“What is Francis doing?”
This is a question I get again and again in my mailbox.
I am at a loss.
This morning, however, it occurred to me that we might return to Francis’ “four postulates” which he included in his programatic document Evangelii gaudium. You will remember them:
- time is greater than space
- unity prevails over conflict
- realities are more important than ideas
- the whole is greater than the part
Some speculate that he got these from his reading of Romano Guardini. However, Juan Carlos Scannone’s ‘El papa Francisco y la teologia del pueblo’ (in Razón y Fe. 86) and Tracey Rowland (Catholic Theology US HERE – UK HERE) and others have uncovered the true source: a 1834 letter of the 19th c. Argentinian dictator, Juan Manuel de Rosas (1793– 1877) sent to another Argentinian caudillo [a type of personalist leader wielding political power], Facundo Quiroga (1788– 1835).
How might one in a swift and reductive way apply these to what is going on? First, “wait them out”. Second, “let there be chaos – eventually things will sort out, in a Hegelian way”. Third, “lived experience trumps expressions of doctrine – eventually doctrine must adapt, in a Hegelian way, to lived experience.” Fourth, “if there is a group that is not conforming to the larger group’s needs, reject them – in a Rawlsian way the whole remains the whole even if you lop off a few limbs.”
However, if you review Evangelii gaudium – as I am sure you do – you will find explanations of these four postulates.
What does Francis sign off on with EG?
“Conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. It has to be faced. But if we remain trapped in conflict, we lose our perspective, our horizons shrink and reality itself begins to fall apart. In the midst of conflict, we lose our sense of the profound unity of reality.” (no. 226)
“When conflict arises, some people simply look at it and go their way as if nothing happened; they wash their hands of it and get on with their lives. Others embrace it in such a way that they become its prisoners; they lose their bearings, project onto institutions their own confusion and dissatisfaction and thus make unity impossible. But there is also a third way, and it is the best way to deal with conflict. It is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process.” (no. 227)
Face the conflict head on!