Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our Pope Sets Things off

It seems as though the Holy Father is saying controversial things more quickly than I can respond to them. Let me dive in, since the second interview has now come out and people are asking me about it. So, the first interview, we'll call the "Jesuit interview," because it was given for the various Jesuit publications, which can be read here; the second the "Scalfari," since it was given to the Italian paper's editor, which can be read here.

On some points they are redundant, which makes sense, since it is the same person referring to himself in each interview. In general, I liked the Jesuit one better because it dove more fully into the spirituality of the Jesuits, which intrigues me greatly. The Scalfari is interesting because this is the pope 'engaging others,' with an attempt at a real dialogue, not monologue, as one would expect. I find no parallel for this anywhere.

In some ways the Scalfari is more shocking, and shocking is not bad. Once again, if you cannot be shocked by the Gospel, then your conscience is in trouble. Who of us cannot stand to be more generous, more loving, more thoughtful, more open to the Spirit; who of us, less self-righteous, less set in our ways? Is it of the Gospel, though, the teachings here of the Holy Father? Another way of phrasing this, which many have, is, is he undermining the faith of the Church, vis., homosexuality, marriage, the exclusive saving role of Christ, the importance of the abortion issue, etc.? I cannot find any place where he does this. Just because his expressions are not safe, does not mean anything. When he says, for instance, in the Scalfari, that

"Agape, the love of each one of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes.""

He is of course, absolutely correct (although not using agape in its technically specific sense - agape is the love that is specific to God). The thing is, when we say that love is all that matters, there are many ways to take this, but simply because there are false senses of this does not mean that the pope is endorsing one of them. Some people say love only matter and mean by it that the sacraments and the Church do not matter, that religion does not. That is not something we can pin on the pope.

In general, the pope speaks in a manner that would have really appealed to me as a teenager, not yet come to the Faith. I think many of you could say the same. The fact is, I am not - and many of the pope's 'critics' are not - teenagers not yet come to the Faith, or struggling to find the Faith. But millions out there are in that position, and have a right to the pope's message as much as I do - actually more.

I don't have much more to say about all of this than I have. I can't get too excited about the concerns of the hyper-orthodox who would have a pope as a heretic.

I am edified by the heavy accent he has placed, particularly in the Jesuit article, on spirituality, discernment, etc.

in the Jesuit article he said,

Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought you would do later. And that is what has happened to me in recent months. Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor.
What might seem tacky to one, might be profoundly moving to another.

I am doing a lot of discerning now, and I know that this is how God wants me - always asking Him, what now, Lord? So it is heartening to see the pope lives in this way too.

the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. 

I think we have all said this at one time or another. It is much more disarming, though, when someone else says it. 

Readers of thetheologyofdad know that I have occasionally railed against clericalism. I permit myself to do it because I know that I love the priesthood and the Church. But I don't like when others do it because I don't really know how deep there animus runs. I know how deep mine runs, and it is not so deep that I cease to love priests and the Church; I rail against it because I love the priesthood. That is not so with many others who decry it, and so it makes me uncomfortable.

My question to those who worry about what the pope says is this, if you met a man and tried to talk to him, how long would you go on until you realized he didn't understand English? When I lived with Fr. Martin Currie (now Archbishop), one night I answered the door, to find there a man who didn't understand a word I said to him. English didn't work, so I tried French. That having failed, it is humorous to admit I next tried Latin (hoping it was close enough to Spanish or another Romance language). The point is, popes and bishops have been stating the party line according to the fixed forms for centuries, and not everyone has heard us. So, why not try something else? Pope Francis is trying something else. I didn't give up English once and for all when I switched to speak to this man in French. Should I have stayed with the English, and simply yelled it louder and louder, hoping then that he'd suddenly understand me?


  1. The thought of you trying to converse in Latin had made my day! Great post. What about the youth unemployment and lonely seniors remark?

  2. What, as a fellow Dal graduate I'm sure you do it all the time too.

    Yeah, that was a strange remark, but, again, meeting people on their level and all that. I think the context must have made that remark make sense, like, we can all agree that these two things are huge problems today, or in my pastoral experience, the two biggest problems in society are... something like that.