Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why They Are Afraid of Pope Francis 13

 Ever since his election in March a growing panic among neo-trad Catholics (those who call themselves “conservatives” or “traditionalists” but whose lack of appreciation for the authentic tradition of the Church puts them more in a sort of ecclesiastical Tea Party trying to establish a retro-Catholicism reminiscent of the years immediately before the Second Vatican Council) has led to vociferous and increasingly enraged complaint about Pope Francis and where he is leading the Church.  From the very beginning there was panic and indignation among the neo-trads over his not wearing the traditional scarlet silk mozetta to meet the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square.   His simplified life-style has provoked contempt from the ultra-Catholic minority even as vast numbers of Catholics are cheered by his down-home everyday parish priest ways. Francis has moved away from the elegant remoteness of his predecessor and  it’s clear that the papal tiara is not coming back any time soon.   It was not long before they realized that Francis is no admirer of the TLM (Traditional Latin Mass or the “Extraordinary Form” of the Roman Rite) and it would no longer be possible—at least in this pontificate—to claim papal support for the revival of this antique rite.  Well of course things have only gotten worse.  Or better, depending on your perspective.  A more dialogic approach with Gay Catholics, the interview in La Civilta Cattolica, and then Evangelii Gaudium with its condemnation of “trickle down economics,” has shaken the ultramontane commitment of the neo-trads who suddenly have found themselves in the cafeteria line of Catholicism.  
Surprisingly one crucial moment of Francis’ pontificate that they have overlooked is his homily at Lampedusa, an island off the coast of Sicily, where in October hundreds of Africans perished attempting to immigrate (illegally) to Europe.  On October 3, last year a boat sailing from Libya (the nearest point of Africa to Italy, and overloaded with immigrants from Eritrea, Somalia, and Ghana sunk off the Italian island of Lampedusa.  The Italian Coast Guard was able to rescue 155 survivors but “more than 360” deaths were reported.  A second shipwreck occurred just over a week later within the territorial waters of Malta where at least 34 more victims—these from Syria and Palestine—drowned. 
Ironically Pope Francis has visited Lampedusa in July after an earlier boat wreck in which many died  and the Pope gave a remarkable homily touching on the plight of immigrants.   This is what he said—in part. 

“Adam, where are you?” This is the first question that God addresses to man after sin. “Where are you Adam?” Adam is disoriented and has lost his place in creation because he thought to become powerful, to dominate everything, to be God. And harmony was broken, the man erred – and this is repeated even in relations with his neighbour, who is no longer a brother to be loved, but simply someone who disturbs my life, my well-being. And God puts the second question: “Cain, where is your brother?” The dream of being powerful, of being as great as God, even of being God, leads to a chain of errors that is a chain of death, leads to shedding the blood of the brother!
These two questions resonate even today, with all their force! So many of us, even including myself, are disoriented, we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live, we don’t care, we don’t protect that which God has created for all, and we are unable to care for one another. And when this disorientation assumes worldwide dimensions, we arrive at tragedies like the one we have seen.
“Where is your brother?” the voice of his blood cries even to me, God says. This is not a question addressed to others: it is a question addressed to me, to you, to each one of us. These our brothers and sisters seek to leave difficult situations in order to find a little serenity and peace, they seek a better place for themselves and for their families – but they found death. How many times to those who seek this not find understanding, do not find welcome, do not find solidarity! And their voices rise up even to God! And once more to you, the residents of Lampedusa, thank you for your solidarity! I recently heard one of these brothers. Before arriving here, he had passed through the hands of traffickers, those who exploit the poverty of others; these people for whom the poverty of others is a source of income. What they have suffered! And some have been unable to arrive!
“Where is your brother?” Who is responsible for this blood? In Spanish literature there is a play by Lope de Vega that tells how the inhabitants of the city of Fuente Ovejuna killed the Governor because he was a tyrant, and did it in such a way that no one knew who had carried out the execution. And when the judge of the king asked “Who killed the Governor?” they all responded, “Fuente Ovejuna, sir.” All and no one! Even today this question comes with force: Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters? No one! We all respond this way: not me, it has nothing to do with me, there are others, certainly not me. But God asks each one of us: “Where is the blood of your brother that cries out to me?” Today no one in the world feels responsible for this; we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility; we have fallen into the hypocritical attitude of the priest and of the servant of the altar that Jesus speaks about in the parable of the Good Samaritan: We look upon the brother half dead by the roadside, perhaps we think “poor guy,” and we continue on our way, it’s none of our business; and we feel fine with this. We feel at peace with this, we feel fine! The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.
The figure of the Unnamed of Manzoni returns. The globalization of indifference makes us all “unnamed,” leaders without names and without faces.
“Adam, where are you?” “Where is your brother?” These are the two questions that God puts at the beginning of the story of humanity, and that He also addresses to the men and women of our time, even to us. But I want to set before us a third question: “Who among us has wept for these things, and things like this?” Who has wept for the deaths of these brothers and sisters? Who has wept for the people who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who wanted something to support their families? We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping, of “suffering with”: the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep! In the Gospel we have heard the cry, the plea, the great lament: “Rachel weeping for her children . . . because they are no more.” Herod sowed death in order to defend his own well-being, his own soap bubble. And this continues to repeat itself. Let us ask the Lord to wipe out [whatever attitude] of Herod remains in our hears; let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves, and even in those who anonymously make socio-economic decisions that open the way to tragedies like this. “Who has wept?” Who in today’s world has wept?

Most Americans seem to think that Francis was speaking only to the people of Lampedusa and only in the context of the sinking of one boat, but as universal shepherd of the Church Francis was speaking to us in North America as well.  We have a problem of illegal immigrants and the dangers they face every bit as serious as has Italy and the nations of the European Economic Union.  I am surprised that those Catholics advocating for immigration reform have not picked up on Pope Francis’ remarks at Lampedusa.  I also am surprised that those Tea-Party types that claim to be devout Catholics have not looked closely at the Holy Father’s remarks and have not seen that he is speaking to us as well as to the Europeans.  Every year hundreds of lives are lost in the deserts of our frontiers as well as in the seas that separate Africa from Europe.  One cannot be a “good Catholic” and not be concerned about the situation in which the immigrants find themselves—but then so many who claim to be “pro-life” are not, in the end, pro-life at all.

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