|Don't Look For This Any Time Soon|
First of all, thanks Ann for your editing help. I try to proof my entries, but sometimes I am in a hurry and things escape me. I always welcome a chance to correct my mistakes.
In my last post I wrote about Pius XII and I want to come back and write several more posts about him. He was, in many ways and for many people, the defining pope of the modern age; certainly the arch-Pope of the Church as it was before Vatican II, and many of those who want to restore that pre-Vatican II Church long for a Pius redivivus who will bring back the faded triumphalism of the papacy. Pius was Pope for nineteen years, seven months and seven days—the second longest reigning pope of the past one hundred years. (John Paul II was Pope for 26 years, 5 months, and 18 days.) He left an indelible mark on the Papacy and for some he was the last pope. After Pius and his gloriously reigning style, they could just never adjust to the down-to-earth papacy of his successor, John XXIII or the subsequent papacies.
As I mentioned in the posting, Pius was a genius, perhaps the pope with the highest I.Q. to sit on the papal throne in centuries. I refrain from saying the most intelligent however as his extraordinary intellect got in the way of his practical aptitude on many occasions. Pius’s Achilles’ heel was that he was autocratic. Confident in his intelligence and almost autistic in his personality, he was the sole decider and this led him into several disastrous decisions. On the other hand, his remarkable theological breakthroughs accomplished in Encyclicals such as Divino Afflante Spiritu, Mediator Dei, Mystici Corporis, and even Humani Generis would never have passed the muster of a curial review and—ironically for those whose hero he is—without Pius’ contribution in these encyclicals, the theological developments of Vatican II would have lacked a foundation in the papal magisterium. Vatican II is more the fruit of Pius’s mind than of that of his successor “Good Pope John.” But Pius isn’t my topic today. Francis is. And in particular, Francis’s approach to authority and authoritarianism.
In many ways, the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) is the epitome of the authoritarian Catholicism of Pius XII. Saint Ignatius broke the mold of religious life—abandoning all the relics of monasticism such as singing the Divine Office, religious habits, communal penances, living within a cloister—and created a new form of religious life modeled on soldiering. Ignatius had been a soldier and he wanted religious storm-troopers to meet the challenges of the Church in Reformation Europe and in what his contemporaries perceived to be the societal chaos of the newly “discovered” lands of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. In abandoning monastic models, Ignatius also abandoned the monastic authority structure in favor of strict military obedience. There was no discussion with one’s superiors, no arguing, no calling for a chapter to come to group consensus. Orders came from top down, pure and simple. And the commander-in-chief was the Pope. Jesuits were there to carry our his orders This system worked for centuries. Francis, as a Jesuit was part of it. But listen to what he learned from his experience while he was provincial. This is what he said in the interview in La Civilta Cattolica which was republished in America.
“In my experience as superior in the Society, to be honest, I have not always behaved in that way—that is, I did not always do the necessary consultation. And this was not a good thing. My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults. That was a difficult time for the Society: an entire generation of Jesuits had disappeared. Because of this I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy. I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself. Yes, but I must add one thing: when I entrust something to someone, I totally trust that person. He or she must make a really big mistake before I rebuke that person. But despite this, eventually people get tired of authoritarianism.“My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.
So for those who long for a day of Pius XII and a Pope who is, well, Pope, Francis ain’t your guy. For the rest of us, we are glad he learned what he learned when he did. This papacy is off to a great start, the morale is high, the energy is flowing down through the parishes as the window of Vatican II is open again and a fresh Breeze is blowing through the Church.