Saturday, July 27, 2013

Once Again Pope Francis Talks And Walks Like St Francis

In this photo Pope Francis demonstrates the proper body language for dialogue, that of the interested listener.

Pope Francis spoke to Brazillian cultural leaders and dropped a few more hints about who he is and what his vision is about.  Archbishop Chaput in particular will probable not derive much hope from Francis' words.  The following is from Vatican Radio:

Pope Francis: My advice is always “dialogue, dialogue, dialogue

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with leading members of Brazilian society on Saturday and stressed the importance of constructive dialogue, saying this was essential at the present moment. “Between selfish indifference and violent protest," he said, "there is always another possible option, that of dialogue.” The Pope also called for more inclusive and humanistic economic and political process, eliminating “forms of elitism” and eradicating poverty. (Did he really use the dreaded 'humanistic' word?)

In his address to the political, diplomatic, cultural, religious, academic and business leaders of Brazil the Pope paid tribute to the country’s distinct cultural tradition, looked at their joint responsibility for building the future, and stressed the need for constructive dialogue in facing the present moment. He told the leaders that the future demands of us a humanistic vision of the economy and a politics capable of ensuring greater and more effective participation on the part of all. This, he continued, is the road that we are called to travel.

The Pope went on to say that anyone exercising a role of leadership needs to keep hope alive even in the face of disappointments, and be generous even without apparent results. He said leaders make decisions in the present but should always have an eye to the future, reflecting on the consequences of our decisions.
(This is a key insight into Francis' plans for reform. What ever he decides will take into consideration the future of his reforms beyond his own papacy. They will not be stop gap measures and a big part of it will be putting in place process/systems to avoid these same issues going forward.)

Pope Francis concluded his address by pointing to something which he considers essential for facing the present moment: constructive dialogue. A country grows when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components. The Pope revealed that when leaders in various fields ask him for advice, his response is always the same: "Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue!" This, he said, is the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow. He said fraternal relations between people and cooperation in building a more just society are not some vague utopia but the fruit of a concerted effort on the part of all, in service of the common good.
(Pope Francis is not about stagnation and preserving the past. He is calling for growth, evolution, and maturation, and he's right, a more just society is not a vague utopia when people are motivated to seek a better way.)


The more I listen to and read the words and actions of Pope Francis, the more I am convinced he is operating from a spirituality that James Fowler calls a Stage 6 spiritual view. I think Francis is going to take the whole Church down this path whether anyone else really gets it or not. The following is Fowler's description of a stage 6 person. It's from an undated interview:
Stage Six: Universalizing Faith

Some few persons we find move into Stage Six, which we call universalizing faith. In a sense I think we can describe this stage as one in which persons begin radically to live as though what Christians and Jews call the
"kingdom of God" were already a fact. I don't want to confine it to Christian and Jewish images of the kingdom. It's more than that. I'm saying these people experience a shift from the self as the center of experience. Now their center becomes a participation in God or ultimate reality. There's a reversal of figure and ground. They're at home with what I call a commonwealth of being.

We experience these people on the one hand as being more lucid and simple than we are, and on the other hand as intensely liberating people, sometimes even subversive in their liberating qualities. I think of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the last years of his life. I think of Thomas Merton. I think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I think of Dag Hammerskjold and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the last years of his imprisonment. These are persons who in a sense have negated the self for the sake of affirming God. And yet in affirming God they became vibrant and powerful selves in our experience. They have a quality of what I call relevant irrelevance. Their "subversiveness" makes our compromises show up as what they are.

This maturity from which Pope Francis operates is going to be a challenge and a threat to those who are not matured to this stage, and few people ever get to this stage.  The vision of Roman Catholicism this view holds is radically different from the view the last two papacies have acted from.  In Francis' life, the foreground and background truly have flipped.  It's why Francis constantly harps on the egoism of clericalism, has dropped all the papal froufrou, calls himself Bishop of Rome, and carries his own luggage. It's not that he's being intentionally subversive, it's that he no longer relates to any of the ego dressing associated with his vocation to priesthood.  It is however, still true, that these acts, representative of his 'being', are truly subversive of much of the clerical culture. 

They have to be threatening, or at least anxiety inducing, to sincere clerics like Archbishop Chaput whose view of ego and church are no where near where Francis is.  This is not to say that Chaput is a lesser human being, but it is to say that Chaput lives from a very different understanding of the vocation of priesthood and part of this difference is likely related to when AB Chaput went into the clerical system. It was with a junior seminary at age 13.  Francis on the other hand went into the system at age 22 after he had college and job experience and did not enter Jesuit formation until he was 25. There is a world of difference between a 13 year old and a 22 year old.  The following is Fowler's description of a Stage 4 spiritual mind:

Stage Four is concerned about boundaries: where I stop and you begin; where the group that I can belong to with conviction and authenticity ends and other groups begin. It's very much concerned about authenticity and a fit between the self I feel myself to be in a group and the ideological commitments that I'm attached to.

Keeping the above in mind, here's how this disconnect plays out as recorded by John Allen in his interview with AB Chaput, or how a dedicated Stage 4 believer can sound like a lost and confused teen ager because he now has a dedicated Stage 6 believer for his ultimate boss:

How do you explain the enthusiasm beyond the usual suspects?
I don't know how to interpret it, quite honestly. I think part of it is genuine appreciation for the pope's extraordinary friendliness and transparency. But also, I think they would prefer a church that wouldn't have strict norms and ideas about the moral life and about doctrine, and they somehow interpret the pope's openness and friendliness as being less concerned about those things. I certainly don't think that's true. I think he's a truly Catholic man in every sense of the word, but I think people are hoping that he'll be less concerned about the issues that separate us today.

Do you think there will be a moment of reckoning when the honeymoon wears off?

We'll see what happens. The pope may have a way of managing all of that will be extraordinary, I don't know. I would think that by virtue of his office, he'll be required to make decisions that won't be pleasing to everybody.

This is already true of the right wing of the church. They generally have not been really happy about his election, from what I've been able to read and to understand. He'll have to care for them, too, so it will be interesting to see how all this works out in the long run.

What I'm trying to convey with this post is that so much of the disconnect in the Church is not due to politics or theological views so much as it is a difference in spiritual stages.  The stages that Fowler describes are a universal phenomenon.  This is not just a Christian problem.  It's human problem.  I will be praying my little heart out that Francis can drag the clerical culture and the Church itself further along in it's spiritual evolution, and I will also pray that Archbishop Chaput gets his wish, that Francis is perfectly aware that the vision he sees is a vision that threatens folks who aren't quite where he is at.  Since Francis' ego isn't wrapped up in being right, but in being Christ to the world, I think he's more than equipped to handle the challenge.

Update:  Vatican Radio has just posted Pope Francis' speech to the Brazilian hierarchy.  It's the longest speech of his papacy and is most likely a blue print for the future direction of his papacy.  He doesn't pull many punches in his assessment of the current Church, but again, conservatives are not going to like what he says, even when he starts out saying what they want to hear.  Take this passage for instance in which he both acknowledges the importance of the family and then recognizes how important it is that the church not keep losing women but promote their active role in the ecclesial community:

In mission, also on a continental level, it is very important to reaffirm the family, which remains the essential cell of society and the Church; young people, who are the face of the Church’s future; women, who play a fundamental role in passing on the faith. Let us not reduce the involvement of women in the Church, but instead promote their active role in the ecclesial community. By losing women, the Church risks becoming sterile.

And then as Fowler describes above, about Stage 6 people, Francis himself calls for the use of more lucid and simple language:
Another lesson which the Church must constantly recall is that she cannot leave simplicity behind; otherwise she forgets how to speak the language of Mystery. Not only does she herself remain outside the door of the mystery, but she proves incapable of approaching those who look to the Church for something which they themselves cannot provide, namely, God himself. At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people. Without the grammar of simplicity, the Church loses the very conditions which make it possible “to fish” for God in the deep waters of his Mystery.

Fowler himself goes into some detail about the importance of simple allegorical language as the language of mystery as it is this kind of spiritual language which is the foundation laid very early in our neural development as it applies to our religious or spiritual training.  It's really difficult to remove that kind of imagery from ones mind even as one matures.  The associations are too strong.  However, it is possible to integrate these associations into a far more mature spirituality by transcending the childhood definitions of the imagery.  Anyway, the Pope's speech is well worth reading.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pope Francis Wants Catholic Youth To Make A Mess And Occupy Their Dioceses--And Listen To Their Elders

Maybe this really was an omen.

Pope Francis has continued with his spontaneous comments to his written speeches.  He came up with quite the comment in speaking with Argentinian Youth last night, and this one has been making the internet rounds.  Francis is most certainly not your average pope. I really wonder if the Cardinals had a reset button if they wouldn't use it.

The following is from the Yahoo article I read early the morning, but this link also includes more recent coverage:

....The surprise, though, came during his encounter with Argentine pilgrims, scheduled at the last minute in yet another sign of how this spontaneous pope is shaking up the Vatican's staid and often stuffy protocol.
He told the thousands of youngsters, with an estimated 30,000 Argentines registered, to get out into the streets and spread their faith and make a "mess," saying a church that doesn't go out and preach simply becomes a civic or humanitarian group.

"I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!" he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. "I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!"

 Apparently realizing the radicalness of his message, he apologized in advance to the bishops at home....(It might be fun to see some dioceses have to deal with messes of a different,  not self made sort.  I might suddenly become very youthful and idealistic.)

And then in his prepared remarks later in the evening he had this to say:

Addressing Varginha's residents, Francis acknowledged that young people in particular have a sensitivity toward injustice.
"You are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good," Francis told the crowd. "To you and all, I repeat: Never yield to discouragement, do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished."

It was a clear reference to the violent protests that paralyzed parts of the country in recent weeks as Brazilians furious over rampant corruption and inefficiency within the country's political class took to the streets.

Francis blasted what he said was a "culture of selfishness and individualism" that permeates society today, demanding that those with money and power share their wealth and resources to fight hunger and poverty.  (No question at all the money is an energy source for society.  This is not a time to conserve that energy but to spread it around.)
"It is certainly necessary to give bread to the hungry — this is an act of justice. But there is also a deeper hunger, the hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy," he said.


I hope that Pope Francis' work from last night will have a long term effect on his campaign to purge the Church of corruption and redirect it's energy to the poor.  I found his call for making messes in dioceses quite brilliant.  Corruption in Roman Catholicism is not just a matter of the games being played in the Vatican City States.  That kind of corruption has not just trickled, but cascaded down into virtually every diocese in the Church.  This is one of the big messages of the abuse crisis.  This is one of the results of the JPII/Benedict purge of thinking bishops and consistent appointments of yes men. Cleaning out the corruption in the head will do little for the body if the rest of the parts are full of the same corruption.

I have to put together one other statement of Pope Francis' with his call for making messes,  and that was his remarks about listening to and considering the needs of elder generations. Today he again called on youth to honor their elders. It's almost as if he is marshaling his younger troops to fight in the same campaign his older troops are getting somewhat weary of fighting. He's saying those older people are not cranks and maybe you should listen to your elders.  Well, why not, he's an elder himself and he's fully engaged in changing the direction of this Church.  If he can motivate these idealistic youth in the same way Vatican II ignited another generation of youth, his campaign won't be easily stamped out by a pope who follows him.  He will have lit a spark that can't be stamped out.

I would think the fact he mentioned clericalism specifically should give more impetus to Cardinal Dolan's self examination and send a serious message to younger JPII priests.  It ain't about you and your clerical perks and careers.  Not anymore. Not under this Pope.  As for AB Chaput, I don't think calling for youth to mess up dioceses will make his day either, since he happens have found himself with one of the most messed up dioceses in the US.  He can blame that one on ingratiating himself with the Burke/Rigalli faction and his own overweening careerism. Call it karma.

For all my enthusiasm, I do have one serious concern, one fly in my ointment.  Francis is appointing too many OD and OD connected laity to his commissions.  I wish I knew what that was about because it's troubling.  Maybe he thinks OD loyalty will easily transfer to him, which may be true on an individual basis but I wonder about the organization.  Maybe he's just keeping his potential enemies close.

One last observation. I also found it very fascinating that just as the battle between his maintaining his access to his people and legitimate security concerns was heating up and coming to a head, the rains came and came and came.  Nothing like a lot of rain to damper security concerns and let Francis stay Francis.  I can't help but think of the two lightning bolts that struck the Vatican when Benedict retired.  Perhaps it actually was an omen because it happened not only on the day that Benedict announced his resignation,  February 11th, but that date was also the date on which Pius XI signed the Lateran treaty with Mussolini that resulted in the Vatican City States and provided the patrimony for the Vatican Bank.  Interesting times we live in.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Apparently Nobody Expected Pope Francis To Actually Be Francis

Pope Francis means better days ahead for Latin American liberation theologians like Leonardo Boff.  What a change that is for this man.

I have to laugh a bit.  Yesterday I read that Archbishop Chaput is concerned that Pope Francis remember right wing Catholics who are not all that enamored with Pope Francis' view of the Church.  Today I read via Vatican Insider that Liberation theologian Leonardo Boff is more than happy with Pope Francis and his view of the Church. Maybe Chaput has a point about the right wing sensing the tide is turned if Lenoardo Boff is this enthusiastic.  Very few theologians labored on as well as Boff did under the onslaught directed at liberation theologians conducted by the JPII/Benedict church.  Not only have the monarchical externals of the Papacy been mothballed, but so has the autocratic papacy.  The poor are first and the careerists are beginning to see they might suddenly be last.  My how things have changed.

The following is the entire Vatican Insider by Andrea Tornielli, and here is the link to the NCR interview by John Allen with Archbishop Chaput.

Bergoglio sets about rebuilding the Church, just as St. Francis did

 Andrea Tornielli - Vatican Insider - 7/24/2013
“Three weeks before Bergoglio’s election, I tweeted: Francis is going to be the next Pope because as St. Francis did, the Church needs someone who can restore its lost credibility…” Leonardo Boff no longer wears a habit after his clash with Rome over his theological beliefs. He left the Franciscan order and is now married but his beard, which is whiter than ever, looks exactly the same as when he was still a friar. The Liberation Theologian whom Joseph Ratzinger never managed to tame, talks to Italian newspaper La Stampa about the visit to Brazil of the first Latin American Pope in the history of the Catholic Church.

Were you surprised by the welcome Francis received from the crowds in Rio de Janeiro?
“No, this enthusiasm stems from Francis’ simplicity, from the fact that he came without a huge security apparatus, that he wanted to drive through the city in a simple car and with the windows always down, that he let people approach and touch him and from the fact that he stopped to give children kisses. You can see he is a pastor, a bishop amongst his people. He is not a king.”

Francis decided to kick off his trip to Rio with a visit to the Shrine of Aparecida. Why?
“Because this is where Latin American bishops met in 2007 and published a document which refocuses on the poor and confirms that certain methods of evangelisation are out of date and need to be changed. The Church needs pastors who smell more like sheep than of the flowers on the altar.

Francis has shown his deep devotion to the Virgin Mary and the importance he attributes to popular piety. These are not really aspects that are close to liberals’ hearts…
“Oh but they are. They are closely linked to Liberation Theology. In Argentina this developed especially as a people’s theology, developed by the Jesuit Juan Carlos Scannone, who taught Bergoglio. The Pope is close to this theological thinking. It is not to do with popular pietistic devotion but with a devotion that preserves people’s identity and strives for social justice.”

The Pope speaks often about the poor and at the hospital in Rio he stressed that being close to the poor means touching “the body of Jesus.” What does this mean?
“The poor are Christ’s real representatives. In a way, it is the poor person who is the real “Pope” and Christ continues to be crucified among the Earth’s condemned. Christ is crucified on the crucifixes of history.”

What changes will Pope Francis bring to the Church?
“I think a lot is going to change. Francis is not just reforming the Curia, he is reforming the papacy. His insistence on being the Bishop of Rome and his decision to live in St. Martha’s House instead of the Apostolic Palace means opening up to the world. The Pope has explained that he prefers a Church that has been in accidents but continues to go out onto the road, than an asphyctic Church which stops at the door of the temple. Now the Church has become a beacon of hope not a besieged fort that is constantly at war with modernity or customs that control and regulate faith instead of facilitating it.”

Some criticise Francis for desacralising the pontificate…
“No, he is not desacralising it. He is presenting it in its true evangelical dimension. He is the Successor of Peter and Peter was a simple fisherman. We need to eliminate the “popolatry” that has prevailed in recent decades. Cardinals are not princes of the Church but servants of the people of God. Bishops need to take part in people’s lives. And the Pope does not feel like a king. He even said to the President of Brazil: “I come here as the Bishop of Rome,” that is, as someone who leads the Church in the name of charity not Canon law.”

What effect will a Latin American Pope have on Brazil and Latin America?
“I think Francis is ware that those in power need to listen to the poor and to the young people protesting in the streets. The importance he attributes to social justice could help Latin American democracies and encourage greater participation. Brazilian democracy is a low intensity democracy: the Pope invites politicians to be true servants of their people.”

Do you regret leaving your Franciscan habit on the hanger?
“No because I may no longer wear the habit but I am still a Franciscan in spirit: I work to protect creation and to help everyone on this planet feel like brothers and sisters.”


John Allen has also posted an interview with Cardinal Dolan who like AB Chaput, is down in Rio to give catechetical lessons to WYD participants. Like Chaput, Dolan comes across like a man who is uncomfortable with where Pope Francis is leading the Church, especially his own level of the Church.  And also like Chaput, Dolan goes on about Francis allowing his handlers to control more of his life, for security purposes only--of course of course.  Dolan makes the same complaint Chaput did, but in different terms.  Chaput was worried about Francis taking care of the right wing, Dolan concerned that the constant comparisons between Francis and Benedict make Benedict, a man he 'loves', look bad.  (No Timmy, you look bad.)  This interview is also worth reading just for Dolan's take on his actions in Milwaukee.  He was just following the law.

There is also a paragraph at the end of the Dolan interview where Tim wonders if he shouldn't down scale his life style, you know, open his own doors, maybe carry his own luggage.  Like a real guy or something.  Leonardo Boff must laugh himself to sleep now.  The sun does eventually rise--even in Catholicism.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Some Old Thoughts Are Still Timely

The following is a reprint of something I wrote 3 years ago.  I was reminded of this in an email I received from a reader who found the sentiments relevant for today's Vatican.  Given some of the recent Vatican stories concerning corruption and lack of accountability, unfortunately,  it may always be timely---and I am still waiting for something to be done about Bishop Robert Finn.

Bad Relational Psychology Leads To Bad Theology

8/14/2010 -  Open Tabernacle
John Allen felt compelled to use his Friday column in the National Catholic Reporter to attempt to justify the Vatican’s action in not accepting the resignations of Irish Auxiliary Bishops Raymond Field and Eamonn Walsh.  I’m glad he did because I trust his reporting is objective in this instance.  It gives Catholics a great opportunity to look at the kind of reasoning under which the Vatican operates when it comes to the episcopal hierarchy–at least the surface reasoning.
“First, the Vatican doesn’t want to feed impressions that public opinion and media hostility can bring down a bishop. Rome wants bishops to be willing to say and do unpopular things, on matters ranging from abortion to immigrant rights, and it would obviously be a deterrent if the bishop has to worry that Rome might capitulate to pressure campaigns seeking to run him out of town on a rail. (These resignations had nothing to do with taking unpopular moral stands. This is a diversionary excuse.)

Such blowback, of course, is a special risk in the early 21st century, when the Internet and 24-hour cable news channels have created a whole new industry of outrage generation. (A situation from which you yourself and CNN and NCR have derived a great deal of benefit.)

Second, allowing a bishop to resign, even if it’s entirely merited, can create an avalanche which buries other bishops who don’t share the same level of responsibility. If that happens, a good chunk of a country’s episcopacy could be wiped out — further destabilizing an already volatile situation, not to mention creating pressure to find replacements quickly and perhaps without sufficient thought. (‘What if’ and slippery slope arguments are both based in accepting a notion of the future which is as valid as the reality of the present. The Church’s history in Eastern Europe and China indicate bishops aren’t as critical to the local church as the Vatican would have us believe.  Local Churches can manage without them.)

Third, the Vatican also tends not to remove problem bishops because, in the institutional culture of the church, retirement has traditionally been seen as a reward for a job well done. A retired bishop has all the privileges of rank and few of the burdens, so the tendency is not to let a man walk away until he has cleared his desk. (In more ways than this one, this Vatican decision is all about the institutional culture and has nothing to do with the actual good of the Irish Church.)

The case of former Cardinal Michele Giordano of Naples offers an illustration. Giordano, who finally exited the scene in 2006 after turning 75, twice faced criminal charges for shady accounting, and once was actually convicted and sentenced to house arrest. Both times, rumors abounded that Giordano would be removed, and both times the Vatican instead let him stew in his own juices. Officials later said, on background, that they never had any intention of letting Giordano off the hook. That’s how they held him accountable: Not by firing him, but by forcing him to stay on the job and clean up his own mess. (It is possible for one to ‘clean up’ one’s own mess without retaining episcopal authority.  This mentality sends the message that it doesn’t matter what you do you will still retain your prestige and position.  This is crazy.)

Fourth, and perhaps most fundamentally, the Vatican does not like the idea of a bishop resigning for poor performance because, in their view, it’s bad theology. As they see it, a bishop isn’t a corporate CEO or a football coach, who should be sacked when profits sag or the team goes on a losing streak. The episcopacy isn’t a job but a sacramental bond akin to marriage, with the bishop as the father of the diocesan family. In the early centuries of the church, it was considered almost heretical for a bishop to move from one diocese to another on precisely this basis. (Millions of Catholic women and children through out the global church are aware of this ‘pater familias’ mentality and have suffered enormous repetitive abuse because of it.  This mentality, which overlooks the behavior in favor of some abstract fantasy, is itself BAD THEOLOGY.)


The above is another illustration of the kind of thinking that relates to an abstract objectification of a class of people.  In other words, the definition of the class as noun is more important than the actions undertaken by the class as beings, or verbs.  It doesn’t matter who or what a bishop does in his being or actions, the operative relationship is with the description for the noun bishop.  This is very bad theology and even worse psychology.

A person can not have a meaningful relationship with a definition, nor can they act authentically when they substitute a definition of themselves as a noun for their actual being.  This is precisely what the Church actually requires of gay people, that they define themselves by the Church’s definition of homosexuality and then act as if this definition was the true overwhelming reality of themselves as beings.  This gives the Church the freedom to relate to gays as a defined noun.  This definition equates the defined noun (person) with the acts the definition is based on.  It justifies the church relating to gays on the basis of acts they may not have committed just exactly as it permits the hierarchy to relate to bishops as if acts which don’t fit the definition of bishop were never committed.

In the case of gay bishops, the definition of bishop relationally supersedes the definition of homosexual.  Hence Catholicism can logically have a significant number of gay bishops who are free to be sexually active because they know they will not be expected to pay a price for their activity. Unless that is, they are dumb enough to get caught red handed and exposed in the media.  In the case of the priesthood, the definition of priest is not far enough up the noun hierarchy to protect them from the gay definition.  Hence, a gay priest can be celibate but if he admits to being gay he will be treated by definition as sexually active and chucked out of the priesthood–without perks and benefits and the opportunity to clean up his mess.

I believe one of the most important steps a given Catholic can take on an authentic spiritual path is to stop relating to people as catechismically given definitions, and start relating to them as people.  It is then that ideas like accountability and transparency take on real meaning, and an understanding of why Christians are called on to ‘see’ themselves in others and ‘see’ Christ in others becomes operative.  “Seeing” is a verb and implies an active real time relationship.  We may over look this, but Jesus continually stressed the importance of seeing people as they actually are, not as some class defined noun or a reduction to a given behavior.
Jesus refused to ‘see’ or relate to the Temple Priests and Pharisees as self defined authoritative nouns. He didn’t relate to any defined class of people as if they were nouns.  He asked Peter, “Who do you say that ‘I am’”. Peter says “You are the ‘living’ God.”  Neither Jesus nor Peter are relating to Jesus as some kind of defined static category based in past events or future speculation.  Jesus is the undefined ’living’ God in the present moment.  

To stay in the moment and relate to people as beings rather than nouns is difficult to do and takes a great deal of energy. To do other wise is easier and takes less energy.  The Vatican’s insistence in relating to the entire church on the basis of definitions of law, past history, and a consistent refusal to engage with the present are symptomatic of a tired depleted spiritual energy.  Returning to a fantasy liturgical past and reasserting the preeminence of classes of canonically defined nouns is not going to bring a resurgence to the Church.  It will not restore the ‘living’ God as the center of the Church’s ‘BEING’.  

The only noun that realistically defines a state of ‘being’ is death–the absence of life.  Jesus came to overcome that definition of a state of being.  That’s why He is called the ‘living’ God. It is that dynamic notion of a ‘living’ God that fueled early Christianity.  It’s time to make this Being real and present in modern Christianity before dead is the last true descriptive word for the Church.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Symbolism, Emotional Intelligence Somehow Lead To WYD Indulgences For Following Pope Francis On Twitter

This may be the next logical step if one can now gain indulgences by following the Pope on twitter.

For the following excerpt by Andrew Hamilton from Australia's Eureka Street, I need to thank Dennis Coday, editor of NCR's Morning Briefing.  Hamilton has written a really insightful piece of the three kinds of intelligence used by Pope Francis and how that separates him from past popes--and most of our bishops.  The West tends to over credence rational intelligence at the expense of emotional and symbolic intelligence when the fact is the human brain operates in all three realms of 'knowing'.  Pope Francis really seems to get this fact.  The following is more or less the meat of Hamilton's article:

Pope Francis' three types of intelligence
Andrew Hamilton - Eureka Street Au - 7/17/2013
.....Giving a lead on controversial issues requires three sorts of intelligence: rational, emotional and symbolic. When policies affect people's lives, Emotional intelligence should come first into play. It is the ability and inclination to see people, not simply as the objects of policy or as problems, but as persons each with their own face and life story. It also supposes the desire to enter their experience. In this respect the Pope was exemplary. He went out to the island to mourn the dead and console the living. And in so doing he stated the priority for others. (Emotional intelligence is that attribute that allows humanity to identify with each other, rather than objectifying or 'othering' those we rationally determine are not of our tribe.)

Rational intelligence guides and offers resources to the movements of the heart. It confers the ability to recognise and to give coherent shape to what matters in a complex situation. The Pope's action rested on the conviction that all human beings are precious, and that their happiness and welfare depend on their connection with one another. Because of that we can make a claim on one another.

For Francis, too, that conviction was grounded in the Christian story of a God who loved the world enough to join humanity, to die as human beings do, and to give life in his rising. This belief shaped the account he gave of the events on Lampedusa. For him the disparity between the societies from which people fled and those to which they came and the hostility to them expressed a lack of solidarity between people. Sinfulness was involved as well as tragedy. The proper response to this globalisation of indifference was penitential.
Leaders need not only to recognise who matters, what matters, and what is to be done, but to communicate this to others honestly and vividly. It requires symbolic intelligence to find the right words, images, silences and gestures that will invite others to reflect and respond generously. Good leadership creates surprising new possibilities that will later seem self-evident. In the Pope's case, the challenge was to choose stories, images and gestures from the resources of Christian tradition and to weave them in a way that resonated powerfully with the people he visited and with the wider audience. (Symbolic intelligence is critical in forming and maturing emotional intelligence.  Jesus was a Master at this and virtually all religious ritual is designed to tap into emotional intelligence.)

Because it works through surprise, symbolic intelligence always breaks moulds. That has been Francis' gift. Papal protocol ensures predictability by insisting on distance, formality, strict adherence to rituals, elaborate dress, controlled access and elaborately planned events. The protocol for political leaders is equally tightly scripted. (One could also say it shuts up the rational language of the left neural hemisphere by using the symbolic language of the right hemisphere.)

The Pope privileged spontaneity over protocols. He responded to a forgotten people by visiting them, casting into the water a bunch of flowers in the papal colours to express solidarity with those who had died, and celebrating Mass at an altar and with a chalice made of wood scavenged from abandoned boats. For Catholics the association of altar and chalice with Christ's blood poured into the wooden cross on which he was nailed and left to die, spoke of the inhumanity which we visit on one another, of the gift the misused are to us, and of the undeniable claim  we make on one another.....(For Catholics the sight of a Pope using such simple signs--a small altar made from an old row boat and a woodern chalice--is not just surprising, it was jarring given the preferences of most popes to underscore their authority through the use of gold in the immensity and ostentatious surroundings of St Peter's.)


Pope Francis has proven himself to be one heck of a communicator.  People are taking notice precisely because he uses symbolism in a way which engages emotional intelligence.  He is not just brain candy for the left hemisphere.  I find this difference between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis very striking and most likely indicative of cultural differences between Germanic Catholicism and Latino Catholicism.  I have always been fascinated by German theology and found it intellectually challenging, if very dense, but my heart has been engaged by Hispanic Catholicism in a way that seems more integrated.  I can see this distinction in reading the best of the Liberation theologians whose use of metaphor and symbolism is more prevalent than in Germanic or Anglo theology.  It speaks on a different level and most likely to more people because of that.

I look forward to hearing and reading Pope Francis during this upcoming World Youth Days. I wonder what his message to the youth of the world will be--and I do think it will be to the youth of the world and not necessarily just Catholic youth.   I hope he has a message in there somewhere about respecting and listening to the elders of their personal and cultural world.  Past youth days seem to have en-cultured a form of youthful self worship in which those of us who have gone before are useless, passe, and should just, you know, dig our own graves and gracefully fall permanently asleep.  For all the words that have been written about the divide between left and right in the Church, there is also a widening gap between generations.  The cynic in me thinks this was purposefully cultivated by the Vatican of JPII because the lack of experience and maturity in the young is easier to manipulate by those who choose to affirm themselves and their world view in this manner, but it does a great disservice to youth whose enthusiasm is abused by this targeting.  I sincerely hope I hear some words from Pope Francis about this particular issue because it's another area in which the Body of Christ is being dismembered.

There is one other thing about WYD that leaves me cold and disbelieving.  That is the issue of indulgences.  I have never cottoned to the concept that God can be turned into some sort of concession vendor for chits to lessen time in the flames of purgatory, which is itself an invented intellectual construct.  It's the kind of thinking that is utterly off putting to intelligent youth of the post modern world.  They may read Harry Potter, but they see the world more like the Game of Thrones.  I hope Pope Francis can find some words to deal with this disconnect as well, because I just don't see gaining indulgences by following his twitter account as something that's going to hook all those youth of this troubled planet who see little hope in their temporal futures.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Pope In White Who Governs Like A "Black Pope"

Trouble with being a head of a nation state is it's not all kissing babies. Sometimes it's kicking butts.

Sandro Magister has a very astute assessment of Pope Francis on his blog Chiesa EspressoI've excerpted two sections from this longer article because I think they say quite a bit of truth about Pope Francis and verified in one case something I thought I just missed.  I didn't remember that Pope Francis had ever said a word about abortion, euthanasia, or gay marriage, and I read his homilies and talks pretty regularly.  Turns out he hasn't, even during the French anti gay marriage protests which got pretty heated.  Magister confirms my thought and gives a very plausible reason for something which can't be an over-site.  The excerpt contains the first two of his five sections and part of a third which makes a really crucial point about how Pope Francis has thus far operated....


One key element of Francis's popularity is his personal credibility. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he lived in a modest two-room apartment. He cooked for himself. He got around by bus and metro. He fled from worldly engagements as from the plague. He never wanted to make a career for himself, but on the contrary patiently stepped aside when his own Society of Jesus, of which he had been provincial superior in Argentina for several years, brusquely deposed and isolated him.

For this reason as well, every time he invokes poverty for the Church and rails against the ambitions of power and greed for wealth present in the ecclesiastical camp, no voice is raised to criticize him. Who could ever justify the oppression of the destitute, and come to the defense of unmerited careers? Who could ever charge Francis with failing to practice what he preaches? On the lips of the current pope, the paradigm of a poor Church is an infallible one. It garners a practically universal consensus, both among the friends and among the most ardent enemies of the Church, those who would like to see it so impoverished as to disappear altogether.

But then there is another key factor of Francis's popularity. His invectives, for example, against the “invisible tyranny” of the international financial centers does not strike a specific and recognizable objective. And therefore none of the true or presumed “strong powers” feel effectively touched and provoked to react. (I agree with Sandro Magister, leaving these statements on a generalized level makes them interesting but pretty much meaningless.)

Even when his reprimands take aim at misdeeds within the Church, these almost always stick to generalities. Once when pope Bergoglio, in one of his conversational morning homilies, raised an explicit doubt over the future of the IOR, the Institute for Works of Religion, the controversial Vatican “bank,” the spokesmen bent over backward to defuse the situation. And when he denounced the fact that a “gay lobby” at the Vatican “is there, it's true,” the damage control emerged all down the line. Even secular public opinion, more lavish today than ever in hurling accusations of homophobia, forgave him for this statement, with an indulgence that certainly would not have been granted to his predecessor. (I think this is true, but part of that truth is his predecessor came across as a self hating hypocrite.  Pope Francis does not have that aura.)

Benedict XVI, in effect, was different. In spite of his meek appearance, he was often very explicit and direct in expressing his judgments and in getting his listeners on the ropes. The earthquake unleashed by his lecture in Regensburg remains the most spectacular effect of this. But there was another important discourse of his that illustrates the case even better. (Or one could say the Regensburg address came before EPBenedict truly understood the world paid more attention to the words of a pope than the obscure and highly targeted letters of the head of the CDF.)


Pope Francis's way of speaking is certainly one of his most original traits. It is simple, understandable, communicative. It has the appearance of improvisation, but in reality is carefully studied, as much in the invention of formulas - the "soap bubble" that he used in Lampedusa to represent the egoism of the modern Herods - as in the fundamentals of the Christian faith that he loves most to repeat and are crystallized in a consoling “all is grace,” the grace of God who incessantly forgives although all continue to be sinners.

But in addition to the things that he says are those about which he is deliberately silent. It cannot be an accident that after 120 days of pontificate Pope Francis has not yet spoken the words abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage.

Pope Bergoglio succeeded in dodging them even on the day that he dedicated to “Evangelium Vitae," the tremendous encyclical published by John Paul II in 1995 at the culmination of his epic battle in defense of life “from conception to natural death.”

Karol Wojtyla and Benedict XVI after him exerted themselves incessantly and in person to combat the epochal challenge represented by the modern ideology of birth and death, as also by the dissolution of the creatural duality between male and female. Not Bergoglio. It seems well-established by now that he has decided to remain silent on these issues that touch upon the political sphere of the entire West, including Latin America, convinced that such statements are not the responsibility of the pope but of the bishops of each nation. He told the Italians in unmistakable words: “The dialogue with political institutions is your affair.” (It could also be that Pope Francis is astute enough to know that the clock is not going to reverse on these cultural issues and that fighting them is pointless.)

The risk of this division of labor is high for Francis himself, given the hardly flattering judgment that he has repeatedly demonstrated he has on the average quality of the bishops of the world. But it is a risk that he wants to take. This silence of his is another of the factors that explain the benevolence of secular public opinion in his regard. (I don't see it as much of a risk because no matter how incompetent or competent the global bishops might be, these culture war issues are already lost in the first and second worlds, and the bishops have already lost way too much moral credibility to be meaningful. They are talking to themselves and less than 15% of any given Catholic population.)


Also in his favor is the visible intention of reforming the Roman curia, and in particular of acting upon that festering boil which is the IOR. (That's a great description.)

He has entrusted the study of a reform of the curia to an international council of cardinals, all of them appointed by him. Who in turn have called upon trusted experts to advise them. Some have seen this as a first step towards a democratization of the Church, with the passage from a monocratic to an oligarchic authority. But as a perfect Jesuit, Bergoglio wants instead to apply to his exercise of the papacy the model proper to the Society of Jesus, in which the decisions are not made collegially, but only by the superior general, in absolute autonomy, after having listened separately to his assistants and to anyone else he may wish. (This does seem to be how Pope Francis is operating, and sometimes he is not getting enough information, which is going to be a problem going forward.)


This is pretty accurate assessment of Pope Francis to this point.  One of his decisions with regards to the IOR has already proven to be problematic precisely because he didn't have enough information. This was his appointment of Msgr Battista Ricca as a sort of personal overseer of the IOR. Ricca managed the Vatican properties Pope Francis is currently residing in, and one he used as a Cardinal.  They became friends.  Turns out Msgr Ricca was surreptitiously removed from an appointment at the Nunciature in Uruguay in 2000 after just over a year because of scandalous personal behavior of the sexual variety.  It was then that Pope Francis appointed his five person commission, and he may have made some mistakes here as well.  That remains to be seen. 

I wrote before that I was excited about Pope Francis' words concerning synodality and collegiality, but I didn't lose sight of the fact he was a Jesuit and that the Black Pope does not necessarily practice real collegiality.  No matter how much information Pope Francis seeks for a given situation, he is not going to put it to a vote.  There is not going to be a board of directors. There will be commissions and kitchen cabinets that advise, but no vote will be taken to determine policy.  At least so far.  It may be that this is the form that  Pope Francis will retain for the governance of the Church, that is the management of the Holy See and the curia.  It could also be he has something else in mind for the teaching authority in which real collegiality and synodality will operate and there will be votes taken like there was at Vatican II.  Pope Francis does hold two hats.  One as a monarchical ruler of a nation state and one as the first bishop amongst bishops.  I take hope in that he calls himself the Bishop of Rome in his pastoral duties and won't be upset if he becomes the Holy Terror in his governing duties.

One other week end treat readers might like is this report from the recently concluded Sacra Liturgia Conference in Rome.  This conference for TLM lovers was arranged long before Papa Francesco was on the scene, but that particular change was noted by the attendees.  This report was written Australian David Timbs and is worth reading. Timbs is a regular contributor to Here's a teaser:

"During June 25-28, an international conference was held in Rome. Its dedicated theme was the Sacred Liturgy but it was not just an ordinary gathering to discuss Catholic Liturgy in general. In reality, it was all about the present status and possible future of the Latin Mass of the Roman Rite. The conference took on the appearance of a social construct featuring a hybrid of sombre wake and a symposium of denial, all dressed up in the ornate drapery of self-absorbed clericalism and ecclesiastical archaism."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pope Francis Issues His First Motu Proprio: No More Rogue State

Hey wait, don't walk off.  I have some real work for you!

This morning the Vatican Information Service announced Pope Francis has issued his first motou proprio.  It deals specifically with the criminal code of the Vatican City States and brings it into compliance with all the various international treaties the Vatican has signed for the last forty years--including the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child.  The following from the UK's Catholic Herald by Cindy Wooden is a pretty good explanation of the major ramifications of Francis' motu proprio.

Pope Francis approves updating of criminal laws for Vatican City State

 Cindy Wooden - Catholic Herald UK - 7/11/2013
Pope Francis has approved a major updating of the criminal laws of Vatican City State, including in areas dealing with child abuse and terrorism financing. He has also ruled that any Vatican employee can be tried by the Vatican court for violating those laws.

The laws have been adopted by the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and made applicable to all Vatican employees around the world, including Vatican ambassadors serving abroad, in a document signed by Pope Francis on Thursday.

The amendments to the Vatican’s criminal code and code for criminal procedures go into effect on September 1 and bring Vatican law into detailed compliance with several international treaties the Vatican has signed over the past 30 years as well as with developments in international law.

The changes include the abolition of life imprisonment. The maximum penalty under the new Vatican code is 35 years.
Giuseppe Dalla Torre, the presiding judge of the Vatican City court, said the change reflects a growing consensus among criminologists that life imprisonment is an “inhumane and useless” punishment, as well as the Vatican’s view that prison sentences must be motivated by a desire to rehabilitate, rather than simply punish a criminal.

Pope Paul VI formally banned the use of the death penalty in Vatican City State in 1969; although on the books, neither the death penalty nor life imprisonment had been imposed after Vatican City became an internationally recognised sovereign state in 1929.

Dalla Torre told reporters that the new laws, in compliance with the Vatican’s signing and ratifying the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, define and set out penalties for specific crimes against minors, including the sale of children, child prostitution, the military recruitment of children, sexual violence against children and producing or possessing child pornography.

Previously, he said, those specific crimes would have been dealt with under more generic laws against the mistreatment of minors. The bulk of the Vatican’s criminal code is based on an 1889 version of Italy’s criminal code and did not, for example, contemplate the crime of child pornography, Dalla Torre said.
The changes to Vatican City civil law are separate from the universally applicable canon law, norms and sanctions, which require bishops around the world to turn over to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cases of priests accused of child sexual abuse or possession of child pornography. The canonical penalties include the possibility of the priest being expelled from the priesthood.

Those accused also face criminal prosecution in the country where the abuse occurred. Under the changes made by Pope Francis, if the priest is a direct employee of the Holy See, working in a Vatican office or nunciature, he also could face a criminal trial at the Vatican.

By specifying the crimes, Dalla Torre said, the new Vatican laws make it much easier for the Vatican to cooperate with other governments and even extradite a person who committed the crime elsewhere, but was trying to hide in the Vatican.

Facilitating international cooperation and the possibility of extradition also explains why the new laws include crimes against the security of airports, maritime navigation or oil-drilling platforms, even though the Vatican has no airport, ships or fixed platforms in the sea. (This at first seems pointless, until one really processes the fact that no Vatican embassy can be used to hide criminals or international terrorists.)

In his document expanding the jurisdiction of the Vatican City legal system to all Holy See employees, Pope Francis wrote: “In our times, the common good is increasingly threatened by transnational organised crime, the improper use of the markets and of the economy, as well as by terrorism.”

The international community, of which the Vatican is a part, he said, needs to “adopt adequate legal instruments to prevent and counter criminal activities by promoting international judicial cooperation on criminal matters.”

For the Vatican, he said, the international treaties “are effective means to prevent criminal activities that threaten human dignity, the common good and peace.”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said more changes to Vatican laws and procedures are in the works, specifically those dealing with how money is handled and how financial transactions are monitored.

The changes, he said, will respond to suggestions and criticisms made by Moneyval — the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism.

Dalla Torre, who presided over the trial last year of Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict’s butler, said Gabriele’s theft and leaking of confidential papal correspondence led to one change in Vatican law: explicitly outlawing “crimes committed against the security, fundamental interests or patrimony of the Holy See.” Since those offences were not crimes under the old law, Gabriele was tried and convicted on charges of aggravated theft.


This motu proprio has some serious teeth.  It goes a very long way into bringing the Holy See into the twenty first century as far as it's compliance with accepted international cooperation with regards to criminal enterprises.  Of course, I can't lose sight of the fact what's on paper is not always how the Holy See has acted, but I do have hope that this particular pope means what he says.

There are three areas I found of particular note.  The first is the redefining crimes against children in a much more specific form than what was previously on the books.  The second is that any Vatican employee, no matter whether paid or volunteer, working in the Vatican City States or elsewhere, is subject to this criminal code and can be criminally charged for actions which were here to for only Canonical crimes.  In other words, if I am understanding correctly, Austria's Cardinal Groer would not only have faced defrocking for his sexual abuse of young seminarians, but also criminal charges in the Vatican City Court system as all cardinals have dual citizenship and are also employees of the Holy See.  Perhaps Cardinal Sodano will not sleep so well tonight.  The third area is in extradition of employees to countries in which they have outstanding criminal warrants.  In other words, no more sanctuary for pedophiles living in religious order houses within the Vatican City States.  Clerical abuse advocates must be truly excited about this part of Pope Francis' motu proprio.

I'm really curious to see how others interpret the impact this will have on various areas of operation in the Holy See.  I think this is a very big deal and the fact it's the first motu proprio issued by Pope Francis indicates he really is serious about cleaning up the corruption in the Vatican City States.  Just out of curiosity I went back and found Pope Benedict's first motu proprio.  It wasn't exactly earth shaking unless you had something to do with the Basilica of Paul-Outside-the-Walls.  This one by Francis tears down a lot of walls blocking real criminal accountability Within-the-Walls.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Serious Test For The Papacy Of Pope Francis Is Coming From The UN

Pope Francis' next involvement with the UN may not be so cordial.

Where as the Hague has decided to sit on the Vatican case for crimes against humanity--at least for the time being, the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child has decided to hold the Vatican accountable to it's membership on this committee.  Perhaps the Vatican will understand that rights for children mean more than being anti abortion.  The following is the entire article by Alessandro Speciale from Vatican Insider

Judgement Day: The UN asks the Vatican to answer for the actions of peadophile priests

Alessandro Speciale - Vatican Insider - 7/10/2013 The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has presented the Vatican with a long list of requests for information “on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers and nuns or brought to the attention of the Holy See.” The committee in question ensures that the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is respected. The list, comprising about twenty points, was sent to the Vatican on 1 July this year.
In the document, the UN committee asks the Vatican to specify which measures have been put in place to ensure no priest accused of sexual abuse is authorised to have contact with children. It asks the Vatican to provide the “explicit instructions given at all levels of the clergy to ensure the compulsory reporting to national competent authorities of all cases of sexual abuse.” The Vatican is also asked to mention cases where leaders of the Catholic Church were asked “not to report such offences, and at which level of the clergy.(It will be interesting to see if the Vatican is forthcoming on this question.)
And this is just the beginning: The UN committee also wants further information about the kind of support the Holy See offers children who have suffered abuse, about canonical inquiries into paedophile priests and about how Church authorities have cooperated with national courts.
The committee also wants to find out more about the Church’s policy with regards to victims’ compensation, whether payments were handed out in exchange for victims’ silence and what measures were adopted to prevent any further cases of abuse.

The document highlights two cases in particular: the Magdalene’s laundries, Irish Catholic-run work houses, where female orphans were subjected to “torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and of subjection to force labour” and the Legion of Christ, which is accused of preventing seminarians from having contact with their families. (The Irish Government also has a lot to answer for in regards to the Magdalene laundries, and I'm pretty sure there is much more about the Legion than their refusal to let seminarians have contact with their families--not that this isn't an abuse for a twelve year old.)
The requested information will need to be presented by this coming 30 November. The questions are part of a periodic monitoring process which all countries that adhere to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – including the Holy See - must undergo. They are the follow-up to a bi-annual report which the Vatican presented last September. The Holy See is due to appear before the committee next January.
Last 18 June the committee met with representatives of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). SNAP’s president, Barbara Blain described it as a historic moment: “The fact that a UN committee has called the Vatican to account for its record on children's rights, including the right to be free from sexual violence and exploitation, is giving survivors all over the world hope," she said.

SNAP hopes that other International organisations will follow in the UN’s footsteps, to shed light on the truth and prevent new hideous crimes of this kind.

The Holy See’s diplomatic mission in Geneva - where the UN human rights office is based – says it is ready to respond to the committee’s questions (the Vatican Secretary of State will prepare the reply) but it warned against potential “exploitation” of the information it provides. “We will definitely have to give some answers,” Mgr. Massimo de Gregori told Vatican Insider. (That's quite the grudging little statement.)
“That abuse was committed cannot be denied – the monsignor stressed – but it is important that this initiative is not limited exclusively to the Holy See. In light of certain cases, they consider it necessary to ask further questions. These questions are made at the committee’s discretion but they are asked on a frequent basis, as can be seen on their website.” “Although these facts are undeniably serious, there are those who will always try to exploit them,” he concluded. (As if Catholic children weren't exploited at a fundamental level.)


If Pope Benedict were still pope, I would have almost zero hope that those 'some' answers the Vatican will give will consist of anything more than has already been exposed in various court procedures, inquiries, and legal actions around the world, and I am not losing sight of the fact that most of those court procedures, inquiries, and legal actions have happened in the Anglo world. Nor have I lost sight of the tendency for the Vatican to continue to pretend the abuse crisis is mostly an Anglo problem.  The truth is the Anglo problem is a problem for the Vatican because the Anglo legal systems take the sexual abuse of children very seriously. I also grant, that in regards to the Catholic Church, this is a very recent phenomenon, and may be directly related to the loss of the Vatican's authoritarian aura precipitated by Vatican II and Humanae Vitae. One thing Catholics can't ignore from the reams of material that have already come out is that lay Catholics did not find the courage to confront the Catholic hierarchy until long after Vatican II.  Especially those lay Catholics in court houses and police stations.

I wish I had more hope that the Vatican under Pope Francis will be more forthcoming, but I really don't have much hope.  There is still a huge component of the global Catholic hierarchy whose cover ups and abuses have not come to light.  There are still areas in which whistle blowers are being punished, disinformation being touted as fact, and families silenced or left to deal with the aftermath of abuse on their own.  And the reason never changes, and the bishops are never punished,  and it's happening on Pope Francis' watch.  It's always about protecting the moral authority of the Church, as in clerical authority,  and not causing scandal to the simple people, as in don't give the simple people a reason to question clerical authority.

My advice to Pope Francis is pretty much the same advice given to Paul VI at the time of Humanae Vitae.  Don't make the mistake of thinking you can shore up Church authority and papal prerogative by running away from the realities and expectations of the modern world.  PVI chose to affirm papal teaching authority by issuing Humanae Vitae against the advice of his own papal commission who knew the old teaching did not fit modern reality. Papal authority with in both Catholicism and the world took a huge hit.  JPII chose to ignore the clerical abuse crisis in order to protect Catholic moral standing and that of his own papacy and both took another huge hit.  When circumstances forced him,  Pope Benedict tried a muddled middle course of some truth coupled with more obfuscation and more pathetic attempts to shore up Papal teaching authority.  He did neither the Church nor his own papacy any good. Clerical authority is now circling the drain.

Please Pope Francis, don't make these same mistakes by sacrificing what's left of Catholic moral authority on the altar of protecting clerical power and authority--especially yours. Come clean, admit error, instigate a thorough review of this issue with no off limits areas, make changes, and then move on.  Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  Paul VI couldn't do it, JPII couldn't do it, BXVI left you to doit,  and I sure hope and pray you can.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pope Francis' Advice To Young Seminarians and Novices: Dumb Phones, Boring Cars, and Joyful Faces

This is a 20 year old Fiat Campagnola, one of which was borrowed from a local resident so that Pope Francis could use it on his trip to Lampesuda. No bullet proof glass or anything saying 'Mercedes'. No plug in for a smart phone either.

I have to admit I chuckled with Pope Francis' advice to novices and seminarians this past weekend.  He advised them to watch it with the smart phones and drive less flashier older cars. I consider myself right there with Pope Francis as I do drive an older though kind of cute vehicle and although I recently had to upgrade to a smart phone, I use it poorly, hardly at all, and in 'dumb' mode.  That's got to count for something.  However, the cynical generations seem to be opening up to Francis and he's even giving them some hope for the future of Catholicism.  Here's an article from Wonkette by Dr Zoom I found humorous as well.  It's on the same homily, and I have to also admit I agree with quite a bit of  Dr Zoom's take.

 Pope Tells Priests And Nuns To Drive More Boring Cars

Oh, man, New Pope is doing that thing again, where he says stuff that makes us like him even if he is that head of a big corrupt institution that does evil nasty things. But we give him credit for trying to turn some of that down, what with the living in a little apartment and not eating gold and stuff, and so let’s have a little cheer for some comments Saturday that would probably bring a smile to the face of his simple-living namesake. In a talk to trainee priests and nuns, New Pope said that they should avoid fancy material possessions and instead concentrate on helping the poor. That shouldn’t be news — it’s no “New Pope Blesses Bikers” — but considering that the papacy is notorious for Prada slippers and a level of décor that Donald Trump considers a tad overdone, it’s news.
Francis told the trainees,
“It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car, you can’t do this.”
“A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world.”
New Pope’s edging into Click & Clack territory reminded us that the first time we ever saw a Mercedes-Benz in our tiny Oregon mill town was when our parish priest bought one in the late 1960s. We were such hick kids that we argued over how to mispronounce it — Yr Doktor Zoom was in the “mer-seeds” camp, because “mer-keeds” just sounded crazy, and even if Janis Joplin’s song had been around, we weren’t the kind of kids whose parents let us listen to that hippie stuff. We don’t remember overhearing any parental tsk-tsking about the priest’s extravagance, but there had to have been some, because we definitely remember, a few years later, some very approving comments about Sister Whassername and her very sensible Dodge Dart. (And serviceable Buster Browns.)

And yes, we know, the Vatican still has vast wealth and it is full of graft and corruption and it is terrible, we totally get that. But like so many ex-Catholics who still would be glad to see Mother Church get its shit together, we’re staying cautiously optimistic about Francis. (That's one way to describe this hope of many ex-Catholics.)

Incidentally, New Pope’s own vehicular choices are encouraging — he uses a Ford Focus to get around Vatican City, and on a recent trip to a Mediterranean island, he didn’t have the armored Mercedes Popemobile airlifted in. Instead, the papal advance team arranged to borrow a locally owned 20-year old Fiat Campagnola. This prompted the website “dnaIndia” to win the internet with the headline “Papal Fiat — Francis spurns flashy cars.”


Pope Francis also made some other observations which point to his really unique point of view.  Right after he speaks of fancy cars and smart phones he makes another really cogent observation about the choices of today's youth vs his own youth.  This is taken from the Vatican Radio website, which is now linked on the sidebar.  Pope Francis has made this website pretty much a daily hit for me.
“It is not you that I reproach” said the Pope, and he specified that it is today’s culture of the provisional of which we are all victims that does not help us: “because in this day and age it is very difficult to make a definitive choice”. He pointed out that when he was young it was easier because the culture of the time favoured definitive choices, be it in conjugal life, in consecrated life or in priestly life. But today – he said “it is not easy to make a definitive choice. We are victims of this culture of the provisional”. (Maybe it's just me, but referring to this current culture as 'provisional' makes it easier to get at some of what EPBenedict kept referring to as relativism.)

And then Pope Francis took seminarians and novices to task for being “too serious, too sad”. ``Something's not right here,'' Francis told them pointing out that `'There is no sadness in holiness,'' and adding that such clergy lack `'the joy of the Lord.''

“To become a priest or a religious is not primarily our choice; it is our answer to a calling, a calling of love”.

`'If you find a seminarian, priest, nun, with a long, sad face, if it seems as if in their life someone threw a wet blanket over them,'' then one should conclude `'it's a psychiatric problem, they can leave - `buenos dias’”.

His off the cuff remarks can be priceless.  I love his last sentence.  Yes, truly, if your religious vocation does not bring 'the joy of the Lord', makes you live like a 'wet blanket', one is most likely better off with a psychiatrist rather than a spiritual adviser.  I hope these young men and women really heard these last word of Pope Francis' because they are every bit as important as toning down the consumer choices.  

In any event, based on the writing of Dr Zoom, even those with a vocation to critique all those consumer choices are hearing the voice of Pope Francis.  That's certainly novel.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

One Robert Mickens On The IOR While Two Popes Invoke St Michael

Over the weekend, both Popes Francis and Benedict dedicated this statue of St Michael the Archangel and declared St Michael and St Joseph protectors of the Vatican City States.

The Vatican Bank (IOR) has been making headlines again for all the wrong reasons.  Italian authorities have released a report which contradicts Vatican claims that the IOR is not involved in money laundering. Recent arrests and resignations indicate the Italian authorities have it right and the Vatican has it wrong.  Pope Francis recently appointed a five person commission to investigate all activities of the IOR.  I had reservations about some of the members and now Vatican correspondent Robert Mickens, writing for Britian's Tablet, has added some background information that does nothing to alleviate those concerns.  The following are extracts from his article.

Holding the bank to account

Robert Mickens - The Tablet - 6 July 2013......Baron Ernst von Freyberg insists that the so-called Vatican Bank is a “well-managed and clean financial institution” that merely suffers from a bad reputation linked to old scandals. The German aristocrat and industrialist was hired last February after an extensive search to be the president of the bank – officially named the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR). And he recently began a media campaign to convince people that he and his team were well on the road to bringing greater transparency and propriety to the 71-year-old institution.

But a new and embarrassing scandal has caused a major obstacle to that journey and this past week the president was forced to admit that still more drastic measures were needed to truly clean up the IOR’s bad image and improve efforts undertaken in the past three years to combat money laundering and provide greater transparency.

“It is clear today that we need new leadership to increase the pace of this transformation process,” von Freyberg said in a communiqué issued late on Monday. The unusually timed note announced the sudden and surprising resignations of the two men in charge of the IOR’s daily operations – bank director Paolo Cipriani and his deputy, Massimo Tulli. Both stepped down (or were more likely forced out) after six years in their posts.....

So Pope Benedict's German saviour, Ernst Von Freyberg, is forced to admit his PR campaign was maybe more smoke and mirrors than reality, and that maybe he would have to get real about cleaning up the IOR.  Which brings up Pope Francis' commission of five and their 'qualifications' for being Pope Franicis' white knights in the continuing saga of the IOR.  Back to Robert Mickens:

.....Next, Francis chose five Vatican insiders to be part of his newly set up commission of inquiry. The president of the group is Italian Cardinal Raffaele Farina SDB, 79, head of the Vatican Library. Spanish Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, a 62-year-old Opus Dei canon lawyer who is secretary at the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, is the commission’s coordinator. There is also French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, 70, one of the Holy See’s best diplomats and currently its top official for interreligious dialogue, as well as a member of the cardinals’ commission that oversees the IOR. Mary Glendon, 74, the American lawyer who heads the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and is a former US ambassador to the Holy See, is also a member. And finally, Mgr Peter Wells, 50, the American who serves as “assessore” or No. 3 in the Secretariat of State, serves as the commission’s secretary. Glendon and Wells have strong personal connections to fellow American Carl Anderson, head of the very wealthy Knights of Columbus and a member of the IOR board of directors. It goes without saying that all five of these people have personal bank accounts at the IOR.

Anyone hoping that the commission of inquiry might be composed of people with outside objectivity and no inside personal interest would be very disappointed with this group. On the other hand, those likely to be most threatened by such a commission and the Pope’s reforms might feel some reassurance by the names on this list.....


I think Robert Micken's is dead on with that final paragraph.  I am not particularly impressed with a commission whose members all have personal accounts at the IOR, something Von Freyberg tried to down play and minimize by stating the IOR was basically composed of accounts from religious orders and had few individual accounts.  When I factor in the Msgr Scarano debacle maybe what Von Freyberg was trying to say was that while the IOR may have few individuals with accounts, those individuals have multiple accounts. But the truth is, I have a very tough time believing anything from IOR leadership, and apparently Italian banking authorities share my distrust. 

The composition of Pope Francis' commission with it's Opus Dei member, American neocons who worked for Ronald Reagan, and it's somewhat nebulous mission all brings up the nest of vipers who were involved in the Banco Ambrosio scandal of the 80's.  In that particular time frame, Ronald Reagan was US President and shared JPII's desire to overthrow communism in Poland and elsewhere.  Lots of different groups with nothing else in common with the Vatican,  shared that particular desire.

In that effort, key players in the Banco Ambrosio affair used their financial connections, including the IOR, to funnel an estimated 100 million CIA dollars to Solidarity.  These same shady folks were also involved in laundering money for the Mafia and drug cartels, buying French Exocet missiles for the Peron government in Argentina, and funding many other right wing juntas and governments throughout the globe.  They did all of this through networks of off shore banks, friends and 'family',  and political connections.  They made a ton of money for themselves while doing so.

What brought all these disparate groups together was their mutual fear of communism and their preference for autocratic leadership.  The US Mafia had lost big bucks when Fidel Castro rose to power in Cuba and nationalized the casinos they built.  They had reason to fear similar takeovers in other Carribean and Latin American countries, some of which were key players in their illegal drug business. The last thing the US Mafia wanted was financial brakes of any sort put on their Italian family connections because the Italian connections with the Church and US intelligence agencies, starting with the invasion of Sicily in WWII,  had proven very useful for the fortunes of the US mafia. 

 The Vatican feared communism because of it's truly adversarial role to religion, atheistic philosophy, and the resultant loss of power and influence for Catholic leadership. Western capitalist countries led by the US were not the least bit interested in having their economic interests further constrained by any more socialist or communist governments. Freeing Eastern Europe would open up huge areas of investment. JPII was the key to Poland.  Opus Dei had it's own agenda and it's own connections with rich fascists.  It's not real surprising it somehow managed to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to help JPII buy off the Vatican debt earned when the IOR guaranteed much of the debt of the fallen Banco Ambrosio. As strange as it might seem on the surface, these diverse bedfellows certainly had a common enemy.  

Essentially the IOR has been enmeshed with a pack of dogs with serious fleas and a penchant for doing away with their internal enemies and this has more or less been the history of the IOR since it's inception in 1942.  The IOR is in many ways a bastard step child of Italian politics, organized crime, government intelligence agencies,  and traditional 'Roman' Catholic authoritarianism.

There really isn't any religious need for the IOR or any real reason that Pope Francis couldn't shut the whole thing down.  I can understand there are some historical connections that may give him pause. Some of those IOR account holders are hardly Mother Theresa.  I can only hope St Michael was invoked by both Popes as a kind of not so subtle message for some of those 'connections'.  But based on the people he selected for his IOR commission, I fear it's more an admission of powerlessness and a plea for supernatural intervention.