Monday, March 18, 2013

The Old Order Passes: A New Sheriff in Town

Monsignor Marini--Pope Francis
doesn't want to be his dress-up doll
The neo-traditionalists are in an increasing panic over the new pope’s abandoning the retro-ceremonial of Pope Benedict.  According to some sources there was quite a kerfuffle in the room of tears over the papal habit with Pope Benedict finally telling Monsignor Marini, the papal dress-up mago, “Those vestments, Monsignor: wear them yourself; the carnival is over.”  Surprisingly sharp retort from this normally humble man but it is clear that there is a new sheriff in town.  And it seems that Francis’ more simple style is certainly winning the approval of the average Catholic-in-the-pews.  But all this fuss and bother about mozettas and the pope’s old black shoes and even insisting on a temporary altar being set up facing the gathered Cardinals for Mass in the Sistine is only matters of style; substance will be far more interesting.  I think the tempest in the room of tears is only a beginning of far more serious issues for the neo-trads.     
One of the misconceptions about Pope Francis is his relationship to Liberation Theology.  Conservatives were relieve to hear that the new pope was opposed to Liberation Theology but now that they have had a chance to do some research about his years as the Jesuit Provincial and then as a bishop in Argentina they are  having second thoughts.  Part of the problem is Americans not understanding precisely what Liberation Theology is, or at least what the version of it rejected by Pope John Paul II (and Cardinal Brogoglio) is. 
The Church’s difficulty with Liberation Theology is its ties to Marxist ideology.  Some Liberation Theologians advocated a Marxist approach saying that the possession of wealth by a minority is unjustified when others are in lack of basic necessities for life and that consequently the poor have a right to take from the rich what they, the poor, need for their survival.  (Or actually, what it usually meant is that the government has the right on behalf of the poor to forcibly take from the rich to provide for the poor such as is done in Marxist revolutions.)    
Americans do not understand the fine (and sometimes not so fine) differences between Socialism, Communism, and Marxism.  While Marxism or Marxist-Lenism are forms of Communism and Communism is a form of Socialism, the terms are not mutually interchangeable.  While a Marxist is a Socialist, not all Socialists are Communists, much less Marxists.  Many of our European allies have or have had at various times Socialist Governments and yet were politically opposed to the Soviet style socialism of the old Eastern Bloc.
Many of Archbishop Brogoglio’s ideas sound socialistic to American ears.  He does—or at least did when Archbishop of Buenos Aires—advocate for the redistribution of wealth.  So for that matter did Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  They did not advocate the Marxist system of seizing private property and communalizing it.  Pope John Paul’s theory of Solidarity sounds very Socialist to many Americans because it does not see private property as an absolute right but rather as a privilege that also carries responsibility.  Pope Francis will undoubtedly build his social theories on the foundations laid by his papal predecessors but one can expect that the edifice of a more just distribution of the world’s wealth will rise by an appreciable amount during his pontificate.  This will not make the defenders of Tradition and Property happy but most of them have been out of step with papal teaching for some time now and just not known it, or at least admitted it.  
I have long thought that we will be facing the possibility of schism within the Church.  At the end of the reign of Paul VI and even into the reign of John Paul II  I thought a schism would come from the right.  I think the Lefebvrirsts and other integrist groups that refused to accept Vatican II were the nucleus of a schism.   With John Paul throwing a bone to the neo-trads with Quattuor adhinc annos and Ecclesia Dei followed up by Benedict’s overriding the authority of the local bishop to regulate the pastoral care of the faithful entrusted to him with Summorum Pontificum, I thought that it was now the left that would feel pushed out of the Church.  The recent policies of certain figures within the Roman Curia towards the American nuns, the new translation of the Roman Missal, the appointment of several American bishops who combined arrogance and pomp with an élan worthy of Louis XIV, and what is perceived by some as a gutting of the Second Vatican Council made me fear this even more.  Well, the scales swung fast and swift this week with the left crowing and the right-wing once again starting to gather with pitchforks and torches.  So who knows?  Historians note, however, that at the end of the day, however, when the dust settles, it always is the Bishop and Church of Rome that are left in the center of the picture.           

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