I was a little disturbed by a comment on a post yesterday.
I abandoned the SSPX under Pope Benedict XVI but now I wonder if I made the right decision - could they be right? Pope Francis I believe is causing untold damage with his off-the-cuff remarks and style and worse is sowing confusion. Does he realise or even care that his words have been, are and will be misinterpreted and used to justify every error, abuse or heresy? I feel so disconcerted. The Pope seems to imply Catholic doctrine is unimportant really. Some of us try at great sacrifice to adhere to church teaching on issues such as those highlighted. Now we look rather silly. Perhaps I should give it all up. Maybe that's what this Pope wants. Is it wrong to want a Pontificate to end before it destroys ones faith?
I don't think James is alone, I have had similar emails from a few people who are disconcerted by the events in the Church over the last six months. It is not only those who have left the SSPX or thinking about it following the overtures made by Pope Benedict but former Anglicans too. I have had emails from people who are considering changing rites or even joining the Orthodox. But for the most part I get emails from people who are just confused about the direction the Church Francis is taking the Church in. I must be honest and admit I too have problems with him.
My advice, to myself, as much as everyone else is always, pray, remember Christ's promises to Peter, meditate on what the Church teaches about herself, be patient and wait on the Lord, the Master and Bridegroom of the Church who promises to be her us unto the end of time.
As I said in the post James commented on, many younger priest seem equally disconcerted, not on the point of leaving, just at sea. I think some of the statements from one or two of our bishops recently; the push by ACTA and Queering the Church have reflected the confusion Pope Francis has brought to many. Groups like ACTA who don't seem to have a particular agenda just a vague support for that illusive poltergeist, the Spirit of Vatican II, seem to be given strength by things the Pope has said and done. One suspects some bishops are saying things today they would have remained silent about under Benedict, Francis is being used to justify their own disorderly thinking.
The real fear that many have is that if the Church is 'lite' on doctrine and its prayerful expression in the Sacred Liturgy -lex credendi lex orandi- there is a serious danger in Catholicism fragmenting into, not so much a Communion but a loose federation of national Churches, each with their own liturgical styles but more worryingly with their own pick 'n' mix set of beliefs, with little to hold it together and ultimately become something like the Anglicans, with nothing but the label to hold it together. The truth is that this already exists in many dioceses, the orthodox and the extreme liberal are left to get along as best they can. Outsiders, even many of the faithful, like to see the Catholic Church as being monolithic but the truth is it is already deeply divided, the unity we presume is a long distant memory.
Benedict tried to restore that unity, on one level his resignation was an admission of his failure, Francis is trying another experiment based synodality and collegiality and rather than trying to gloss over the fragmentation, perhaps he is facing it head on. Benedict from the late 1950s onwards predicted a smaller more deeply committed Church, Francis seems to be wanting a larger or at least broader and therefore possibly, less committed Church, but one like Benedict which is seeking Christ.
Could it just be that Francis is being more realistic and more imaginative? Dr Adam DeVille argues as I would argue that the centralised bureaucracy of the late 19th and 20th century which supported a Ultramontane Papacy is an aberration. He quotes Francis:
We must walk together: the people, the bishops and the pope. Synodality should be lived at various levels. Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic. This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality. The joint effort of reflection, looking at how the church was governed in the early centuries, before the breakup between East and West, will bear fruit in due time…. We must continue on this path.Francis is realistic enough to recognise that there is actually a problem with unorthodoxy but though Rome can help, its function is not actually to act as policeman but to assist local bishops who should deal with it, he sees orthodoxy as being an issue of concern for local bishops, not something which they ignore:
It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally.The problem is useless bishops, as a wise Irish priest I know says, 'Ah, in my day they wouldn't have even been allowed to make their first Holy Communion let alone be made a bishop'. Are our bishops capable of working 'collegiately'? It presumes they share a common faith, and having a sense of the Church.
It is worth noting that again and again Francis criticises careerist bishops, bishops that seek promotion to better Sees, bishops that are airport bishops, bishops that fail to be true fathers to their priests, bishops who spend time out of their dioceses, bishops who don't smell of the sheep, bishops who aren't a sign of asceticism. The major task of Nuncios, for him, is to find good bishops.
He certainly has a different vision of the Church to Benedict but it isn't one in which all the poisons in the mud are left to hatch out.
After reading the interview I am much more impressed with Francis than before, it is easy to see him just as a chatterbox, a popularist, even as a rough gaucho, even at times a buffoon, but read this:
Among musicians I love Mozart, of course. The ‘Et incarnatus est’ from his Mass in C minor is matchless; it lifts you to God! I love Mozart performed by Clara Haskil. Mozart fulfills me. But I cannot think about his music; I have to listen to it. I like listening to Beethoven, but in a Promethean way, and the most Promethean interpreter for me is Furtwängler. And then Bach’s Passions. The piece by Bach that I love so much is the ‘Erbarme Dich,’ the tears of Peter in the ‘St. Matthew Passion.’ Sublime. Then, at a different level, not intimate in the same way, I love Wagner. I like to listen to him, but not all the time. The performance of Wagner’s ‘Ring’ by Furtwängler at La Scala in Milan in 1950 is for me the best. But also the ‘Parsifal’ by Knappertsbusch in 1962.Those aren't the words of a gaucho but of a deeply sensitive intelligent reflective thinking man who should not be underestimated.
My advice is always, pray, remember Christ's promises to Peter, meditate on what the Church teaches about herself, be patient and wait on the Lord, the Master and Bridegroom of the Church who promises to be her us unto the end of time, and pray for the Pope.