Saturday, November 9, 2013

Why Are They Afraid of Pope Francis? 6

Pope John XXIII
Let’s go back to why Pope Francis is causing such panic among the neo-trad Catholics and in particular why his interview for La Civilta Cattolica, reprinted in the Jesuit weekly, America, has the katholic krazies so worried. In the interview Francis spoke of the importance of discernment—and for those steeped in Ignatian (Jesuit) spirituality, discernment is the paramount attribute in living the Christian life.  One must come to discern the Will of God.  Note—one must discern. That means there isn’t a ready-made answer coming down from heaven through hierarchal authority.  This isn’t like the old days when you didn’t have to discern, you just had to obey.  Moreover, as if the need to discern wasn’t enough, the Pope quoted the maxim: non coerceri a maximo, sed contineri a minimo divinum est.  America quotes the translation as: not to be limited by the greatest but to be contained in the least—that is divine.  And that translation is just fine, but it wouldn’t pass the test of Liturgiam authenicam—remember that wonderful “instruction” by the Holy See that advocates the “most faithful” (ie literal) translation of texts?  Let’s try this: Not to be coerced by the greatest but to be limited by the least is divine.  Now, all due respect to Liturgiam authenticam, and it preference for the literal, but literal translation is most often not faithful to the translation because it doesn’t take the context of the text into consideration, nor does it pick up on either connotations or implied words or phrases.  Also, the Latin syntax sucks when it is carried over into English—just ask any priest who is struggling with the revised Missal.   So let’s go one step further and let me suggest this translation, placing the maxim both in good English and the context of what Ignatius meant by discernment: It is not God’s Will that we should be coerced by the highest powers but rather that we be made subject to the least important.  Of course Francis expands the meaning of this maxim to say that we should be happy to serve in whatever position—great or small—in which we find ourselves. He expands this to say the grace of magnanimity allows us to devote ourselves to the most humble tasks without resentment but with hearts open to God and to neighbor.  I like this, but for a person whose world-view is hierarchal, this is a more than a bit threatening.  Should we not be constrained by those in power?  Why did God institute hierarchy if it is not to govern us?  It is all well and good to talk about the need for the greatest to become the servant of all, the first to become the last—but hey, as a Church we need the Pope to be Pope and bishops to be bishops and the rest of us to pay, pray, and obey.  We don’t need to discern God’s Will—we need a Pope who will tell us God’s Will and hold our feet to the fire.   You let people discern and the next thing you know nuns aren’t wearing habits, married couples are using the pill, gays are marching down the aisle, and Father is making up the Mass as he goes along. 
And then, if that weren’t bad enough, Pope Francis quotes Good Pope John—who, to the neo-trads—was anything but good.  “You should see everything, turn a blind eye to much, correct a little” said the about-to-be-sainted Pope and echoed by his current successor.  “Whoa Nellie,” the neo-trads cry—“we need a Pope who corrects everything.  Why we got politicians who vote for Gay Marriage and liberal abortion laws marching up the communion aisle with the audacity of a Virgin Martyr; we got lesbian nuns practicing Wicca, we got priests in clown-suits saying Mass, we got Catholics voting for Obama (“the most anti-Catholic President in American History,”) we got churches being turned into discos—this “correct a little” ain’t working.  We need the Inquisition, not “I’m OK; You’re OK.” Yeah, this Francis thing ain’t working for those who want to bring back the old order, but for those of us who accept the basic premise that God’s Grace is given to all in the mystical body—you know, that Vatican II thing about a “universal call to holiness”—this discernment thing is an idea whose time has come.  It worked for Ignatius.  In fact, it worked for the great saints throughout history, men and women who chose (with God’s grace) a path of holiness: Thomas More, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thérèse of Lisieux, Francis of Assisi, Benedict, Damien of Molokai, Edith Stein, and perhaps—best of all—the Blessed Virgin Mary.  They all listened attentively to the Holy Spirit speak within their souls and charted a course that was in one way or another outside the lines of those who had gone before them. In fact, I suspect that if one looked carefully at the lives of the Saints, we would see that an adult, mature, and free response to the Holy Spirit was the more common path than blind unthinking submission to authority.  Go Francis.  

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