Just a prediction for 2014: disappointment!
I have just read the annoying Peter Stanford's article in the Daily Telegraph where he sets out his hopes for Pope Francis' pontificate. He will certainly be disappointed.
Fr Mark Drew has an article in Stanford's old paper, the Catholic Herald, in which he fears the kind of reaction we experienced in the wake of Humanae Vitae: liberals had built up an expectation that the Church would change its teaching that sexual acts should be open to life, they either left in droves or remained and seriously weakened the Church from the inside.
The Pope seems to be waiting upon the extraordinary synod on the family, convened for the coming October, before making a definitive judgment. In the meantime, he will need to steady the barque if the synodal debate is to be serene and the outcome received by the whole Church. If the debate is not well guided, there is a threat to unity. A decision for relaxing the rules would risk alienating and disorientating many who have respected and defended the present discipline, often at real personal cost.Another area where perhaps there will disappointment is within the Curia, months of harsh words and uncertainty have seriously sapped morale, many low level officials have left Rome in recent months, the careerist have stayed the pastorally minded have gone. As Fr Mark Drew draws attention to another danger: nepotism. The rigidity that is likely to come from a Curia of a particular stripe rather than of varied talents is likely to produce a certain brittleness and intolerance. A Pope who is personally laid back is likely to produce lieutenants who believe they have his mind on particular issues and push their interpretation of that position with all the force they can muster. Already we seem to have seen something of this with the Friars of the Immaculate.
On the other hand, a decision to maintain the status quo might unleash a storm reminiscent of the dissent caused by the publication of Humanae Vitae in 1967. That decision disappointed many who were confidently expecting a different outcome, and proved a turning point in the pontificate of Paul VI. That pope, who had been previously hailed as a confident proponent of reform, often appeared beleaguered and broken afterwards. To avoid such an eventuality, Pope Francis needs to play his role as teacher of the faith and centre of Catholic unity with clarity and courage. It is a daunting task for any human being, and the Pope needs our prayers.
There was an article I read earlier in the week in which the author stressed Pope Francis tended to be presented in terms of 'image' as opposed to 'message', the author suggested the Gospel was about 'message' rather than 'image'. Images might satisfy those on the peripheries but those closer to the centre want the message. The broad brush approach satisfies the outsider but inside detail is needed.
One of the great problems with any Pope is that the court separates him from reality, already we have seen in the reported conversations with Bishop Scicluna and Cardinal Meisner that the Pope seems unaware of the impact of his words. If Meisner was the first to have the courage to confront the Pope with the impact of his words, then it would seem that the Pope is indeed isolated, that those around him and flattering courtiers and this likely to increase.
“When I last visited Pope Francis recently I was able to speak to him very openly about all and sundry. I drew his attention to the fact that some of what he had said in interviews and short addresses had left certain questions open to debate which really needed explaining further for those not in the know,” Cardinal Meisner said.It is interesting that he seems to have learnt that interviews with atheist logothetes like Eugenio Scalfari can be pretty disastrous, whether he will learn he has to speak clearly for himself is another matter.
“The Pope opened his eyes wide and asked me to give him an example. I pointed to his remark about remarried divorcees on the plane back from Rio. [when the Pope had said, “I believe this is the time of mercy.”]
“Whereupon the Pope said quite simply: ‘Divorcees can go to communion – remarried divorcees cannot.’