Friday, January 31, 2014

The John Paul Papacy, A Mixed Legacy III

I recently had a friend who reads this blog ask me about something that I had written in my first entry about the legacy of John Paul II and that is what is the connection between the more conservative bishops that were appointed to American sees during his pontificate and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and the Holy See by the Reagan administration in 1984, so I want to revisit this topic in case I have not been clear.
There had been a long tradition of socially progressive bishops in the United States going back into the nineteenth century with such prelates as Cardinal James Gibbons, Archbishop John Ireland, and Bishop Dennis J. O’Connell.  They were succeeded in turn by other progressive leaders as Archbishop John T. McNicholas, O.P., Archbishop Bernard Sheil, and Bishop Francis Haas.  These were all men whose outlook had been shaped by Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum  and later by Pius XI’s Quadrigesimo Anno.   Furthermore, when Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, the head of the ‘Holy Office’—today’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—came down heavy on American Jesuit John Courtney Murray, even conservative prelates, and especially Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York, came to the defense of Murray’s harmonization of Catholic tradition with the American socio-economic-political outlook.  Spellman went so far as to defy Ottaviani and bring Murray (whom Ottaviani had formally “silenced”) to the Second Vatican Council as his personal theological advisor.  In the years before and during the second Vatican Council we saw a blooming of a theologically and socially progressive hierarchy with men like Cardinal Albert Meyer, Cardinal Joseph Ritter, Cardinal John Carberry, Cardinal Lawrence Sheehan, and Cardinal John Dearden, to name only the top ranking.  And then there was the eccentric and indomitable Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston who was willing to overthrow just about everything and break any rule to make the world spin along more happily. Blessed be his memory!   Even men who could be quite authoritarian in the governance of their dioceses—Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle of Washington or Cardinal John Cody of Chicago—championed the cause of minorities, of the poor, and of labor.  It was not entirely a happy situation as men like Cardinal James Francis McIntyre of Los Angeles and Archbishop Thomas Toolen resisted the Civil Rights Movement in particular, but the tide was against them.  In the years after Vatican II positions in the American hierarchy were increasingly filled with talented men of vision—Bishops Howard Hubbard of Albany, Matthew Clark of Rochester, John L. May of Saint Louis, Paul John Hallinan of Atlanta, William Borders of Baltimore, Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle, John R. Quinn of Oklahoma City and then San Francisco, and Roger Mahoney who would end up as Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles.  Many of these men—though not all—owed their advancement in part to Archbishop Jean Jadot, Apostolic Delegate to the United States from 1973-1980.   Jadot, a protégé of Cardinal Leo Suenens who had been a principal architect of the Second Vatican Council,  came from an aristocratic Belgian family and had exceptionally progressive views;  he significantly marked the American hierarchy by his choice of intelligent and articulate prelates who were committed to the social agenda laid out by Popes Leo XIII, Benedict XV, Pius XI, John XXIII, and Paul VI as well as by the Second Vatican Council.  Well, Suenens sowed the winds of change but it was Ronald Reagan who reaped the whirlwind.  In 1983 the American bishops—at that point a body heavily influenced, if not controlled, by Jadot protégés, published the Peace Pastoral: The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response.  It was a dramatic counter-voice to the ost-politik of President Reagan and virtually was a Catholic vote of no-confidence in Reagan foreign policy.  And that was only the one shoe.  The bishops were preparing a second pastoral letter that they would in fact issue in 1986: Economic Justice for All.   It would prove to be a critique of Republican economic theory that would clearly show that Reaganonmics is not compatible with Catholic magisterial teaching on distributive justice.   Meanwhile, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle publicly declared that he would withhold half his taxes rather than allow money to go to the nuclear arms race.  This was a direct challenge to the Reagan administration. 
This split between the Catholic Church in the United States and Reagan policy—both regarding the Arms Race and Economics—threatened to undermine the joint efforts of John Paul and Ronald Reagan to destroy the hegemony of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe.  To keep abreast in the Arms Race, the Soviet Union had to pour its resources unstintingly into military expenditures with no room for developing a consumer economy.  Reagan and his advisors counted on this “breaking the bank” and on it fomenting unrest among the unhappy citizenries of Eastern Europe.  Meanwhile, for his part, the Pope was brandishing the sword of Polish nationalism and egging the population of his homeland on to demand a better life than the Polish government or its Soviet overseers could provide.  Marxisim in Eastern Europe was fighting a war on two fronts.  And it worked.  Poland fell and the dominoes followed.  But that was not until 1989.  In 1984 Ronald Reagan still had to figure out how to hold it together.  He did not want to fight a war on two fronts also—Communism in Eastern Europe and Catholics at home. 
The Holy See had long wanted full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.  When the Popes lost their temporal power in 1870, several predominately Catholic nations maintained ambassadorial ties.  The United States did not. In fact, Congress by law prohibited such diplomatic relations.  In the years between the loss of the Papal States and the restoration of Sovereignty with the Lateran Treaty, more nations gradually began to exchange ambassadors with the Holy See.  Each ambassador gave the Holy See more prestige and credibility in international affairs.  During World War II, President Roosevelt, unable to name an ambassador, sent Myron Taylor as a “personal representative” to the Vatican.  The Vatican proved to be a very important diplomatic post during World War II as representatives from various sides were posted there and it was one of the best—if not the best—channels of communication.  Nevertheless, the outcry from America Protestant groups about any sort of American governmental presences—no matter how unofficial—was so strong that it would not be possible for many years yet to have official ties at the ambassador level.  Periodically Presidents sent “personal representatives” but there was no standing mission.   By 1980 most world powers had established full diplomatic relations with the Papacy, but the Holy See always wanted the prestige of American recognition.  Ronald Reagan gave this in 1984.  As a Protestant himself, and as a not particularly religious man, he was in a good position to do so, but there was still a considerable public outcry and several legal challenges.  Nevertheless, President Reagan appointed William A. Wilson first ambassador to the Holy See.  He served until 1986 when he was succeeded by Frank Shakespeare. 
 “Nothing gets you  nothing” as Monsieur Thénardier likes to sing and while there is no public record of a deal, there is a definite change in the type of priest appointed to the episcopacy during and after the Reagan years.  The concerns moved from issues of social justice, peace, the economy, and the environment to more “in house” matters.  A nominee for the miter—or having a miter, for advancement—had to be explicitly opposed to the ordination of women.  He had to have not blotted his copybook on contraception.  He had to be clear on the Church’s teaching about abortion and same-sex relationships.  There is nothing wrong with making sure that a candidate for bishop adheres to Church teaching, but what was curious is that there were no such litmus tests when it came to the Church teaching on war, on capital punishment, on economic justice.  There was lots of wiggle room there.   The ‘80’ and ‘90’s saw the American hierarchy change drastically in its outlook.  They became far more establishment, some not bothering to conceal their open and uncritical preference for the Republican Party and its policies.  Meanwhile, priests, religious, and laity who were involved in the areas of maintaining Church teaching on social justice—labor relations, health issues, immigration and migrants, against the death-penalty, civil rights—found themselves unsupported by many of their bishops and priests.
The Pope Francis sort of bishop whose priority is the poor was becoming virtually unknown in the United States.  Prelates like Raymond Burke, Robert Morlino, Robert Finn, Edward Slattery, Michael Sheridan, Thomas Olmstead, Frank Dewane became more and more the face of the American Church.  Decked out in pre-conciliar finery and extending their beringed episcopal paw to be slobbered over by the faithful as they proceeded to the altar for a retro-Mass,  they were the epitome of the Tea Party at prayer. 
A few years ago I had a chance to sit and visit with Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary of Detroit.  Bishop Gumbleton is the “last of the lefties”—named a bishop in the heady days after Vatican II and always an outspoken voice crying for Peace and for Justice, he was a thorn in the side of Presidents and Popes alike.  That is what prophets do.  I asked Bishop Gumbleton why there had been such a shift in the way the hierarchy saw things.  He didn’t follow my suspicions of a symbiotic relationship between John Paul’s papacy and Ronald Reagan’s administration.  His explanation was more simple.  He said “In my day, we bishops came from families where our fathers were bricklayers, or worked in a factory, or carried the mail.  Today, my brother bishops’ fathers were Doctors or Lawyers, or Businessmen.  They were raised to think that way.  That is the way their fathers thought.”  Ockham’s razor says that we should accept the simpler explanation and that would be Bishop Gumbleton’s.  Who am I to argue with Ockham, I am—after all—a medievalist.  But I still say, that we got the John Paul Bishops as part of an understanding between the Reagan White House and the Holy See to reach their mutual goal of bringing down the “Evil Empire.”   There are too many fingerprints to think the demise of American Catholic Progressivism was a natural death.  The Good News is, of course, that our whole Christian Faith is based on Resurrection and it does seem that we might be in store for a better cut of Episcopal Leadership.  As they like to say at those Tridentine Masses, Oremus.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The John Paul Papacy, A Mixed Legacy II

Pope John Paul with Religious Leaders at Assisi
Prayer for Peace 

In my last post I wrote about the ambiguous nature of the Papacy of Pope John Paul II.  It was a papacy that hugely successful and hugely disastrous.  I want to explore that dichotomy further in this posting.
One of the most remarkable events of the papacy of John Paul II was his gathering of religious leaders in Assisi on October 26, 1986 to pray for peace.  Over 160 religious leaders including Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama, and Native American John Pretty on Top met together to pray.  Shinto priests, Lutheran bishops, Buddhist monks, rabbis, mullahs, and Mennonites—representatives of over 45 religious groups—Christian denominations and non-Christian religions from around the world—gathered first to pray in their particular groups and then came together in the beautiful Church of the Portiuncula to pray for peace among the human family. 
Thanks to a remarkable group called the Communità di Sant’Egidio (Community of Saint Egidio) based in Rome, this gathering has been commemorated annually by their organizing other such prayer assemblies in various cities around the world.  Many of us who have lived in Rome see the Community of Saint Egidio as the first and most precious fruit of the Second Vatican Council.  Started by a group of then secondary school students in 1968, what was a small faith-sharing group has grown into an international community that was once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  I don’t want to go too far down the road of the Saint Egidio Community in this posting—we can look at it another time—but the Community was very helpful to John Paul in his Papal Ministry and in his work as Bishop of Rome.  John Paul depended on them to organize a second Assisi Peace Prayer on January 24, 2002.
Not everyone was happy with the Interfaith Assembly.  Many neo-traditional Catholics saw this as religious syncretism and were appalled that the Pope would meet on equal footing with Protestants much less with non-Christian religious leaders.  They were even more offended that Catholic sanctuaries were permitted to be used for non-Christian worship.  Even Cardinal Ratzinger had his reservations and threatened not to attend the 2002 prayer unless some changes were made to the program.  In the end there were few concrete effects from the Assisi Prayer, at least as far as the papacy is concerned.  The Saint Egidio community has developed the ties to be able to be an unofficial network for cooperation and collaboration among the various religious groups and to serve as a channel of communication, but the ecumenical and inter-faith advances of John Paul’s reign have not only faded but were for the greater part undone in the papacy of his successor.  Pope Benedict did attend a gathering of religious leaders in Assisi on October 27, 2011 but there was suggestion of common prayer.  It will be interesting to see what Pope Francis chooses to do in pursuing an ecumenical and interfaith agenda during his Petrine Ministry.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The John Paul Papacy: A Mixed Legacy

A statue in Gdansk, Poland, shows Pope John Paul
and President Ronald Reagan walking together as
joint architects of the collapse of the former Soviet

I mentioned in yesterday’s posting the “complex ambiguities of Pope John Paul’s papacy” and I want to clarify what I meant.  John Paul II was an extremely popular pope and in many circles his papacy is glossed over without careful examination as one of the brighter spots of the Church in the last century, but truth demands that a more critical look be taken and a more balanced appreciation be rendered. 
I was living in Rome in the final years of Pope John Paul’s papacy and was, in fact, in Saint Peter’s Square earlier in the afternoon of the day he died.  An interviewer from the BBC randomly picked me out of the crowd, knowing only that I was an English speaker, and asked to talk with me.  (When he found out that I am a professional historian and was a Romanista, I ended up being taken on by the BBC and several other networks as a commentator during the funeral of the Holy Father and the election and installation of Pope Benedict.)   The reporter asked me for my evaluation of the Holy Father’s reign and I answered by quoting Dickens: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” 
It was the best of times in terms of John Pauls’ incredible ability to move world-wide audiences to be able to see possibilities for human betterment.   In particular it was the best of times because it marked the collapse of the Marxist ideology which had ensnared hundreds of millions of people in totalitarian regimes that could offer their citizens nothing worth having in this mundane sphere and no hope for the eternal sphere.  The remarkable events of his 1979, 1983, and 1987 visits to Poland chipped away at the first of the dominoes to fall.  John Paul’s battle cry was “Solidarity” by which he advanced the socio-economic-political idea—in contradistinction to both Marxist and capitalist ideologies—that members of society have a set of mutual responsibilities towards one another that require a collaboration in which those who have act to alleviate the distress of those who lack, not merely by relieving the needs but by creating just social structures that work to mutual benefit.  Such solidarity not only undermines the “class struggle” of Marxism but also the “income inequalities” of free market capitalism.  The Pope’s ideal of “Solidarity” was taken up by the Poles and became the battle cry to topple the Marxist regime there.  Unfortunately it has yet to be heard in the income-inequality nations of the West but Pope Francis is working to change that—much to Rush Limbaugh’s and Ken Lagone’s annoyance.  (You go, Francis.) 
It was no one less than Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist premier of the Soviet Union, who has said that Pope John Paul was the principal architect of the collapse of the Marxist dictatorships of the former Soviet Bloc.  But Pope John Paul is also credited with a significant role in bringing down the dictatorships in Paraguay, Haiti and Chile and there is no doubt that he was a major player in the arena of human rights in the second half of the twentieth century. 
John Paul was also remarkable in the strides the Catholic Church made in ecumenism during his pontificate.  His particular interest was with the Orthodox Churches of the East and while—and probably because of the Polish-Russian tensions arising from the stress being put on the Soviet Empire by John Paul in working for Polish autonomy—the Russian Orthodox Church was never brought into closer ties with Catholicism, John Paul made some remarkable progress with the other Churches of Orthodoxy.  More remarkable, however, was his subtle recognition of Anglicanism.  I remember seeing him come to the Holy Doors of the Pauline Basilica escorted on the one side by Metropolitan Athanasias of the Greek Orthodox Church and on the other by Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury.  Pope John Paul consistently treated the Archbishop of Canterbury on a par with the Orthodox.  While the Catholic Church still officially  has not recognized Anglican Orders, the protocols established by John Paul (and not later followed by Pope Benedict XVI) gave an implicit acceptance of Anglicanism.  A similar breakthrough came on October 5, 1991 when Pope John Paul celebrated Vespers with the Lutheran primates of Sweden and Finland and the Lutheran Bishop of Oslo.  All sat in copes and miters, the Bishop of Rome and his separated brother Bishops, in front of the papal altar in the Vatican Basilica.  Lex orandi, lex credendi:  liturgical praxis establishes the doctrine we hold in belief.  Without yet giving official recognition to the valid orders of these separated brethren, the Pope showed that we can begin to construct a path through the complex issues of restoring full unity to the Church.
In short, I think we can say that as far as “foreign policy” went, John Paul’s papacy was hugely successful.  As far as “domestic policy”: well, that is a different story. 
The internal governance of the Church in the papacy of John Paul II was a disaster.  While he was extremely popular personally, his teaching went unheeded by most Catholics.  During his funeral, while I was doing consulting for the BBC and other news outlets, I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds who had come to Rome (among the four million pilgrims who came to Rome for the funeral).  It was an overwhelmingly young audience—mostly in their twenties and thirties.  “Yes,” they assured me they “love this Pope.”  “He was a great Pope.”  “It is like losing a grandfather.”  “Do you agree with this Pope,” I asked “on homosexuality?”  “Do you follow his teaching on pre-marital sex?,” “On contraception?,” On marriage in the Church?”  The answer was overwhelmingly, “No—but we loved him.  We don’t agree with him, but we love him.” 
John Paul was without impact on the consciences of the vast majority of his followers—not only on contraception or same-sex relationships, but on the very issues where he found success in his program of smashing Marxism.   Westerners in general and Americans in particular cheered on his attacks on Marxism, but did they embrace his theory of “Solidarity?”  Nothing could be further from “Solidarity” than the Trickle Down Economics of the Reagan Presidency or the Thatcher Ministry.  To push his campaign against Communism to victory in the Soviet Bloc, John Paul formed a political alliance with the Reagan White House that compromised the papal integrity when it came to economic morality.  The symbiotic relationship of the Reagan administration and the John Paul Papacy resulted in the fact that the Catholic Church could hardly be believed in its call for economic justice.  The heritage of John XXIII and Mater et Magistra and Paul VI and Popolorum Progressio  was squandered and Catholicism became identified with the radical selfishness of Reaganomics. 
Furthermore, after the American Bishops’ pastoral letters on the nuclear arms race (The Challenge of Peace, 1983) and economic justice (Economic Justice for All, 1986) there was a very sharp change in the sort of men who were appointed to be bishops in the United States.  In 1984 the Reagan administration established formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See—something the Vatican had long sought but which had always met with much opposition in the United States from those non-Catholics who saw such relations as giving formal recognition to one religious body over others in violation of the American Constitution.  Such favors came at a price and that price was bishops who would not ruffle the political right.  The Social Justice wing of the Catholic Church in the United States was pushed more and more to the margins and the Jadot Bishops (those bishops appointed during the time Archbishop Jean Jadot was Apostolic Delegate, 1973-1980) who were the voice of “Vatican II” Catholicism melted into obscurity as the new breed of John Paul bishops replaced them.  The Church’s social activism –that is the Social Gospel—was more and more in the hands of brave and committed laity who felt cut-off from their own bishops who ignored the grave structural injustices in our society and “obsessed” (to use a current word) on select issues that reinforced the right-wing agenda and distracted the faithful from an integral approach to Christian moral life. 
John Paul paid a heavy price for selling out to the political right.  When he cried out against the Gulf Wars—I and II (1990-91 and 2003-2011), the American bishops did not echo the cry.  Far from it.  Editorials appeared in many Catholic diocesan newspapers on how these wars met the criterion for “just war.”  No, the focus remained on abortion and the rising “threat” of gay rights.  The fear was universal health care and the implications that would have for Catholic institutions.  Catholics were admonished for not falling in line behind their “shepherds” and a political agenda that was morally a very mixed bag.   “Cafeteria Catholics” were denounced for their selective agreement with Church policy, while those who accused them themselves were picky eaters at the magisterial table. 
In the end, John Paul left—as far as the American Church goes—a dispirited faithful who felt alienated from their bishops and caught in the crossfire of the culture wars that have been undermining the larger American society.  Is he John Paul the Great?  Only time will tell—this title has only been awarded to three popes so far, and it takes centuries before history grants it.  Will it do so for John Paul?  Hmm.   John Paul was an enigmatic Pope.  It was an ambiguous papacy.  It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Why They Are Afraid of Pope Francis 15

Bishop Bernard McQuaid--19th century architect
of American Catholic Isolationism.  Like they say,
a picture is worth ten thousand words--not the
faithful kept behind the fence. 
WASHINGTON — Shortly before leaving the Capitol for the holiday recess, Senate Democrats gathered behind closed doors to lay out an agenda for 2014. When the majority leader, Harry Reid, exhorted colleagues to “deal with the issue of income inequality,” the talk took a spiritual turn.

“You know,” declared Senator Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent, who caucuses with Democrats, “we have a strong ally on our side in this issue — and that is the pope.”

That Mr. Sanders, who is Jewish, would invoke the pope to Mr. Reid, a Mormon, delighted Roman Catholics in the room. (“Bernie! You’re quoting my pope; this is good!” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois recalled thinking.) Beyond interfaith banter, the comment underscored a larger truth: From 4,500 miles away at the Vatican, Pope Francis, who has captivated the world with a message of economic justice and tolerance, has become a presence in Washington’s policy debate.

The above is taken from an article that appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago and it illustrates why this papacy is a very different papacy than its recent predecessors.  We have a Pope that isn’t playing in the intramural league.  This papacy is not nitpicking over internal issues like liturgical translations or nuns not being appropriately veiled.  It isn’t simply that this pope doesn’t think that we should stop “obsessing” over same-sex relationships or contraception, but he has taken the Church back out onto the court for serious game with the big boys.  When President Obama visits the Vatican in March it won’t be for the genteel sit-down and photo-op that it was with Pope Benedict.  This Pope is saying something that Mr. Obama (and Mr. Hollande, and Mr. Putin, and Mr. Peres, and Ms. Merkel, and other world leaders) are very interested in.  We’re back in the game now that we have stopped the navel-gazing and remembered our mission to announce the Kingdom of God.  But this is alarming to certain factions within the Church, and the American Church in particular, who are anxious to restore the ghetto mentality that pervaded American Catholicism from the final quarter of the nineteenth-century to the Second Vatican Council when the opened windows in Rome blew a wind strong enough to knock down the isolationist walls that had been carefully constructed by generations of American clergy who were terrified of the world outside the boundaries of the Church.  In the famous words of Bishop McQuaid of Rochester (1823-1909), one of the chief architects of the isolationist policy of the American Church:  If the walls are not high enough, they must be raised; if they are not strong enough, they must be strengthened…  When a pro-choice Jewish senator cites the Pope for policy support to a pro-choice Mormon senator—you know those walls aren’t standing anymore.  And this means that Catholics have to deal with the reality of a very non-Catholic world out there.  We can’t stay in our own enclave cheering each other on in our own in-house competitions and refusing to play ball with people who do not accept our basic premises.

Twenty years ago Cardinal Bernardin tried to stem the re-ghettoization of American Catholicism with his appeal for the Catholic Common Ground Initiative.  He was crushed by his fellow Cardinals Bernard Law and James Hickey who were determined that isolationism was the best policy for American Catholicism.  The complex ambiguities of Pope John Paul II’s papacy allowed the narrow vision of Hickey and Law to prevail and it led the American Church into a long cold dark night of increasing irrelevance.  With Cardinal Law the “kingmaker” of American bishops we were given a hierarchy that can only be described as masturbatory in its ecclesial leadership--  Francis George, Raymond Burke, Edwin O’Brien, William Lori, Michael Sheridan,  Edward Egan, John Myers, Edward Slattery, Charles Chaput, Joseph Martino, Fabian Bruskewitz, Thomas Olmstead, John McCormack, Richard Lennon, Thomas Tobin, to mention a few.  It didn’t get better with the rise in Roman influence of Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and a new generation of bishops who lack vision such as, among others, Robert Finn, Salvatore Cordileone, Thomas Paprocki, Kevin Rhoades, Frank Dewane, and David O’Connell.  This is not to say that there have not been good bishops—and some very good bishops—over the last twenty-five years—but that the balance of power tipped to men who tried to re-fortify the American Church against the larger society.  I have no doubt that this was done in good faith but the results have been disastrous.  The Church not only retreated into a cultural isolationism—losing credibility among many of the more intellectual faithful in the process—but gained a reputation for being intellectually closed and negative in tone.  As one priest often said in his homilies “everyone knows what the Church is against; no one can articulate what it is for—and that is a disastrous position from which to evangelize.” 
Pope Francis has changed all that but to the consternation of those who favor ecclesial isolationism.  It should not be surprising that these same people favor a cultural isolationism that wants to preserve American Catholicism from the rich diversity that its membership reflects.  Their idea of church buildings is the retro appeal of a 1930’s “Chicago basilica style.”  Music is limited to organ accompaniment and Latin libretto.  Religious art is of the pre-Raphaelite revival.  Prayers are found in the Enchiridion or to be said on beads.  Mariachi bands, gospel choirs, and dance have no place. The politics follow with anti-immigrant bias and an identification of Catholicism with what might be called “Spellman Capitalism” in honor of the Cardinal Archbishop of New York who vigorously supported the “military industrial complex” in its war to defend American economic hegemony.  But that is not where Pope Francis is.  Here he is giving his weapons to those closet Marxists who call themselves “Democrats” and overturning all that we Americans hold dear in our dream that any red-blooded American boy can claw his way to the top, earning 230 times what the slaves who toil in his industry earn.  What would Jesus say?  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Is It Only A Matter of Perspective?

Happy Camper
Pope Francis made the New York Times two days running.  Both articles were pretty positive.  There was another article—far more ugly—about clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the grossly insensitive handling of many cases.  Two faces of Catholicism—or, more accurately, two differing perspectives on the Church.  These represent the old and the new: the old boys network and the same old same old and the new approach where the doors are open and all get a hearing.  I do think that is a somewhat overly generalized way of describing the situation, but it does reflect the popular imagination. 
I grew up in the old system.  I was never victimized by it.  Sure I got my knuckles wrapped by a nun or two, but give me a break: there is much greater suffering in this world than a dealing with a seventh grade teacher with PMS.  I had a Jesuit scream at me and threaten that he would “knock your block off,” but I knew he wouldn’t unless I cracked and took the first swing—and I wasn’t that stupid.  I have no grudge against the old system, but it wasn’t the spiritual wonderland that so many neo-trads would make it out to be.  I carried more than one priest friend of my Dad’s back to the rectory dead drunk and then served his Mass the morning.  I have had no illusions that these men were all saints (though I knew a few who I think may have be.)  I knew my Latin—and still do—after six years of it, but it never made sense to me to “pray” in it—or in any other language except my native one (American English).  I know all that blather about how the “old Mass” was the “most beautiful thing on earth.”  But I remember that most of the time it was a priest standing at the altar huddled over and whispering words from a book, not unlike Merlin casting a spell.  And I remember that they got a new purificator once a week and by Wednesday it was little more than a wine-stained rag.  And I remember that the altar cloth was marked with soot from extinguished candles and the occasional dead fly.  Albs too often stank of the priests who wore them and vestments were stained with sweat.  O sure, Sunday noon a parish choir of four men and a dozen ladies tried to struggle through the Ave Verum Corpus and Father proceeded down the aisle in a cope splashing a tarnished aspergillum at us before “High Mass,” but it was never “the most beautiful thing on earth.”  Give me “the new Church” any day.  
Here are two looks at Pope Francis and his altering the direction of the Church.   One is our old pal Michael Voris with his pandering to the desperate unhappiness of his fellow neo-Trads and the other is the more positive take George Stephanopoulos had on ABC some weeks back.  Of course, George isn't on the Catholic Team so he doesn't really get a vote.   But then I am not sure Mr. Voris is on the team either: certainly not if you apply to him the neo-Trad standard of accepting everything the Church teaches.  But then I have always been willing to sit at the table with cafeteria Catholics, so in the famous words of you-know-who: Who am I to judge?  Just paste the addresses into your search engine and you can see the two differing views of Francis and today’s Church. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why Are They Afraid of Pope Francis 14

Don't Look For This Any Time Soon

First of all, thanks Ann for your editing help.  I try to proof my entries, but sometimes I am in a hurry and things escape me.  I always welcome a chance to correct my mistakes.  
In my last post I wrote about Pius XII and I want to come back and write several more posts about him.  He was, in many ways and for many people, the defining pope of the modern age; certainly the arch-Pope of the Church as it was before  Vatican II, and many of those who want to restore that pre-Vatican II Church long for a Pius redivivus who will bring back the faded triumphalism of the papacy. Pius was Pope for nineteen years, seven months and seven days—the second longest reigning pope of the past one hundred years.  (John Paul II was Pope for 26 years, 5 months, and 18 days.)  He left an indelible mark on the Papacy and for some he was the last pope.  After Pius and his gloriously reigning style, they could just never adjust to the down-to-earth papacy of his successor, John XXIII or the subsequent papacies. 
As I mentioned in the posting, Pius was a genius, perhaps the pope with the highest I.Q. to sit on the papal throne in centuries.  I refrain from saying the most intelligent however as his extraordinary intellect got in the way of his practical aptitude on many occasions.   Pius’s  Achilles’ heel was that he was autocratic.    Confident in his intelligence and almost autistic in his personality, he was the sole decider and this led him into several disastrous decisions.  On the other hand, his remarkable theological breakthroughs accomplished in Encyclicals such as Divino Afflante Spiritu, Mediator Dei, Mystici Corporis, and even Humani Generis would never have passed the muster of a curial review and—ironically for those whose hero he is—without Pius’ contribution in these encyclicals, the theological developments of Vatican II would have lacked a foundation in the papal magisterium.  Vatican II is more the fruit of Pius’s mind than of that of his successor “Good Pope John.”  But Pius isn’t my topic today.  Francis is.  And in particular, Francis’s approach to authority and authoritarianism. 
In many ways, the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) is the epitome of the authoritarian Catholicism of Pius XII.  Saint Ignatius broke the mold of religious life—abandoning all the relics of monasticism such as singing the Divine Office, religious habits, communal penances, living within a cloister—and created a new form of religious life modeled on soldiering.  Ignatius had been a soldier and he wanted religious storm-troopers to meet the challenges of the Church in Reformation Europe and in what his contemporaries perceived to be the societal chaos of the newly “discovered” lands of the Americas, Africa, and Asia.  In abandoning monastic models, Ignatius also abandoned the monastic authority structure in favor of strict military obedience.  There was no discussion with one’s superiors, no arguing, no calling for a chapter to come to group consensus.  Orders came from top down, pure and simple.  And the commander-in-chief was the Pope.  Jesuits were there to carry our his orders  This system worked for centuries.  Francis, as a Jesuit was part of it.  But listen to what he learned from his experience while he was provincial.   This is what he said in the interview in La Civilta Cattolica which was republished in America.
“In my experience as superior in the Society, to be honest, I have not always behaved in that way—that is, I did not always do the necessary consultation. And this was not a good thing. My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults. That was a difficult time for the Society: an entire generation of Jesuits had disappeared. Because of this I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy. I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself. Yes, but I must add one thing: when I entrust something to someone, I totally trust that person. He or she must make a really big mistake before I rebuke that person. But despite this, eventually people get tired of authoritarianism.“My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.
So for those who long for a day of Pius XII and a Pope who is, well, Pope, Francis ain’t your guy.  For the rest of us, we are glad he learned what he learned when he did.  This papacy is off to a great start, the morale is high, the energy is flowing down through the parishes as the window of Vatican II is open again and a fresh Breeze is blowing through the Church.