Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Old Order Passes: Francis I continued

Cardinal Brogoglio in prayer with a
Jewish community in Buenos Aires
At dinner this evening a friend of mine, an Augustinian friar, confessed that when he heard Pope Francis tell us why he chose the name, that he, the normally machismo-driven Augustinian, was in tears hearing Pope Francis say that after his election Cardinal Hummes’ words i poveri, i poveri, ricorda i poveri (the poor, the poor, remember the poor) kept echoing in his thoughts motivating him to take the never-before-used papal name of Francis.  The new Pope went on to say that he wants to see a “poor Church for the poor.”  This is a tall order and its implications can be drastic.  It must be remembered that Jorge  Brogoglio not only is a Jesuit with strong ties to his order—an order known for its social programmes—but that he was appointed provincial (or regional superior) of the Jesuits in Argentina by Father Pedro Arrupe, the General Superior of the Order who so radically changed the course of direction for the Society of Jesus in the Vatican II years.  Unlike some orders, the Jesuits do not elect their provincial superiors—they are appointed by the General Superior in Rome.  Conservatives attribute the radicalism of the Society to Arrupe’s tenure because of his determination to put the resources of the Society at the service of the poor. Will Pope Francis put the resources of the Church at the service of the poor—only time will tell. 
So far the new Pope has captured the imagination not only of the world’s Catholics but of large numbers of the worlds’ peoples.  The Dalai Lama congratulated him on his election and commended the Pope for choosing the name Francis.  The symbolism of this name is not being lost. 
Conservatives, or at least the more rabid among them, on the other hand, are in a panic over the vision being set by the new papacy.  There are all sorts of reservations being expressed about the new pope and his vision for the Church.  Perhaps it is Marielena Montesino de Stuart, a conservative Catholic columnist who writes for the blog Renew America who best demonstrates the panic.  Here is a link to her posting.

Ms. Montesino de Stuart’s complaints can be summed up in the list of arguments traditionally used by the integrists to denounce the Second Vatican Council.  She deplores Pope Francis’ history of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, his favoring liturgical development rather than returning to the pre-conciliar rites, and particularly his involvement in social justice.  She accuses him of being unnecessarily crude in his language, weak on condemning same-sex marriage, and not committed to the protection of life for the unborn. She thinks he is a phony and his simplicity of life is an Public Relations act.  Her blog links to a video showing a very vibrant Mass for the Argentine youth presided over by the then Cardinal Brogoglio and she is horrified how such liturgies corrupt the faith of the young. 
What is it that Ms. Montesino de Stuart and others on her bandwagon really upset about? 
Cardinal Avery Dulles, another Jesuit, wrote that the first thousand years of the Church, the papacy stood for witness; the second thousand, power; the third thousand will be service.  In other words we are just at the point where the fundamental ground on which we stand as a Church is shifting from power to service.  The Church’s tectonic plates have slowly been shifting since the collapse of the ancien regime and beginning with such figures as John Henry Newman and Leo XIII the Church has begun to adjust itself to a new model.  It has been a long and slow shift but it began to pick up some speed of sliding into the third millennium with the Second Vatican Council, the reforms of Paul VI, and the social encyclicals of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II.  Nevertheless, like in typical earthquakes, the ground slides both forward and backward.  There was some backsliding during the last two papacies giving hope to the triumphalist party (represented in the American Church by such figures as Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Law, Archbishop Cordileone, Bishop Olmstead, Bishop Dewane, Bishop Slattery et al) that the scales were tipping back in favor of the power model.  The election and style of the new pope marks a significant—very significant—shift now towards the service model.  We will see if Pope Francis lives up to his past and to the expectations it has created (he won’t be taking the 287 over to St Mary Major’s even if he wants to) but it is frightening,  nonetheless, to those who want to restore the magnificence of previous eras.   Nothing, however, will give more credibility to the Church than a pope for the poor except, perhaps, that his example be embraced by the clergy beneath him and the people they serve.  So Ms Montesino de Stuart, we expect you and others who miss the world of monarchy and privilege to keep up your whining while the rest of us get on with a revived enthusiasm for the Gospel.   


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