and co-habitors, male, female or mixed, living a free and inclusive parish life in one diocese, and continuing under pain of mortal sin and exclusion from Holy Communion, in the adjacent one.

Yes the Church is inerrant and will survive to the end – at least what is left of it!

hughosb said...

Dear Father,

This is certainly a time for much sighing. But it cannot last forever.


Wulfrano Ruiz Sainz said...

Sede Finita.

Robert Higdon said...

Well said Father & I understand all the succeeding comments. However I am weary of all the "Isn't it terrible" statements offering no solution, when one (the only solution - "only I can help you")has been offered by heaven itself! The victory we can all participate in, that will make the victory of Lepanto seem like a mere skirmish: By storming heaven with our Rosaries & petitions for the consecration of RUSSIA TO THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY BY THE HOLY FATHER AND ALL HIS BISHOPS! Until that happens the "diabolical disorientation" that we all suffer from will continue unabated. Robert Higdon

Woody said...

@Robert Higdon: Amen!

Jovan-Marya Weismiller, T.O.Carm. said...

August, the decentralisation of the Estern Orthodox has led to them being rife with schisms. 'Old Believers', 'Old Calendarists', the groups claiming to be the 'true' Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Not sure preservation of the Liturgy is worth going down that road.

Oh, and hi, Wulfrano!