|Here we have two Marines and a Navy Medical corpsman who do not exactly represent Francis' view of the Madonna. This is unfortunate given one of Mary's multitudinous titles has her leading the war against Satan--and speaking of that, these women are in a Psyops unit. The photo is taken from this article from Veterans Today, which also features a really really interesting take on women in combat from Mary Hunt.|
I thought I'd finally get around to some thoughts about Pope Francis' interview with the Jesuits, but after some thought and a whole lot of reading, I still find theologian Mary Hunt's analysis speaks my thoughts better than I can. So with kudos to Mary Hunt, I have extracted the following extended extracts from her article at Religion Dispatches and as is my usual wont, will throw in a few comments of my own.
......Three Things Leave Me Warm...
The interview’s complexity arises from the overlay of Ignation spirituality that forms Francis’ spirit and psyche. It’s a language and symbol set all its own—heavy with “discernment” and reliant on prayer as a means of knowing. The interviewer tries to interpret it at times (who knew that Peter Faber [1506-46] was such an influential fellow?), but what stands out is how Francis is imbued with the customs and governance style of the Society of Jesus..... (Francis' description of the Ignation process and how it worked for him was one of the high points for me as well.)
Second, the compassion, humanity, and simple lifestyle that Pope Francis manifests is refreshing after decades of John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s personalities and actions. At the same time, Francis demonstrates in the interview that he is a highly cultured man. He takes music, art, literature, and film seriously as culture shapers, as rich gifts for enjoyment and insight into the human condition. He’s very Argentine that way. Going to the movies in Buenos Aires is as common as going to mass. Teatro Colon is a world-class opera house of which Portenos (residents of Buenos Aires) are justifiably proud. (He also seems to understand that these culture shapers have more influence on younger generations than the Catholic culture warrior shapers EPBenedict was so fond of and the USCCB is so full of.)
Third, postmodernity is not lost on Francis. Woven through the discourse of this lengthy interview are indications that the many sciences, not just theology and philosophy, are sources for religious reflection. Obviously his experience at the World Youth Day in Brazil was formative. He understands the differing roles of people of varying ages; he realizes that younger churches have unique characteristics, older churches their own charm; that vigor and wisdom, ancient and new, all have their place; and he affirms “real, not ceremonial consultation” as the way forward. These are contemporary ideas that his immediate predecessors did not understand—or if they did, they did not accept them.
(I was really struck with this observation of Pope Francis' because his two predecessors demonstrated a decided lack of enthusiasm for much of the culture of the younger churches, most certainly giving place of preference to the traditional Eurocentric Church. I never understood why a Pope would preference that part of the Church on life support over and above that part of the Church running at full speed. I have my suspicions as to why that was so, but am glad to see Francis' ego isn't in the same place. And before anyone points out that the younger churches are more conservative on moral issues, rest assured I get that. I also get that South America used to be that way before the educational levels of women began rise.)
...And Three Cold
The weakest part of the interview is the section on women. It is amazing how little this pope seems to know about women, other than his grandmother Rosa whom he places right next to the Virgin Mary. The very fact that women are set apart as special, different, seems to imply that everything else he says about church, morality etc. is for and about men. This is a serious methodological flaw. Either women are part of “the holy, faithful people of God,” and thus the church in the full sense, or they are not.
If women are human beings like men, not different from men in some mystical way that can result in discrimination, then ordination, reproductive justice, contraception and the like are choices women can and should make. Catholics do not need “a profound theology of the woman,” but a clear, engaged reading of feminist work in religion that is among the most exciting theological production today. The very framing of the question about women is dubious. Difference unto discrimination is a slippery slope..... (These lines clarified something rolling in the fog in the back of my head. It's this, I have without really processing it, let much of what the male church says go in one ear and out the other because I have never felt the men were talking to women--outside of pelvic issues and in this case it's down to women. It always seemed to me they were talking to men, and about women to men. Women were just along for the ride, sort of in the passenger seat with their seat belts on, there not to drive or even navigate, but just to keep the kids in the backseat in line---oh yea, and to make sure there were actually kids in the backseat. And now back to Mary.)
......It is intellectually embarrassing to hear a man who is so conversant with music, literature, and poetry have such a paltry vocabulary when it comes to women. Thus far, Francis has not had any public conversation with a woman church leader of any sort. The continued oppression of U.S. women religious, allegedly approved by him, is a negative sign as well. But maybe it will fall into the category of small things to which he will pay little attention....(One can only hope. I will say one other thing about this section on women. It may very well be that Francis knows he really doesn't get women as much more than an icon of motherhood and that is why he keeps stating we need 'a deeper theology of women'. It may just be that he realizes he himself needs a deeper theology of women.)
A second issue I find troubling is the lack of transparency about the shape of the institutional church. The cardinals realized on the resignation of Benedict XVI that the institutional church was in ruins. Its creditability is gone due to financial scandals, pedophilia by priests, and cover-ups by bishops. Frankly, no one cares much what the Catholic Church officials think on the big issues—war, the economy, racism, ecology, etc. Sometimes I wish they did! So from a purely business perspective, they have chosen a CEO who is leading a charm offensive that is working. Why not admit it? Perhaps this will be the subject of the next interview if the Jesuits have the gumption to ask him.
Moreover, it’s important to realize that “election” of a pope is not very different from election of a president or other top-ranking official in a hierarchical organization. S/he brings with her/him a whole entourage of lower ranking officials, much like in the U.S. when the Republicans are defeated by the Democrats or vice versa. The winner brings a team. So now it’s time for the people who lost the election to get out of the way and let Francis govern.... (Unfortunately the Obama presidency has shown in spades that a certain type of conservative does not get out of the way. They appoint themselves the mission of becoming the biggest obstacle. I don't see the Church version of this conservative bent acting any different.)
....My hope is that out of all of this will come not more emphasis on Good Pope Francis, and by extension more papal power, but a new model of church in which his role as pope is as a symbol of unity, not authority. (I kind of think this is exactly how Francis sees the papacy. Maybe the bigger question is whether the rest of the Church will let him execute this vision of the papacy.)
A third area of concern is the major matter of church doctrine—what this pope jesuitically says he affirms as a “son” of the church. If that’s the case, what hope is there that things will be substantively and structurally different in years to come? If some issues are closed—not just the ordination of women but how other faith traditions are understood; not just same-sex love, but what we mean by Eucharist—is this interview simply a puff piece, a case of the Jesuits promoting their own and their own promoting Jesuits? Is it meant as a way to attract people back to a church that may have a kinder face but just as steely a heart? Is the good will it has engendered trustworthy? The Roman Catholic Church has been around for several thousand years for a reason. I hope this interview is a beginning not an end of a new moment. (I had all those thoughts myself, especially the Jesuit self promotion one, but this interview had too much in it to just be a puff piece. It spoke of a real change of direction, so I hope Mary's final thought is the correct one--that the interview does signal a new moment in a long history.)