Friday, September 20, 2013

Shrewd Pope Shatters Stereotypes

Great and far reaching in its implications interview with Francis 1 here. [Added: for a 'quick take' go to these 12 points here].

Many money quotes.

Here are just two:

"“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. 

The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”"


"Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. 

We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. 

The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow."

This is a remarkable Pope ... but is he trying to have his doctrinal cake and with pastoral icing and eat it too?

I am in meetings today until late tonight and may not be able to post comments till then.

Saturday morning addition. I like this statement about the church ... "not a small chapel" :)

"This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity."

In Andrew Brown's take on the interview, Francis 1 (or should that be, looking at the alternative on the "1" key, Francis !) has demolished modern Catholic conservatism in a single interview. Brown points us to consider that in the space of a few months he has walked back Benedict 16's view that civilization peaked about seven hundred years ago and asserted the importance of engaging with the present by thinking about the future rather than with restorationist nostalgia.

I am not convinced that we are not a civilization embracing a culture of death (pace B16) but I concur with Brown/Francis 1 that the future of Christianity does not lie in reconstituting the past glories of the church.

POSTSCRIPT: for those who see in Francis a kind of 21st century liberal Anglican, think again!


Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, it would seem that this new Pope, who took the name of one of God's Little Poor Ones, is going to stir the Roman Catholic Church from top to bottom - in his uniquely revolutionary understanding of the mission of the R.C. Church.

His admission that the R.C. Church spends too much time and effort in making dogmatic statements (that might later have to be rescinded?), rather than exercising its mandatory task of pastoral care of all God's people - irrespective of their situation in life - seems to be producing both astonishment (from the Vatican) and cautious approval both in the Church and in the world outside of the Church.

Pastoral care seems, since the first inspiration of Pope John XXIII and his initiation of the Second Vatican Council, to have been relegated to second place - behind the need to shore up the dogmatic basis of established R.C. theology on issues, for instance, such as gender and sexuality.

These, the Pope admits, should not be the total focus of attention - when more important human issues, like Poverty and Injustice, are left to languish in the slip-stream.

No doubt there will be a fluttering in the dove-cotes of the Vatican Curia. But then, Francis The First is Pontifex Maximus, given singular dogmatic infalliblity by the Church of Rome itself. Could it be that this Pope could render the 'infallibility' clause no longer viable? We will have to wait and see.

However, it would be a pity if the reforming zeal of the Roman Pontiff - in the person of Francis I - were to be rebuffed by the Curia, before its thrust was to be put into effect.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks to your link, Peter, with Andrew Brow's excellent article. I was struck by the audacious heading:


In the most sensational interview, the pope has attempted to change the whole direction of modern Catholicism

• Kate Childs Graham: Music to my progressive Catholic ears"

This really seems to be the advent of a radically new era for the Roman Catholic Church - which must have its effect on other Churches.
Deo gratias!

Peter Carrell said...

Except, Ron, it may have a different kind of effect on Eastern Orthodox churches. I can imagine their patriarchs saying to themselves, "I always thought Rome would go with rather than against Western progressiveness. Now that I have been proven right, I must double-check that the rot does not seep eastwards!"

(To assuage any concerns you have: I am excited by and eager to hear more about the Pope's progressive theology. He may just find a way to help conservative theology combine radical pastoral practice.)

Anonymous said...

Before Anglicans start getting too excited about signs of papal progressiveness - for Queen Elizabeth I's excommunication to be rescinded and Apostolicae Curae to be revoked - we need to realise that Pope Francis is being particularly candid in the recent interview - Jesuit pope to Jesuit journo. It is highly significant that the next day, Pope Francis clearly articulates the ancient Christian teaching against abortion (see the Didache).

And Ron, you wrote:

"the R.C. Church spends too much time and effort in making dogmatic statements (that might later have to be rescinded?), rather than exercising its mandatory task of pastoral care of all God's people..."

I think the local overworked Catholic parish priest - celebrating three Masses in three different parishes on Sunday spends more time in active pastoral care 24/7 than many other clergy and in my experience tends to be less dogmatic than many other dogmatic Christians of varying ilks.

Pope Francis is as orthodox as his predecessor and the only change in papal style stems from his South American charm and his gregarious disposition.

The essence of the article is that the Christian life is a personal encounter with the living Christ and from that personal, ecclesial and sacramental encounter our response flows and that this response (as the NT affirms) has ethical dimensions. We can't expect new creation living before a person has put on Christ.

And BTW: until another pope takes on the name Francis, Pope Francis remains Pope Francis (not Pope Francis I).


Father Ron Smith said...

" We can't expect new creation living before a person has put on Christ.

- Stephen -

Greetings, Stephen!

Much of what you say I am in total agreement with. The Sunday pre-occupation of the R.C. clergy is something I had to contend with in my own Anglican parish of Hibiscus Coast, Auckland, N.Z. There were four churches in the parish and not always the clerical help one might desire. My additional joy was the Daily Mass, wherein to meet the Christ on whose behalf I was called to minister! One has to be truly 'en Christo' if one wishes to preach Christ!

However, I really do believe that this Pope Francis (who is, after all, the first Pope of that name) is preparing the Roman Church for a new spring-time - not unlike that of the Taize Community that Pope John XXIII spoke of in his day!

I believe Pope Francis is re-calling his flock to a more personal encounter with Jesus in their daily lives - free from the burdens of dogmatism that have been placed upon them by the ecclesial authorities.

I shall pray for Papas Francesco at my (Anglican) Mass this morning - that his devotion to Christ may spread throughout the Church, bringing true Reformanda.

Pax Vobiscum.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Stephen. There is nothing even vaguely new in what the Pope has said. The secular media (who lack knowledge and context) hang off his every word looking for a sign. The only sign they will find is the gospel, which has not changed and which the media do not want to hear. I agree with your sentiment about doctrinal cake, but take the view that the Pope is entitled to quote the Catechism and simultaneously engage with sinners where they are. That is, after all, what Jesus did.


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for recent comments here making appropriate 'braking' noises re this 'breaking' news.

Nevertheless the 'tone' here of the comments by Pope Francis is, I suggest, new in our day. What it portends is yet to be experienced. It could make no difference; but it could lead to some specific differences in the future: communion for the remarried? acceptance of gay oriented men for training to the priesthood? women involved in the hierarchy of decision-making?

Anonymous said...

A significant thing surely is the group of Cardinals from each continent to advise esp re reform of the Curia. This Jesuit model of governance does suggest a measure of de-centralization is on its way...and that could open up a number of matters when decisions are taken "lower down".Also something has to be done about the shortage of priests which is noticable here in England and chronic in places like France ( you rarely get a priest taking a funeral there...)Teams of laity running parishes will promote significant questioning of the status quo in some areas of catholic life and practice lay french penfriend who takes a lot of funerals and is much involved in his local parish with its Equipe Notre Dame group of laity and in country parishes where ADAP ( communion with the reserved sacrament totally lay led) is well entrenched...
Perry ( Canterbury)

Anonymous said...

Peter, I accept that there is a time-honoured curial tradition which says "You heard the Pope said that? You ignoramus, any Catholic would know he really said this". Nevertheless,the Jesuit interview (not teaching in terms of the Church's magisterium)hardly needs further explanation. Within 24 hours the Pope said that every aborted child has the face of the Lord. The Pope, in the Jesuit interview, is concerned that some Catholics champion one issue. It is not possible to preach the gospel in that way. On a broader note, the Ecumenical Patriarch has recently said that the Orthodox will not accept gay marriage. Since the Orthodox are a Church, whose sacraments and apostolic succession we actually recognise as valid, I pick that someome in the Vatican will take some notice in any case.


Kurt said...

I’m willing to give Francis the benefit of the doubt. After all his term is only beginning. My parish priest, who was raised RC but left in disgust many years ago, has said that he thinks that the Roman hierarchy will be sorry they elected a Jesuit pope. He, too, thinks this is only the beginning of what Francis can accomplish if he wants to.

As far as the Eastern churches go, Peter, I have it on good authority from an old friend who knows “important folks” at the Orthodox seminary north of here that there are plenty of Easterners who would like more liberal change in their communions, too. At least those Easterners in the Western countries. Don’t count the Eastern churches out yet!

Everyone Down Under enjoy what I hope for you will be a wonderful summer!

Kurt Hill
Watching the leaves just begin to change color
In Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Kurt, for your typical encouragement in what you discern as an openness on the part of Pope Francis and local members of the Orthodox Faith to the real needs of the world of today.

Just because there is a history of dogmatism in both Constantinople and Rome, on issues touching the human condition, this does not necessarily mean that there cannot be a new movement towards a more liberal theology and praxis on such matters in the future.

At least, Pope Francis is recalling the Church to its first propagation of the 'Good News' of the Gospel - meant for all people, not just the spiritual elite.

H.H. is also signalling his intention to get the Church back to the reforms of Vatican II - which have largely been lost through the dogmatic influence of the last two Popes. JesuiticaL casuistry can also work for, rather than against, the propagation of the Gospel.

It may be that the war-cry 'Semper Reformanda' may have more relevance today than ever in the past. After all, the Holy Spirit is not asleep!

Anonymous said...

Liberals are always looking for liberalism to break out somewhere, but there is no evidence of that from this Pope or the Eastern Orthodox churches. Most Orthodox people live in Eastern Europe, not close to New York. The opinion of the Orthodox in their homelands is for more instructive than those Kurt is in contact with.

The Roman church does need reform, but not Liberalism. Liberalism is a dead end that guts God's revelation of it's content and empties churches and whole denominations of parishioners. Gamiliel's test has surely, after a hundred years, been well and truly tested, and Liberalism has not passed.