Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Francis and the curia: finding people he can work with

Pope Francis has his eye on the curia, his cabinet of appointees who advise him on church matters and presumably carry out his wishes — or maybe they do, and if they do not, have been known to face the consequences.

Fr. Hunwicke has examined and discussed the curia’s role down the centuries, noting various authority they have been said to have over the years. In this the third of his discussions, he points out some elements of the current situation.

Commentators have not been slow to remark that, to the outside observer, it looks as if the current pope is attempting to prevent or eliminate the existence of strong foci within the Curia. He seems to be incapable of working with any Head of Dicastery [department] who is not a yes-man. It is a sign, not of the Holy Father’s strength, but of his weakness, that he cannot collaborate with as gentle yet principled a man as Robert Sarah, without deeming it necessary to humiliate him before the world. And Sarah was one of his own appointments.

And he also appointed Raymond Burke to be Patron of the Order of Malta. But as soon as a problem arose in the Order, he humiliated and sidelined him. When you appoint people, you should either back them up when the going gets rough, or confess that you yourself erred in making the appointment.

[Another such,] Gerhard Mueller was inherited, not appointed, by Papa Bergoglio. But he confirmed him in office, and the position is a highly significant one. The current pope is neither learned nor intelligent. To run the CDF [Congregation for Defense of the Faith] he needed someone who was each of these things. Mueller was and is. First he humiliated him by sending Schoenborn to front the Amoris laetitia news conference; then by sacking three of his collaborators without even telling him; lastly, he has humiliated him yet again by dumping him with a minute’s notice and invoking a principle he had not mentioned either to Mueller or the World before: that Heads of Dicasteries will not be continued in post beyond their first quinquennium.

In other words, Francis has acted in high-handed, dictatorial manner with those who are presumably his trusted helpers.

Which makes a person wary about what’s to come as regards reorganization of this crucial element of papal government.

via Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment: The Curia Romana (3)

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Today’s Catholic liturgy “is sick,” says cardinal in charge

He is Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, appointed in 2014 by Pope Francis. His book is

From which I quote:

[C]elebrations [of the mass] become tiring because they unfold in noisy chattering. The liturgy is sick. The most striking symptom . . .  is perhaps the omnipresence of the microphone. It has become so indispensable that one wonders how priests were able to celebrate before it was invented. . . . I sometimes have the impression that celebrants fear the free, personal interior prayer of the faithful so much that they talk from one end of the ceremony to the other so as not to lose control of them.

They certainly are loathe to let the air go dead. It’s as if they were on radio, rather than TV, though for that matter, TV announcers do jabber away. But you don’t need the sound while watching he World Series in a bar.

Do not presume that the cardinal is breaking new ground for himself (or others, such as James Hitchcock in his Recovery of the Sacred). He has set liberal hearts pulsing with alarm in numerous public statements to this effect. But this new book of his has some choice descriptions, as in this about participating in the liturgy as urged by Vatican II:

Truly, it is about becoming participants in a sacred mystery that infinitely surpasses us: the mystery of the death of Jesus out of love for the Father and for us. Christians have the . . . obligation to be open to an act that is so mysterious that they will never be able to perform it by themselves: the sacrifice of Christ. In the thought of the [Vatican II] Council Fathers, the liturgy is a divine action, an actio Christi. In the presence of it, we are overcome with a silence of admiration and reverence. [Struck dumb, as it were.] The quality of our silence is the measure of the quality of our . . . participation. [Huge departure here from current practice]

All in all, in this passage as throughout the book, he strikes a spiritual note. He is, I have concluded, of the spiritual wing of the church, as opposed to the social action wing led by (whom else?) Pope Francis, with whom he is on a collision course, to judge by several well publicized incidents and several major controverted issues.

He quotes then-Cardinal Ratzinger in a 1985 book, “[Some have lost] sight of what is distinctive to the liturgy, which does not come from what we do but from the fact that something is taking place here that all of us together cannot ‘make’.”

Idea is, we go to church (mass) not to do something but to witness it. It’s a happening, and a quite mysterious one at that.

The late Robert McClory, in his Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church, and the Fight for Social Justicecites a St. Sabina parishioner on Chicago’s South Side who supported what its famous activist pastor, Fr. Michael Pfleger, does but stopped attending mass there, going to another parish. McClory couldn’t get much more out of the man, who apparently wanted something more rewarding in a personal-spiritual sense.

So I concluded, anyhow, having participated in one of Fr. Pfleger’s three-hour liturgies and found it fascinating but hardly something that would keep me going on an apostolic venture — or on the humdrum daily fulfilling of the duties of my state of life.

More later from the book on silence by the cardinal who speaks up when he thinks it’s important.

Bishops did not play ball, now it’s in Pope’s corner

No soap on communion for divorced, remarried. Ignored in final report, as reported by Francis X. Rocca in Wall Street Journal:.

“There’s no new recommendation” on access to the sacraments for divorced Catholics, said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington in an interview on Sunday. “It doesn’t change the law.”

Similarly, Pope F. can ignore their report. He (desperately?) wanted a change, was going for a “new consensus.” Instead, “has thrown open a deeply divisive debate on issues that were considered closed under St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.”

Divisions and tensions over the divorce issue, and all that implies about the church’s approach to sexual morality, have only been heightened by the process.

For liberals it’s a new day, long overdue. “But conservatives are energized, have coalesced around the issue and around vocal new leaders, notably African and Eastern European bishops, even as they remain shaken by the pope’s push for a reconsideration of the church’s approach to divorce and homosexuality.”

“Shockingly shaken,” says Robert Royal, president of the conservative Faith and Reason Institute in Washington.“There’s a lot of nervousness out there that this is a long game being played, and that now these issues are on the agenda of the Catholic Church.”

Both sides want the matter settled.

Conservatives want him to make a clear reaffirmation of traditional teaching. But raised expectations of liberals and the pope’s own preferences suggest the pontiff may opt for change.

He could leave it vague, “affirming the indissolubility of marriage, but urging priests to be merciful with people in difficult marital situations—tacitly allowing bishops to act on their own. Today, many priests knowingly give Communion to divorced, remarried Catholics” — as documented in my 1994 book Bending the Rules: What American Priests Tell American Catholics.

What now?

Liberals are likely to bide their time, staking their hopes on gradual replacement of the bishops, now overwhelmingly appointees of conservative Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Liberals also may wait for more changes to the College of Cardinals to increase the odds of continuity in Pope Francis’ successor.

They might not have to wait long.

Pope Francis has appointed about a quarter of current voting-age cardinals and is expected to appoint a new batch in February, possibly including Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, one of the more progressive members of the synod.

But you never know:

But even if Pope Francis, 78, reigns long enough to reshape church leadership, church politics are complex and unpredictable. For example, the current pontiff was elected in 2013 by a college of cardinals named entirely by John Paul and Benedict.

What was it Jesus said? The Spirit breathes where it wills? More precisely:

New American Standard Bible John 3.8:
“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Out of the apparently chaotic, something good?

Pope Francis addresses Synod of Bishops at conclusion — Vatican Radio

Some quotes:

. . . without falling into a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said. . . .

. . . seeing these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, carefully studying them and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand. . . .

. . . showing the vitality of the Catholic Church, which is not afraid to stir dulled consciences or to soil her hands with lively and frank discussions about the family. . . .

. . . the Gospel continues to be a vital source of eternal newness, against all those who would “indoctrinate” it in dead stones to be hurled at others. . . .

. . . laying bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families. . . .

. . . trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to . . . transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible. . . .

. . . different opinions which were freely expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways . . .

. . . what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion. Cultures are in fact quite diverse, and each general principle needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied. . . .

. . . inculturation as “the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity, and the taking root of Christianity in the various human cultures”. (3) Inculturation does not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and authenticity, since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and gradually transform the different cultures. (4) . . .

. . . without ever falling into the danger of relativism or of demonizing others, . . .

. . . the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae, laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy

. . . The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion . . .

. . . the word “family” has a new resonance, so much so that the word itself already evokes the richness of the family’s vocation and the significance of the labours of the Synod. . . .

Again, it’s all here, a provided by Vatican Radio.

Basketball coach with prostitution problem quotes Pope Francis

Quoting him to his purpose, of course, like the fellow in Shakespeare who quoted Scripture to his purpose?

Pitino, who met the pope last month on his trip to the United States, invoked Francis in his post. “The Pope on his recent visit was asked many controversial questions,” Pitino noted. “He would often answer, ‘We will let God judge.’ There can be no better advice regardless of what religion you are than his words. Let’s not try to justify, but let the Lord judge!!”

The devilish follow-up by the writer:

Nobody asked the pope whether he provided prostitutes to high school students. But journalists question whether Pitino knew of or endorsed such a scheme to entice recruits.

Oh, and that Shakespeare fellow quoting Scripture? Why, the devil, of course.

The pope’s a player, with a lot to lose

Francis doesn’t see himself that way. He’s more Ben Carson than Donald Trump. But he’s in it deeply.

Pope Francis is becoming an aggressive public player in secular politics, from the environment to economic policy. That carries risks, not for Francis alone, but for the papacy and the institution the pope leads.

Big problem there. He’s betting the farm, which isn’t his to bet.

The day before Pope Francis met with Mr. Obama, one of the president’s aides, Ben Rhodes, said: “How can we make use of the enormous platform that the pope’s visit provides to lift up the work we’re doing and demonstrate how it’s consistent with the direction that’s coming from the pope?” At the White House, Pope Francis praised Mr. Obama’s climate-change initiatives, and the president thanked the pope for supporting his policies on that and his opening to Cuba.

Brothers in Christ? Not quite, but consider this:

It is not possible to do this [exchange encomiums with
one of the big guys] and be “above” politics. Everyone in politics is one of the boys, including the pope.+

And your people have to be dragged along with you:

In Cuba, when the pope’s spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, was asked if Pope Francis knew that 50 dissidents had been arrested, he said: “I don’t have any information about this.” Embarrassing bunk is standard for the Josh Earnests of the world. It should not become so for the pope’s spokesman.

With unforeseen consequences galore:

On one hand, Francis is amenable to being photographed smiling and squeezing hands with Fidel Castro, a decades-long oppressor of his nation’s Catholics. But then the Vatican objects that the pope might be photographed with a famous pro-abortion nun invited by the White House. Barack Obama plays hardball. His Justice Department had already sued the anti-abortion Little Sisters of the Poor.

Whom he unexpectedly visited, true, in a distinctly muted show of support in their battle with one of his new best friends. He has his priorities:

In the past two years, the plight of Christians in the Middle East has gone from persecution to slaughter. Decades of Vatican diplomacy there for the world’s most at-risk Christians has produced very little. Soon there may be nothing left to protect. On Friday, the pope reportedly will address the U.N. about climate change. A jeremiad against Christian extermination would be welcome this week, too.

His new friends use him.

What many of his new political friends mainly seek is to have the pope “moralize” their politics. Francis’ spiritual message could not be more secondary. They won’t be with him in Philadelphia. How allowing the papacy’s core moral authority to be politicized is in the interests of the Catholic Church as an institution is difficult to see.

Very difficult.

Later:

Maybe the Little Sisters visit means more than a nod in the right direction.

“What a huge boon to Catholic educators who yearn for relief from the Obama administration’s HHS mandate and protection of their First Amendment rights. This brings attention to the case that represents not only the Little Sisters but so many of us whose rights are denied,” said [Patrick] Reilly [president of the Obama-fighting Cardinal Newman Society].
Than again, probably not. Can we imagine Obama feeling pressured (or much less, inspired) by the Pope, him of the photo-op potential?

We have here a case of understanding what Pope Francis says better than he does

The author is a British academic with a keen interest in economic inequality:

Martin O’Neill is a senior lecturer in politics at the University of York and a co-editor of “Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond” (paperback edition, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014). He is currently a research fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, working on a project about the significance of inequality.

He sees Francis embracing not only “radical green” but hard-left economic solutions:

Pope Francis’ new encyclical [Laudato Si,
June 18] is making headlines mainly because of the tough line it takes on climate change, and its message to Catholics and others that they must embrace radical green solutions to society’s problems.

But the Pope’s ecological message is only part of his radical political agenda. Just as significant as his environmental message is a parallel progressive economic agenda that fundamentally rejects deregulated free-market capitalism.

The Pope has a bracing message for Christians and other “people of good will”: that the time has come to move beyond right-wing economics, and to embrace a different kind of economic system.

The papal explainers who play Francis’s radicalism down in favor of his mainly giving spiritual more or less generic advice should tell this fellow how wrong he is.

On the other hand, there’s this other annoying aspect: where is this deregulated capitalism Francis and this radical professor are talking about? Not in this country, where regulations are a constant bone of contention.

Pope Francis said WHAT about St. Francis? Referencing whom?

I think this from # 66 of Laudato si says a lot about Pope Francis:

Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence.[40]

In some way, eh? State of original innocence? That would be before Adam and Eve got the heave-ho from paradise.

Adam, Eve expelled

Heave-ho

So maybe, in some way, the pope’s patron was cured of original sin, placing him second only to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was conceived without it! Why haven’t we heard about this before Laudato si?

Because we have not been reading our St. Bonaventure, who floats this arresting speculation in The Major Legend of Saint Francis, VIII, 1, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, New York-London-Manila, 2000, 586 — which I know from reading Laudato si footnote 40 (of Francis’s 172).

The next sentence says more:

This is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.

Pope Francis is on firm, well-traveled ground here, except that what it’s a far cry from is the state of innocence granted to St. Francis because of his universal reconciliation with every creature, which we know because the early Franciscan Bonaventure mentioned it in his Life of the saint..

So Pope Francis bolsters his argument for saving the earth with a throwaway line from a 13th-century philosopher-theologian writing a book about the revered founder of his own religious order.

One foot in the 21st century as a prophet against man-made global warming, the other in the 13th as off-the-wall homilist. That’s our pope, too easily impressed.

Our modern Pope is stuck in ancient ways

Footnoted references in Pope Francis’s Laudato si range from Francis of Assisi’s Early Documents to Basil the Great — 172 in all, just two of them not a church source, one of these a noted 20th-century philosopher, the other a Muslim spiritual writer.

He offers no reference to any scientific authority or commentator, nothing but airy meditation material, bad poetry aimed primarily at the feelings, one a priori argument after another.

It’s a model of church talk, apodictic as can be. Why is he so apodictic? And formal? And so dependent on authority rather than argument made by his sources?

He concedes nothing. Nowhere is there a “coal does a lot of good, heating homes of many poor people, but . . . ” for instance. Nope, it’s “you have to shut up and listen,” it’s your holy father talking.

From the mountain top, or on one of the seven hills of his see city, he speaks. We are down below, being told what to do. He’s supreme, we are devotees.

But he’s actually from Argentina, and seems to think he knows how to help poor people because there are so many of them in his country. That’s no recommendation, for my Peter’s pence.

Maybe he should consider a country where there are not so many poor people, the United States, for instance, where tho on the rise it’s where every poor person in the world would give his eye teeth to live and where Mexican and other people are dying to get in.

Why not look to the one country where everyone wants to live and see how things are done there, one of the world’s most free-market capitalist countries?

Instead, he rails against free markets and pulls an Obama, making nice with dictators and other autocrats, he himself effectively dictating, under cover of biblical-style prophecy, how we should to run our countries and our lives. A little second-guessing of yourself, Holiness, a little humility!

From the land of Francis, a cautionary tale

From the land down under, directly down under (or just over) the equator, that is, as described by Samuel Gregg, of the Acton Institute, in Stream magazine, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina: Pope Francis and Economic Populism”:

The attitude of Latin American populist leaders to one institution they haven’t been able to dominate — the Catholic Church — varies. On the one hand, they’re regularly at odds with many Catholic bishops. In January 2015, a pastoral letter issued by Venezuela’s Catholic bishops courageously described their government’s policies as “totalitarian and centralist.” The regime, the bishops added, seeks control “over all aspects of the lives of the citizens and public and private institutions. It also threatens freedom and the rights of persons and associations and has led to oppression and ruin in every country where it has been tried.”

Doughty bishops.

The government’s reaction to this critique was the usual demagoguery. Nonetheless the same populist leaders regularly invoke Christian symbols to legitimize their ideologies. Bolivian President Evo Morales’ presentation of what’s now called “the communist crucifix” to Pope Francis is one such example. Whatever the motives of the deceased priest who designed the cross, the fact that the hammer-and-sickle symbolizes philosophical materialism, police-states, and the mass imprisonment, torture and murder of millions of people counts for nothing in the rather provincial world of Latin American leftist-populism.

Is our Pope equally doughty?

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