Friday, March 15, 2013

House Built on Rock or Sand?

Fr Z is doing a poll on the initial reactions to Pope Francis, it is probably a little premature but then the Pope himself has been keen on creating "first impressions".

 It is after all early days but I must admit I am rathered disorientated by Pope Francis' election, and what seems to be a repudiation of the sgns and symbols that Pope Benedict  held as important markers of the "hermeneutic of continuity". I was quite shocked by some of the pictures of liturgical goings on in Buenos Aires, and dissappointed by the lack of support for those marker projects of our previous Pope, like Summorum Pontificum, which had such importance for the whole theology of continuity, the idea that the Church has a continuing sacred history: What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too ... etc., I am saddened by the reported reaction to the Ordinariates too; a great marker of practical ecumenism and pluralism.

That is the down side so far, the upside is precisely what Pope Francis is obviously trying to communicate: simplicity and personal warmth, prayerfulness and humanity. These are obviously good things and appeal to individuals and especially to the media, where the Papacy is projected not an office but a person. This is both its strength but also its weakness, it is why monarchy is in a sense more photogenic than other systems. There is something very Incarnational here, it is about gathering friends rather than disciples.

The great problem for the Church is that it is not our Church but Christ's, we should expect to have our images of Church fractured from time to time, it is all too easy to make it into our own personal golden calf. For us Catholics this is the great problem with the Papacy, each successive Pope brings in his own strengths and weaknesses. He has to be the rock on which the Church is built, there has to be continuity from generation to generation, in that sense it is the office not the man which encapsulates it. Anything that gives the impression of it being built on sand is destructive.

I can imagine that in the various nunciatures through out the world the lists that were put away at the coming of Benedict might well be dusted off, the bishops who were extending the hand of ecumenism to the Orthodox, or other potential Ordinariate groups, might well, instead, be thinking about turning towards protestants instead.

One of the great problems with the Vatican, that has been highlighted is the degree of  what has been termed "corruption". I imagine there is very little actual corruption, which in the Church we call the sin of simony. What seems to be at the very heart of the whole system is the granting of favours in exchange for favours, the winning of personal iufluence - modern nepotism and patronage where personal trusted favourites are appointed to positions of influence, often despite merit. The problem is the whole system itself is based on personal preference which is as fickle as the direction of Mass in the Sistine chapel, all has come to depend on personal whim, or theological preference of whoever is Pontiff, this sand not Rock.

Let us pray for Francis our Pope and all who work in the Curia.
May the Lord deliver us from hasty judgements.


john-of-hayling said...

The supposedly negative comments about the Ordinariate come from a source that has a rather large axe to grind. The comments are undated and unclear. Pope Francis knows about Ordinariates, as amongst other things he was the Ordinary to Eastern Rite churches in Argentina and as such has celebrated the Divine Liturgy with normal levels of ceremonial.

John Nolan said...

John XXIII had personal humility yet his coronation in 1958 resurrected ritual elements which had been dormant for centuries. By 1963 the rite had been considerably shortened and by 1978 abandoned altogether. Yet John Paul II probably had a higher profile as a papal monarch than all of his 20th century predecessors put together.

Apart from the British, no European monarchy has a formal and pompous coronation. The tiara (triregnum) was unknown until the Avignon papacy. Much as I would like to see a splendid and pompous papal coronation, I have to accept that in the long run it doesn't matter.

Benedict XVI liberated the classic Roman Rite but made it clear that it is a bottom-up restoration, and this will continue.

Cosmos said...

From what I have read so far, he is clearly not afraid to proclaim the Gospel boldly. He is an inspiring teacher to be sure! I am really not sure how he could speak so boldly and still believe that Anglicans were just fine within their dysfunctional churches.

As long as the Pope intends to covert the world to Catholicism, not some kind of ethereal "mere Christianity," I'll continue to be very excited and try to adapt to his style.

But Catholics believe that Jesus chose to reveal himself in the Sacraments and that he intended his mother to be honored for her role in his plan. It is not humble or open-minded to ignore God's plan. It is one thing to support worthy Protestant initiatives. It is another thing to pretend it is a sufficient form of Christianity. That may be your opinion, but it contradicts the basics of the Catholic faith. I hope he is not wishy-washy in that area. No need to expect the worst, I suppose.

mark said...

One answer to any doubts is given very clearly on the front page of this Blog:-

Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna.

Pastor in Valle said...

Thank you, Father; you have expressed very much what I have been thinking.

Sixupman said...

I feel it appropriate to quote an SSPX priest [then in England] to murmuring members if his congregation:

"Stop carping about the Pope [JPII]
he is the only Pope you have, live with it!".

BTW: DICI publish a comment from the SSPX Argentinian Superior, who, inter alia, opines that he had met the, then, archbishop several times and was received most courteously.

Sadie Vacantist said...

The strangest feature of this conclave was its brevity and the age of the new Pope. Man, it was faster than Paul VI’s election who was the favourite in 1963 and bordered on the unseemly. CMOC’s talk of a new style suggests that the College see no need of ‘root and branch’ reform of the curia or any other area of the Church’s life and it’s all a question of perception by the mainstream media. If anything, the College were running a massive great spin operation during the interregnum in allowing a view to persist that they were divided and that infighting was prevalent. The outcome would suggest otherwise.

nickbris said...

Anybody getting up the Cameron nose is OK by me.

I am very happy with Pope Francis.

Robert said...

This was short lived. I will always remember the joy.

Damask Rose said...

"For us Catholics this is the great problem with the Papacy, each successive Pope brings in his own strengths and weaknesses. He has to be the rock on which the Church is built, there has to be continuity from generation to generation, in that sense it is the office not the man which encapsulates it."

"The problem is the whole system itself is based on personal preference which is as fickle as the direction of Mass in the Sistine chapel, all has come to depend on personal whim, or theological preference of whoever is Pontiff, this sand not Rock."

Yes, Father. But this system has become institutionalised now. It's how parishes are run. Priests move on every 6-8 years now and a priest can either continue or destroy his predecessor's work.

Same with the Mass. The Church services would be recognisable everywhere, now it's "as you like it" especially with the Mass. Gone are the exclamation marks at the side of the Missal text to warn the priest of mortal sin if he says the Mass incorrectly. There is no one righteous standard. Any gay practising priest can mount [pun intended] the sanctuary and still say Mass.

The Church is built on such sand now that (as others have previously highlighted) some priests don't have a solid home to go to in their old age.

Damask Rose said...

Fr Ray, where is that picture from? The house perched on top of that rock is fascinating. Could be Africa or Arabia...?

RJ said...

Give the Lord a chance! It's only two days since the Pope was elected.

Anagnostis said...

The Traditional movement, in which I spent most of my adult life, needs a hard kick in its self-regarding backside. While it's true that the ancient liturgies and disciplines instil holiness, it's also painfully obvious that "Traditionalism" - doesn't; and if it doesn't, it's of no use whatsoever. Most of it seems to think of ancient Christianity as co-extensive with reactionary ideology, gnostical weirdness and a purely carnal romanticism (what used to be called "triumphalism").

I hope this Francis can hold up the mirror of the Gospel to its pathetic failure.

As for the terminally pompous Rorate Caeli, one week after gushing that it had been quoted in Osservatore Romano - seven years of credibility squandered in one contemptible hissy-fit.

The Constantinian era is over. Finished. The 19th century popes and their ideological pre-occupations are dust. This man talks like a realist and a real Christian. I like him.

Colonel Mustard said...

Spot on, Father!

@ anagnostis

You rail about the pomposity of others, yet you finish by saying:

"The Constantinian era is over. Finished. The 19th century popes and their ideological pre-occupations are dust. This man talks like a realist and a real Christian. I like him."

What silly things you write. Try holding up the mirror of the Gospel to your own warped view of reality and history. It's thanks to Constantine that the Faith began to be formulated.

Pius VII
Bl Pius IX

-I think their 19th century pre-occupation with the Lord's work is alive and well, and I suspect this pope would agree.

parepidemos said...

Father Blake: Regarding the celebration of Mass, your preference for the EF is clear to those of us who follow your blog - and your views are (I hope) always respected.

Yet, it seems to me that you offer a not-so-subtle dig at how Pope Francis celebrated Mass with the cardinals after his election. I am puzzled as to why you wrote of fickleness concerning the direction in which Mass is celebrated in the Sistine Chapel, indicating that it appears to depend on the "whim" of whomever is pope - and then to imply that this is sand rather than rock.

I say this because when Benedict celebrated with the cardinals after his election in 2005 he also did it versus populum - and with only 2 candles (both on the same side of the altar). I suspect that John Paul II did the same, though I have not seen a video. I now surmise that much of the so-called Benedictine arrangement was probably more of Guido Marini arrangement.

As for Francis, I know you will agree that we must trust that he is the person God wants to lead the Church at this moment in history. I pray that he will remain strong enough to fend off any wolves that he may come his way.

parepidemos said...

Oh, and as for Fr Zuhlsdorf's poll: rather tasteless.

Fr Ray Blake said...

The problem is that it really does depend on a whim. We are in a situation of an Headmistress I know who put up notice saying, "As from tomorrow the tradition of the school is ...".
What one Pope builds carefully another dismantles, maybe without thought, I don't know but it does seem like some of what I had assumed to be solid rock of Benedict was actually sand.

viterbo said...

anagnostis said: "This man talks like a realist and a real Christian." that could mean anything, but probably means he's a pope made in the one approving's own image. and as for the 'dust', I thought the work of the Holy Ghost was inherently's lives turn to dust, but if they are tools of the Holy Ghost while they live, those works certainly don't.

a view of the 'Roman Pontiff during the reign of John XXII (early 1300s).

"The Roman Pontiff, who is obliged by his office to direct his efforts principally to the salvation of souls, must be able to devote immediate attention to the correction of sons who deviate from the Faith, while at the same time making it clear that nothing can have the power [to bring people] to salvation if it is not grounded in the root of faith."

p.s. one should be able to expect this Pope to stay in Rome and not globe trot - certainly if pilgrimage is now deemed a guilty pleasure. the 'traditionalists' who've been sweating it out in steerage on the Barque of Peter for a while now, can probably expect, not necessarily rough waters but rough navigation and a toughening on the rations.

JARay said...

Damask Rose asks where the photo comes from. I cannot answer that question but my mind went back to Cappadocia which I visited last October. It is in Turkey, by the way, and there are still some people living in homes cut out of the sandy rock. Most are now empty but not all are.
This may surprise you but my house is built on sand. Here in Western Australia the majority of homes are built on sand. The sand is compacted and after compaction you would have to dig hard into the compacted sand to disturb it in any way. It is, actually, a very stable base on which to build a house. I am not trying to undermine Scripture here but compacted sand is an excellent base. And then the weight of the house actually compacts the ground even more!

Anagnostis said...

I "sweated in steerage" myself for the best part of thirty years. I know whereof I speak.

Did I say the Constantinian era was "a bad thing"? No. I said it's over. It is, whether you like it or not. We're heading back to the condition of the first three centuries, when election to the episcopate was as likely to be a death sentence as not. Whatever is "the Lord's work" will survive, but the ideological chaff will not.

Now - scour the Traditionalist Movement, as manifested on the internet, for the fruits of the Holy Spirit and ask yourself if it's really as fit for purpose as its self-image insists.

Please don't come back with "Well look at the Tabletistas etc...". Res ipse loquitur.

Thomas JD Travers said...

One thing I have become aware of in reading these comments is there are sharp divisions within the Church. Hopefully Francis will overcome them. As a common Catholic with no special knowledge of religion it is a great relief to have a practical man at the helm, a chemist, instead of a professor. To me where the altar is situated and the nuances and niceties of translation are irrelevant. Is there a single scripture written in Latin? And I even doubt there are many in England who could read the scriptures in source languages of Hebrew or Greek. There are even fewer that could converse with Our Lord in his native tongue. Instead of harking back to the past maybe we should instead reflect on the fact that there may be very few people in the pews on Sunday who understand the meaning of 'consubstantial'. (Maybe do a quick poll this Sunday?)
We have to live with this reality. There is also a very large number of Catholic youth, educated in Catholic schools no less, who do not know what the eucharist means. They genuinely and sincerely believe that the bread and wine remain just that, and these are good young men and women. But they have been sadly let down, I regret by parents but also in part by clergy some of whom have now become afraid of having any contact with children at all.
So I am very pleased to have a pontiff who actually welcomes unmarried mothers to have their children baptised. He acknowledges that life is as it is and not as we wish it to be, and that we have to accept our brothers and sisters with love.
Like many common Catholics I am tired of reading about homosexual clergy. I believe they should be encouraged to leave, or pursue their vocations in San Francisco or some place that needs them, then we can get respite from this irritating and recurrent issue which is totally irrelevant to the lives of most people irrespective of their religious persuasion.
Cardinals and others who covered up crime should be prosecuted and if found guilty sent to prison instead of being rewarded with churches in Rome. It is not a matter for the Church to decide their fate. If a crime is committed surely it is for the courts. Priests should be paid a proper salary and be paid a pension in retirement. Let's call an end to 50p on the plate and give a meaningful contribution as is done in Germany. It is insulting that priests live in poverty while the Vatican Bank is regularly castigated for money laundering. It is not an institute of religious works as it claims. It is a dodgy financial institution as badly run as the ones in England. Under Francis I would like to have a grown up and mature church of which ordinary working class adults can be proud. I am willing to give up tradition for simplicity. Tradition is just another word for habit. Sin is traditional as people have been doing it as long ago as the book of Genesis; incest, rape, murder, sodomy, nothing is new. So let's pass on tradition. We'd also really like thoughtful prayer at Mass and an end to pointless hymn singing. The vast majority of choirs in churches have negligible musical ability and their efforts are pitiful. The sounds they make are an affront to anyone who has any musical instinct at all. There are some people for whom it would really be a kindness to ask them to put a sock in it as they roar tunelessly and distract everyone else from trying to pray. It has always puzzled me why it is assumed that you push a hymn book into the hands of a Mass goer and that makes him or her capable of tuneful use of the voice.

Caroline Shaw said...

The house on the rock is a palace in Yemen called the Dar al-Hajjar, or Palace of the Rock. It is just a little way outside Sana'a, the capital. It was built in the 1930s as the summer residence of the Imam, the spiritual leader of Yemen at that time.

W S said...

I hope Francis lasts longer than 33 days.

Damask Rose said...


Amazing about your house being built on compacted sand! And for that matter, as you say, the majority of homes in WA - wow! I do think though, that you're very brave for living there...

Thank you Caroline Shaw for your information about this palace. I would love to live in a home like that...! I shall look it up on the Web.