Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Francis and Evangelical Catholicism

Now that the conclave is over the Cardinals have had a few days to have dinner with friends in various Roman ristorante e trattorie.  Some of them should drink a little less and speak a little more softly, especially one or two who are appalled at the new pope’s “lack of style” i.e. his aversion to the trappings of pomp preferred by his predecessor and his predecessor’s dresser, Monsignor Marini.  Disdainful remarks about the Pope are the privilege of us rank and file Catholics—who, for some years now, have been making them about Benedict’s sartorial silliness—not of the men who elected him.  But what will happen to the yards of watered silk and piles of miniver in the backrooms of Gamarelli’s (or, as it is known to the pundits Glamorelli’s), the tailor extraordinaire to those who favor the extraordinary rites?    Poor Cardinal Burke—will he ever have the confidence to wear his galero in public again?  Will his train-bearer be out of employment?  Or will he soldier on in his sixteenth-century fantasy while the rest of us confront with the hope of the Gospel the realities of a world torn by famine, disease and war? As a historian I have nothing but respect for the glorious past of the Church but the glories of its future lie not in brocades and polyphony but in a radical fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I think this is the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church today—an Evangelical Catholicism that draws its strength not from ritual and doctrine—though ritual and doctrine have their place—but from the Power of the Gospel Christ left to his Church to preach.  We Catholics make much fuss about the “apostolic succession” but what value has the “succession” if the Church has not preserved the mission of proclaiming Good News (Evangelion, the Gospel) to the Poor, the mission entrusted to the Church by Christ.  Christ will not recognize his Church by medieval ceremony or Renaissance costumes but by a continuity of the work which he began and entrusted to us at Pentecost.  You Go, Francis.  We are back on track. 

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