Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Living in Bubbles
That wise and learned old pedant Fr Hunwicke suggests that Popes should be married so as to avoid upsetting women. I am crusty old celibate but I have seen that look on a lady's faces when their husbands have said or done something foolish, that tight lipped smile which doesn't quite reach they eyes, which says, "I think we must have a talk later, dear", it is like the look rural American fathers might have, which says to their sons, "any more of that and we will have to visit the woodshed together".
One of the problems we celibates have is that we can live in our little bubbles, there is no-one there to burst it. Traddies live in a traddy bubble, liberals in a liberal bubble, conservatives in their conservative bubble. It is a bit like a man I met years ago, who said, "God heavens, Father, you are the first priest I've met who doesn't shoot". He then went on to say, "I know some who don't hunt but you are the first I have met who doesn't hunt or shoot". He then turned to his wife to acquaint her of his discovery, here my thesis breaks down, in that very English three syllabled form of the word, that reveals worlds, she responded, "Really?" In their particular world all priests rode to hounds or at the very least shot, it might have meant he only knew two or three priests but that was world he lived in.
Normally, having a wife means there is someone who stops you from being a prisoner of yourself. Ideally for a celibate his religious community or parish takes the place of a wife, if you let them, they become a key that releases from your prison, (though not always).
Edward Condon writing in the Herald asks, "Is Francis becoming the new prisoner of the Vatican?" Popes have almost always ended up becoming prisoners, as much as Chinese Emperors became prisoners of the Forbidden City or the Sultan became a prisoner of the Sublime Port. It was Benedict's increasing isolation, I am sure. lead to his resignation.
I know this is pure speculation but I wonder if the preferred candidate of the St Gall Mafia, would actually be a clear thinking articulate intellectual like Martini or someone whose thinking was muddled, who was not capable of communicating his ideas, or better had few ideas of his own. More importantly someone who for a few years would convince the Church that being in 'a mess' was the natural state, and whose every word was ambiguous and needed interpretation.
Under Benedict I read practically every word he said or wrote or said, often it was complicated and subtle but it was comprehensible. Francis, I read sparingly, partly because it is incomprehensible and to be honest I have never read anything that speaks kindly to priests - I cannot bear the constant nagging. Condon suggests that Francis is simply unaware of the effects of his words (or his actions) "This can be seen, for example, in the otherwise inexplicable decision to invite a man as compromised as Cardinal Danneels to the synod (on the family of all things!) despite the scandal surrounding his reported attempts to silence victims of sexual abuse."
Condon is right to draw attention to fact that the Pope in many ways has all the qualities of a 'prisoner', "it came out that the Pope had not watched television for more than 20 years, did not use the internet, and read only one newspaper". If you add to that a limited pastoral experience, a limited knowledge of any language beyond Italian and Spanish, a limited knowledge of the Universal Church and limited intellectual interests - I am curious about the absence of books in the Papal study - does it perhaps mean that the Pope doesn't read much? Certainly his disdain for 'doctors of the the law', "Specialist of the Logos" and "ideologues" of various stripes would suggest an intellectual grasp of the faith is something antipathetic to him. Similarly, his sense that history, in terms of the Church the hermeneutic of continuity, is pretty meaningless to him, beyond his comprehension. Like many ecclesiastics of his age he seems to think the Church is a 'now event', with little sense of its past or very much more worryingly of its long term future.
In contrast to his predecessor he seems only to appoint those who share his views. Benedict had at the heart of his theology 'both and', Francis seems be much more factional, getting rid of those who disagree with him are invariable sent into outer darkness. The great problem with that is that ultimately you dwell in a tent surrounded with cronies, whilst those outside the tent are ...err... looking in.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake