Sunday, March 31, 2013

A New Day Has Dawned

As I ran to the grocery store this afternoon, a program came on the car radio.  A neuro-scientist by the name of Ari Handle was relating a story from this student days when, as part of his Ph.D. program he had to train monkeys to play simple video games in order to learn about how the neurons in the brain respond to particular stimuli.  One monkey, named Santiago, was especially engaging and Ari developed a strong affection for this monkey.  But Santiago was highly intelligent and at a certain point at least seemed to realize that Ari wasn’t just playing with him but was using him for Ari’s own purposes and Santiago’s response was to “go on strike” and refuse to play anymore.  A war of the wills ensued between Ari and Santiago and Ari was eventually to win out by denying Santiago any rewards while at the same time being overly generous with the other monkeys in the lab.  Eventually Santiago began playing the games again—but without the joy and enthusiasm which had previously characterized his behavior.  Ari said that he, Ari, realized that he had won but at the cost of breaking Santiago’s spirit. 
As I was preparing this blog I could not but help think how many of us had felt our spirit cracking and beginning to break over the last twenty years as first Pope John Paul and then Pope Benedict began to “re-interpret” the Second Vatican Council and we saw the pre-conciliar Church being raised from its sepulcher like a ghoulish caricature of what had been in its day a glorious past but now was only a plaid and semi-decomposed faith.  We saw the retreat from Ecumenical and Inter-faith dialogue to the phobia of the world beyond the Catholic Church that underlay that most unfortunate of encyclicals, Mortalium Animos, condemning Ecumenism.   Dialogue was breaking down on the official level but even worse, on the local levels, interfaith and ecumenical prayer and collaboration in social ministry had totally collapsed.  It was bad enough to see the pre-conciliar liturgy springing up in parishes and chapels as an alternative Catholicism, but then to see the liturgical reforms of the Council being undone as the “Ordinary Form” was made to look more and more like the “Extraordinary Form.”  Even more disheartening was to see a reclericalization of the clergy as young fellows rooted around attics and basements for birettas and maniples and Brussels lace by the yard and incoherently mumbled a Latin they never really learned.  To see a twenty-something year old priest scold a seventy-nine year old woman who had been at daily Mass for over fifty years because she insisted on receiving the Eucharist in her hand and standing when he insisted on giving Holy Communion only on the tongue and kneeling made one wonder what was going on in our seminaries today.  And while both Pope Benedict and John Paul had been ardent defenders of the poor—where were the calls to social justice that we heard after Mater et Magistra and Gaudim et Spes and Popolorum Progressio?     Instead we had only vapid ferverinos on why women should keep their heads veiled in Church and how lonely Our Lord is in the Tabernacle when we don’t come to see him every day.  Forget how lonely Jesus is in the Tabernacle: think how hungry he is in the least of his brothers and sisters or how abandoned he is in the kid who is bullied.  But we don’t hear that. 
The election of Pope Francis has been for many of us a breath of fresh air, a sign that the time of sourpuss Christianity is waning and we are back on track to offering the world a faith that brings joy to those who have weathered the long night of religious discouragement.  We aren’t seeking changes in faith or morals but only relief from the negative energy proposed by pseudo-Christians whose Jansenist tendencies have stressed the Divine Justice to the eclipse of the Infinite Mercy that flows from the Cross of Jesus.  Pope Francis has given us hope that the Pharisees who worry about the worthiness of others to approach the Eucharist while they glory in their own supposed “orthodoxy” are not going to control the temple after all.  Pope Francis has given us hope that clergy and laity stand together in the Body of Christ with different functions but without the artificiality of a hierarchy of dignity.  Pope Francis has given us hope that laity will be given access to a full, conscious and active participation in the Liturgy as befits a priestly people.  Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air in the Church like many of us had forgotten could be.  God Bless Pope Francis.  Our spirits aren’t broken after all. 


Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Great Vigil of Easter

Pope Benedict prays inside the
Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem
On Holy Saturday, according to Aegeria, the normal morning and midday prayers are held, but not Vespers as it seems that Vespers has been assumed into the Vigils.  Aegeria does not tell us much about the Vigil services, simply saying that it is done in Jerusalem as it is “done among us,” wherever it is that her home Church is.  We know from other sources that the Jerusalem Church did not have the custom of the paschal candle as was done in Rome, Gaul, and North Africa. Rather the bishop entered the tomb and emerged with three lit candles. This would develop into the ritual of the “miraculous fire” as practiced even today by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.  The vigils would consist of twelve lessons each set off with a psalm.  Aegeria does mention that the newly baptized, after their baptism and chrismation in the baptistery, are brought to the Tomb first where the bishop says a prayer over them and only then are they led into the Basilica for the Eucharistic celebration. At the conclusion of the Liturgy the Bishop and faithful go to the Tomb where the bishop offers a second Eucharist.  The baptistery of the Constantinian basilica was—as were all baptisteries in the early Church—a separate building to the main basilica and so the faithful, gathered in the basilica, would not see the baptisms though they would be aware they were going on and would be praying for those being baptized.  Similarly in this particular church of the Holy Sepulcher, there was not only the separate baptistery but the Sepulcher itself stood in a separate shrine area, called the martyrium, behind the apse of the basilica and separated from it by an open courtyard.  Thus the faithful were gathered in the basilica; the bishop and catechumens were in the baptistery until after their baptism and anointing where they went first to the tomb and then to the main church for the Eucharist. 
In today’s rituals, we gather in the one building as the baptistery is in most places part of the church itself.  We have the new fire and the paschal candle—a Roman custom that differed from the Jerusalem Rite.  Then we have the vigil of readings followed by the baptism and confirmation of the catechumens as they did in Jerusalem.  The rites conclude with the Eucharist as it did at Jerusalem.  We can see the roots of the modern ceremony in the fifth century rituals described by Aegeria.       

Friday, March 29, 2013

Ancient Roots of Today's Ritual

The Altar of Calvary in
the Basilica of the Holy
Sepulcher today
Well, Pope Francis has continued to show his colors—and they strongly signal a change in style not only for the papacy but for the Church—but more about that after the Triduum.  Now back to our account of Aegeria’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the fourth century and her description of the Holy Week rituals there at that time. 
The Good Friday services in the Jerusalem Church were not terribly dissimilar from today’s ritual.  In fact, the Good Friday Liturgy of the Roman Rite is a more ancient form, a far more ancient form, of the Liturgy than either the “Extraordinary Form” (pre-conciliar Tridentine Rite) or the revised Rite of Paul VI (Novus Ordo.)  Some attribute the Good Friday liturgy to Pope Saint Gregory but you will see that it has elements of the much older Jerusalem ceremony recorded by Aegeria.
Today the Sacred Ministers on Good Friday enter the church in silence, prostrate  before the altar and then the Presider stands and offers a prayer.  Then scripture lessons regarding the Passion are read.  After the Passion according to John’s Gospel is read, the Deacon calls for prayers for the needs of the Church, civil society, and various categories of believers and non-believers.  This is followed by the Cross (not a crucifix but a plain cross) being shown to the people for their veneration, after which the Sacred Ministers and the laity come forward to kiss the Cross or show some other act of veneration.  Finally the Deacon  brings to the altar Eucharist consecrated at the Mass on Thursday and all receive the Eucharist.  (For Traditionalist purists who insist on celebrating the Rites as they were done before 1955, only the priest receives Holy Communion.)  There is a prayer after communion and a prayer over the people, but no blessing or dismissal.  It is a very elegant ritual, noble in its simplicity and notable in its starkness.  It reflects the ancient Liturgy of the Church before the addition of penitential rites and Kyries and Glorias and intercessory litanies, and creeds, and other accretions.  It is my favorite liturgy of the year for its simple beauty.
When Aegeria visited Jerusalem in the late fourth century, the rites were very simple.  You may remember from my previous posting that on Thursday evening the Bishop and faithful had set out on an all-night vigil and procession from the Garden of Gethsemane commemorating the Lord’s agony in the Garden and his arrest.   That procession would have arrived about dawn at Calvary where the account of Jesus before Pilate was read to the people and then the Bishop sent the people home for a brief rest.  On their way home, the people would stop at the pillar of the scourging for prayer but then go home and rest for a few hours.  About eight they would return to the chapel of Calvary where the Bishop would take the wood of the Cross from its silver reliquary along with the sign that Pilate had ordered to be hung over the cross and place them on a table.  With the bishop holding the relic, the faithful would come forward to touch their forehead and then their eyes to the wood of the Cross, and finally to kiss it, but without touching it with their hands.  The deacons would display various other relics in possession of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  At noon the Cross was brought down to the open courtyard before the Holy Sepulcher and with the bishop seated facing it, the faithful spent the next three hours listening to the psalms and scripture readings from both the Old and New Testaments that mention of the suffering of Christ.  The Evangelists’ accounts of Christ’s suffering and death are read last.  This continued from noon until three in the afternoon.  Afterwards the people are dismissed but many would remain to pray until all gather again at the Tomb in the evening for a reading of the account of Joseph of Arimathea asking Pilate for the Body and then burying it in his tomb.  While the bishop encouraged people then to go home and rest, many—and especially younger people—remain at the tomb praying psalms and listening to the scriptures.    So we have here the Passion and the Veneration of the Cross. There was no communion service on this day in the Jerusalem Church—that was a later innovation in the Roman Rite, probably dating to the time of Saint Gregory the Great c. 600.  The style of the prayers—the Deacon’s call and the Presider’s collect or prayer—also reflects Roman usage and probably also comes from this time.  They are good examples as the Western Liturgy is considered to have reached the apex of its development in the time of Pope Gregory and most of the reforms of Paul VI in the 1970 Missal were an attempt to adapt the Gregorian Ritual to the modern era.  It seems that Pope Francis is anxious to restore that noble simplicity to the Liturgy which had in many placed begun to devolve anew into a baroque mishmash of superficial piety and clerical pomp.  Go Francis!!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Rites of Holy Thursday

The Main Altar of the
Church of the Holy
Sepulcher today
Aegeria’s account of Holy Thursday is very much unlike our Holy Thursday celebration as that she records no commemoration of the Last Supper (Missa in Cena Domini), the institution of the Eucharist, and the washing of the feet.  Holy Thursday in the Church of Jerusalem was all prelude to the Passion.  As in the Roman Rite today, the normal morning offices were celebrated as on a Lenten weekday and the Bishop celebrated the Eucharist in the courtyard before the Holy Sepulcher in much the usual manner.  But then the Bishop, the clergy, and the people gathered at the site of Calvary where the Eucharist was celebrated a second time but with a far greater simplicity than normal.  There was also a curious variation in the liturgy that Aegeria recounts.  Normally the bishop “offered the oblation”—celebrated the Eucharist—“before the cross.”  On Thursday before the Passion of the Lord, he celebrated it “behind the cross”
This terminology is a bit confusing, especially that while we do know the floor plan of Constantine’s Basilica and shrine, we do not know the exact layout of the Chapel where the Holy Cross was kept.  The Cross itself had been broken into several large pieces after its discovery.  One large piece went to Rome; one to Constantinople, and one was retained in Jerusalem.  (Several smaller fragments were given to various individuals or sent to other shrines.)  The piece of the Cross remaining in Jerusalem was kept in a silver reliquary-chest in a chapel within the Church of the Resurrection built on the site of Calvary.  The closeness of Calvary to the Holy Sepulcher is an amazing coincidence—probably less than a two-minute walk—the tomb clearly visible from Calvary and both are under the same roof today.  In Aegeria’s day there was an open courtyard separating the Calvary chapel from the Anastasis, or the rotunda of the Holy Sepulcher.  But there seems to be no record of the arrangement in the chapel of Calvary.  Presumably the Cross was kept on an altar in the style of which the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches still use today—square and freestanding.  As it was freestanding, the altar could be approached from any side.  Today the altar in that chapel is not free-standing—a real exception in the Orthodox world and even more exceptionally actually faces south rather than east.  To the best of my research we do not know the direction of the altar in the Constantinian chapel.  The Basilica itself faced west, again a strange phenomenon for a Church built at that time although the Roman Constantinian basilicas, Saint Peter’s on the Vatican, Saint Paul’s on the Via Appia, and Saint John’s in the Lateran were all also western-facing, not oriented. 
Whatever the direction of the altar, it seems that the bishop—when celebrating the Eucharist in the chapel at Calvary normally faced the reliquary of the Cross—that is, stood with his back to the people.  On Holy Thursday, however, he stood “behind the cross” and probably facing the people on the other side of the reliquary.  Why this aberration?  I don’t know but can only surmise that it reflects an earlier practice even as the idiosyncrasies of the Holy Week Liturgy in the Tridentine and Modern Roman Rites reflect the purity of the Rite before various accretions were added over the centuries of liturgical development.  In other words, as the liturgy changed over the decades and centuries, the ceremonies of Holy Week—because of their ties to the most sacred time of the year—remained relatively unchanged.  Thus the Good Friday liturgy with its simple and silent entrance, prostration, and opening prayer, with its series of calls to prayer and collects for the “prayers of the faithful,” its simple communion rite, and its simple dismissal show us not only the Good Friday ritual but the simplicity of the early Roman Rite before the Penitential prayers (originally private prayers of the priest), the Kyrie, Gloria, and other elaborations were added to become part of our everyday Mass. 

In the evening all gathered around the Bishop at Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives and scripture lessons were read, a procession proceeds to a second site on the Mountain—one associated with the Ascension—and more scriptures are read—and then back to Gethsemane where the account of Christ’s arrest is read.  A slow procession through the night traced the steps of Christ as he was led captive back to Jerusalem. 
It is curious that Holy Thursday is rather low key in the ancient Jerusalem Church and that, at least according to Aegeria there was no commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist or of the washing of the feet.  Most of our liturgical practices for Maundy Thursday including the procession of the Eucharist to the Repository date from the medieval period and were unknown in the ancient Church.  Good Friday, on the other hand, is today much as it is described by Aegeria.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Of Nuns, Tourism, and the Paschal Mystery

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
Let’s move off from Pope Francis for a few days—it being Holy Week—and look to, well, Holy Week.  We can come back to Francis after Easter, and I have not forgotten my series on the Church of England that we had begun before Pope Benedict threw the Catholic world into an uproar with his historic resignation.   But there is time for all that later.  Holy Week
needs to take some precedence. 
When we look at the history of Holy Week—which is what we are about to do—we depend on the writings of a fourth-century nun, Aegeria Sylvia, (sometimes spelt Egeria, sometimes Etheria, and sometimes just called Sylvia.  Aegeria Sylvia made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the early 380’s and wrote an account of it to send back to her sisters.  It is not clear where her monastery was located nor is her own nationality known with certainty other than being from the Gallic regions of what today would be South-western France or North-western Spain.  We first hear about her from Valerio of Bierzo, a seventh century Galician monk (Galicia is the north-west corner of Spain) and so refer to Aegeria as “Spanish” but “Spanish is an anachronism and the three hundred years between Aegeria and Valerio is a monitum against presuming her to be known to Valerio because they were from the same locale.  She wrote in a declining Latin that is already showing some signs of breaking down into one or another of the today’s romance languages.   And it gives us one of the earliest instances of a woman engaging in the production of literature.
Aegeria’s account does not today survive in full—at least in any known manuscript.  The surviving portion of her account opens with her visiting Mount Sinai, continues through the Holy Places of Syria-Palestine, and concludes with her visit to Constantinople.  She visits extensively throughout the mid-east, going as far as what is today Iraq to visit shrines at Edessa and Haran. 
Aegeria gives a very thorough account of the liturgical customs of the Jerusalem Church.  it is obvious that she stayed in Jerusalem a considerable period of time and was there for the feast of the Epiphany, as well as Lent and Holy Week. 
Many of our Catholic liturgical traditions originate in the Jerusalem Church of the fourth century rather than from the Roman Church.  In other words, Rome borrowed Jerusalem customs—as did the Churches of Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria.  The  “liturgical year” originated at Jerusalem as the Bishop of Jerusalem, his clergy and his people would gather at the various sites mentioned in the Gospel—Bethlehem, Bethany, Mount Zion, the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, etc. to relive the experience of Christ and his disciples by reading the appropriate gospel stories, offering prayers, hymns, and psalms, and celebrating the Eucharist on the various spots.  Pilgrimage groups in Jerusalem and the Holy Land do the same today.  Their faith was a living and vibrant appropriation of the Gospel—a walking through the Gospels as it were—that made them examine themselves for faithfulness to the life and teaching of Jesus.   
As we go through the ceremonies of Holy Week we need to ask ourselves if they are mere rituals or if they are experiences of touching for ourselves the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of the One whom we recognize to be the Christ of God. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

All Are Welcome: A Prayer For The Church

I mentioned in my last posting about people being made welcome around our Father’s Table—that is that all should be made welcome in the assembly of the Church.  A friend of mine who is a professional Church musician told me that Marty Haugen wrote the hymn All Are Welcome tongue in cheek because in most Catholic and Lutheran (Haugen’s music is widely sung in Catholic Churches but he himself is a Lutheran) congregations, all are not welcome, or at least are not made to feel welcome.  I find this sad, tragic really and cannot but wonder how Christ who sat at table with sinners and ate with them would feel about the scribes and the Pharisees winning out in so many of today’s parishes.
A priest friend of mine recently gave a retreat in which a woman came to him for “advice” because her children were “persecuting her” by not allowing her to see her grandchildren because she was “just trying to teach them their Catholic faith.” 
Given that all five of her children had “banned” Grandma, the priest was suspicious that the situation might be more complex.  When the woman told him that three of the children were practicing Catholics he was even more puzzled about the problem.  What was Granny trying to teach them?   “They need to know that same-sex marriage is evil in the sight of God,” she told him.   Now I am not sure that four and seven year olds do need to know that.  And it certainly isn’t the first point of catechesis, as my priest friend said.  But when he told the woman that there were other points of the faith that she perhaps should concentrate on, the woman just launched into a diatribe so vicious and filled with rancor that the priest told me “I seriously had to ask myself whether I could give her Holy Communion in the state she was in.  There obviously is more to her story than she was telling me, or perhaps that she would even own.  What had motivated her to come to see me?  I had said nothing about same-sex marriage, but I had said in one of my retreat talks that ‘everyone today knows what the Catholic Church is against; few know what it is for.’  She hit the nail right on the head and knew exactly what I meant by that remark. And she thinks that is just fine.”
I don’t expect the Church to soon change its teaching on same-sex marriage any more than I expect changes on the ordination of women or contraception.  Frankly, as I stated in my last entry, I don’t think a change in the doctrines themselves is the most urgent item on the agenda.  What is urgent is a change of style on how the teachings are presented and how people are treated in the Church.   A week or two ago I had posted that the Church is not about moral perfection but about the forgiveness of sins.  That drew two or three responses from the Pharisee wing assuring me that no, the Church is about moral perfection.  Anyone who knows the history of the Church knows that the Church, or at least its pastors and spokespersons, is in no position to make demands of moral perfection on anyone.  And the Gospel is clear that the only ones who have a right to come to the table are the sinners—“the healthy do not need a physician, the sick do; the Son of Man has come not for the righteous but for sinners.”  We must avoid the temptation to stand up in front of the world and pray “I thank you Lord that I am not like the rest of people: gay or contracepting or having aborted—or even like that agnostic over there.  I demonstrate at the abortuary twice a week, I vote Republican…” Better to look deep into our hearts, acknowledge our own failures—past and present—and greet our fellow sinners with open arms and a smile.  “This man, I tell you goes home justified; the former does not.”

p.s.  apologies to all those who vote Republican in good faith and with a sincere conscience, just using it as an example of those who who feel they have the moral right (or obligation) to keep Obama-voters from Holy Communion.          

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Realistic Expectations Are More Than Enough

It is very naïve to expect substantial changes in doctrine from Pope Francis. The media has been quick to label him a doctrinal conservative in the mode of Pope Benedict and he is, but that is beside the point.  In the first place the changes that are necessary for the “rebuilding” of the Church are not changes in doctrine but changes in polity and Francis has been quick to signal that there is a new sheriff in town and while the laws may remain as is, the sheriff has a more contextual manner of enforcing them.  But even more important—at least from a historian’s point of view—is that major changes in doctrine, or rather the evolution of doctrine, is something that needs to come about in a slow and considered way.  Knowing history and its patterns, I have no doubt, for example, that the Catholic Church—despite all the current “theological” objections and obstacles—will one day ordain women to the priesthood and episcopate.  Moreover, I favor the ordination of women.  I think all this “stuff” about theologically impossible is, consciously or unconsciously on the part of those who declare it to be so, simply drawing a line to protect the self-interest of a male power establishment within the Church.  I say that not as feminist mumbo-jumbo, but based on the behavior of those who are insistent on this “doctrine” towards women religious and towards women in their own parishes or chancery offices.  I think celibacy has made the priesthood—for many, not for all—a place of refuge and psychological safety from women.  I know that one of the concerns for many in the Church today is that the clergy are becoming—or are perceived as being—a gay club.  I think that is a misreading of the data.  I am more concerned about the clergy being misogynists.  The dysfunction in today’s clergy, I believe, is not as simple as a gay subculture but the more complex and wider issue of its drawing men who are psycho-sexually non-integrated.  Celibacy is a great gift for ministry and a great witness for the Gospel if it is freely given by healthy adults who are fully developed human persons spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically but it has no witness value or ministerial usefulness if it screens an incapacity for human intimacy, warmth, and depth of personhood.  Real men have no problem working with women as equal or superior collaborators.  All that being said, however, one does not overturn a two thousand year old tradition over-night.  One, even a Pope, does not overturn a two thousand year old tradition on one’s own authority.  And one does not overturn a two-thousand year old tradition without paying close attention to the social implications it will create in a multi-cultural society such as the Church.  There needs to be a process by which the universal Church comes to a consensus on such an issue.  Our Anglican brothers and sisters have seen their world-wide Communion torn apart  by the way significant changes have been unilaterally implemented by one Province or another of the communion.   It is important that we take note and not make the same mistake but rather set up careful dialogue among all the local and particular Churches that comprise the Universal Church not only on the question of the possible ordination of women but on any significant development in polity or doctrine.  
Another area in which many may have unrealistic expectations of Pope Francis is the possibility of change in the Church’s teaching on contraception.  Again, perhaps development is a better word than change for history shows us that doctrine develops, or our understanding of doctrine develops, rather than makes abrupt changes.  Is such development possible?  Absolutely.  Pope Paul VI had convoked a panel of theologians, bishops, and laity to study such a possibility when the invention of “the pill” became a game-changer in the practice of family-planning.  In the end the Pope decided, contrary to the majority report of his commission, that “the pill” was an artificial means of contraception rather than a tool to aid the natural processes.  That was forty-five years ago and the situation today is much different.  Advances in understanding of the reproductive processes makes conversations with biologists, embryologists, and other scientists absolutely necessary as we continue to develop our moral theology.  Notice, I said conversations, not dialogue.  Dialogue implies a parity in the discussion while in this case I think theologians and bishops must listen more than talk.  That is not a process with which they are, for the most part, familiar but we must learn from science before we can make credible moral and theological judgments on matters in which science plays a foundational role.  And after learning the scientific data on which the theological judgments can be soundly constructed I think theologians and bishops need to listen carefully to the lived experience of the People of God.  Theology, moral or dogmatic, cannot develop in an experiential vacuum.    This is not to say that the faith of the Church is a majority decision; it isn’t and never has been.  But the faith of the Church is the Wisdom the Holy Spirit has planted in the hearts of the faithful; it is the ministry of the magisterium and the theologians to clarify and articulate that unspoken wisdom. 
To be honest I am not sure that doctrinal development is the most urgent matter in the Church today as much as it is a change of style.  More and more people have felt increasingly alienated from the Church over the past decades because, at least as they articulate it, they have been made feel unwelcome.  Part of this has been the very successful attempts by secular voices in our society to change the public perception of the Church to be an angry, even bitter, opponent of our contemporary world.  But too many Churchmen (and notice that I am being gender specific because I am speaking of the clergy—both hierarchy and “lowerarchy”) have been unwelcoming, arrogant, self-righteous, pompous, and in general poor witnesses to the power of Christ’s Gospel.  As I often write: today everyone knows what the Catholic Church is against; few can tell you what we stand for. 
In just a week and a half Pope Francis has made some huge changes in that perception.  The world has been drawn by his simple ways.  Let’s hope that simplicity inspires bishops and priests and deacons to change their styles as well.  And let us hope that changed style spills over to us too so that when people join us on Sundays they find a welcome and feel at home around their Father’s table.    

Friday, March 22, 2013

Francis, Rebuild My Church

Well, we are coming into Holy Week and the fuss of the papal inaugural is dying down.  We can move on from the anger at who went to communion and the sorrow over who didn’t wear a mozetta to the substantial issues at hand.  “Francis, rebuild my Church.”  As Christ spoke to Francis of Assisi from the Crucifix at San Damiano and the Holy Spirit spoke to the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, the task of rebuilding is at hand. 
I think the clear signals of the reduced pomp and friendly smiles, as welcome as they are, are no more than the initial sweeping away of cobwebs.  They don’t address the issues, only let in some fresh air and much needed sunlight.  Over the past few days I had to read a doctoral thesis on the expanding role of lay ministry in the face of the growing clergy shortage.  Here I found several things to reflect on.  First, despite the implications to the contrary that the candidate kept reinforcing to my frustration, that the expansion of the laity’s role in the Church is not—or at least should not be—consequent to the decline in vocations to the religious life and priesthood.  The problem is, as he did point out, that over the centuries the rightful roles of the laity in the Church had been assumed by the clergy.  Today we need to restore the commitment to active apostolate to every baptized Christian.  The bishop, the priest, and the deacon each have specific ministries to which they must apply themselves, but the baptized have a wide variety of ministries that belong to them—teaching, healing, counseling, administering, raising funds, publishing, reading the lessons in the liturgy, serving at the altar, feeding the poor, spiritual and corporal works of mercy, caring for the material structure of the churches, sacred art, liturgical and catechetical music, ad infinitum.  The Church’s mission of bringing the Good News (Evangelion, Gospel) of God’s Kingdom into the whole world involves a complex network of ministries to which each and every Christian must be committed. 
This idea of a Church of ministers whose mission involves a complex of ministries helps us as a Church to move from the old model of Power to the new model of service. I have written in previous posts of Cardinal Dulles’ insight that as we move into the third millennium we, as Church, must move from a paradigm of power to service paradigm.  Pope Francis’ new style is pointing us in that direction but it is a model which we must all embrace.       
But returning to the earlier assertion that this expansion of lay ministry must be not a consequence of the shortage of vocations to the religious life and priesthood but a restoration of the rightful vocation of the laity, we must still face the fact that there is a dire need of ordained ministers to serve the ministries that are rightfully theirs—namely the preaching of the Gospel, the celebration of the Liturgy, and the administration of those sacraments proper to the Sacred Orders.  In order to attract vocations to the ordained ministries, we must restore the credibility of the clergy.
There is no doubt that the credibility of the clergy has suffered due to the sex abuse scandals and the way in which clerical sexual abuse has been handled.  The problem is much greater however.  Vocations were seriously falling off for over twenty years before the scandals hit.  Moreover, as the vocational crisis affects not only the ordained clergy and male religious but also female religious communities which have not, for the much greater part, been complicit in the sex abuse crisis, we need to look at the broader issue.
Fifty years ago the priest or religious was widely respected. In great part this was due not merely to the supposed (sometimes wrongly so) holiness of the priest or religious, but to their having a superior education to the laity.  The priest, the doctor, and the lawyer were the three educated men in the Catholic parish of the 1950’s.   Catholics, in general, were working class people with high-school education.  That changed after World War II and by the ‘60’s and ‘70’s Catholics were increasingly college educated and a decade later, had post-graduate degrees.  The laity had quickly surpassed the clergy in formal education.  Moreover, the inbred seminary systems—while providing better than high-school education—could not (and for the most part, still cannot) match the education provided by universities and colleges.  As a Catholic I have often been embarrassed by clergy whose provincialism and narrow views on a wide range of subjects show an inability to think critically.   No one expects the priest to be a renaissance man—indeed with the explosion of knowledge in our contemporary world renaissance men and women are increasingly hard to find—but we need clergy who have been thought to think critically and not merely swallow any shallow doctrine or silly notion proclaimed by someone higher up the ecclesiastical food-chain. 
But intellectual ability alone is not enough to restore credibility to the clergy.  We must strive for genuine holiness.  Piety is a beginning but piety is not to be confused with holiness.   Virtue is fundamental but virtue alone is not holiness. We need a spiritual rebirth in the clergy, among the religious, certainly among the hierarchy, and among the faithful.  Hopefully our new pope with his experience as a novice director in the Society of Jesus and his personal familiarity with the riches of Ignatian spirituality can help show the way.  I suspect the scaling down of pomp and ceremony are already signs of a deeper spiritual life on the “throne” of Peter.  Anyone who has given serious mediation to the Man of Sorrows would lose taste for scarlet capes and brocaded robes.   
No entries the next few days--back on Palm Sunday or Monday.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Joe Biden, Pope Francis, and the Communion Kerfuffle

Well, now the fuss is that Vice President Biden and Democratic House Minority leader, Pelosi received Holy Communion at the Mass inaugurating the Petrine Ministry of Pope Francis.  Did you honestly think that they wouldn’t?  As for whether they should or not, it isn’t my business to make a judgment call.  I am not sure it is the business of all those who have an opinion on the matter either. 
I was living in Rome during the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the inaugural Mass of Pope Benedict XVI and was working for the BBC and several other networks as a consultant.  As such I had access to a wide variety of sources of information.  Moreover, in the circle of friends and acquaintances with whom I had dinner or went to the beach or spent weekends in the Tuscan countryside were any number of low and medium level Vatican “officials.”  An inveterate gossip, I learned not to give opinions but only to ask questions with a faux innocence that opened the dams of behind-the-scenes information.  I found out, among other things, that the priests giving Holy Communion at the Masses for the funeral of John Paul and the installation of Benedict were instructed not to refuse anyone Holy Communion.  This instruction was especially reinforced for those in the diplomatic section and the sections where special guests were being seated.  This meant that not only were dubious politicians of various nationalities to be given Holy Communion but non-Catholics as well.  In fact, Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict gave Holy Communion to Prior Roger Schutz, the Calvinist prior of the Ecumenical Community of Taizé.   Of course precedents had been set when Pope John Paul had given Holy Communion to Tony Blair—at the time not only a pro-choice politician but an Anglican—at a Mass with the Blair family in the Pope’s private chapel.
As prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger had written a letter to the American Bishops supporting the policy that pro-choice politicians should be denied Holy Communion.  Cardinal McCarrick managed to deflect the letter, not releasing it but only summarizing it in remarks to the Bishops at their semi-annual meeting.   McCarrick and Ratzinger were not on friendly terms, at least after that.  McCarrick allegedly led the American Cardinals in the 2005 conclave in an unsuccessful alliance with the Germans to evade a Ratzinger papacy.  Cardinal McCarrick’s resignation, offered on his 75th birthday, was immediately accepted by Pope Benedict unlike the resignation of most other Cardinals who were invited to stay on for several years.  Was McCarrick’s refusal to implement canon 915 the reason for Benedict’s quick acceptance?  The Holy Father could have removed the Cardinal from his see earlier, of course, but that would have been a too obvious rebuke. Nevertheless, had Benedict wanted canon 915 to be enforced he would not have appointed Donald Wuerl to the Washington See as Wuerl, when Bishop of Pittsburgh, had made it very clear that he was not going to refuse Holy Communion to anyone, even those politicians who supported abortion or euthanasia.  Wuerl’s removing the faculties of Father Marcel Guarnizo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Moscow working in the Washington Archdiocese, for Guarnizo’s having refused an acknowledged Lesbian communion, was a clear sign that in his Archdiocese ministers are not to take it upon themselves to decide who may and may  not receive Holy Communion.  We all know where Wuerl stands on this issue. 
Pope Benedict had not found it in his agenda to remove Cardinal Wuerl or, for that matter, Bishop Loverde of Arlington, from their sees for refusing to implement canon 915.  Bishop Loverde has somewhat flown under the radar on this issue while it is likely that more Democratic politicians live in his diocese than in the Archdiocese of Washington.  Loverde is a very gentle and pastoral man—perhaps too gentle with his priests who are often in rebellion against his authority for his being “too liberal.”  Moreover, priest friends of mine in the Washington chancery have claimed that both Wuerl and Loverde are under instructions from Rome not to make this matter of Holy Communion and politicians an issue.  We will see if that changes in the new papacy, but in the meantime I need to remember that it is not up to me to enforce canon 915 and it probably isn’t up to you either.  When I make judgments about who is receiving Holy Communion worthily, I probably am not doing so myself.



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Francis and Evangelical Catholicism

Now that the conclave is over the Cardinals have had a few days to have dinner with friends in various Roman ristorante e trattorie.  Some of them should drink a little less and speak a little more softly, especially one or two who are appalled at the new pope’s “lack of style” i.e. his aversion to the trappings of pomp preferred by his predecessor and his predecessor’s dresser, Monsignor Marini.  Disdainful remarks about the Pope are the privilege of us rank and file Catholics—who, for some years now, have been making them about Benedict’s sartorial silliness—not of the men who elected him.  But what will happen to the yards of watered silk and piles of miniver in the backrooms of Gamarelli’s (or, as it is known to the pundits Glamorelli’s), the tailor extraordinaire to those who favor the extraordinary rites?    Poor Cardinal Burke—will he ever have the confidence to wear his galero in public again?  Will his train-bearer be out of employment?  Or will he soldier on in his sixteenth-century fantasy while the rest of us confront with the hope of the Gospel the realities of a world torn by famine, disease and war? As a historian I have nothing but respect for the glorious past of the Church but the glories of its future lie not in brocades and polyphony but in a radical fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I think this is the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church today—an Evangelical Catholicism that draws its strength not from ritual and doctrine—though ritual and doctrine have their place—but from the Power of the Gospel Christ left to his Church to preach.  We Catholics make much fuss about the “apostolic succession” but what value has the “succession” if the Church has not preserved the mission of proclaiming Good News (Evangelion, the Gospel) to the Poor, the mission entrusted to the Church by Christ.  Christ will not recognize his Church by medieval ceremony or Renaissance costumes but by a continuity of the work which he began and entrusted to us at Pentecost.  You Go, Francis.  We are back on track. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Old Order Passes: A New Sheriff in Town

Monsignor Marini--Pope Francis
doesn't want to be his dress-up doll
The neo-traditionalists are in an increasing panic over the new pope’s abandoning the retro-ceremonial of Pope Benedict.  According to some sources there was quite a kerfuffle in the room of tears over the papal habit with Pope Benedict finally telling Monsignor Marini, the papal dress-up mago, “Those vestments, Monsignor: wear them yourself; the carnival is over.”  Surprisingly sharp retort from this normally humble man but it is clear that there is a new sheriff in town.  And it seems that Francis’ more simple style is certainly winning the approval of the average Catholic-in-the-pews.  But all this fuss and bother about mozettas and the pope’s old black shoes and even insisting on a temporary altar being set up facing the gathered Cardinals for Mass in the Sistine is only matters of style; substance will be far more interesting.  I think the tempest in the room of tears is only a beginning of far more serious issues for the neo-trads.     
One of the misconceptions about Pope Francis is his relationship to Liberation Theology.  Conservatives were relieve to hear that the new pope was opposed to Liberation Theology but now that they have had a chance to do some research about his years as the Jesuit Provincial and then as a bishop in Argentina they are  having second thoughts.  Part of the problem is Americans not understanding precisely what Liberation Theology is, or at least what the version of it rejected by Pope John Paul II (and Cardinal Brogoglio) is. 
The Church’s difficulty with Liberation Theology is its ties to Marxist ideology.  Some Liberation Theologians advocated a Marxist approach saying that the possession of wealth by a minority is unjustified when others are in lack of basic necessities for life and that consequently the poor have a right to take from the rich what they, the poor, need for their survival.  (Or actually, what it usually meant is that the government has the right on behalf of the poor to forcibly take from the rich to provide for the poor such as is done in Marxist revolutions.)    
Americans do not understand the fine (and sometimes not so fine) differences between Socialism, Communism, and Marxism.  While Marxism or Marxist-Lenism are forms of Communism and Communism is a form of Socialism, the terms are not mutually interchangeable.  While a Marxist is a Socialist, not all Socialists are Communists, much less Marxists.  Many of our European allies have or have had at various times Socialist Governments and yet were politically opposed to the Soviet style socialism of the old Eastern Bloc.
Many of Archbishop Brogoglio’s ideas sound socialistic to American ears.  He does—or at least did when Archbishop of Buenos Aires—advocate for the redistribution of wealth.  So for that matter did Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  They did not advocate the Marxist system of seizing private property and communalizing it.  Pope John Paul’s theory of Solidarity sounds very Socialist to many Americans because it does not see private property as an absolute right but rather as a privilege that also carries responsibility.  Pope Francis will undoubtedly build his social theories on the foundations laid by his papal predecessors but one can expect that the edifice of a more just distribution of the world’s wealth will rise by an appreciable amount during his pontificate.  This will not make the defenders of Tradition and Property happy but most of them have been out of step with papal teaching for some time now and just not known it, or at least admitted it.  
I have long thought that we will be facing the possibility of schism within the Church.  At the end of the reign of Paul VI and even into the reign of John Paul II  I thought a schism would come from the right.  I think the Lefebvrirsts and other integrist groups that refused to accept Vatican II were the nucleus of a schism.   With John Paul throwing a bone to the neo-trads with Quattuor adhinc annos and Ecclesia Dei followed up by Benedict’s overriding the authority of the local bishop to regulate the pastoral care of the faithful entrusted to him with Summorum Pontificum, I thought that it was now the left that would feel pushed out of the Church.  The recent policies of certain figures within the Roman Curia towards the American nuns, the new translation of the Roman Missal, the appointment of several American bishops who combined arrogance and pomp with an élan worthy of Louis XIV, and what is perceived by some as a gutting of the Second Vatican Council made me fear this even more.  Well, the scales swung fast and swift this week with the left crowing and the right-wing once again starting to gather with pitchforks and torches.  So who knows?  Historians note, however, that at the end of the day, however, when the dust settles, it always is the Bishop and Church of Rome that are left in the center of the picture.           

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Old Order Passes: Francis I continued

Cardinal Brogoglio in prayer with a
Jewish community in Buenos Aires
At dinner this evening a friend of mine, an Augustinian friar, confessed that when he heard Pope Francis tell us why he chose the name, that he, the normally machismo-driven Augustinian, was in tears hearing Pope Francis say that after his election Cardinal Hummes’ words i poveri, i poveri, ricorda i poveri (the poor, the poor, remember the poor) kept echoing in his thoughts motivating him to take the never-before-used papal name of Francis.  The new Pope went on to say that he wants to see a “poor Church for the poor.”  This is a tall order and its implications can be drastic.  It must be remembered that Jorge  Brogoglio not only is a Jesuit with strong ties to his order—an order known for its social programmes—but that he was appointed provincial (or regional superior) of the Jesuits in Argentina by Father Pedro Arrupe, the General Superior of the Order who so radically changed the course of direction for the Society of Jesus in the Vatican II years.  Unlike some orders, the Jesuits do not elect their provincial superiors—they are appointed by the General Superior in Rome.  Conservatives attribute the radicalism of the Society to Arrupe’s tenure because of his determination to put the resources of the Society at the service of the poor. Will Pope Francis put the resources of the Church at the service of the poor—only time will tell. 
So far the new Pope has captured the imagination not only of the world’s Catholics but of large numbers of the worlds’ peoples.  The Dalai Lama congratulated him on his election and commended the Pope for choosing the name Francis.  The symbolism of this name is not being lost. 
Conservatives, or at least the more rabid among them, on the other hand, are in a panic over the vision being set by the new papacy.  There are all sorts of reservations being expressed about the new pope and his vision for the Church.  Perhaps it is Marielena Montesino de Stuart, a conservative Catholic columnist who writes for the blog Renew America who best demonstrates the panic.  Here is a link to her posting.

Ms. Montesino de Stuart’s complaints can be summed up in the list of arguments traditionally used by the integrists to denounce the Second Vatican Council.  She deplores Pope Francis’ history of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, his favoring liturgical development rather than returning to the pre-conciliar rites, and particularly his involvement in social justice.  She accuses him of being unnecessarily crude in his language, weak on condemning same-sex marriage, and not committed to the protection of life for the unborn. She thinks he is a phony and his simplicity of life is an Public Relations act.  Her blog links to a video showing a very vibrant Mass for the Argentine youth presided over by the then Cardinal Brogoglio and she is horrified how such liturgies corrupt the faith of the young. 
What is it that Ms. Montesino de Stuart and others on her bandwagon really upset about? 
Cardinal Avery Dulles, another Jesuit, wrote that the first thousand years of the Church, the papacy stood for witness; the second thousand, power; the third thousand will be service.  In other words we are just at the point where the fundamental ground on which we stand as a Church is shifting from power to service.  The Church’s tectonic plates have slowly been shifting since the collapse of the ancien regime and beginning with such figures as John Henry Newman and Leo XIII the Church has begun to adjust itself to a new model.  It has been a long and slow shift but it began to pick up some speed of sliding into the third millennium with the Second Vatican Council, the reforms of Paul VI, and the social encyclicals of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II.  Nevertheless, like in typical earthquakes, the ground slides both forward and backward.  There was some backsliding during the last two papacies giving hope to the triumphalist party (represented in the American Church by such figures as Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Law, Archbishop Cordileone, Bishop Olmstead, Bishop Dewane, Bishop Slattery et al) that the scales were tipping back in favor of the power model.  The election and style of the new pope marks a significant—very significant—shift now towards the service model.  We will see if Pope Francis lives up to his past and to the expectations it has created (he won’t be taking the 287 over to St Mary Major’s even if he wants to) but it is frightening,  nonetheless, to those who want to restore the magnificence of previous eras.   Nothing, however, will give more credibility to the Church than a pope for the poor except, perhaps, that his example be embraced by the clergy beneath him and the people they serve.  So Ms Montesino de Stuart, we expect you and others who miss the world of monarchy and privilege to keep up your whining while the rest of us get on with a revived enthusiasm for the Gospel.   


Friday, March 15, 2013

The Old Order Passes, Francis I continued

Cardinal Brogoglio washing the
feet of young men and women
on Holy Thursday
Well the Pope is around for 48 hours and the honeymoon is over. The Left is insistent that his behavior during the Argentine “Dirty War” (from 1976-83) be investigated, especially the allegations that he hung two fellow Jesuits out to dry.  Fathers Francisco Jalics and Orlando Yorio had been kidnapped and tortured by the Argentine military in 1976 because of their work among the poor in the slums of Bajo Flores.  A week prior to their disappearance Brogoglio, as their religious superior, ordered them to leave the district.  The priests refused and Brogoglio suspended their priestly duties.  They were kidnapped, held in a military prison where they were tortured, and found released but drugged and naked five months later.  Brogoglio claimed that the order for them to leave Bajo Flores was to remove them from danger and they refused.  Jalics and Yorio later claimed that suspending them from priestly ministry removed the protection of the Church and gave the military junta the impetus to arrest them.  Jalics and Brogoglio since reconciled.  Yorio died in 2000.
The New York Times alleged today that Brogoglio was elected because he was not as threatening to the Curia as Italian Front Runner, Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan.  In other words, the choice of Brogoglio was a choice against the much needed reform of the Roman Curia.  This charge is probably not totally fair but as an outsider Brogoglio will not be as wise to the wily ways of the Curia party and have more difficulty in dislodging the powerful control blocs in which several curial Cardinals have entrenched themselves.  Only time will tell.
Well, the discomfort of the left is exceeded by discomfort on the right.  Francis I has made it clear the Benedict’s liturgical “Reform of the Reform” is over.  As Archbishop of Buenos Aires Brogoglio had actively—and successfully—worked to thwart Benedict’s edict Summorum Pontificum granting priests the “right” to celebrate the unreformed Roman Liturgy of the 1962 Missal.  There allegedly was not a single “Tridentine Rite” Liturgy offered on a regular basis in the Buneos Aires Archdiocese.  Conservatives noticed immediately his refusal to wear the velvet mozetta and lace rochet prepared for his first appearance and were very upset that when he offered Mass for the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel following his election, he had a temporary altar facing the congregation set in place.  Pope Benedict, an advocate of the priest celebrating with his back to the people, had used the traditional altar in the chapel that faces Michelangelo’s great fresco of the Last Judgment.  Moreover, pictures are now surfacing of then Cardinal Brogoglio washing the feet of women during the traditional Holy Thursday rite despite Vatican instructions that only men were to be seated among those representing the apostles. 
Jesuits are notorious for their sloppy liturgy (despite their staffing some of the finest liturgical centers in the United States such as Holy Trinity Church, Georgetown).  “A successful Jesuit Liturgy—no one was hospitalized” and “as confused as a Jesuit in Holy Week” are frequent snide remarks by the Catholic effete.  Not unmerited.  I think that Pope Francis is going to show us that there are more essential things to our mission than keeping women from the altar or wearing court dress.  As to the complaints of the left, we regret that Jesus isn’t available to serve in this office personally, but we must settle on a mortal with some mistakes in his past.  Personally I think we need as a Church to move on beyond the whines of the modern day Cathari.  Phariseeism and hypocrisy is not the sole province of the religious right—liberals too forget that we are not about moral perfection but about the forgiveness of sins.          

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Old Order Passes: Francis I

So what to make of the new Pope?  Well, no one who has his or her feet planted firmly on planet earth expected a pope who was going to change the Church’s position on abortion, same-sex relations, the ordination of women to the priesthood or probably even contraception.  And Pope Francis won’t.  But while change of substance would be an unrealistic expectation (excepting of course the bread and the wine), a change of style is not only a possibility but a necessity.  Most of us Catholics can live with the dichotomies of doctrine and every day practical decisions but what is squeezing so many of our sisters and brothers out of the Church is the doctrinaire tone in which the magisterium is being shoved down our throats.  As I have written (and said) elsewhere, everyone knows these days what the Catholic Church is against; few can tell you what it is for.  This is a disastrous strategy for public relations—or what we call public relations in “church talk, “the new evangelization.” 
To be fair to all those concerned, this counter-productive tone cannot be attributed to the former Benedict XVI or the late John Paul II.  It is the sin (and I use that term deliberately) of middle management.  Incompetent but mitered boobs like Archbishop Lori or Cardinals Law and Burke or Bishops Olmstead, Martino, Morlino, or Dewane have done and continue to do incomparable damage to the Church with the arrogance and narrow-mindedness with which they attempt to “teach” the faithful the moral code of the Church.  This shrill and pharisaical tone often drifts down to the level of the local parishes where priests who lack a shepherd’s heart (not to mention common sense) bully their parishioners with inane and inappropriate dictums that only alienate good souls rather than bring them to comprehend the teachings of the Church and follow the call of the Gospel. 
Pope Francis is certainly signaling a change of tone.  The name Francis is the first and foremost signal.  An obvious reference to the poverello of Assisi, everyone immediately remembered the admonition of Christ appearing in the San Damiano Crucifix to Saint Francis: Rebuild my Church which is in ruins.   The simple down to earth tone of Francis’ first day as pope is a good sign of a pope who has his feet on the ground.  
Something that has been overlooked by most commentators is the argument that allegedly took place in the “room of tears” as Francis was being vested in the papal habit.  He refused to put on the lacy rochet and fur-trimmed velvet mozetta (short cape) which the pope wears for formal occasions.  Monsignor Marini, the papal master of ceremonies was insistent—the pope does not appear in the simple white simar (cassock) for formal occasions; the Pope was insistent—the velvet and fur is not his style.  The Pope won.  The papal simar—a plain white cassock with an elbow length over-cape—is the normal working habit of the pope.  (A prelate or even a simple priest can wear the same sort of cassock though in black; a prelate’s is edged in the color of his rank, the priest’s is plain black.)  It is the ecclesiastical equivalent of a business suit.  For formal occasions a bishop or higher ecclesiastic wears a cassock in the color of his rank, a rochet (a shorter white camisole, sometimes trimmed in lace according to the taste—or lack thereof—of the wearer), and a mozetta—a short cape in the color and material of his cassock.  Popes traditionally wore a mozetta of red velvet trimmed in ermine in the winter and of scarlet silk in the summer.  Paul VI did away with the velvet and fur variation, Benedict brought it back.  Francis apparently has ditched it again.  This all seems to be a bit of a tempest in the ladies’ department but it is significant that Francis is both eschewing the revived pomp of the late papacy and telling the old guard that their days of control are over.  He will set the tone.  Of course it will only make the boys who like to get dressed up in fur and yards of silk look even more outré but I suspect that Raymond Burke for one is too slow-witted to notice that he has become a low-class relic of a passed époque.     
All this is a good beginning but while we can’t expect a change in substance, we do need to see a substantial change of style.  Francis is sending all the right signals but let us pray that as he begins to speak he assures us he is also a Pope who listens and listens carefully to his flock.  Again, we are not children.  Like the Pope himself we are educated adults.  That does not mean that we don’t have things to learn but it does mean that we need to be educated as adults.  There needs to be conversation.  There has to be a freedom of discussion without topics being “off limits” of discussion.  The methodologies and presuppositions of the material being taught must to be open to critique.  As a former professor and as a man with a scientific (chemistry) background, it can be hoped that Pope Francis understands this and will not be patronizing.  But then Benedict and John Paul (and Paul VI and John XXIII) were not patronizing men.  The problem is middle management.  Let us hope that Francis will begin choosing intelligent and educated pastors for the flock—bishops like Sean O’Malley and Timothy Dolan and Rowan Williams (whoops, wrong Church) and Gerald Kicanas, and Howard Hubbard and William Curlin and John Ricard, and Robert Morneau, and Mort Smith, and Bernard McLaughlin.  Just give us good shepherds with listening and attentive hearts and we will be fine.  Solomon asked for a lebh shomea (a listening heart); it worked for him and it will work for Francis I.