Tuesday, October 06, 2015

After the 'lio'

I have been pondering the connection between 'trust' and 'faith'. Because Christ gave us a Church founded on the Apostles rather than a book in order for people to believe in Christ they must first of all trust the Apostles, the bishops are the successors of the Apostles. Perhaps the saddest development in the Church has been the break down in trust between the faithful and their bishops and maybe equally important the paralleled break down in the trust between the world and the Church, to the point, in the West at least, where the idea of the Church was on the verge of becoming toxic.

The child abuse crisis was certainly one important contributor contributor to this toxicity. It is interesting to compare the two ways in which Francis and Benedict dealt with it. Benedict, with a truly pastoral heart, dealt personally with cases brought to him. It was his Friday penance to weep over and deal with the dossiers, and every pastoral visit had with it a meeting with the abused and a public apology. Francis, a more political Pope, or perhaps just a more skilled administrator, has set up a commission to deal with the matter, has had a few meetings with abused but still feels able to console the US bishops on the suffering they endured over the issue and is confident enough to invite Cardinal Daneels, who has a well documented history of cover-up to the Synod, and the media seem quite disinterested.

One of things we might admire Francis for is taking the poison out of the relationship between the Church and the world. In many ways he is less revolutionary than his predecessor, he says and does the things the world expects the Pope to say and do. One of the problems is perhaps that he appeals more to those outside the Church than those inside it. Benedict carefully chose to conceal the Papacy under signs and symbols, Francis has got rid of most of those and placed his personality front and centre. The world seems more comfortable with that, it can deal with 'personalities' especially political ones. One of things that fascinates me is that, listening to the Pope, I never quite know what he is saying or I think he is saying one thing, only to have it readjusted a few days later, if it has caused a little storm in the media, by Fr Lombardi, who carefully explains what His Holiness had really meant.
The change in the relationship of the Church and the media is the most significant but within the Church Francis seems to be much more divisive figure. 'Cardinals are fighting like ferrets in a sack', as one commentator said recently. The bishops arriving at the Synod can easily be divided into 'innovators' and those who oppose them, even Cardinal Prefects speak openly of the possibility of schism. There is a sense of suspicion alive in the Church, an open mistrust of certain bishops and some even dare to suggest that the Pope himself is not to be trusted, though more loyal Catholics are likely to criticise the Pope's ministers rather than the Pope himself. There seems in some instances a visceral hatred of Francis on some internet sites.

Again, as one recent commentator said, 'No-one disputes Pope Francis can make a mess (lio), now he must bring order out of the mess'. Perhaps Cardinal Erdo's opening speech to the Synod yesterday was the beginnings of that. The Papacy as portrayed by both Vatican Councils is hardly the vision most Catholics have. Pastor Aeternus seems a closed book to many Catholics and certainly to the worldly media (Dr DeVille has a very good article on the limits of Papal authority). Jesus Christ, not the Pope, is after all the head of the Church, though many Catholics, even some bishops might go along with the rather iffy Mgr Pinto of the, Dean of the Rota saying,  "The Jubilee Year of Mercy expects this sign of humble obedience (on the part of the Church's shepherds) to the Spirit who speaks to them through Francis". That is just Ultramontane heresy, with friends like that who needs enemies?

The centrality of Peter is essential to the Church, it is Dr DeVille points out at the service of 'unity'. After the lio Pope Francis has to re-establish trust not just in himself but in but in the bishops in the Church as he has done outside it in his Papacy, because trust is an essential to faith and mistrust of the Pope and Bishops is seriously damaging to the Church's integrity and ultimately to individuals' faith. Unitatis Redintegratio is clear that not only is disunity a scandal but it is also detrimental to faith. Speaking for myself the shifting sands of the build up to the Synod has hardly strengthened my faith.

10 comments:

poly carped said...

"...some even dare to suggest that the Pope himself is not to be trusted, though more loyal Catholics are likely to criticise the Pope's ministers rather than the Pope himself."

Hmmm....? Loyal to whom/what, Father?

Other than this quibble, another great post - thank you Father.

Sean W. said...

"One of the problems is perhaps that he appeals more to those outside the Church than those inside it."

I wonder about this; it seems contrary to my own experience. For all the talk about how much Francis is loved by the world, my secular and Protestant friends, while fond of him, don't seem overly interested otherwise (certainly not enough to translate their affection into practice by joining me at Mass!). Most of my Catholic friends, on the other hand, are gaga to the point of accusing people of heresy who are understandably suspicious of his motives in holding the Synod. Even my male friends are going on (in public!) about how much this or that Papal speech or action caused them to weep.

The sad truth is that many, maybe even most, (Western) Catholics suffer under the burden of Catholicism, that patriarchal retrograde homophobic religion of silly old queers in lace dresses. They greet with warmth this Pope, who at last has made Catholicism fashionable to their high-status friends. The ones who are wary of him are the ones who were marginalized to begin with, the ones who take their faith seriously to the point that it unnerves and wearies those around them.

Anil Wang said...

poly carped, to answer your question.

Only the blind on both sides of the innovator/faithful divide cannot see what's happening. Most loyal Catholics *will* criticize the Pope, but do so in private. However, expressing those concerns in public is another story. They may fear it will causes scandal (i.e. lead weaker members of the Catholic faith into the sin of schism, push potential converts away, cause doubts about Catholicism and it's ability to survive this self inflicted wound), and it may not do any good (once we have a Pope, we're stuck with him until he quits, his team however can be sacked), drain our faith and enthusiasm, and divert us away from the things we *can* do (which a whole lot more than most of us armchair critics actually do).


Paul Hellyer said...

He may be popular with the world but popularity won't convert the world. It's only by preaching the truth of Christ to the world that the world will realise that there is a better way i.e. Christ's way.
He should preach by words and by example. Up to now he has done neither. He seems to totally ignore the Christians in the middle east who are being crucified daily as well as the thousands of aborted little babies. And he's supposed to be their 'pastor' I don't think he is a very good pope.

John Nolan said...

On Sunday morning I sang at an EF Mass which was the external solemnity of Our Lady of the Rosary which falls on 7 October and commemorates the stupendous and miraculous victory at Lepanto (1571) which was celebrated even in Protestant England.

Vivat Hispania! Domino Gloria! Don John of Austria has set his people free!

Later that day I watched the opening Mass of the Synod. It was celebrated as an ordinary Sunday Mass (green vestments, those of the Pope, the concelebrating cardinals and the deacons being in damask) with the plainchant Mass XI (Orbis Factor) sung alternately by the Sistine Chapel choir and the assembly, with a couple of (totally unnecessary) nods to the vernacular babel but otherwise in Latin with the Roman Canon. The Gospel of the day (sung beautifully by the deacon, wearing a dalmatic with the arms of Benedict XVI emblazoned on the back) was very appropriately Mark 10:2-16 - coincidence or not? During the Communion, in addition the Proper antiphon and verses, Adoro te devote was sung. The cardinals who were in choro received Communion kneeling and on the tongue, from a deacon.

I know the Pope does not sing and cannot genuflect (I can do the former but not the latter) but apart from a few polyglot aberrations this was a good advertisement for the Novus Ordo (not that it deserves it) and a great improvement on what used to be the norm even a decade ago. The Holy Father's homily was pithy and to the point - if he concentrated on preaching and abstained from off-the-cuff comments he would allay a lot of suspicion.

Yet the influential and liberal commentator John Allen Jr has written an article opining that Francis will face an 'uphill struggle' to get a result from the Synod that he wants. Which begs the obvious question - why bother calling a Synod in the first place?

Jacobi said...

Personally Father, I await now the final outcome of this Session. In the meantime I am saying as little as possible. I note that as you put it the “shifting sands “ has hardly helped. I can now think of at least 6 priests who have expressed that view, and it gives me some comfort.

The problem runs deep. It is not the child abuse problem. However it is/has been handled, the Catholic Church is amongst the least offenders in what is something now widespread in society.

No, it goes back to Modernism, the attempt to complete a process that started with the Protestant Reformation but goes way beyond that. It has re- emerged, much more strongly than I ever expected, and will be fought out at this second session of the Synod.

What I think is now appropriate is the parable of the buried talent (see article in last weeks CH by T A Pascoe). If we waste or lose that precious talent, then things are bad.

Frank Karwatowicz said...

Where did this phrase "retrograde homophobia" spring up from in this day and age. It should----- and has always been----- verigrade homophobia.
The term retrograde homophobia is nothing less than progressive homophilia in disguise. IMHO

viterbo said...

"Perhaps the saddest development in the Church has been the break down in trust between the faithful and their bishops and maybe equally important the paralleled break down in the trust between the world and the Church..."

No doubt. It is also the great apostasy. But Christ's Vicar is not an antichrist, as most Protestants would have it, including folks who think any sort of 'election' makes a Vicar of Christ.

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father Blake,

You have written:"Again, as one recent commentator said, 'No-one disputes Pope Francis can make a mess (lio), now he must bring order out of the mess'. Perhaps Cardinal Erdo's opening speech to the Synod yesterday was the beginnings of that."

I offer here an article published online yesterday, 06 October, in The Catholic World Report (a magazine of no little significance)titled:

"Pope Francis makes first direct intervention; was Cardinal Erdö undermined?"

http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/4239/pope_francis_makes_first_direct_intervention_was_cardinal_erd_undermined.aspx

It would appear that Cardinal Erdo's opening speech, both traditionally and doctrinally sound, is already under fire from the top.

It is so very troubling that where Bergolio goes confusion flourishes.

Liam Ronan said...

I shan't clutter up the com-box, Father, but further in respect to Cardinal Erdo's opening statement there is an article just published in Voice of the Family online newsletter titled:

"HAS THE INTERVENTION OF POPE FRANCIS RETURNED SYNOD TO HETERODOX TRAJECTORY?"

The link is here:

http://voiceofthefamily.com/has-the-intervention-of-pope-francis-returned-synod-to-heterodox-trajectory/

I respectfully suggest it is worth a look and thoughtful consideration.