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Pope's selfie

Pope’s pastoral primacy?

Pope's selfie
The first papal selfie

The recent interview of Pope Francis has caused quite a stir. To say the least. It was conducted by Fr Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit, on behalf of La Civiltà Cattolica (the Italian Jesuit journal of which he is the editor in chief), America, and several other major Jesuit journals around the world.

There’s quite a lot of reporting and analysis, on and offline. I’ll just focus on a few things that are dear to my heart [with the Pope’s words indented].

Christian emPHAsis so often appears to be on the wrong syLLAble! When people think of Christianity, many can be forgiven for thinking Christians are kill-joys; preoccupied with anti-sex attitudes (that also often actually hide abusive, damaging obsessions).

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

popesselfieThe dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

Even when liturgy is discussed or celebrated the emphasis can too quickly fall on a rubrical fundamentalism disconnected from its relational heart.

If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.

The medium is the message. The papacy was seen as compromised and collusive, engrossed with the number of candles on the altar, reviving vesture of archaeological interest, and red shoes.

I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner… I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” And he repeats: “I ​​am one who is looked upon by the Lord. I always felt my motto, Miserando atque Eligendo [By Having Mercy and by Choosing Him], was very true for me… [T]his is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff: “I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”

God is active in today’s world. The mission of God has a church – but if the church does not align with, embody, and further God’s mission, God’s action will continue nonetheless.

[T]here is a temptation to seek God in the past or in a possible future. God is certainly in the past because we can see the footprints. And God is also in the future as a promise. But the ‘concrete’ God, so to speak, is today. For this reason, complaining never helps us find God. The complaints of today about how ‘barbaric’ the world is—these complaints sometimes end up giving birth within the church to desires to establish order in the sense of pure conservation, as a defense. No: God is to be encountered in the world of today.

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10 thoughts on “Pope’s pastoral primacy?”

  1. As a Catholic Christian I am very moved (and very relieved) by the Pope’s words. Especially when he talks about how he is a sinner. We are all sinners. if we see each other as all sinners, and on the road to Emmaus together, all kinds of chasms can be breached, and wounds and disagreements, and even wars can be healed. Faith in Jesus Christ has the inexplicable power to dissolve all our sins … to wash them away. And it’s not even the faith that you have that does it. it just is. This is my personal experience. And this is what I hear the Pope saying. IMO, he is a truly magnificent pastor to the world, not just the Bishop of Rome. I say Hallelujah along with so many others.

    There’s more I could say — about how he says God is encountered in the world of today. I have heard it preached over and over about the world being separate from God. I always think… wait a minute, if God made the world, how can it be separate from God? God made man, too. Yes, we are fallen, but IMO, the dichotomy between God’s will and man’s will is a false dichotomy.

  2. I would like to feature a couple more statements from the interview.

    “If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. … If one has the answers to all the questions — that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself.”

    “There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong,”

    I thought of adding more but with your post and passages like the above I leave us to ponder.

  3. Just wanted to clarify what I wrote above. I didn’t mean God’s will and man’s will are the same, because obviously we have free will and can sin. I guess what I was trying to say is that I do not find it helpful to think of “worldy” things as bad per se .. which is something I constantly hear reiterated from the pulpit.

    I know many Catholic Christians are totally engaged, but I have noticed a very real kind of vacuum seal over the church which has really troubled me, and even made me feel kind of excluded like I’m not pure enough. Maybe that’s something I partially create from my side, but I think it is a natural reaction to some of the nit-picky over-concern with rules and regulations that the Pope speaks about.

    Thanks for your input and for the opportunity be heard. I always follow your posts. I love your perspective.

  4. I am encouraged by the attitude of this pope and I am happy that he has said that the Roman Church needs to dial things back on certain subjects that his two most recent predecessors harped on like a one or two note sonata. But I would laso point out that he has not changed anything in regard to the topics that he wants to dial back. The moral teaching of the Roman Church remains the same. Just the next day he backpedaled on his words in the interview regarding abortion.

    The same goes for GLBT. We are still objectively disordered according to Roman moral teaching and that hasn’t changed.

    I find it interesting that he says that he was reprimanded for not speaking out about abortion, gay marriage and contraception. Who reprimands the pope? Is he referring to the conservative backless?

    He may turn down the heat, but nothing has changed. Things remain the same.

  5. Love it when you speak so honestly, Bosco. The pope is one of the most brilliant spiritual role model’s that the world has ever encountered. Needless to say I love his style as he represents the stability and family values that were absent from my own life. Anyway, our particular religion does not matter as long as we realize his message is there to teach us. Charity, selfless love and giving, and all the five virtues he speaks to. Chastity, for the young especially, is a natural solution to abortion and lack of family planning. And stops us from making the wrong choices for life partners. Avoiding worship of money as a endless idol and obsession is not hard to do either when you have little of it. Therein lies some of the practical and joyfull means by which we can live and survive now and the future.

  6. Bro David mentions the Pope said he was reprimanded. Here is one reprimand from Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence , R.I.
    “The other thing I want to say though, is that I’m a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis that he hasn’t, at least that I’m aware of, said much about unborn children, about abortion, and many people have noticed that. I think it would be very helpful if Pope Francis would address more directly the evil of abortion and to encourage those who are involved in the pro-life movement. It’s one thing for him to reach out and embrace and kiss little children and infants as he has on many occasions. It strikes me that it would also be wonderful if in a spiritual way he would reach out and embrace and kiss unborn children.”
    While essentially the Pope has changed nothing in RC moral teaching he has through his manner and stress on real priorities offended quite a few. Rorate Caeli commenting on the interview under discussion\ said that the most important words were when he said that sometimes we say too much.
    Interestingly at a recent state election in Rhode Island polls show that a large majority of those identifying as RC voted contrary to what Bishop Tobin had strongly recommended.

  7. I think that what Francis is saying, as he exercises his universal primacy, must be heard in relation to Scripture and Tradition (ARCIC Gift of Authority). John Paul II asked that this primacy be a matter for dialogue nearly 20 years ago (Ut unum sint). I would make the observation that while Francis may seem liberating on social and even moral issues,and even Church norms such as celibacy, if the media are to be believed, English speaking Catholics still endure archaic texts in Liturgy, given us by John Paul II and implemented finally by Benedict XVI. And this past week under Francis watch Fr Greg Reynolds of Melbourne, has been defrocked and excommunicated because of speaking on issues such as homosexuality, which Francis is apparently more open on. Perhaps the parade that is following the new Emperor has yet to to see whether he is wearing clothes or not …

  8. I’m willing to give Francis the benefit of the doubt. After all, he is only just beginning his term. Let’s see what he does…

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

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