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.     



Friday, October 25, 2013

Why Are They Afraid of Pope Francis? 4

Ignatius Loyola
In my last posting, I mentioned that his being a religious colors Pope Francis’ approach to Church in a way that makes some people nervous.  Some of the wing-nut blogs have complained about the Pope’s “brash statements,” or his “ill-considered remarks to the press.”  Others have rhetorically asked what can be done to “save the Church” before “this pope ruins it.”  Religious are used to more freedom of expression and less inclined to focus so exclusively on the institutional facet of the Church.  But we must remember that Francis is not only a religious—but a Jesuit.  The Jesuits are the Church’s  Marine Corps—the elite cadre with an unparalleled panache that sets them aside—and I believe a step above—the other religious.
When Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus he had a radically different vision of the sort of the religious they would be.  Ignatius didn’t want monastic costuming for his men, nor did he want them bound to the long hours of singing the Divine Office.  The new spirituality with which he endowed his new society was different from the monastic impulse that had shaped the Benedictines and Cistercians.  It wasn’t a spirituality which drew its strength from the reflective chanting of the psalms or the early morning pondering of the scriptural texts as one sat in a cloister for lectio divina.  Ignatius had undergone a profound conversion while living as a hermit in a cave above the Benedictine Abbey at Manresa.  He looked deep into his soul and radically confronted his own sinfulness and then, contemplating the Jesus of the Gospels, came to hear the call to follow him.  Then progressing through mediations on the Lord’s Passion and Death came to surrender his life to God in the surrender of his will.  The beautiful prayer of St. Ignatius sums it all up:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understandng
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own. 
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

Ignatius’s thinking “outside the box” has radically colored the Society of Jesus and its mission.  While always at the disposal of the Pope for any particular mission he chooses for them, Jesuits have followed the most unusual career paths in their spread of the Gospel.   Jesuits have not only run premier universities and secondary schools and been zealous in the “foreign mission” of the Church, but have had careers as paleontologists, nuclear physicists, bio-chemists, linguists, members of Congress, economists, poets, artists, musicians, architects, lawyers, diplomats, and many other fields we do not usually associate with the clergy.
In their work Jesuits have long donned secular clothing when appropriate, lived in apartments, palaces, Quonset huts and RV’s. 
I attended both a Jesuit secondary school and a Jesuit university.  I was a freshman in High School when the Second Vatican Council opened.  The previous spring when I was an eighth-grader my parents and I sat with the guidance counselor for an interview before my acceptance.  “Your son,” the priest warned my parents, “will graduate from our school as an agnostic—even perhaps an atheist—or as a committed Catholic.  Our graduates are nothing in between—but whichever way he goes, he will think for himself.  We may not be happy with his choice, but he will know what he believes and why he believes it.”  I turned out a committed Catholic—through my whole live, without ever having one of those young adult crises of faith—though many of my classmates have long ago walked away from the Church.  I know why, and always have known why, I am a Catholic and they know why, and always have known why, they are not.  But I have also found in the fifty years since that interview that many people fear that power we were given to think critically and not accept blindly any alleged truths without demanding a satisfying and rational explanation. 
Now we have a Jesuit Pope and it seems that he, like my teachers, does not expect us to just fall in line and “believe” what others tell us to believe.  Some are frightened by this, but I, for one, say “hurrah—I am with you Pope Francis SJ.!”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Why Are They Afraid of Pope Francis? 3

Gregory XVI
I think a third reason why so many are afraid of Pope Francis is his being a religious, and in particular being a Jesuit.  The last religious to be elected Pope was the Camaldolese Benedictine Mauro Cappellari who reigned as Gregory XVI (1830-1846).  He was one of the most conservative men to sit on the Throne of Peter.  In reaction to the French Revolution and the overthrow of the ancien regime, Gregory resisted the introduction of any and every novelty to the Papal States.  He was succeeded by the liberal Pius IX but despite the new Pope’s openness to reform, the repression of Gregory’s reign burst into open rebellion in 1848—the year that revolutions swept all Europe—and Pius had to flee Rome until French troops could restore order.  The challenge to his temporal authority represented in the revolution drove Pius to the extreme conservatism that marked his reign and has made him an enduring hero to the wing-nuts of the Catholic right.  Pius and all his successors—Leo XII, St. Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have been diocesan priests, but in the intervening years, religious life has changed from representing the more conservative face of Catholicism to being the voice of Catholic liberalism.
The roots of the monastic and mendicant Orders (the Benedictines, the Cistercians, the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Augustinians) were in part in protest against the socio-economic structures of their times. The friars in particular rejected the budding urban capitalism of the 13th centuries in favor of communal property.   Both the monastic and mendicant movements were at first extra-canonical movements of the laity who were discontent with the options offered them by the clerical and institutional structures of their days.  (Neither Benedict nor Francis was a priest and both their movements were originally lay movements that accepted priests among their members but only as equals to the lay monks (Benedict) or lay brothers (Francis).  (The Carmelites and the Augustinians were also originally lay movements.)   The mendicants understand their role to be a prophetic voice that warns about those elements in society—and in the Church—that contradict the values set forth in the Gospel.  Moreover, from the beginning the mendicants rejected hierarchy and authoritarian government in favor of a radical democracy in which their superiors were not only elected by the brothers but were accountable to the brothers gathered in Chapter. 
Ignatius used a different model in establishing the Society of Jesus.  Drawing from his experience as a soldier and determined to effectively combat the inroads of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers, Ignatius imposed a military structure on his new Society and demanded unquestioning obedience to one’s superiors in the society.  He also placed the Society at the disposal of the Pope for whatever missions the Pope required them to serve.  But in that service they were given remarkable freedom.  Ignatius did away with the choral recitation of the Divine Office—traditional not only for all religious up to that time but even for the secular clergy.   He also chose that his men would not have a religious habit.  While they normally wore a black cassock, standard clerical dress, they were free to abandon it for lay clothes as the mission required.  When the first Jesuit missionaries arrived in China they abandoned western dress for the saffron robes of Buddhist monks but then as they understood the culture better, they adopted the silk gowns of Confucian scholars in order to be more effective in presenting their ideas to the Chinese.  They celebrated Mass in Mandarin rather than Latin and adopted other elements of Chinese culture.  They were wildly successful in their mission and served in the Imperial Court where they wielded immense influence until the Augustinians and Franciscans, jealous at their successes, complained to Rome about the “Chinese Rites.”  Forced back to western expression by Rome, their mission failed as spectacularly as it had succeded.
Today most religious see their role in the Church very differently than do diocesan priests—and this is often a source of tension with bishops who are, for the most part, drawn from the diocesan clergy.  A Benedictine or Trappist who is ordained will tell you he is a monk first and a priest second. They are usually reluctant to take on ministries that require them to leave their monasteries. Similarly a Franciscan or Carmelite or Augustinian will tell you that he is a brother who is ordained for the service of the Church but who takes his primary vocational identity from his religious community rather than from his being a priest.  More and more religious look to serve in ministries that reflect the charism of their particular congregation and are anxious to leave parish ministry to the diocesan clergy.  Many religious priests today wear their religious habits in the Church or around their monastery or school, but beyond that dress plainly in ordinary clothes.  All this is fine, but to my mind it is the icing on the cake.
In the Civil Rights movement of the early and mid-sixties and in the anti-war movement of the late sixties and early seventies, the religious were first to get involved.  Not the religious priests, however, but the Sisters.  The world was shocked—and then delighted—to see Catholic Sisters marching with Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery.  The women finally shamed the men into putting on their jock straps and joining them.  Once into progressive causes, the men were not shy.  The Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan and his brother, the Josephite Philip Berrigan were the leading Catholic voices against the war in Viet Nam.  Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, wrote thought-provoking books giving the spiritual roots of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements.  Bishops clamped down on the clergy—Cardinals Spellman of New York and McIntyre of Los Angles in particular—and while the diocesan guys had to cave, the religious, independent of the bishops, went on against the war, for open-housing, against American support for Latin American dictatorships, and for a series of social justice issues.  When Liberation Theologian Gustavo  Gutierrez fell afoul of the Peruvian hierarchy he found refuge in becoming a Dominican.   
These social changes worked their ways into the curriculum of Catholic schools, colleges, and universities—again, for the most part the province of religious communities.  Religious began to see that they had a role to play in being an alternative voice in the Church and for the Church—not contradicting the magisterium but raising the questions posed by the evangelical values laid out in the gospel even as Saint Francis had done in his day. 
Religious often refer to this role as their “prophetic call.”  I am not sure yet if that role has evolved to where it is truly prophetic.  I think religious need to look at themselves long and hard and ask themselves if they themselves are faithful to the gospel.  Frankly, I don’t think the renewal of religious life envisioned by the Council has reached anything near its potential.  Religious are still often very much a part of the systems they decry.  Nevertheless, I think someone needs to be a prophetic voice in and for the Church today.  Whether it is bishops who spend millions on refurbishing their residences, or the failure of so many Church institutions to pay a just wage or allow their employees to unionize, or the lack of just processes in ecclesiastical trials, the Church needs to be held as accountable as the Church wants to hold secular institutions and it is often the religious who are most outspoken in “outing” the injustices.
On the other hand, we need to see that leading prophetic voices in the Church such as Dom Helder Camara or Archbishop Oscar Romero or John XXIII came from the diocesan clergy.  How many secular priests staff inner-city parishes where they fight for better conditions for their parishioners and for their neighbors regardless of religion.  And when these diocesan priests run afoul of their bishops for their social activism they don’t have the escape hatch of a supportive community and the possibility of a new assignment that religious have.   
As a Jesuit Francis was never cutting edge.  In fact, he played the game very safely working closely with the Argentine hierarchy and even turning a blind eye to much of the injustice in his native land during the years it was ruled by a military junta.  Nevertheless, it is clear that Francis thinks differently than this predecessors.  He is more spontaneous and far less attentive to the fine details of rubric or law.  He is emerging as prophetic voice—not the radical Amos or even a Jeremiah—but prophetic none the less.  It is clear that there is a new sheriff in town.  When it comes to simple things like whether women can be included in the Holy Thursday Rite of the Washing of the Feet  or the call for us all to look at how we live and can we scale it back a notch or two, Francis is setting a new pace.  I don’t think there is much to fear, but then I don’t want to be a bishop who lives in a 41 million dollar Residenz. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why Are They Afraid of Pope Francis? 2

Yousuf Karsh portrait of Pius XII

the photo that created a papacy 

When Father Spadaro asked him “who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” Pope Francis answered : “I do not know what might be the most fitting description.... I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”  This is not the way most popes would have answered the question.  Certainly, the Venerable Pius XII—the hero of the neo-trad movement, would never have answered the question that way.  Pius very carefully crafted the mystique of the Pope as a living saint, a direct channel from God to humankind, God’s ambassador who was virtually indistinguishable from the Deity who sent him.  I am old enough to have grown up with Pius and the papacy he fashioned and it was a remarkable theatric.  Pius was, at least to the public eye, austere and remote.  He was gifted with a lean—even gaunt—frame that would leave one to think he did not subsist on any earthly food.  (He dined alone which helped keep this image intact.)  From an old Roman noble family, Pacelli had the classic Roman aquiline nose and the ability of a born aristocrat to immediately dominate a room in such a way that anyone present immediately recognized their inferiority.  Even as a young priest in the Vatican Diplomatic Corps, Pius had always been a stickler for the most minute points of protocol and as Pope he used the traditional trappings of office—the Tri-regnum (the triple tiara), the sedia gestatoria (the throne carried on the shoulders of twelve of the Pope’s Gentlemen of the Chamber), the flabella (the large ostrich-plum fans carried alongside the pope in procession) and the canopy carried over him on twelve poles held by monsignors.  Pius brought in famous portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh to do his photo at prayer—an image that became perhaps the best known image of the Pope during his reign.  In all this Pius set the gold standard for what Popes should be—or at least for what many since have thought popes should be.  It was all a bit of an act.  While Pius never let his public persona slip, in private he was a very practical man given to over-working (and micro-managing).  He found great pleasure in the small birds he kept as pets and his long-time housekeeper, the German Franciscan nun, Mother Pasquilina,  was a confidant, a mother, and a best friend to the very shy man who hid beneath the papal robes.   All that was kept a secret, however, as long as he sat on the Throne of Peter.  He would never have identified himself as a “sinner” as that would have undermined the mystique on which he built his power.
John XXIII would not have thought himself a sinner either—except when he was preparing to make his confession.  John was not a person who seems to have focused much on sin.  He had a basically positive view of human nature, including his own, and managed to see the good in people.  His openness to others was an alarm bell for those in the Sacred College and the Roman Curia who were of a more pessimistic outlook such as Cardinals Ottaviani and Siri as they could see how this more positive anthropology would undermine the traditional structures on which their authority and power rested.  It is difficult to use fear as weapon when you have a jolly captain running the ship.
Now Paul VI is the one pope in the last sixty years who might have seen himself as a sinner.  Paul is my favorite of the popes of the last sixty-plus years and I think the holiest, but that is because we seem to share a strong Augustinian understanding of human nature, beginning with our own.  Paul’s humor was wry –he was neither the jolly grandfather John XXIII or the witty entertainer John Paul II.  The papacy sat heavy on Paul and he was a man whose conscience seems to have demanded an almost constant wrestling match.  Sometimes referred to as a Papal Hamlet because of his pensiveness, I think Paul was more the Christ in the desert undergoing every test and temptation though, given the frailty of his human nature, without ever attaining the confident resolution with which his Master emerged after only forty days.   
John Paul I we hardly knew, of course, and John Paul II—like John XXIII—would not have described himself as a sinner except when it was time to confess, or maybe occasionally in Lent.  He might have let you know, however, that you are a sinner, though he would then quickly remind you of the Mercy of God.   John Paul II had that Slavic single-focus that kept his attention on the work at hand rather than the inner-wrestling of the soul that characterized Paul VI.  I think John Paul saw things in blacks and whites and his conscience was rarely troubled—even when it should have been.  When something did fall into the “black” category for him I suspect he was most unlikely to yield and if he did, his clear and simplistic vision would have urged him simply to confess, do penance, and move on.  While he eschewed the papal trappings of Pius XII, John Paul II in his own way marked a return to the unquestioned autocracy model of Pope, at least in public.  In private he seems never to have gotten control of his Curia who used the Pope’s inability to comprehend the collegiality called for by Vatican II to garner power to their own bureaucracy.  And this, of course, has led to the current Pope’s need to “reform” the Curia from the abuses of power to which it has accustomed itself.
Now Benedict XVI is another latter-day Augustinian and I would be sure that in his private life he is very much aware of his personal sinfulness—not that I would think it to be all that great, but as a truly humble person he is, I am sure, keenly aware of and even troubled by his faults and shortcomings.   But I think Benedict tried to restore the magic of Pius XII and his revival of much of the old ceremonial and costuming of the pre-Conciliar era was an attempt to exalt, not himself, but the papacy to the status where it stood above human judgment.  He failed of course; the world had changed too much in the intervening decades to take seriously the smoke and mirrors of bygone court ceremonial. 
Those who felt that John Paul II and Benedict had recovered ground lost under Vatican II, John XXIII, and Paul VI would not want a pope who identifies himself first and foremost as sinner.  There is no way better to undercut the majesty of the papal office and the power of its authority than to make such a declaration.  This Francis—whether by living in a hotel, or declining even the most basic of papal vesture such as rochet and mozetta, or washing the feet of Muslim women on Holy Thursday—much less by calling himself a sinner—is making the glory days of papal monarchy impossible to restore.  Not a happy time for those who want a new Pius XII.  It’s unlikely that someone who calls themselves a sinner will hit your foes over the head with the Code of Canon Law. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Are They Afraid of Pope Francis?

Henri de Lubac

 I have wanted for some weeks now to take a look at the famous interview with Pope Francis that has caused so much consternation and see why it has made voices on the right raise the alarm about the Holy Father.  For many of us who have read the interview conducted by Father Antonio Spadaro SJ and published in La Civiltá Cattolica and reprinted in America, the interview was a breath of fresh air, a sign of a new springtime in the Church in which we were beginning to feel a winter freeze that we feared heralded a return to the pre-conciliar ice age.  What is it exactly that has terrified the extreme right wing? 
An initial point that some have missed was that in the preliminary conversations, the Holy Father told Father Spadaro that the greatest influences on his own intellectual development were the works of Henri de Lubac and Michel Certeau.  Both de Lubac and Certeau were 20th century Jesuit intellectuals and each signaled a departure from the faux-traditional Catholic methodology of neo-Thomism established by Leo XIII at the end of the nineteenth century as the “official” Catholic intellectual system. 
Henri de Lubac (1896-1991) came from an aristocratic French family but unlike many of the old French nobility did not identify with the Action Française  and French royalist movements that fashioned the views of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and others who would lead the rebellion against the Catholic Church and the Second Vatican Council.  de Lubac began studies in chemistry but suddenly switched and entered the Society of Jesus.  At the time the Jesuits and other religious communities were banned from France and so he entered a province in exile in England.  He left to fight in the French army in WWI but re-entered the Society after the War.  He was ordained in 1927 and appointed to the theological faculty at Lyon in 1929.  Up until WWII he spent his time in research, writing, and teaching.  He was identified with the nouvelle théologie
The nouvelle théologie was an intellectual movement primarily among French and German theologians in the first half of the twentieth century that rejected the neo-Thomism pushed by Leo XIII and Pius X in their reaction to “modernism,” in favor of returning to a use of the scriptural and patristic sources in doing theology.  Other proponents of the nouvelle théologie would be Yves Congar, Marie-Dominque Chenu, Jean Daniélou, Edward Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner, Hans Kung, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the (then) young Josef Ratzinger.  With Fascism, Nazism, and Marxism sweeping Europe in the ‘30’s, and then the War from 1939-45, the Holy See was preoccupied with political matters, but when the dust settled “orthodox” Curial commissars were appalled at the spread and influence of this “new theology” which they saw not so much heretical in its conclusions as rebellious to papal authority in its methodology.   After all, Popes had all but canonized the Neo-Scholasticism of such pseudo-Thomists as Gaetano Sanseverino, Josef Wilhelm Karl Kleutgen, and Giuseppe Pecci, the older brother of Leo XIII. 
In the 1950’a under the intellectual police state created by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, Prefect of the Holy Office (today’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith), most of the Nouvelle theologians found themselves silenced, prohibited from teaching or publishing.  Much of this intellectual repression was carried out indirectly through the religious orders of the respective theologians rather than by the Holy Office itself.  (It would only elevate the status of a theologian to attract the negative attention of Ottaviani and his winged monkeys.)  The Jesuit General, Jean Baptiste Janssens ordered de Lubac’s works—Surnaturel, Corpus mysticum, and Connaissance de Dieu—removed from Jesuit libraries and, as far as possible, from circulation altogether.  De Lubac was removed from his editorship of Recherches de science religieuse and from teaching at the Catholic University of Lyons.   The Encyclical Letter of Pius XII, Humani Generis, was widely thought to be directed against the proponents of the nouvelle théologie though not against de Lubac personally. 
Though de Lubac was under a ban, he continued to research and even to write.  His work was subject to censorship, but he was able to publish quite a bit nonetheless.  He published a study of Origen, three works on Buddhism, and several works on ecclesiology that would help shape the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church at Vatican II.  He also wrote several commentaries on and defenses of the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a friend and fellow Jesuit.  This did him no favor in Ottaviani’s office in Rome as the aged Cardinal had a relentless pathological hatred for Teilhard de Chardin’s work.  Nevertheless, to Ottaviani’s extreme displeasure, John XXIII appointed de Lubac to the preparatory commission for the Second Vatican Council and also named him one of the theological periti (experts) for the Council, a move to break Ottaviani’s stranglehold on Catholic “orthodoxy” before it could subvert the Pope’s plans for the Council.  In the years after the Council Pope Paul VI offered de Lubac a Cardinal’s hat in recognition for his contribution to Catholic thought, but de Lubac declined.  John Paul II urged him to reconsider and in 1983 de Lubac accepted the Pope’s nomination to the Sacred College. 
You can see why the neo-traditionalists would be so unhappy with Pope Francis saying that Henri de Lubac was one of the two great influences on his thought.  de Lubac represents everything the neo-trads hate.  He was one of the key figures in dismantling the pseudo-orthodoxy of their neo-Thomist stranglehold on Catholic thought.  The nouvelle théologie which he represents is precisely what undermined the static world of pre-Conciliar Catholicism with its “unchanging” liturgy, its simplistic catechisms, its pyramidic hierarchy, its identification with monarchy, its confusion of doctrinal assent for faith, and its embalmed doctrines.  But if de Lubac is “bad,” just wait until you see Micheal de Certeau.
Michel de Certeau (1925-1986) was also a Jesuit, though never a cardinal.  He was not a theologian—he was something far more dangerous, a historian.  And, influenced by the dramatic and revolutionary French historiography of the inter-war period he brought history into dialogue with psychoanalysis, philosophy, and the social sciences.  Psychoanalysis—now there is a word that strikes fear into the chilled hearts of the neo-trads.  And what is worse, Certeau was not only into psychoanalysis, he was a Freudian.  In fact he was one of the founders of the École Freudienne de Paris.  These Jesuits—when they go into freefall, they just soar with the eagles.  They never do anything in half-measures.  Certeau came to fame with his critique of the social revolution that swept France in May 1968 when over 11,ooo,ooo French—students and workers—threw the country into chaos as the Communists and Socialists joined together in an alliance to demand radical social change.  Certeau was interested in how history is written to justify power—the old “history is written by the victors” and how it has served as a tool of colonialism to destroy the culture and identity of indigenous peoples in order to subject them to colonial powers.  Great—we have a theological revolutionary in de Lubac and a political revolutionary in Certeau and the Pope is their disciple.  No wonder the right wing-nuts are just about ready to s***.  We have a Pope who is used to thinking outside the box.  Hold on to the hand-rails folks, this could be a wild ride, but then I have always loved roller-coasters.  Sure beats the glacial re-freezing that had been setting in before the Argentine Spring.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Of Dark Nights and Depression

Therese of Lisieux 

I mentioned in yesterday’s posting that some people—and in this case Michael Voris, the proponent of modern pseudo-orthodoxy—confuse depression with the Dark Night of the Soul just as they often confuse their own psychological rage for God’s Divine Justice.   One of the questions I am often asked when I speak on the subject of historical spirituality—one of the subjects that I teach—is how can you discern depression from the Dark Night.  Depression is often misdiagnosed, even (and especially) by priests whose lack of training in spirituality does not intimidate them from attempting to serve as “spiritual directors.” 
The simple answer—and beware of simple answers though this one is anything but simplistic—is that in depression the person is turned inward on himself or herself and is occupied in trying to alleviate the psychic pain in which they find themselves, while in the Dark Night the person finds themselves letting go of control and yielding to God.  Why I say that this answer, while simple, is not simplistic is that the director must be very attentive not only to the actions of the directee but the motivations—motivations about which the directee may not be being honest even to himself or herself. 
In the Dark Night the individual finds an increase—often a dramatic increase—in charity (love of God and love of neighbor) in their souls whereas in depression the person is obsessed with themselves and trying to alleviate the pain of the depression.  What makes this a difficult analysis is that one of the ways that people have of “self-medicating” the pain caused by the depression is throwing themselves into comforting pieties.  Another way that people have of self-medicating their emotional pain, and only one and not the most common of ways, is by being “nice” and by doing things for others in ways that will either evoke a positive response from those who benefit from their kindnesses or will win them recognition for their kindness.  I don’t mean to negate such good acts or even the intention behind them, but they are good works being done for a “pay-off” rather than being done as an overflow of the charity that is growing in their souls from the Dark Night. The Spiritual Director must listen very carefully to the experience of the person who is going through this trial to discern whether it is the Dark Night or whether it is depression.  Charity is always the key to the answer as charity is the only infallible sign of the action of the Holy Spirit, but the question will be is the charity authentic or is it, at the root, self-interested.  
I always think of the Night of Faith of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux during the final eighteen months of her life.  Thérèse found herself in terrible darkness of faith—some say that it was not the Dark Night of the Soul at all but something even far more testing.  Yet as subject to trial as was her faith, she never wavered in charity.  Those around her had no idea of her trial for she was as loving and generous as ever.  All of which is to say that if bitchiness accompanies one’s Dark Night, it isn’t a Dark Night and it is time to go for therapy not spiritual direction.  Hear that Janet?  G-E-T  H-E-L-P.