Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why Are They Afraid of Pope Francis? 5

Cardinal McCarrick preaching at Georgetown's
Dahlgren Chapel, known for its popular student 
Pope Francis’ being a religious brings a new understanding to the Vatican bureaucracy that challenges the monolithic face of Catholicism that so many want to present to the world and which so many want to use to enforce greater discipline and conformity within the Church.  The history of religious life is an alternative view to the history to the Institutional Church.  Over the course of centuries the religious orders were gradually given an exemption from the authority of the bishops and placed directly under the Holy See which gave them considerable latitude to develop alternative structures and to expand into creative ministries.  In addition, many of the Orders developed their own distinct liturgical rites that differed greatly from the Roman Rite—giving the Church the Carthusian Rite, the Dominican Rite, the Carmelite Rite and several other unique usages.  While most of these Rites were given up in favor of the Roman Rite at the time of the Second Vatican Council, there are still distinct features in the liturgies of many religious Orders.  They have their own calendar of feasts and celebrations; they have their own missals with unique prayers, hymns, and prefaces not found in the Roman Rite, and they have retained certain customs that differ from the Roman Rite such as particular liturgical colors, the physical arrangement of the church, specified processions, unique iconography and other variations.   
The Jesuits have always followed the Roman Rite with their own proper feasts and, by and large (with notable exceptions such as Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown) are not known for liturgy.  While the Jesuits aren’t normally liturgical fuss-budgets they are not known, and throughout their history generally have not been known, to “color inside the lines” not only in matters liturgical but far beyond the liturgy such as education, their approach to missions, and inter-religious dialogues.   Nor do they expect others to walk the straight and narrow path of a strict-constructionist approach to canon law.  Thus when Pope Francis, shortly after his election, met with the Conference of Religious from Latin America (CLARR), he told them

You will make mistakes, you will make a blunder [meter la pata], this will pass! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing... But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward... Open the doors, do something there where life calls for it. I would rather have a Church that makes mistakes for doing something than one that gets sick for being closed up...

"Explain what you have to explain but move forward…."  Pope Francis made it clear that the Religious are not to live in fear of Roman authority nor are the prelates of the Curia to deter the mission of religious communities.  This was a strong signal to the North American Women Religious of the LCWR that they were not to be discouraged—or deterred—by the grief they were receiving from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  In other words, the renewal programs set out by the various congregations of Women Religious are to continue.  Yes, there may have to be some explanation of what they are about but they are still to go forward.
This independence makes many who want a rigid uniformity in the Church very nervous. The Pope doesn’t see the need for a rigid top-down control.  Unity in essentials—absolutely.  Communion and communications—yes, certainly.  But the days of a few men in their sixties who prefer red robes and buckled shoes to living in the modern world are not being given the authority to make decisions for adult women in North America.  Those who want to use Vatican authority as a bat to hit over the head the local Sisters who prefer to dress and live like human persons rather than museum pieces in a living tableau, have been deprived of their assault arsenal and that doesn’t make them happy.
Similarly, the Pope’s simpler and less rubrical style of liturgical celebration, characteristic of his Jesuit background, has made many of the younger clergy aware that the peignoir-surplices and sandwich-board chasubles are no longer the done-thing.  More important, it has given many priests the freedom to return to a more relaxed—and genuinely prayerful—celebration of the Liturgy and I for one appreciate this.  I was getting tired of seeing the local clergy attempt their peculiar imitations of pontifical masses.  I don’t want to be distracted from Word and Sacrament by fussiness and pomp when I go to Church.  The language of the revised Roman Missal is bad enough, we don’t need to gild the lily of the Liturgy with obsolete archaisms. 
It is clear that the Pope is steering the bark of Peter in a direction significantly different in course than that of the last thirty-five years.  I am enjoying the ride even though it is making some others sea-sick.     



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