Thursday, November 07, 2013
Pope's Iron Fist defining the Peripheries?
I was disconcerted by Pope Francis, now I am beginning to thing that maybe, just maybe, he might be an iron fist in a velvet glove. For many of us Abp Mueller's clarification on the issue of divorced remarried receiving Holy Communion became a turning point, it seemed to be an illustration of how a future Vatican might work: the Pope speaks in rather imprecise terms, tells us to go to the 'peripheries', then one of his staff tells us precisely where those 'peripheries' are.
The role of the Pope is above all one of gathering, unifying, being a (holy) 'father' to all, being 'pastoral', it is his role to present the loving face of the Church, to say 'yes' rather than 'no', to present mercy and forgiveness. I have to admit I still find his raising of questions and not supplying answers still disconcerting, Jesuitical, it is not what any Pope has done in the past but Jesus raised question and rarely supplied clear answers, 'he spoke to them in parables', making people go away and think. It is the Apostles who clarify what Jesus taught, the Gospels alone, without the Epistles and the vast corpus of the writings of the Fathers, do not make sense.
Francis speaks of 'the devil' without going into much detail but the mere mention of the devil raises the whole question of hell and the division of mankind into those who are faithful and destined for salvation and those who are not. He speaks of God's 'mercy', with its implication of the necessity of being in the Church and receiving the sacraments. Others are left to speak of the limits, 'the peripheries', of that mercy. Yet even in Francis' teaching this mercy he is highly critical, it is not accepting of careerist clergy for example, or of even more esoteric and so far unidentified groups such as 'Pelagians' or 'specialist of the Logos', or a dozen or so other categories that have received the sharp edge of Francis tongue.
Mueller's document on the 'peripheries' of marriage, probably would have been written under Ratzinger's Prefecture but probably not under Levada's. After his meeting with the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Men and Women - Confederación Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Religiosos y Religiosas - might have suggested side lining of the CDF but evidently this is not happening, the CDF is becoming a major player, even if it serves to clarify what Francis is saying, it would be absurd not to believe it acts at the Pope's behest.
The iron fist of the CDF has reappeared again with the publication in the US of the letter concerning Medjugorje, that directs that bishops are advised that, “clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.” We all knew that but still those so inclined just ignored the ruling. Now, Rome seems to be insistent that they actually obey.
I have been struggling to fill in the questionnaire for the Synod on the family, I almost agree with Joseph Shaw that it is the worst survey in the world but then I suspect that the answers, despite what the media say. are not that important, this seems to be a questionnaire that is really meant to teach, a sort of overview of what should have been happening. The important thing is that the peripheries are again being defined; bishops are being told that they ought to have been teaching on the Catholic understanding of family and marriage, on the natural law, on why cohabitation, extra-marital sex are bad. In England and Wales our battle against the redefinition went off like a damp squib precisely because practical nothing has been done by our bishops to teach about family and marriage over the years. Humanae Vitae and so many other documents on the family and sexuality have been treated as an embarrassment. The questionnaire hammers home how ineffectual most pastors have been on these issues.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake