What on earth is Pope Francis up to and why?

st-peters-11-years-after-michelangelos-deathOne of my go-to guys for commentary on things Vatican is now Andrea Gagliarducci at his weekly Monday Vatican post.

This week Andrea tackles the questions (my wording): What on earth is Pope Francis up to and why?

Let’s see some of his piece.  You will have to read the whole thing there.  Here are samples with my oft-imitated treatment of emphases and comments:

Pope Francis: Will It Really Be a Revolution?

The week that begins today and ends with the creation of 20 new cardinals may represent the turning point of Pope Francis’ pontificate. [HERE] The choices of the new cardinals not only show Pope Francis’ sensitivity toward the world’s peripheries and a certain pastoral approach, they also indicate a change concerning the pivotal issues at stake in this papacy. This change cannot be underestimated.

Before the arrival of Pope Francis, the main themes of discussion in the Church have had solid theological roots. But even the question concerning the pastoral care of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, as well as for homosexual couples – both of which were the object of a heated debate at the last Synod of Bishops – are in the end based on theological foundations, and deal with the application of doctrine. Moreover, even the criticisms aimed at the pope’s plan for curial reform – the other issue at currently at stake in this pontificate – are founded on theological and juridical grounds.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis demonstrates that he is moving on completely different grounds. It is not by chance that one of his favourite quotes about ecumenism is taken from the conversation between Bl. Paul VI and the Patriarch of Costantinople, Athenagoras: “If we were to close ourselves off in a room together and leave the theologians outside, we would accomplish ecumenism in one hour.” In similar fashion, leaving theological discussions aside, Pope Francis wants to propose a model of a Church that evangelizes through attraction, and not because of the strength of its concepts.  [At first glance, this seems like madness.  On the other hand, consider that, under the onslaught of the dictatorship of relativism and the destruction of education resulting in the loss of reasoning skills along with wide-spread ignorance, people can’t or don’t accept reasoned arguments anymore.  Gorgias has won.  We have to hold up shiny objects in front of people’s eyes, and rattle them as a bunch of keys before a fussing baby.  Is that too harsh?  I have to exaggerate to get my point across.  So, Francis might be on to something.]

Pope Francis’ choices in two consistories mirror this intention. Beyond choosing a few candidates with strong institutional ties, Pope Francis has selected as cardinals mainly bishops whose primary interest is not found in some or other theological position, but in pastoral practice. Pope Francis’ Church bypasses theological discussion and aims at going straight to the heart of the people.  [I think that that distinction of “theological” versus “pastoral” is flawed, but….  In any event, this is why our sacred liturgical worship of God is pivotal in any effort we undertake in evangelization or new evangelization.]

All of these new cardinals will bring their peculiar perspectives to the consistory the Pope has convened to discuss reform of the Roman Curia. The reform seems to be stuck. The first comprehensive draft was highly criticized by Vatican dicasteries, and there is a real risk that the structure will remain as it is for the moment, in expectation of a definitive change that will not take place before the end of this year – as Pope Francis has admitted. Nevertheless, another option that one insider designates “St. Peter’s option” may be explored.

[NB] It can be explained this way. During the construction of the current Basilica of St. Peter in the 16th century, the old basilica was only gradually dismantled, step by step, while it was replaced with the new building. This is the way Pope Francis works, by establishing new structures around the currently existing structure which is then removed once the new structure is complete.

Through this lens we can better understand the process by which the Vatican at first hired expensive external commissions and then followed this step with the establishment of the Secretariat for the Economy, the Council for the Economy and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. These bodies were born without statutes and they set out to work while waiting for their specific powers and competences to be drafted.

This is way curial reform will be carried out. According to sources, during their recent ad limina visit, the Lithuanian bishops asked Pope Francis about the reform. He replied that two super-congregations, respectively, for Justice and Charity and Laity and Family will be established. How the competences of the many minor dicasteries that will be subsumed into these new Congregations will be arranged is yet to be decided. But establishing them is a first step toward the much anticipated Curia reform.  [I’m skeptical.  But…. hey!… maybe it’ll work!]

[…]

He goes on to opine about the choices he is making in curial reform and his selection of new cardinals.  Then…

[…]

Still, no theological preference seems to drive Pope Francis’ choices. Instead one finds a human touch, a peculiar instinct that guides the Pope in understanding who the prelates are with whom he feels more at ease.

[…]

Cardinal Baldisseri’s words signalled that the Synod war has already begun, and that – in spite of the slogan “We don’t turn back” which accompanied the presentation of the next Synod’s guidelines – the majority of bishops does not endorse a pastoral practice that is completely detached from doctrine.  [That’s because it can’t be!]

[NB… salutary reminders…] And Pope Francis would probably not support it either. The Pope is always very orthodox in his declarations. This fact has been demonstrated several times. The Pope backed the Slovakian bishops in their commitment to promote a referendum to defend the traditional family in their country. He invited Filipinos to be wary of the ideological colonization of the family. He expressed a strongly negative judgment over gender theory, which he also defined as ‘demonic’ during a meeting with Austrian bishop in an ad limina visit. Taken together these moments indicate that Pope Francis is anything but progressive.  [Which is what I have been pushing all along.]

[Quaeritur…] So, who is the real Pope Francis? The one who supports liberal bishops and priests, or the one who speaks in an orthodox way? The answer may be more obvious than expected. [It isn’t obvious to me.  Let’s see what Andrea has to say!]

Simply put, for Pope Francis pastoral practice is more important than any given theological debate because the latter, in the end, may be no more than a worldly exercise. Perhaps his famous declaration about preferring a “poor Church for the poor” may also be read this way: a Church light in structure with limited philosophical debates and a great deal of pastoral love. [BUT!… BUT!… Someone has to do the theology!  And I don’t think they deserve to be regularly insulted.]

But this is not new. Benedict XVI spoke in almost the same terms about the need to escape worldliness and to move beyond the self-referentiality of ecclesial structures. And he underscored the value of mercy as is evidenced in the homily he delivered at the Mass for the inauguration of his petrine ministry. Time and again Pope Benedict preached about a Church that should not be constructed on ideas, but engaged in a lively evangelization effort.

Nevertheless, between these two popes a paradigm change is taking place. Pope Benedict was convinced that a solid theological background was needed so that the Church’s pastoral practice would be correct.  [That describes my view.] In fact, the search for truth was pivotal in his pontificate. Pope Francis, on the other hand, sets aside any given theological problem in order to seek immediate, personal contact with people.  [Will that get the job done?  We’ll see.]

[…]

Read the whole thing over there.

Thought provoking.

¡Hagan lío!

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47 Responses to What on earth is Pope Francis up to and why?

  1. Bosco says:

    There is an interesting interview by Luke Hansen S.J. with Cardinal Reinhard Marx in the February 16, 2015 issue of ‘America’. Titled “We have a lot of work to do”, it may be found here (link)

    http://americamagazine.org/issue/we-have-lot-work-do

    In answer to the question: ‘What challenge accompanies this new time in the church?’, Marx replied:

    “It is best to read “The Joy of the Gospel.” Some people say, “We don’t know what the pope really wants.” I say, “Read the text.”

    It does not give magical answers to complex questions, but rather it conveys the path of the Spirit, the way of evangelization, being close to the people, close to the poor, close to those who have failed, close to the sinners, not a narcissistic church, not a church of fear.

    There is a new, free impulse to go out. Some worry about what will happen. Francis uses a strong image: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets,” rather than a church that is very clean and has the truth and everything necessary. The latter church does not help the people. The Gospel is not new, but Francis is expressing it in a new way and is inspiring many people all over the world, who are saying, “Yes, that is the church.” It is a great gift for us. It’s very important.

    We will see what he will do. He has been pope for only two years, which is not much time.”

    Draw your own conclusions from the full interview. For my part, I found myself asking ‘Has it only been two years?’ Time flies.

  2. Mike says:

    I appreciate the good will in this interpretation, but I don’t know how a Church without solid and clear doctrine and theology becomes anything but the Anglican church.

  3. Ed the Roman says:

    “Will that get the job done? We’ll see.”

    Puts me in mind of one of my favorite autoquotations:
    “The trouble with pragmatism is that it doesn’t work.”

  4. Traductora says:

    Monday Vatican is excellent. But I think he’s being way too hopeful on this one.

    Also, like it or not, the Third Person was the Logos (Word, in the sense of rational intelligibility). Pope Francis is making a completely artificial distinction between the heart and the head. They are together. Condemning the head because your timid heart – or in his case, the desire for positive publicity from the left – tells you to accept anything and go along with the world, because, after all, to do otherwise would be mean – is the source of most heresies. Actually, most heresies begin below the belt, and this one does too. Note that all the issues are those that could be considered, in one way or another, sexual.

  5. JacobWall says:

    Here’s an idea. Yes, let’s hold off on the theology and rational arguments in evangelization. I agree that it doesn’t work for most people anymore. So far, I know only one person that it worked for. It’s not what brought me to the Church. What gave me that final push was seeing a combination of sound moral teaching (which is different from theology, and which Pope Francis is emphasizing very much) and seeing true charitable action that cared for both people’s bodily needs and souls (again, Pope Francis’ example is amazing.) It was only later that the theological parts started filling in.

    But actually, in my day-to-day life I’ve seen an another strong element that tends to impact people – traditional liturgy. So, instead of trying to convince people that the scholastic explanation of transubstantiation is true, or the fact that God instituted traditional marriage as an unbreakable bond, take them to a Latin Mass or a beautiful candle-lit procession in honour of Our Lady. Then show them that we really do care for the poor in both physical and spiritual needs. I think that will have a much greater impact. And the rest will come.

  6. SimonDodd says:

    To paraphrase Justice Scalia, day by day, the pope is busily designing a church that I do not recognize. And I want no part of it. Had I thought that this dreck was Catholicism, I would never have converted. If you could convince me that this dreck IS Catholicism, I would resign. My God! He wants to drain the Church of that pesky question of what to believe, and so all the problems it creates, the better that we can all join hands, which is the sum and substance of that ghastly quote from Paul VI. What Andrea describes isn’t a different religion, it’s not even a religion; it’s barely even a support group.

  7. Kristyn says:

    I converted to Catholicism six years ago in part because after a lifetime of Protestantism I felt I was giving my children a spiritual foundation akin to jello—forever shifting. The main reason was that the Catholic Church is the very Church that Jesus started, so it was first about fidelity to Him, and no matter what happens that can’t change. It will forever and always be HIS Church. But I will never understand the idea that the Church will somehow be more attractive if we all pretend we don’t really know what we believe. It is like a smart girl pretending to be stupid to attract a guy. It is “pastoral” to teach and guide well. How does it fit with the image of “Mater et Magistra” to play dumb?

  8. SimonDodd says:

    And, by the way, lest you think that I’m being far too cynical, here’s a piece by one of Francis’ FANS, saying exactly the same thing, only they think it’s a good thing:
    http://www.catholic365.com/article/750/how-pope-francis-is-ending-religion.html

  9. Matt Robare says:

    I don’t understand how you can just set aside theology in evangelization. One of the key themes of Christianity is that we can know God by knowing Christ. That implies a certain degree of theology.

    If we look at the traditional hymns and many of the traditional prayers, we see a great deal of theological content. It begins with Jesus himself — the Catechism describes the Lord’s Prayer as “the Gospel in brief.” When we make the Sign of the Cross, we are accepting the decisions of Nicaea weather we know it or not. When we pray the “Hail, Mary” we’re endorsing the Council of Ephesus and rejecting Nestorius. The truly amazing thing about great Catholic art is that it reflects and is informed by the teachings of the Church as it is an outpouring of Christ-centered creativity. A Gothic cathedral is as much as a theological statement as an architectural one.

  10. Sonshine135 says:

    Why does the church worry so much about reform (Isn’t this the root word in Reformation? Ugh.)? Just go out and faithfully spread the good news, and perform the Cardinal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Let the Holy Spirit do the rest. We over think this stuff sometimes. We spend so much time lamenting those who do not believe in the Lord that we lose sight of those who do and approach us to be fed. The Lord did not spend His time chasing after the rich man saying, “Hey, follow me sometimes and I’ll meet you where you are at.” Nor did the Lord dumb down His theology. He spoke in parables which were difficult for many to understand for some. He did not chase down those people and say, ” Hey… wait… you misunderstood.”

    Just pray the Mass and be faithful. That is the best way to reach out and convert the world.

  11. Traductora says:

    My other observation is that I don’t think Pope Francis is seriously planning on constructing any structure at all. I think he’s part of the “withering away of the Church” movement, since he and his ilk have surrendered most of Latin America to the Protestants and he even congratulates the Protestants on making converts out of these recalcitrant and non-comprehending Catholics, while the Church is supposed to dedicate itself to NGO activities, which means carrying out government policies.

    I think it’s lovely to take a positive view, but both his actions and his unscripted words tell an entirely different story. That said, I’m not sure he’s in charge of this. He’s very political and very sure of himself, but he’s not a smart man, not enormously well educated, and while I think he probably really does mean well, he clearly took the name Francis from the “other” character in Lord of the World. Well, maybe not consciously…but I think he’s probably being manipulated by people he considers his intellectual superiors, such as Maradiaga, Tucho Fernandez, and a host of others. Seeing that he just appointed to an important dicastery the German bishop who spent 31 million euros (on a job that was supposed to cost 2.5 million) on renovating the bishop’s palace, and who had actually been removed from his position, I’d say there’s probably a lot of wealthy German influence in there too. The Germans and the Argentinians are very close.

    I hate to sound so unspiritual and political all the time, but politics have always been part of the Papacy. And then you have spiritual people like St Catherine of Siena who come and call the Popes to order. We need a new St Thomas Aquinas, high-speed version, and a new St Catherine of Siena.

  12. Aquinas Gal says:

    “Simply put, for Pope Francis pastoral practice is more important than any given theological debate because the latter, in the end, may be no more than a worldly exercise.”

    But pastoral practice always has to be rooted in sound doctrine. Jesus said “The TRUTH will make you free.”

    For example: either same-sex marriage is immoral or it isn’t. The pastoral practice of say, New Ways Ministry, says SSM is OK. Courage, instead, says it’s not. The pastoral practice of those two groups is light years apart.

    The problem today is that we’re not just talking about theological debates on obscure issues that don’t matter much in people’s lives. Today all of Catholic doctrine is being attacked.

  13. LarryW2LJ says:

    Any chance we could get Scotty to get them to a transporter and meld the two, with only best qualities of each remaining? The folksiness and appeal to the masses of the one, with the sound theology and respect for tradition of the other?

    Guess I can dream.

  14. stillkickin says:

    It does appear to me that Pope Francis is taking an “either/or position” instead “both/and”. We need both, it is our theology that informs us that we are to works of mercy and why. Without a theological foundation mooring us, we could easily become adrift, and I don’t really like where the currents would take us. This has me feeling a bit uneasy.

  15. LeeF says:

    Perhaps this is the gap that conservatives need to fill, i.e. the connection between sound doctrine and liturgy and pastoral practice. We need to propose pastoral approaches that have that connection in order to highlight the failings of those approaches that do not. But Francis does not want those to be passive approaches, but rather ones that go out to find people, starting right now.

  16. Priam1184 says:

    Upon further reflection I don’t see any real difference between Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus. The media coverage (including and especially the allegedly Catholic media) makes them appear to be polar opposites, but if one takes each man on his own terms is there any real difference?

    We live in an age of massive illusion and delusion. This is truly the hour of the enemy of the human race, but he only has this hour, whereas God Almighty, to paraphrase Bishop Sheen, will have his day. And that day is coming.

  17. mburn16 says:

    Every Cardinal in the 2013 conclave was apppinted by either JPII, or BXVI….and yet they elected Francis over many others who would have charted a more traditionalist course.

    I’m no fan of this Pope, and have little patience for either his style or priorities, but past experience shows us the capacity of any sitting Pope to heavily influence the long term is limited.

  18. Robbie says:

    I read this piece earlier and I guess my reaction is that I’m just not buying what Andrea Gagliarducci is selling. I think he’s putting an optimistic spin on what appears to be a less than optimal situation. As others have noted, a Church that avoids its theological and doctrinal roots isn’t much more than a spiritual movement. And a spiritual movement eventually can come to mean whatever each person decides it means. That is the opposite of a religion.

    Quite often, I come back to the words the Pope spoke in his first Mass after his election. He said the Church can’t become a spiritual NGO, yet it seems his words and deeds since have suggested the opposite. Saying he wants a poor Church that serves the poor strikes me as a description of a NGO with a spiritual bent. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with serving the poor, but is that now the only mission of the Church?

    Even if I’m totally misreading the Pope’s actions (entirely possible/likely), I don’t think his choices for Cardinal are based on pastoral actions rather than theological views. If that were the case, we might expect selections that come from both sides of spectrum. And while more liberal choices have as yet not been elevated (Cupich, Forte), the vast majority of his 40 new Cardinals certainly come from a more liberal viewpoint while conservatives like the Patriarch of Venice, Francesco Moraglia, have been passed over twice now.

    My rather cynical reading of the latest Cardinal choices is the traditional Sees were bypassed because they are filled with prelates who are likely not to support the Pope’s views. So rather than elevate men who don’t share his own vision, he went to unique places in search of those who are closer to his viewpoint. And in this sense, I think the recent piece at Rorate may be on to something. With these elevations, the Pope may be setting the stage for the real change to come not with him but with his successor.

  19. J_Cathelineau says:

    Pope Francis does not have a doctrine, nor a trascendent view of reality, but he has a fine political sense, enough to know when the resistence to an intended way might get too hard.
    So everthing will depend on how hard the catholics can resist, with the help of God. And that means that we have to study hard, especially theology. And pray. Im sure that that is the Reason for this Pope, sent to us, so unusual.

  20. Gregg the Obscure says:

    “We need a new St Thomas Aquinas, high-speed version, and a new St Catherine of Siena.”

    The Church is much bigger now than she was then, so I think we need more than two new ones right now. I’d suggest that we could use many emulators of St. Peter Damian and St. Bernardine of Siena.

  21. SimonDodd says:

    J_Cathelineau says: “I’m sure that that is the Reason for this Pope, sent to us, so unusual.” Sometimes God chastises His people. But sometimes what looks like a blunder by the conclave is just a blunder by the conclave.

  22. jacobi says:

    There are two things that we all have to be clear about when we consider what is going on in the Church at present.

    The first is mercy. It is not merciful to hide the truth from people so that they can feel better and carry on doing what is wrong. That is falsehood.. It is one of the tactics that the Devil uses in trying to lead the Faithful astray.

    The second is the pastoral approach. If this means being nice and tolerant to people whatever their life style and inclinations, or helping the poor, a rapidly diminishing category (see latest UN statistics and the article in this weeks’ Catholic Herald by Philip Booth), or putting the many increasingly obese sectors of society on a diet, well that all very warm and comfy and well, but then you don’t need a Church for that.

    Any well intentioned secularist institute or charity, and they do exist, could do that, and would be happy to do so.

    But if we are to love the Lord our God with our whole heart and soul and also our neighbour as we would ourselves then we need to keep the commandments of Christ, and to do that we have to know what those Commandments are.

    We need the Catholic Church and it Magisterium, as Christ intended.

  23. SimonDodd says:

    Priam1184 says: “Upon further reflection I don’t see any real difference between Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus. The media coverage … makes them appear to be polar opposites, but if one takes each man on his own terms is there any real difference?”

    Yes. Yes there is. For example, “Pope Benedict was convinced that a solid theological background was needed so that the Church’s pastoral practice would be correct. … Francis, on the other hand, sets aside any given theological problem in order to seek immediate, personal contact with people.” Our beloved pope-emeritus believed that it matters what you believe.

  24. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Gagliarducci’s article points out what could be obvious. The Pope is not trying to change doctrine. He has never even implied such a desire. Most of this papacy has focused on exhorting people toward new attitudes, demeanor, and the ability of the Church’s faithful to project joy and initiative in their faith.

    The liberal dissenters ignore this in favor of “who am I to judge?” It is easy for them to ignore doctrine and say this pontificate is just about being nice. On the other hand, too many traditional Catholics find it much easier to sit around, talk about how confused they are, how politically shrewd their pope is, and how they will just offer lots of prayers for the pontificate to end quickly (meaning, “God, please do a hit job on the pope”). I still remember Fr. Z’s words of counsel to traditional Catholics who want to know how to react (wdtprs. of Jan. 13, 2015). Fr. Z said:

    Make things happen. Work with sweat and money to make them happen. If you thought you worked hard before, forget it. Work harder….Get involved with all the works of charity that your parishes or groups sponsor…..The “traditionalist” will be second-to-none in getting involved. “Dear Father… you can count on the ‘Stable Group of TLM Petitioners…. Tell us what you need!” Pray and fast and give alms. Have you been doing that? Do more. Form up and get organized. Find like-minded people. Put in your request for the implementation of Summorum Pontificum. Raise the money to help buy the stuff the parish will need. Make a plan. Find people. Execute!

    Or, we could just continue to complain and in the wdtprs combox sound like a broken record: that the pope isn’t smart, isn’t theological, is too political, etc. and then conclude with “I’ll pray for things to get better” while we do nothing actually constructive in Catholic parish life and outreach.

  25. albizzi says:

    This Pope Francis is confusing and nobody can understand where he is leading us to.

  26. Imrahil says:

    Dear Traductora,

    Seeing that he just appointed to an important dicastery the German bishop who spent 31 million euros (on a job that was supposed to cost 2.5 million) on renovating the bishop’s palace, and who had actually been removed from his position, I’d say there’s probably a lot of wealthy German influence in there too.

    That particular part couldn’t be much farther from the facts, in fact. Bishop Tebartz von Elst was campaigned out of his office by the German media, with at least silent acceptance from the German episcopate (on the “he’s made himself unbearable” lines, I suppose). Part of the agreement was that after some time, he’ll get another job, so now he has one, where even according to his critics he has some expertise (in the theoretical field, as pastoral theologian).

    Now, let us suppose the best for the German bishops and say that they stand behind the policy that he’ll not be ousted but get an honorable job – on the “after all he’s punished and sometime there must be an end of it” line; but that they’d campaign for him, that they’d wish to take influence by putting him into is, for anyone who knows the climate, unthinkable, and as for the German establishment, media etc., even less thinkable.

    For the record, the real problem was not so much the bishop’s palace (which got the attention, though, although he squandered neither Church tax nor charitable gifts, and the thing may be counted as investment), but the fact that he had upgraded himself, on personal bonus miles, on a trip from business to first class, and had claimed towards the press that he’d flown business class (claiming “that’s what the Church paid, and the rest is noone’s business”) and was caught in it, and then was miserably counseled to actually threaten legal action against the journalist not to publish “first class”, which made him liable to prosecution (unsworn false assertion in placement of oath, or so).

    The thing behind the scenes though was that, though in other dioceses, even in Germany, he’d be considered merely moderate, he was known in Limburg as strictly conservative; e. g., there used to be a gentlemen’s agreement that while the bishop has the power de jure, to satisfy Rome and the CIC, the laity councils have them de facto. Now Bp Tebartz van Elst said something to the effect of, “I don’t intend at all to change anything w.r.t. the established institutions; but here, in the paper, it’s written what powers they have, and that’s that.” That gave a general dissatisfaction in Limburg. A newspaper depicted the atmosphere in the following manner, “well he’s not a bad guy; but we don’t want him in Limburg; he doesn’t fit here”. One of the usually rather conservative newspapers, the F.A.Z., comes from the diocese of Limburg and seem to have made it their particular prerogative to get this bishop down.

    I don’t claim he acted well in any case, but I won’t deny that I’ve got a feeling of solidarity when the German press hunts a German bishop down. This is a parenthesis, though; the point here is that his appointment is by no means a sign of German influence. In fact there was a (minor; some water has flown down the Tiber, after all) outrage in Germany because of it.

  27. ThankyouB16 says:

    I think the hermeneutic for Pope Francis comes from his Big Interview–i.e. the very beginning when he claims that he is a very “undisciplined” person.

    A disciplined person would always be thinking about the effect on the communication and perception of the True Faith that his actions, and off the cuff statements, and pastoral ideas, and feelings, and media moments, and large gestures, and affectionate embraces of “the other” have. Especially if you’re the pope and it’s your job to be conservative and to protect the True Faith.

    But Pope Francis is, by his own words, “undisciplined,” and leads, I think, with his feelings.

    Look, I have no doubt that Jesus would embrace every sinner; however, I think part of the authentic encounter is that the sinner goes away aware of his sin–and invited to penance. Now, to be sure, there is only one Jesus who “had it down perfectly”–i.e. the embrace of the sinner and the “conviction” of the sin. Great saints can do it too? The rest of us struggle to imitate the balance, and we often say, “Let me embrace today; build the relationship for now; build trust. A later moment will be for the conviction of sin and the call to repentance and forgiveness.” Problem is: how many of us ever, actually get around to it? I don’t think the pope is exempt from this struggle too. And that is another hermeneutic through which to read him.

  28. Blaise says:

    I think the polite term for the general contrast between Theology and Pastoral is balderdash. But feel free to use hogwash if you prefer.
    There is however one area where “theology” does contrast with the pastoral and that is when “theologians” start making such fine distinctions that they contradict the principle of non-contradiction. As was said above, theology itself is not often the face of fruitful evangelisation. But it will generally inform that. The catechism and the revealed Truth of the Faith are not “theology” but they transmit truths.
    I think the linked article is over optimistic.

  29. Joseph-Mary says:

    Real nice that the pope is going to the peripheries to make cardinals of such as the bishop with only 15 priests in his diocese but the men he surrounds himself with (Forte, Mardiaga,Marx, etc.) and how he lets them run off at the mouth with impunity is disconcerting. Also that press is given to unnatural situations such as last week the woman who wants to be a man with her girlfriend with whom she wants to start a family was heralded by the pope who called, invited, met with and let the press know. These things do not instill confidence in the faithful that the pope will be clear and orthodox. Plus I truly do not think he loves faithful Catholics. It is a time of trial and test and we must keep our eyes on the Lord because we have no idea what will come from Rome. We must trust and cling to Jesus and Mary and to no man. Yes, we must obey but not a disobedience or sin.

  30. J_Cathelineau says:

    Simon Dodd says: “its a blunder of the Conclave”. No doubt about it.
    But if God has permitted a blunder of the Conclave as a punishment is because He wants something from us catholics. Par example, to not let the bad guys fire a saintly Pope so easily.

  31. Traductora says:

    Jesus-Mary, the other dreadful thing about the Pope’s meeting with this confused woman who thinks she’s a man and wants to “marry” her “girlfriend” is that the airfare and lodging were paid for by the Diocese of Palencia, supposedly at the urging of the Vatican (she had written the Pope to complain that her parish priest was horrified by her supposed “sex-change”).

    I don’t think the Pope will actually come out and attempt to “change” any doctrines, simply because neither he nor any of the people behind him have the intellectual capacity to support such a change, even on its face (since, of course, it can’t change). But what he will do is give the signal, as he has already done, that none of it really means anything and nothing has to be enforced.

    This is going to be much more slippery and hard to combat. People came to Jesus asking what they must do to be saved, to live a good life, essentially, and he told them what to do – and one part of it was abiding by the law. He gave them structure and hope and an ideal, in a very turbulent and confusing world, which is exactly what people are looking for now in this turbulent and confusing world. Abolishing the structure and intellectual content of Christianity does no favor to anyone, and in fact the reason the Evangelicals get converts in Latin America is that a lot of them actually have a firmer traditional moral stance than Catholics, who seem to have none whatsoever now.

  32. Suudy says:

    I agree with Fr. Z that “[w]e have to hold up shiny objects in front of people’s eyes, and rattle them as a bunch of keys before a fussing baby.” I read someone who stated (rather shrewdly, I think) that we have transitioned from the the primacy of the intellect to the primacy of the will. No longer is the main motivation the mind, but the will. It’s about what people want. So you have to “hold shiny objects in front of people’s eyes” to get their attention and make them think its something that satisfies their will.

    But I think the most interesting thing about this point is that it exposes the dissonance in the relativistic viewpoint. On one hand the liberals tout the rational nature of science, and on the other hand they jettison their intellect in favor of their will. It’s a schizophrenic viewpoint. And it often reeks of hypocrisy.

  33. Dennis Martin says:

    Suudy,

    You may want to think this through a bit. Exercise of the will requires reason in order to reach a moral judgment, only then can one truly choose.

    The trend today is to base everything on emotions, neither on reason nor on will but emotions. To act without first reaching an intelligent moral judgment is to drift along, floating on emotions. It is neither rational nor moral but beneath the level of the genuinely human. Our culture is a-moral, has abandoned both human free will and human reason.

  34. dp0p says:

    I sympathize with those who bemoan some of the practical consequences of His Holiness’ remarkable…remarks, but thus far he seems coherent to me. The ancient distinction between fides qua and fides quae is substantive and even important, and Pope Francis has little tolerance for those who publicly display the latter without effectively communicating the former. He has no intention of corrupting the teachings of the Lord Jesus, but he wants–nearly, insists–that the faces of the Church manifest what Benedict might have called the gestalt of following the Lord.

  35. gaudiumcumpace says:

    ¡¡VIVA EL PAPA FRANCISCO!!
    Nuestra Santo Papa nos habla con un corazón sincero y noble. Su amor al prójimo es profundo y real.
    Gloria al Padre, al Hijo y al Espíritu Santo.

  36. Athelstan says:

    So, who is the real Pope Francis? The one who supports liberal bishops and priests, or the one who speaks in an orthodox way? The answer may be more obvious than expected.

    There is an old saying, and most of us know it: “Personnel is policy.”

    It’s true that, in the main, Papa Bergoglio’s planned public statements are generally orthodox. And yet nearly all of his inner circle, and so many of his key appointments, swing well to the theological left. Meanwhile, the Raztingerians are pretty well purged now. How to reconcile that? Is it just that he happens to discern good pastoral skills only among the progressives? If so, he seems extraordinarily naive about what other results this is likely to bring into being, results which are very much theological. Just because he may not want a theological debate doesn’t mean it won’t happen anyway.

    Or it’s possible that, in fact, he really does want praxis to shift to the Kasperite position to some real degree. Certainly his personal approval of the leadership of the Synod, Kasper’s address, and of the final relatio, seems to suggest as much. By making orthodox statements on doctrine on these matters, he provides some cover for the pastoral shift he still hopes to see happen. In his mind, he’s not really changing doctrine, even if, unwittingly, his desired praxis may reduce it to a de facto nullity in many places.

    I don’t think this can be ruled out. Personnel is policy.

  37. iPadre says:

    Much of this keep us all on our toes, wondering what we will read in the morning. Many rumors are circulating, some may be true, others false. In the end, we are all in God’s hands and He will get what He wants done, with or without us.

    But, there is comfort to be found in the words of St. John XXIII: “I’m going to bed. It’s Your Church.” So, I’m going to bed!

  38. Athelstan says:

    P.S. “If we were to close ourselves off in a room together and leave the theologians outside, we would accomplish ecumenism in one hour.”

    And one hour is all it would last, because the Ecumenical Patriarch has no power to bind the Orthodox churches, all of whom would have disavowed any agreement within minutes, from bishops down to laity.

    On a slightly different vein: I wonder what Papa Bergoglio thinks his fellow Jesuit Edmund Campion died for. Some vague idea of “conscience?”

  39. Hugh says:

    I liked JacobWall @ 1.51 pm’s comment, though I say, why not use all the weapons we have?

    The reason I think he has a point that (sometimes) good liturgy trumps ratiocination (?) is twofold:

    1. New Guinea was evangelized by the M.S.C.s in the south, from France, and by German orders in the north. The French strategy was to arrive and teach the Gospel and the catechism. Orally. Conceptually. The French priests, God bless them, died in droves from disease and from martyrdom. As far as I recall, the life expectation of the first cohorts of missionaries was about 3 years. It took them many years to establish a beachhead.

    The German missionaries didn’t overtly “preach”. They would hack out a space in the jungle and start building a lovely church with the local materials. The natives would be peering, fascinated, through the fern leaves. (Is it OK to say that these days, or will I expect a call from the SPLC?) As time went on, a missionary would be heaving a log through the swamp, and be pleasantly surprised to find a native at the other end, tentatively helping him along. By the end of the project, the natives would be proudly standing alongside the missionaries in front of their newly constructed church, ready to go in for (E.F.) Mass (and to have their minds blown away by all THAT!). The Germans were very successful in their strategy. (No doubt they succumbed to disease just as much as the French.)

    2. I’ve been an E.F. attender for almost 3 decades. I’ve seen many mentally unstable people attend and have been astonished at their ability to discern. They have an instinct for genuine ritual. One chap – Chris – said to me years ago – sincerely, but with a matter of fact shrug of his shoulders: “This is the real thing”. I think they (among others) might be the “little children” Our Lord had in mind.

  40. SimonDodd says:

    Athelstan says: “[N]early all of his inner circle, and so many of his key appointments, swing well to the theological left. Meanwhile, the Raztingerians are pretty well purged now. How to reconcile that? Is it just that he happens to discern good pastoral skills only among the progressives? If so, he seems extraordinarily naive about what other results this is likely to bring into being, results which are very much theological.”

    I don’t necessarily find that implausible. One of the problems with technocracy, rule by experts, is that eventually the technocrats seize control of appointments, and what kind of men do they appoint? Technocrats! They appoint people who share their assumptions and background, because what we want is “experts,” and if you’re not a technocrat and if you haven’t studied X, Y, or Z at an Oxbridge or Ivy League college, just what kind of expert could you possibly be?! You get a closed-loop. It could very well be the same thing here: If you have in your mind the notion that doctrine isn’t important and “being pastoral” (whatever that means) is the really important thing, it seems very likely that you’re going to discern those skills in people who share that focus and you’re not going to discern it in people who don’t. So why doesn’t Bergoglio appoint more “conservatives”? For the same reason that I wouldn’t appoint many Democrats were I to find myself President. I am sure that he would say that he doesn’t discriminate, that he is completely open to appointing conservatives who share his pastoral views, just as I would say that I am completely open to appointing Democrats who share my views–“if I could only find some!”

  41. yatzer says:

    But, but I really NEED a church that is very clean and has the truth and everything necessary. At least as close as we can get in this life.

  42. Suudy says:

    @Dennis Martin

    I agree. One does need the will and the intellect to reach proper conclusions. I think the point being made was by “primacy of the will” one jettisons ones reason in the decision making process in favor of the will. I stumbled across a site regarding US Marine training, and it had a quote something like “Intellect without will is useless, will without intellect is dangerous.” It is in that vein I think the original comment was made.

    And likely the idea I was espousing about moral relativist schizophrenia is a poor alloy of philosophical thought and common sense on the intellect and will (I know a little of Aquinas vs Scotus on will vs. intellect). And I’m aware that usually there is thought to be intellect, will, and passions, and they usually work in a push-pull relationship.

    Perhaps the quote should be that we have transitioned from the primacy of the intellect to the primacy of the passions.

  43. StephenGolay says:

    Fr., you advise: observe, wait, pray – go to confession. I do all that, yet, even with the soft assurances in the piece your posted, I am still ill at ease – and, of late, finding myself stilling in the back pew.

    The Francis turn-of-things is only in tune with the times, a our age – and its horizon – turns in small ways and large.

    One small way: I follow multiple blogs and online sites of journals and institutes (various subjects and disciplines). Of late – and barreling down the road – their format have become less text based and more image driven. Nothing new in that. The consequence – for there is always one – nothing is expected to be retained; the objective is to plant triggers so that the reader – should say observer, participant – “feels” compelled to return. Again, nothing new, except, now, the papacy apparently gets it – so to speak.

    The danger here – for the local rag, National Review, or the papal pastorate – is that the format mends and bends the content. What is learned is the expected response to the laid-down triggers.

    But then I come from a past in which that was the case, and have come overtly (overly?) alert to any attempt to have my mind (reason) to be “imaged” away!

    So, what is a back pew sitter to do?

    As for yours truly, I find myself learning less – refusing the waste my time – and culling my bookmark list more.

  44. Athelstan says:

    Hello Simon,

    I am sure that he would say that he doesn’t discriminate, that he is completely open to appointing conservatives who share his pastoral views, just as I would say that I am completely open to appointing Democrats who share my views–“if I could only find some!”

    The difficulty, of course, is the assumption that conservatives or traditionalists are not – or are hardly ever – “pastoral.” Or at least not such that the Pope has been able to identify.

    And yet, upon examining the appointments which *are* said to manifest pastoral qualities, we find…well, there is this excerpt from Carl Olson’s article on Archbishop Cupich yesterday at Catholic World Report:

    The overall sense, expressed in varying degrees of detail, is that Cupich’s time in Spokane was quite disappointing and frustrating, especially for those looking for vibrant, clear, and accessible leadership. Those familiar with Cupich’s schedule and activities say that he was often out of the diocese for long periods of time, even more so than the amount of time Skylstad traveled while president of the USCCB. When Cupich was in the diocese, he was not readily available, rarely meeting with diocesan priests, especially not on an individual basis, although he apparently met often with certain, older Jesuit priests at Gonzaga.

    When asked in by CBS’s O’Donnell how he plans to “bring the pope’s vision to Chicago”, Cupich responded, “I’m going to do what I’ve tried to do the 16 years that I’ve been a bishop of a diocese. And that is to get to know people.” Yet the two descriptives used several times by those familiar with the bishop’s “style” while in Spokane are “detached” and “impersonal.”

    Instead, “pastoral” seems too often reduced to “eschews extravagance in lifestyle.” That sort of thing weighs very strongly with Pope Francis.

  45. SimonDodd says:

    Athelstan said: “The difficulty, of course, is the assumption that conservatives or traditionalists are not – or are hardly ever – ‘pastoral.’ Or at least not such that the Pope has been able to identify.”

    The problem could bluffly by stated this way: Reform Catholics like Francis don’t know what “pastoral” means. We could be a little more tactful and say that their understanding of the word “pastoral” is at variance with the way that we would use that word; I would no more describe Francis’ approach as pastoral than he would mine, because we have very different understandings of the word. Either way, though, that may be why Francis can’t identify any pastoral conservative or orthodox Catholics: Not because they aren’t, but because they aren’t by the yardstick with which he measures.

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  47. joan ellen says:

    Father’s title re: What Pope Francis is up to and why, and the replies are most comforting.
    God the Father continues to bless us and the Church.

    Pope Francis has gotten the attention of the whole world. The what he’s up to.
    Pope Francis knows Truth is transmitted by 1. Sacred Tradition, 2. Sacred Scripture, 3. The Teaching Magisterium of the Church, 4. History/Archaeology, AND 5. The Sensus Fidei.

    If numbers 1 through 4 fail in transmitting the Truth, number 5 still has the Truth and will proclaim it.

    From my little perch, that is the why. He got the attention of the world, knowing in advance that the Sensus Fidei would do the catechizing…as they have been doing…mostly through a critical and negative approach, but catechizing never the less. Pope Francis knew and knows the negativity from the Church that he would receive in his approach. He needed, and still needs, us to do the catechizing that he alone could never have accomplished on his own. Astute politician par excellence! Brilliant catechist par excellence!

    If we continue in our prayers…3 Aves daily for him as he asked…and pray for ourselves to continue our talking…knowing that our continued catechesis to the world AND the Church is of utmost…and urgent…importance…perhaps the pastoral and the theological, the will and the intellect will all come together…for a more robust Church…with millions of conversions as the fruit of the labor…his and ours.

    May The Holy Spirit continue to guide the Church of Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.