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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

THE RELATIONSHIP OF POPE FRANCIS TO POPE JOHN PAUL II & POPE BENEDICT XVI



I am just a little younger, by a few months, than Pope Francis, which means that I was a priest student of theology and he was a Jesuit student  at the time of the Council.   It was a wonderful time to be a student, and gave us a kind of front seat in the drama that was going on within the Council just at the time in our lives when we were most curious and impressionable. 

 Of course, then as now, it was of interest to the media to turn everything into dramatic narrative, and to aid them in their wish to entertain as well as to inform, they adopted a “cowboys and Indians” approach, dividing the bishops and experts into “conservatives” and “progressives”.   That both tags are completely without any theological content in themselves, means they can be used in any way  the journalist wishes, though now it is “conservatives” and “liberals”. However,  “conservative” now refers to people like Pope Benedict XVI who was a “progressive” during the Council, in spite of the fact that his position has not fundamentally changed in most things.  Back then, "conservative" meant only one thing: it applied to those who wanted to preserve the status quo. However, the "progressive" label was given to anyone who wanted change.   This hid from the public that there were various important groups with quite different positions, and one, which could be called "liberal" was irreconcilable with the others.   “Liberal” meant people who explain truths of faith by saying they are the same as, or equivalent to something regarded as true by secular thinkers.  Hence Liberation Theology is liberal when it explains Christian eschatology as equivalent to Marx’s movement towards a perfect socialist society through class war.   Reducing spirituality to psychological wholeness is liberal.   Making the goal of the Mass the celebration of our human togetherness , while eliminating all that suggests the sacred,is also liberal.  Saying that each age has factors that oppress it, in the first years of Christianity it was sin, and nowadays it is different forms of oppression; and that the Church must adapt its doctrine of salvation to the oppression of the moment: that is liberal.  However, all who wanted change were called "progressives", and we were not conscious of the differences.


 What was going on was dramatic enough, because it is true that there was an entrenched group in the Vatican that had its own theological tradition of neo-scholasticism, plus the tendency to interpret the whole Gospel through the spectacles of a canon lawyer. They suspected there were modernists hiding under every bed, had been suspicious of the outside world ever since it confiscated the papal states; and they were ready to condemn any theologian for modernism whose thinking differed from their own.

I was a fan of a number of French theologians whose theology is now called “nouvelle theologie”, though this title was given them by their opponents because, in general, they were patristic scholars, though some were Dominicans who appealed to St Thomas Aquinas against the neo-thomist school, and one, Teilhard de Chardin, was a famous scientist.      They were not conscious of being a group, though, seen from this distance, they clearly were, largely because of common influences and their meeting with Orthodox theologians of high quality, refugees from Communist Russia, who had settled in Paris.  

Perhaps these theologians could be better described as an informal network of friendships with certain characteristics in common..   There were names which are now well known. Henri de Lubac and Jean Danielou, were Jesuits, Marie-Dominique Chenu and Yves Congar were Dominicans, Louis Bouyer was an Oratorian and a liturgist,  Hans Urs von Balthasar left the Jesuits and was a parish priest in Switzerland.  They were looked on with suspicion by the Vatican, with books put on the Index some put under obedience not to publish.   However, Pope John XXIII, who had himself also been on the list of suspects by the CDF, rescued them from enforced oblivion and into the limelight by inviting them to take part in the Council. Their influence in the Council was enormous; and de Lubac was, perhaps, the most important theologian in Vatican II.   Together with a young Polish Archbishop of Cracow called Wojtyla, he wrote the original document  for discussion which came to be called Gaudium et Spes,  and it was his scholarship that was behind the document Lumen Gentium on the Church . They were joined by Wojtyla, Ratzinger and the English Benedictine Christopher Butler; and the whole Council bears their stamp.  Von Balthasar was not invited to Vatican II, but he spent the time developing his theology and is, perhaps, the best example of this ressourcement theology and a continuing influence in modern Catholic thought.   

 They differed from the “neo-scholastics” like Garigou-Lagrange, on the relationship between nature and supernatural Grace.  The neo-scholastics saw both nature and supernature as two entirely independent systems, both dependent on God, though supernature is built on nature and can transform it.   These French theologians talked of a natural desire for God, that nature was created to be transformed by Grace and would be eternally frustrated if it were to lose Grace, that there is no such thing as eternal natural happiness in Limbo, for instance, because pure nature cannot exist alone but has a natural need for grace; so much so that it is unnatural for our nature to be without  Grace because God, out of his own goodness, decreed our salvation before the creation of the world, and He created the world with grace in mind.   Hence, Nature is geared to be completed by Grace.   As St Augustine says in his Confessions, “  "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." Their opponents said that this takes away the gratuity of Grace; to which they replied that both Grace and Nature are gratuitous gifts of God and are made for one another.


  Also, they held that there is a natural attraction of the Holy, one that can be woken by natural means, and “the Holy” is the point of contact between Nature and the Grace which transforms it.  Why is the modern industrial worker without religion?    Because he is cut off from the liturgy by Latin and by a clericalised liturgy.    Give him access to the Holy, and he will have the basic religious experience upon which religion is built. There will be no re-evangelisation of Europe without liturgical reform which will open up the “sacred” to ordinary human beings.. 

The third characteristic of this group was their belief in Tradition as a basic dimension of the life of the Church.   Tradition is the product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church that is found especially in the Eucharist, but also in the whole liturgical life of the Church.   In the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit and the Church act together.  Just as the Holy Spirit acted in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, thus enabling her to become Mother of God, this requiring humble obedience on her part, so the Mass is work of the Holy Spirit acting in and through the Church, enabling it to proclaim, celebrate, consecrate and communicate as Christ’s own body, this requiring humble obedience by the Church.   Just as Tradition is the product of that relationship between the Spirit and the Church found in the Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations, so the liturgy is the primary expression of Tradition as well as the source of all the Church’s powers and the goal of all its activity.  And the liturgy is celebrated in local churches.    
Especially in the early Church, there was much liturgical creativity, but this creativity had to be exposed to the celebration of the liturgy over a long time, and it was the Holy Spirit’s job to sift the wheat from the chaff, using his human instruments, the experience of the Church and especially the ministry of the bishops, to gradually eliminate what was bad and to give more and more meaning to what is good as prayers and other texts are used by God’s people.  
 The fourth characteristic of this group was a logical consequence of seeing Tradition as embedded in the liturgy of local churches and to see the celebration of the liturgy as the source of all the Church’s powers and the goal of all its activity.   It was to adopt an “Eucharistic ecclesiology”, the fruit of their meeting with Affanasiev, the Orthodox theologian who lived in Paris; and Orthodox influence can be detected in much of their theology. 
  
 The local Church with its bishop is not only a part of the Catholic Church: it is the whole Church, uniting heaven and earth and all times, from the time of the Apostles till now, and beyond now till the end of the world, and gathered together by the Holy Spirit and manifesting itself in each Mass.
   
This put the spotlight on the fact that the process of synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church from which arises all the Church’s powers and to which are ordered all its activities is rooted in the local Church and doesn’t come down from the centre.  It must  also be at work in the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches because it arises out of the celebration of the same Eucharist that we celebrate in common; also that their traditions are expressions of the same Apostolic Tradition that we enjoy, even though expressed in different words and with some different insights.   This holds out the hope that, even where we have differences, there is an underlying unity.

This led these theologians to an idea that certainly put the wind up the neo-scholastics and strengthened the belief that the ressourcement theologians were modernists.  The common neo-scholastic understanding of the development of doctrine was that the Church moves to ever greater clarification, so that, if you really want to know the true meaning for faith of historical texts, you find them in the teaching of the modern Church because it is the same Church now as then with the same guarantee of infallibility.

    However this group of theologians had a different approach.   If the Holy Spirit is continually active in the Church, not more active in one century than in another, and if the Church can reach greater clarification on a doctrine as time passes, truths coming out of obscurity into the light, then the reverse must also be true: it must be also true that some insights that were clear in the Early Church can fall into obscurity and can be forgotten over the centuries, and it is necessary to delve into the past to clarify them and to get a better understanding of the Church’s present day teaching.  It was for this reason these theologians were called ressourcement theologians. 

An example: Even though we must accept the Holy Spirit’s role in the definitions of Vatican I, if we accept that Tradition is alive in both East and West, if we discover, together with our Orthodox brethren what the Church believed when East and West were united, this may provide a better context with which to interpret the Vatican I definitions that only represents Western Tradition.   This does not deny the Holy Spirit’s work in Vatican I, but does admit that the Council represents a Church impoverished by the absence of an adequate representation of the Orthodox Tradition.   For this, the theologians were called ressourcement theologians, going back to the past and using  the thought of previous centuries to help us solve our present problems.

It is accepted each church is guided by the same Spirit, so that Catholics cannot simply reject what it has declared to be true in the past.  Neither can the Orthodox for the same reason.  When it comes to another insight, like the patristic Eucharistic ecclesiology in relation to the universalist, “legalistic”, “perfect society” ecclesiology where the Church is held together by the exercise of the jurisdiction of the pope, the 2nd Vatican Council simply puts the two versions side by side, leaving the question open to the “traditioning” process, where the Holy Spirit enables the Church to arrive at a solution.  Pope Benedict has done the same with the liturgy,  putting the old Mass and the new Mass side by side, rather than impose his own rubrics.

   Again, while discovering the underlying unity between Catholicism and Orthodoxy is the goal of the theological talks between the two sides, to find a generally accepted theory is not enough.   What would happen if the Orthodox and Catholic theologians were to arrive at an agreement before the churches are ready to come together?

  The unity of the Church is the work of the Holy Spirit and his Presence is manifested in ecclesial charity.   This ecclesial charity is the unity of the Church.   Agreement without love will never hold.   The agreement in doctrine, when it is authentic, is never simply an agreement between theologians: it is a consequence of ecclesial love, because faith as knowledge is knowledge based on love, and Christian unity is formed by the synergy between the Holy Spirit and ecclesial love..   Thus, in the Byzantine rite, the kiss of peace comes immediately before the recitation of the Creed .   They are asked to love one another in order to say "with one heart and one voice" the creed.   Hence, the Patriarch of Moscow has suggested several times that we put side by side these two versions of the One, True, Church, and concentrate on working together for the re-evangelization of Europe.   By living the "joy of the Gospel" together, we can trust the Holy Spirit to forge the context in which agreement can be arrived at and the work of the theologians bear fruit..   That is the way of Tradition.

Another group of theologians who may have been mainly German-speaking Jesuits, made common cause with the nouvelle theologie theologians in the Council.   They advocated what they called "kerygmatic theology".    They were mainly concerned with the practical work of teaching the Faith.   They said that the order in which doctrines of the faith are taught matter if those who are being instructed are to have a coherent picture of what Christianity is about.   The order of truths as laid out in the Summa Theologica is not good for this purpose.   Remember, these theologians were not trying to change Catholic teaching  but, rather, to make sure that the prime importance of the  kerygma is not obscured.   The kerygma is the Good News that God is Love and loves his creation and has manifested this Love in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  

 There is a hierarchy of truths: those that arise from the Church's understanding of the kerygma, and the Catholic teaching (didache) of truths that gain from the kerygma their significance.  If the kerygma is not emphasised and other dogmatic truths are not seen from the standpoint of their relationship to the kerygma, then the corpus of Catholic dogmas loses its unity and Catholic moral teachings appear as unrelated and arbitrary restrictions on our conduct. 

I can remember only two names.   One was Father Hugo Rahner S.J., the elder brother of Father Karl Rahner S.J., who wrote about it.   He also wrote a ground breaking book on "Our Lady and the Church", which said that the first treatises on Our Lady were really ecclesiology, because Our Lady personifies the Church in its relationship to Christ.  This argument resulted in the Council treating Our Lady in a chapter of the Constitution on the Church. The other name is Father Johannes Hofinger S.J. from the University of Innesbruck, who was a liturgist by training.   He was a pupil of Father Josef Jungmann S.J. and helped to write the conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy.   However, he was best known for his work in Catholic catechesis.   I once had the privilege of sitting at his feet for a week.   This approach to theology and teaching became part of the accepted Vatican II legacy.  This is an exerpt from "The Kerygmatic Enigma":


Bl. John Paul II, in his 1979 apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, describes how catechesis builds upon the kerygma:  

Thus through catechesis the Gospel kerygma (the initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith) is gradually deepened, developed in its implicit consequences, explained in language that includes an appeal to reason, and channeled towards Christian practice in the Church and the world (CT 25).Thus, the initial kerygmatic proclamation and catechesis are two necessary and mutually enriching components of evangelization. However, in my experience I have found that there is general imbalance in the Church (on the diocesan and parochial levels), which unfortunately tends to place a much greater emphasis on catechesis at the expense of initial proclamation. 


In his 1990 encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, Bl. John Paul II underscored how essential kerygma is in the life and mission of the Church:


Proclamation is the permanent priority of mission. The Church cannot elude Christ's explicit mandate, nor deprive men and women of the "Good News" about their being loved and saved by God. "Evangelization will always contain—as the foundation, center, and at the same time the summit of its dynamism—a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ . . . salvation is offered to all people, as a gift of God's grace and mercy." All forms of missionary activity are directed to this proclamation, which reveals and gives access to the mystery hidden for ages and made known in Christ (cf. Eph 3:3-9; Col 1:25-29), the mystery which lies at the heart of the Church's mission and life, as the hinge on which all evangelization turns.... The vital core of the new evangelization must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom, which he has gained for us by his Paschal Mystery.


The final group among   the "progressives", as we have already noted, were the already mentioned "liberals" who sought to adapt the Church to the modern world where mankind, they believe, has "come of age" They regarded the dominant characteristics of the modern, secular world as permanent because the 20th century was, they believed, the height of a long process of social evolution, and they were very optimistic about the future of a world in which man (and woman) had become mature. There was much quotation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to this effect.  If the average modern man feels no need for the sacred, then liturgy must reflect human solidarity which he does value; but "with God" would be added as a hidden dimension of any human solidarity, so that he could go on being a practising Catholic, even if he has difficulty having contact with God.   The Church must become really modern, which means accepting the values of modern secular humanity.   In its dialogue with the world, it would strive to show to secular society that Christian  teaching is a better guarantee of modern values than any other, but it must be ready to jettison as outmoded what "modern" human beings do not appreciate.   

If, by ecumenism, the ressourcement theologians saw unity with the Orthodox as their main goal, the liberals looked to the Anglican Church as best embodying their ideals, certainly more than the Vatican!

Although this group had very little representation among those who drew up the Council documents, nor among the voting bishops, they had enormous influence in the media. Because they had a typically 20th Century outlook on so many things, the journalists understood them and could identify with them without difficulty.   Later, because so many priests and religious had learnt  about the Council principally through the media, if they read the documents of the Council at all, they read them through liberal spectacles.  A simple test: remember a "new mass" celebrated in the  nineteen sixties or seventies or, if your memory is dim, attend a Mass "in the spirit of Vatican II" now, and then compare it with the document on the liturgy.  Discover how many insights of the Council document have been simply forgotten.  The problem is not the texts of Vatican II, nor of the "new Mass" liturgy- it can be and often is celebrated beautifully - but lies in the lack of rubrics, so that it can be given any sort of emphasis you want; and too many priests who learnt their Vatican II from the media, came to celebrate "in the spirit of Vatican II", which often means, "according to the interpretation of Vatican II that belonged to that group in the Council with which the media could identify."  It means, the kind of celebration where vertical relationships with God are sacrificed to horizontal relationships with "our brothers and sisters."  It means the elimination of the "sacred".  I do not believe it was deliberate: it was done unconsciously.  

The "nouvelle theologie" theologians were devastated.  The situation was far worse than before!   The hi-jacking by the liberals of the "spirit of Vatican II", which had nothing to do with the documents, except where quoted out of context, was a disaster in many places, especially the way so many celebrations of the "new Mass" were celebrated with every whiff of the sacred eliminated in favour the celebration of togetherness. It must also be said that many priests celebrated in a very befitting manner; and when that happened, it was a wonderful success.

   The ressourcement theologians had explained the loss of Catholic practice among Catholic workers by the fact that they had been cut off from opportunities to experience holiness.   Their explanation was confirmed as popular attendance at the new Mass fell sharply, as vocations dropped, and as priests and religious left in droves.   The document on the liturgy is so rich, the celebration of the liturgy that was supposed to be based on the document was, so often, so banal.   An opportunity had been lost, and the results were catastrophic.   The result was that two popes, who had associated themselves in the Council with the nouvelle theologie group, postponed putting into eeffect the main decision of the Council to re-organise the church structure in favour of episcopal collegiality and de-centralisation, in order to counter-act the effects of this liberalism in the Church.



In his disappointment and hurt at what happened to the liturgy,   Joseph Ratzinger as cardinal made some criticisms of the new Mass that showed little respect for the good intentions and professional competence of those who did the work.   In fact, there is nothing unorthodox or even liberal about the texts which were well thought out; and each change had its reasons, was debated by people who knew what they were doing and why they were doing it. Moreover, Pope Paul VIth was closely involved, and is even personally involved in some of the changes.  Cardinal Ratzinger ignored the fact that there are many places where the new Mass is celebrated beautifully, that there was much to be said in favour of many of the changes, and that it had received the enthusiastic approval of Pope Paul and the majority of the bishops, and of a very great number of faithful.   However, after he became Pope, he put much of that right.   Of the new liturgy, he says in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum:


In more recent times, Vatican Council II expressed a desire that the respectful reverence due to divine worship should be renewed and adapted to the needs of our time. Moved by this desire our predecessor, the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI, approved, in 1970, reformed and partly renewed liturgical books for the Latin Church. These, translated into the various languages of the world, were willingly accepted by bishops, priests and faithful. John Paul II amended the third typical edition of the Roman Missal. Thus Roman pontiffs have operated to ensure that 'this kind of liturgical edifice ... should again appear resplendent for its dignity and harmony.

The Pope leaves aside his barbed criticisms that he made as Cardinal and accepts that the new Mass was  approved by Pope Paul VIth in 1970, and the new books were willingly accepted by bishops, priests and faithful.  In other words, the new liturgy is a valid, and in many places, a popular expression of the Tradition of the Church, having as much right to the adjective "traditional" as has the missal of Pius VIth, even if it is new.   Nevertheless, in accordance with eucharistic ecclesiology, even though the process through  “traditioning” has a long way to go.   (Further discussion of this is discovered here.)

To carry on his campaign to improve the liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI postponed the restructuring of the Church that would re-emphasise collegiality as the Council and he had wanted , and began to govern by decree. He even gave a theological justification for this, saying that the only place where the bishops govern with the Pope by divine right is an ecumenical council, and that, if they do meet, their authority comes from the Pope: a bit of a turn-around which cannot be squared with his previous interpretation of the Council.

      Nevertheless, it is clear that he hadn’t thought things through.   Ten years before he became Pope, he lamented the terrible bureaucracy in the Church, saying that  "The saints were people of creativity, not bureaucratic functionaries," and he wrote as Pope  that the Church bureaucracy is “old and tired”.  He also said that any reform of the Church must reduce the bureaucracy, This is the old Fr Joseph speaking!! He did not seem to realise that this over heavy bureaucracy is the inevitable result of centralisation, and that, by supporting centralisation, he was inevitably supporting a large bureaucracy.

   Moreover, it was not consistent with at least one other decision.  In 2001, the Congregation for the Defence of the Faith issued a decree while he was in charge that was initialled by the Pope which said that” the Catholic Church recognises the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession”, in spite of the fact it has rejected every ecumenical council since Ephesus.   This implies that local churches are true churches of orthodox faith, not because of their connection with Rome or their relationship with the other local churches: they gain their authenticity from their fidelity to their own Apostolic Tradition, even though it is Catholic teaching that communion with Rome should be a consequence of their orthodoxy. This fidelity makes them identical to all other true churches of orthodox faith, and hence,  one body with all others, including Rome that presides in charity..   That this identity with all other local churches springs from the fullness of its own sacramental life is the truth that justifies both collegiality and de-centralisation. It is what eucharistic ecclesiology is all about.   

It must be remember that this Assyrian Church is not a single diocese, but a communion of local churches under a patriarch, the equivalent of a national or regional church   Although the unity of this communion of local churches does not come from the Pope, nor is it ecclesiastically related to the Pope in any way  , as a union of churches it still functions as a " true particular church built on orthodox faith..."   This view is not consistent with Pope Benedict's view that local and regional synods get their authority from the Pope. 

Also, it goes directly against ecumenical relations with the Orthodox who never recognised nor were even called to recognise, nor ever will recognise that their own patriarchal synods receive their jurisdiction from the Pope.

   However, Catholic teaching requires us to state that the Pope has universal jurisdiction in synergy with with all other episcopal jurisdictions, whether regional, national or diocesan.   This is possible because what truly unites us at the various levels is ecclesial charity, not the domination of power. This is what distinguishes canon law from all types of civil law.  There is no divinely instituted police force, no prisons, nor have the authorities power to put people into hell.  What is left is ecclesial love, sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit who is invoked at the epiclesis in every local celebration, but who does not allow any grouping of Christians at any level to be closed in on itself.   Christian love, in its perfection as a reflection of Christ's love, is universal, and thus has no borders.   For this love to work habitually at all levels, including the universal one, there is need for the papacy.

Another factor in which Pope Francis shows himself in continuity with his two predecessors and with the ressourcement group, especially with Hans Urs von Balthazar,  is the place of beauty as a transcendental leading to God.   He writes in Evangelii Gaudium


’167. Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the “way of beauty” (via pulchritudinis). Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendour and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus. This has nothing to do with fostering an aesthetic relativism which would downplay the inseparable bond between truth, goodness and beauty, but rather a renewed esteem for beauty as a means of touching the human heart and enabling the truth and goodness of the Risen Christ to radiate within it. If, as Saint Augustine says, we love only that which is beautiful, the incarnate Son, as the revelation of infinite beauty, is supremely lovable and draws us to himself with bonds of love. So a formation in the via pulchritudinis ought to be part of our effort to pass on the faith. Each particular Church should encourage the use of the arts in evangelization, building on the treasures of the past but also drawing upon the wide variety of contemporary expressions so as to transmit the faith in a new “language of parables”. We must be bold enough to discover new signs and new symbols, new flesh to embody and communicate the word, and different forms of beauty which are valued in different cultural settings, including those unconventional modes of beauty which may mean little to the evangelizers, yet prove particularly attractive for others.’

Pope Francis is a bit of a mystery for some people, a worry for others, even as his approval ratings reach record heights.   The problem is the same one that the Council had.   The journalists interpret his"off the cuff"  remarks  in the light of their own agenda or to create an interesting story.   They  look for drama, for contrast, for a narrative worth telling; and, if what he says can be interpreted  as a contradiction against the words of Pope Benedict, for example, then that is what they do because then there is narrative. Then, when he says something that contradicts this interpretation, it is worth another article that theorises why he has changed his mind.   In this way, they end up misinforming the public.

Let us take the example of S. Magister and the affair of the Friars of the Immaculate Conception. S. Magister's articles are all the more significant because he is a first class journalist, one that we can normally read when seeking information; but, in the case of the Friars of the Immaculate, he seems to have caught journalitis very badly.

  This highly successful new congregation, with lots of vocations and excellent work in evangelising, accepted the wish of Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate both the new mass and the old.   There was a majority in favour of the old Mass and a minority in favour of the new; though the common practice was to celebrate either according to the circumstances: so far, so good.

  Unfortunately, the minority were made to  feel under attack. It seems that there were those among the majority who regarded the new Mass as sub-Catholic. So bitter did it become that the minority appealed to the Vatican, back in the time of Pope Benedict XVI.  As is usual in these cases, the Vatican sent in people to investigate and, as a result of this investigation, the Vatican removed the general superior, put in a Capuchin administrator, and forbade the celebration of the old Latin Mass.

What was the Vatican trying to do?   It is obvious to any religious.   The Vatican was trying to save the unity of the congregation; and the measures they decreed would only remain in force until the problem was resolved.   However, a rather sordid quarrel and a Vatican patch-up isn't news.   S.Magister and others said this was the first time that the present Pope had gone against Pope Benedict's policy that all may celebrate the old Mass without restriction.   Some gave the impression the Pope Francis was showing his true colours: a wonderful story for a journalist to discover if it were true; but it isn’t.   

Every religious knows, from stories handed down, how, with a religious community, a storm in a tea cup can transform itself into a tempest.   The problem had nothing to do with the Pope, but much to do with the preservation of an excellent congregation that is worth preserving.

  It isn't always going to have a Capuchin superior; nor will the ban on the old Mass last for ever.   For a community to give witness to the Catholicity of both ways of celebrating Mass, more is required than the simple celebration of both uses: they must treat both as equal.   It was they who chose to accept the task to bear witness in this fashion, so that the oath that they must accept both uses, old and new, as equal in status, as equally Catholic, is a simple and logical requirement in the light of the obviously bitter disagreement they have had within the community.   It would never have become public, and the public would never have been misled, if journalists had not been looking for a story, which they distorted to make it worth publishing.   How often has this happened before?.

We shall now look for the news behind the news; and we shall sum up the evidence and ask whether Pope Francis is truly in continuation with Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, or whether he is ploughing a furrow independent of theirs.


There are important differences.   The last two popes were important participants in the Council who joined the French group, along with others, and had had a voice in drawing up the documents.   Pope Francis was a student at the time, but, most probably, highly interested in what was going on.      

One quality he has in common with the ressourcement theologians is contact with and admiration for the Byzantine Tradition, and this influence is clear in what he says and writes.  It began when he regularly served as acolyte at Byzantine Masses as a boy.  He believes the Catholic Church should learn what the Holy Spirit has taught our separated brethren down the ages, especially the tradition of the Orthodox churches on regional government. His belief that the Holy Spirit acts in and through Orthodox tradition is clear and unequivocal. His acceptance of eucharistic ecclesiology was made clear from his very first days because his preferred title is not "Pope" but "Bishop of Rome" who presides in charity - using the language of St Ignatius of Antioch.   When wanting to show the difference between prosyletism and evangelisation, he said in a recent talk that evangelisation is the product of the Holy Spirit and the evangelist working in synergy.   This use of the word “synergy” is an Orthodox theological term of immense importance.   It appears in the Catholic Catechism weakly translated as “co-operation”.   His use of the word accurately shows his closeness to Orthodox thought. I shall bring up another field where, I believe, he may be looking  for guidance, but I will do this nearer the end of this article.

As a Latin American Catholic, he shares with the Orthodox a similar understanding of images.   For example, the Brazilian Marian shrine of Aparecida has that name because finding a small statue of Our Lady in a river was hailed as equivalent to a surprise apparition: images manifest the presence of the saint depicted.   In all this he shows his theology to be very close to that of Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul.


Another sign that he learned from the "progressive" side of Vatican II to which Archbishop Wojtyla and Fr Joseph Ratzinger belonged, is his conviction that his first task is to confront the modern world with the kerygma, with the love of God in Jesus, to allow the other teachings of the Church, which he fully accepts and regards as important, to enjoy second place to the preaching of the kerygma, and to invite from us our personal response.   He preaches the kerygma at every opportunity.  This has led many people to misunderstand him; though people who have read Johannes Hofinger would recognise what he is doing.   Unless we have this personal relationship to Jesus, the pro-life,  anti-divorce stances of the Catholic Church are out of their true context and lack conviction; and we can no longer take for granted that people have had the Gospel preached to them.   Without knowledge of the Good News, our morality seems to be nothing more than out-of-date opinion.

Pope Francis has more in common with Father Joseph Ratzinger, the theological expert of Cardinal Frings at the Council, than with Pope Benedict XVI.   Read this excerpt from the National Catholic Reporter.   The words in inverted commas are the words of Fr Ratzinger:
Although the first session of the council produced no concrete results, it was, according to Ratzinger, of outstanding importance for two reasons. In the first place, in refusing to endorse the materials prepared by the Roman curia, “the body of bishops” demonstrated that it “was a reality in its own right.” The preparatory schema on revelation, for example, was “utterly a product of the ‘antimodernist’ mentality,” according to Ratzinger. Would the “almost neurotic denial of all that was new” be continued? Or would the church “turn over a new leaf, and move on into a new and positive encounter with its own origins, with its brothers, and with the world of today? Since a clear majority of the fathers opted for the second alternative, we may even speak of the council as a new beginning.”In rejecting the schema on revelation “the council had asserted its own teaching authority. And now, against the curial congregations which serve the Holy See and its unifying functions, the council had caused to be heard the voice of the episcopate -- no, the voice of the universal church.”In the second place, the first chapter of the Constitution on the Liturgy “contains a statement that represents for the Latin church a fundamental innovation.” The statement in question is the stipulation that, within certain limits, episcopal conferences “possess in their own right a definite legislative function.” Ratzinger sees this as of outstanding importance: “Perhaps one could say that this small paragraph, which for the first time assigns to the conferences of bishops their own canonical authority, has more significance for the theology of the episcopacy and for the long desired strengthening of episcopal power than anything in the Constitution on the Church itself.”Whereas previous popes had “regarded the curia as their personal affair on which a council had no right to encroach,” as a result of Pope Paul VI’s opening address to the second session, “the theme of curial reform was ... in a sense officially declared open for council debate.” At the heart and center of debates on the schema on the church was the notion of collegiality: “Just as Peter belonged to the community of the Twelve, so the pope belongs to the college of bishops, regardless of the special role he fills, not outside but within the college.” Later discussion of the schema on bishops sought concretely to implement the concept of collegiality by decentralizing power to bishops and episcopal conferences, and by proposing appropriate forms of centralization through the creation of “an episcopal council in Rome.”


Ratzinger’s reflections on the debates on ecumenism, the schema on which may be seen as “a pastoral application of the doctrine in the schema on the church,” contain an interesting discussion on the relationship between “churches” and “the church” in the form of a detailed response to the Protestant ecclesiology laid out in October 1963 in a lecture in Rome by Edmund Schlink of Heidelberg, Germany.

This session saw the promulgation of the first two conciliar texts, the Constitution on the Liturgy and the Decree on the Media of Social Communication. Paul VI’s formula of approbation broke with the custom, since the late Middle Ages, of regarding conciliar decisions being put into effect as papal law: “Paul, bishop, servant of the servants of God, together with the council fathers” (my stress).

On the other hand, for Pope Benedict XVI, the Synod of Bishops only had a consultative voice, as was laid down by Pope Paul who founded them, because cum Petro must necessarily mean sub Petro.   Really, everybody agrees that the bishops have the duty, received at ordination, to govern the whole Church with the Pope; but it is not so easy to put all the different threads together, either in theory or in practice, especially as Pope Francis is charged with a task for which there is no precedent.  

Towards the end of the Council, it is said that Father Ratzinger was already worried that people were seeing the  bishops as a future parliament.   In his vision of the Church, the relationship that the bishops have among themselves, and the relationship between the Pope and the college of bishops have nothing to do with any model taken from secular politics.   It seems that any attempt to express this these relationships in legal terms is fraught with difficulties.   It seems that the only thing to do is to work out a modus vivendi and put that in legal terms, while knowing that the ecclesial reality of the Church is a Christian Mystery too big to be adequately expressed in a legal vocabulary.   Apophatic theology also has its place when describing the reality of the Church.

In fact, in spite of efforts on the part of journalists and the jibes from some right-wing bloggers,   Pope Francis's theology is not very different from his two predecessors.   He is a straight down the middle, orthodox Catholic who has been greatly influenced by Vatican II and by the same theological influences that were important to the last two popes.

However, there is one enormous difference.   He has several academic degrees, but is not an academic.   The university which had most influence on his life he found on the streets of Buenos Aires. Although I live in Peru, it is not so different among the poor.  Once he became Archbishop, he began to walk the streets in the poorest barrios, talking to the people, sharing their worries, listening to their woes, learning about people living and caring for their children, and making ends meet, in spite of almost impossible odds.  He would have discovered that a large proportion of the families exist without the sacrament of marriage; there are many divorced, many women are bringing up children whose father is married to someone else; and many are living in conditions which make any change from their present situation virtually impossible.   He will have also found that, living among all this hardship and sin and ignorance, many examples of heroism and even of sanctity.   He will have discovered people "living in sin" who show heroic virtues, a self-sacrificing generosity that has made him feel very small; and he will have discovered people living in the state of grace under conditions which make their virtue seem miraculous.  He will be surprised how, under these condirions so many people are so kind, to one another, and to people less fortunate than themselves.   There is also cruelty and vice, sheer evil that does not hide its face.

It was his job to show these people the love of God, to tell them of Christ who died for them, to preach the resurrection where there only seems room for death. 

Then he had to celebrate Mass for them, perhaps during a fiesta.   He sees the fervour of so many, with devotion in their eyes, as they accompany the image of the feast, feeling God's presence through the image, in the midst of the jostling crowd.   Then comes communion; and they surge forward like hungry dogs - the description by Graham Greene of peasants in Mexico, but it is true - as they approach the Lord.

I am now projecting onto Pope Francis my own experience and that of countless other priests, but I suspect that I am not far from the truth.   Archbishop Bergoglio was a very correct and orthodox in his beliefs.   From his conversation with the people, he knows the highly irregular situations of so many who are pressing forward to receive communion.   He knows the rules and agrees with them.   He doesn't want to see them changed because they are true to how things should be.   But, somehow, he thinks, deep down, that, on this occasion, if he really wishes that they should know that God loves them, if he really wants these wounded, broken people to meet the Lord and be healed, if he wants to feed the very real and profound goodness in so many of them, he should put aside the rules and feel the multitude with Christ's body.  That does not mean he believes the rules are wrong, just that there is something more pressing than observance of the rules, specially among people who know only vaguely what the rules are or do not know how to get out of the situation they are in.   There are situations where even good and true rules can be obstacles between the sinner and the love of God. Gradually, as the Church became more and more present, he would introduce order, and, with the order would come the rules; but,looking back, he would know that, those early Masses gave the Church in the poor barrio a kick-start. Rules are for those who are capable of obeying them: manifesting God's mercy is a constant in our pastoral behaviour.. That mercy sometimes has priority over the rules, and that usually, it is best served working through the rules is recognised in Orthodox pastoral theology, and I wonder if this isn't one of the areas where Pope Francis might be looking for ideas from them.

Pope Francis believes what Pope Benedict believes, and he follows the same line, but they do it in very different ways.   But their way of living the same faith is coloured by their very different formations.   It would be silly to say that one is right and the others is wrong: they are different.   They also came to be Pope under very different circumstances and have different gifts, given them by God, to fulfil different roles in the implimentation of Vatican II.   The "reform of the reform" is still underway - we are having the publication of all the documents concerning the Constitution on the Liturgy, and there have been at least two Graduale's published in English; but it will probably be others, rather than the present Pope, who will continue the task.  Pope Francis has set himself the task of implementing collegiality, as well as putting the emphasis on the kerygma, on the love of God in Christ, and he is trying always to put the teaching of the Church in that context.   In this, his theology is in agreement with Popes John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, but he is doing so much more emphatically.

   





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