Thursday, September 26, 2013

Disconcerted by Francis #4

I think of myself in old style politically left-wing terms, as a young man I became a Catholic by being a Communist first. I believed in the brotherhood of man and through that learnt a need for the Fatherhood of God and the Motherhood of the Church. I have a soft aging hippy notion of the openness of borders, the welcoming of immigrants. I am pro-life but I realise that there are economic implications to being open to Life. I have no problem with a Pope who at least in Western and North American terms presents himself as being towards the left, or as both he and I would like to say 'on the side of the poor'. When pushed I suspect both the Pope and I would readily admit there is as much poverty, spiritual poverty at least, in Mayfair as there is on the seafront in Brighton.

There are priests and laypeople who because of their Christian principles strongly disagree with my own interpretation of the Church's teaching, the Church is large enough. We hold to the same doctrines but have received different inspiration, as Pope Benedict kept saying the Christian Faith is "both and not either or"

There is problem when the Church identifies itself with the poor, Jesus does 'go to the peripheries' and speak about the poor but he seems much more concerned about God's generosity. Ches writes on the experience of the Spanish writer  Juan Manuel de Prada, who I suppose could be described as politically right of centre, who has spent a great deal of ink defending Christian thinking, especially on what are those touch button issues such as marriage, the family, the rights of the unborn, he feels betrayed by the recent Francis interview.

Abp Chaput from the USA has said, "I heard from a mother of four children – one adopted, another disabled from birth -- who’d spent years counseling pregnant girls and opening prolife clinics. She wanted to know why the Pope seemed to dismiss her sacrifices. A priest said the Pope “has implicitly accused brother priests who are serious about moral issues of being small minded,” and that “[if you’re a priest,] being morally serious is now likely to get you publicly cast as a problem.” Another priest wrote that “the problem is that [the Holy Father] makes all of the wrong people happy, people who will never believe in the Gospel and who will continue to persecute the Church.”

Being a soft liberal I am not the greatest fan of Michael Vorris but I think he has a very important point in this video, that the "change in tone" the Pope calls for actually turns out be a way of undermining those heroic priests and laypeople who do speak out on moral issues.

In the Church St Paul tells us there are 'a variety of gifts', a local bishop or archbishop can understand and address the problems that beset his particular diocese, as Pope Francis is speaking to the whole Church, he has a duty not to 'stifle the Holy Spirit'. Narrowing the Church's message only serves the enemies of the Church and pours cold water the flame of faith.
I am sure if the Holy Father realised how this interview would be used would be mortified, perhaps in the next few weeks we might see him strengthening the position of Christ's friends rather than allowing his words to be a comfort to those who hate the faith.


Pétrus said...

Where is the picture of the "boat Mass" from?

Jon said...

At twelve the Jacobins would've lashed me to a barge and sunk me in the Loire.

You have my condolences, Father. ;-)

EFpastor emeritus said...

Something about the need to "put his brain in gear" comes to mind.
God help him.

Fr Ray Blake said...


Jeremiah Methuselah said...

Having just read about the new consultants of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff and knowing he is not a member of this important body, I cannot but help wondering how Monsignor Guido Marini is faring with the Holy Father ? For me, his quiet, unstated (as far as we ordinary people can tell) presence at the side of the Holy Father must be important ? Each time I see him there, I think, well, something is going OK anyway. But then, I am not a Happy Clappy, nor anything like it.

Jacobi said...

The Catholic Church is not of left or right. It is not only for the poor. Christ died for all of mankind.

Christ requires us, in particular, to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. If we do not, in ways appropriate to each of us, we will have some hard explaining to do at the Last Judgement.

However, Christ died also for the rich, who incidentally finance business and provide jobs, the hard pressed tax- paying middle classes, the struggling working classes, the relative poor of whom there are many nowadays, and of course, the poor, to which class the Holy Family belonged. Christ certainly advised to give to the poor, yet, as far as I am aware, he never called for the elimination of that class to which he belonged?

Maybe that is because poverty has a habit, when it is replaced particularly nowadays, of sliding into hedonism, which with its components of greed, avarice, gluttony, envy and so on, tends not to assist with the achievement of eternal salvation.

I’m glad, Father, you highlighted Voris’ video. He is a good, mainstream, orthodox Catholic, one of a growing number of such, filling the silence of so many of our bishops, and incidentally, speaking in the tradition of Belloc, Chesterton, Waugh and so many before him.

Christopher said...

Jacobi - you mention Waugh, have you read the wonderful passage in his novel Helena, in which the empress muses on how difficult it is for the rich, the education to enter the Kingdom? Simply because 'the poor' slide into hedonism is no reason to keep them poor, when the world is filled with so many goods which are as ill for the rich to have as the poor. Indeed, if things were distributed more evenly - and I don't just mean money - then the rich, too, would be preparing better for their salvation, less likely to become trapped by middle-age in the things of this world (I mean myself as much as anyone). The hedonism present among the poor who come into money or among families who for many generations have 'gone without' and now find themselves with enough and to spare, for whatever reason, is not worse than the acquisitiveness, envy, greed of the rich and educated. Indeed, I think these latter must pay a higher price, because they have nothing in their lives or backgrounds to justify our ignorance of such sins. Or perhaps I have misunderstood, quite possible, indeed, probable.

Incidentally, did the Holy Family really belong to a class called 'the poor'? I am not sure about this - it is legendarily so, but does Scripture justify it? After all, they fully intended to stay at an inn, it was not lack of funds which prevented them from doing so. Joseph's artisanship surely ensured they were as well off as many, and probably better than most. I always thought Jesus' affection for the poor was rooted more in the fact that poverty brings a certain detachment from the world, and can create an interior freedom which the rich find it hard to experience (though not impossible, contrast the Rich Young Man and Zaccheus).

I must thank you once again, Father, for these very helpful blogs. They are most interesting.

viterbo said...

Christopher said: I always thought Jesus' affection for the poor was rooted more in the fact that poverty brings a certain detachment from the world, and can create an interior freedom which the rich find it hard to experience.

Poverty which doesn't have responsibility may achieve 'detachment', otherwise the burden of survival can become its own idol; rich or impoverished, sinners we are all...I suppose the rich have more opportunity to sin against a greater number of people than the poor - but is sin about quantity or 'quality?'

Christ said, 'suffer the little children to come into me'; yet these days we take it to mean suffer the little children to walk all over me and then walk away all together.

"and I will place boys as their princes and the fickle shall govern them...the child will be insolent to the elder, and the base toward the honourable...My people, infants oppress them, women rule over them...' Isaiah 3

gemoftheocean said...

"I am sure if the Holy Father realised how this interview would be used would be mortified, perhaps in the next few weeks we might see him strengthening the position of Christ's friends rather than allowing his words to be a comfort to those who hate the faith."

I keep waiting to find a million pound winning lottery ticket on the street somewhere. Somehow, I am not holding my breath. Perhaps a millenium after hell freezes over?

Unknown said...

Given the awful fallout of quoting people out of context, which you have well highlighted, shouldn't one be careful not to give the wrong impression of Chaput's statement. To my mind his whole statement gives a pretty different impression to the one here. He has done quite a good job of assessing the heart message of the overall interview.

Clearly it's a message the Holy father feels has not hit home enough in the Church in recent decades/centuries. And so he has expressed it forcefully, even at the risk of the bad spin and it's awful fallout. Whatever our understandable feelings of shock let's try not to contribute to further delay, cloud it's clarity or mitigate it's impact.

Fr Ray Blake said...

You are quite right but as I said in a previous post, it is the 'spin' that has been put on these words that is dangerous and has done a great deal of damage to many people.

I think this is actually the HF's fault, if not his deliberate intention, in as much he compares, not just in this interview but elsewhere, the small minded, rule obsessed, revisionist etc with those who are open to dialogue, those who are open those who out to the 'peripheries'.

The problem is that we have to fill in the gaps for Francis, to heal what he wounds, to explain him to good Catholics and to the world in general, as in this instance Abp Chaput has done in the quote you point out, as Fr Lombardi constantly seems to have to do, in the same way the editors and redactors of his daily Mass sermon from Vatican Radio have to do, Vat Rad don't dare report him verbatim.

He seems to need armies of logothetes.

Unknown said...

Thanks for letting me slip through your ‘no anonymity’ policy – for my part I fully expected my (google) name to be published. Apologies. I am grateful for many of the entries on this blog, but do have a different angle this time.

Amongst integrally Catholic online interpreters of the interview there seems to have been an emphasis, sometimes an exclusive emphasis, upon either a “good” part (e.g. God’s love as the necessary, if perhaps vague, context) or a “bad” part (e.g. “obsession with doctrine”, traditionalists have especially emphasised the gift this term was to enemies of Catholicism). Yet strangely these commentators seem to have missed a central point. Mary Eberstadt and Dan Burke are really the only exceptions I’ve come across, Eberstadt pointing out that what Pope Francis is asking “is more intriguing than first responders to the interview have discerned.”

His most frequent plea was for a development of doctrine and life. He quoted St Vincent of Lerrins in this regard, and suggested that “we build the future” out of various historical “synthesis[es] of faith, culture and life”. He pleaded with us “to have the courage to open up new areas to God” and urged a less “static”, more “experience” and “history” based presentation of the Church’s teaching. He invited a more Marian, and “missionary” “openness”, and argued that “the thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today”. And all this, he said towards the end, is “in order to develop and deepen the Church’s teaching”. Yet none of these closely related points have even been mentioned in the traditionalist comments in Britain and beyond.

That very omission confirms his point and approach. He seems to be trying to get through mainly to faithful “preachers”, and not so much to the “loose minister who washes his hands” of Church moral teaching, one of which he has just excommunicated. And the Pope includes amongst these primary addressees those who “try to recover a past” state of affairs, with an “inward-looking”, “static” vision of reality. Might these be the many commentators to the extent that they just can’t seem to hear his urgent invitation to engage modern culture in a discerning and purifying manner. And the Pope argues that failing to hear this we risk becoming “a nest protecting our own mediocrity” – and one might add, continue offering grist to media’s falsifying mill. It’s almost as if such conservative faces, and ears, have been set like flint against the idea of real development, perhaps hardened over the years in which we have failed to stop the rise of secularism. No wonder the media is so much in the hands of our enemies. What is the point in playing so much on the media’s territory that we continue to fail to tackle our own underlying ability to understand and challenge where they are coming from.

To be blunt the almost complete ignoring of a papal call to intelligent and mature, theological and spiritual development strikes me as being compatible with that state of mind which the Successor of St Peter describes as an “insistent” “transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines”. As Janet Smith quotes a friend; “it is no surprise that those in the church who have grown comfortable hiding behind a didactic wall are howling that Pope Francis is tearing down that wall.”

Fr Hugh MacKenzie