Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lead By Example

Francis is really shaking up the conservative wing of the Church because he has a very different understanding of the role of the Church in society.  Don’t misunderstand me.  Pope Francis is no liberal.  He shows no sign of compromise on key Catholic doctrines, whether in dogmatic or moral theology.  But his ecclesiology is fascinating.  Unlike his immediate predecessors who ultimately saw the role of the Church as Teacher of Truth to a world that is in darkness, Francis sees the role of the Church to accompany people in their search for faith.  He is far more dialogical in his style than was Pope Benedict or even Pope John Paul II.  This is maddening for those who want an Ecclesia docens (a teaching Church).  Francis’ reaching out to non-believers for honest and sincere dialogue would have been unthinkable even a year ago.  His remarks about sacraments and the remarried divorced, about gays, about those estranged from the Church and about so many other issues are remarkable not for any change of doctrine but for their open and honest appreciation of the complexity of the issues at hand.  I think this papacy signifies a shift from the Church of Power to the Church of Service that Cardinal Dulles mentioned for the third millennium in his book on the Catholicity of the Church.  And it certainly is making its point.  Francis has won an audience that Pope Benedict was never able to reach.  The crowds in St Peter’s square both for the Sunday Benediction and for the Wednesday audience are at all time highs.  Priests report more people starting to come back to Mass.  Non-Catholic religious leaders are reporting a thaw in relationships with Catholics which had stiffened in the last decade or so.  He is a somewhat homely little man, but there is no doubt that Francis, like his namesake saint, is a man who can draw people to Christ.  You don’t need to change the substance of the faith; you only need to offer it humbly rather than create the pretense you have Truth which is accessible to none outside your circle of the self-proclaimed elect. 

No comments:

Post a Comment