Pope Francis has been saying Mass semi-publicly in the chapel of the Casa S. Marta, where he has been living. He has been giving a “fervorino” at Mass, that is, a brief, usually off the cuff, sermon. So far, there is no indication that these little daily blips are going to be in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, but let that pass.
Today, commenting about St. Stephen the Proto-martyr, Francis made remarks about the Holy Spirit and the anniversary of the the Second Vatican Council and people who don’t like change.
The site of Vatican Radio has something of the fervorino. They, alas, don’t provide the whole text. They cut it up, adding commentary, even in the audio reportage. The English site provided less than the Italian site. Irritating. Don’t we want the whole text? If the whole text isn’t important enough to give in toto, then how important is it? But let that pass.
Francis quoted Stephen before he was killed, according to the Vatican Radio piece which I checked against the Italian… and you can see how cut up this is:
“the Holy Spirit upsets us because it moves us, it makes us walk, it pushes the Church forward.” He said that we wish “to calm down the Holy Spirit, we want to tame it and this is wrong.” Pope Francis said “that’s because the Holy Spirit is the strength of God, it’s what gives us the strength to go forward” but many find this upsetting and prefer the comfort of the familiar.
Nowadays, he went on, “everybody seems happy about the presence of the Holy Spirit but it’s not really the case and there is still that temptation to resist it.” The Pope said one example of this resistance was the Second Vatican council which he called “a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit.” But 50 years later, “have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council,” he asked. The answer is “No,” said Pope Francis. “We celebrate this anniversary, we put up a monument but we don’t want it to upset us. We don’t want to change and what’s more there are those who wish to turn the clock back.” [The Italian says: "Ci sono voci che vogliono andare indietro.... there are voices which want to go back"] This, he went on, “is called stubbornness ["essere testardi"] and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit.”
The Pope said the same thing happens in our personal life. “The Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path but we resist this.” He concluded his homily by urging those present not to resist the pull of the Holy Spirit. “Submit to the Holy Spirit,” he said, “which comes from within us and makes go forward along the path of holiness.”
Some people in the traditionalist camp are going to have a spittle-flecked nutty about this.
Let’s breathe into a paper bag and think about what is going on.
There is no doubt in my mind that the “testardi… the stubborn… the stiff-necked” Francis is speaking about are the SSPXers. He is not talking about those who are actually in union with the Roman Pontiff and who are legitimately making use of Summorum Pontificum.
Benedict was all about protecting the Council from the left and from the right. Benedict was all about reading the Council correctly and defending it from false readings. As a matter of fact he tackled this in his last days as the Roman Pontiff. HERE
What Francis did in the fervorino today must, I think, be read in terms of what Francis himself has been saying, as well as in terms of what Pope Benedict did.
For example, a week ago Saturday, Francis slapped down dissenters from doctrine in his fervorino. HERE. He hit pretty hard, too. Francis said, just over a week ago, that negotiating away parts of the Faith is “the path of apostasy, of disloyalty to the Lord”.
He has a “path” and “journey” image there. He uses the same image today… going forward or going backward. Francis did not say “turn back the clock”. At Fishwrap editor Tom Fox wrote a piece about his fervorino and twice misquotes “turn back the clock”. They don’t read Italian over there or check the Italian, I guess. And how much attention did Fox and the National Schismatic Reporter give to Francis harsh words about dissenters? I think you know the answer.
Let’s go to the next step and review what Benedict did.
Benedict did a lot to get the SSPX back into the fold, but he did not give them ice cream cones, either. For example, Benedict played hardball with the SSPX through the Doctrinal Preamble. Remember when Benedict lifted the excommunications of the SSPX bishops? Here is what Benedict wrote to the world’s bishops in 2009:
The remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline: the individuals were freed from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. This disciplinary level needs to be distinguished from the doctrinal level. The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, [NB] in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.
In light of this situation, it is my intention henceforth to join the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” – the body which has been competent since 1988 for those communities and persons who, coming from the Society of Saint Pius X or from similar groups, wish to return to full communion with the Pope – to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes.
Is Francis really that far from Benedict in this matter?