Saturday, 6 April 2013

Welcome V2 Catholics: why liberals won't like Pope Francis!

Over this initial period of Pope Francis' Pontificate, there have been some pretty hopeful signals, I think, of the direction the new Pope wants to take the Church in.

And since the inimitable Mr David Timbs, of the 'V2Catholic' blog (which  really is not, in the main either enlightening or edifying reading for an orthodox catholic!) seems to be directing quite a bit of traffic my way at the moment with a post attacking what he wrongly describes as 'Traditionalists' (in fact he seems to mean American style conservatives), I thought I'd offer a piece that may be of interest to his readers, since they too, will, I think, find Pope Francis 'the Disturber', as Mr Timbs dubs him!

The Pope and the liturgy

It is true of course that all the signs are that Pope Francis will not be advancing Pope Benedict's liturgical agenda any further.  No surprise there given his Jesuit background - I hadn't actually heard the expression 'as lost as a Jesuit during Holy Week' before, but I gather it has a long and all too apt history (the occasional notable exception in the ranks notwithstanding).  But as a number of commentators have suggested, the legislation is in place, the ground work has been done, and what is needed now is for priests and people to implement it.  And there are some good models around for just that happening - go have a read of Easter in Wangaratta for example.

The liturgy young people actually want!
from Summorum Pontificum Wangaratta

Instead, Pope Francis seems more intent on advancing another necessary plank of reform for the Church, namely marrying its spiritual and charitable agendas more closely.

The Church in America, for example, is finding its opposition to the Obama Health Care insistence on coverage of contraception and other related practices constantly undermined by what is actually happening in Catholic hospitals.  And the case for the Churches huge investment in a Catholic education system is being constantly undermined there with stories like the refusal of Jesuit-run Gonzaga University to recognise a student club - because it opposes discrimination on religious grounds (ie a requirement that the members be Catholic!) in University club membership rules.

The issues in Australia are pretty much the same, with a huge investment in a school system that fails to turn out actual Catholics, and a hospital, welfare and charitable system that often seems disconnected with Catholic values and teaching, and lacking any real connection to the Churches mission objectives.

Yet the agenda the Pope is advancing is unlikely to be one to suit liberal, 'Spirit of Vatican II' tastes if what he has said and done so far are anything to do on.

The role of the laity

There will be absolutely no comfort whatsoever, for example, to liberals, in the Pope's recent catechesis on the role of mothers in transmitting the faith.  Fr Z has already given this an admirable spruiking, but let me just repeat the key passage of the Pope's April 3 General Audience:

"This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people, the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women. This is beautiful, and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen! Mothers go forward with this witness! What matters to God is our heart, if we are open to Him, if we are like trusting children. But this also leads us to reflect on how in the Church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love..." 

It's not exactly the stuff to feed the feminist agenda!

There is also an interesting story today over at Catholic World News about the Pope's view of the role of the laity in his previous role, claiming that he strongly opposes the 'clericalization of the laity':

He spoke about the importance of the laity a great deal, though without confusing laity with priests,” Father Brunori added. “He didn’t want to ‘clericalize’ the laity. His primary interest wasn’t in having more lay ministers of communion, or things like that. He wanted everyone in their proper place, doing the things that pertained to their area.”

The same story also emphasizes that while the Pope is deeply focused on the plight of the poor and marginalized, he is concerned at connecting with them on an individual level, and positively rejects any liberation theology style focus on addressing structural issues:

"The Pope “always saw the people who live in the slums from a different point of view” from promoters of liberation theology, said Father Pedro Brunori. “His interest wasn’t in resolving structural problems with the economy, but helping these people address the concrete problems of their lives. It was a pastoral perspective.”

“One can certainly understand the great injustices that gave rise to liberation theology, but sometimes it was missing the dimension of personal charity, of concern for the concrete person in front of you,” Father Bruroni told journalist John Allen. “That’s the sense in which I think the Pope tried to orient the pastoral work in the slums of Buenos Aires. His idea was the every single one of those people ought to interest the Church, equally. He actually walked in these places.

The Pope on the Social Teaching of the Church

In his pre-Conclave comments to the Cardinals, which have now been released, Pope Francis spoke of the need for the Church to 'go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery'.

But what does he really mean by focusing on the periphery, particularly in a well off country like Australia?

It is a rare thing for me to laud the Australian Catholic Justice Council's monthly briefing, but the latest edition, for April 2013, does actually contain a quite useful distillation of some key points from Pope Francis' comments to date on the subject by John Ferguson.

In particular, it makes it clear that the pope is not just talking about material poverty.  The Pope, the article notes, reminded us that material possession do not bring happiness, only God does, and that spiritual poverty is by far the most important problem:

"At an ecumenical and inter-faith gathering he highlighted the role of all faiths to address human need and the causes of poverty and hardship, apparent in myopia of modern ideologies such as consumerism:

‘There is much that we can do to benefit the poor, the needy and those who suffer, and to favour justice, promote reconciliation  and build peace. But before all else we need to keep alive in our world the thirst for the absolute, and to counter the dominance of a  one-dimensional vision of the human person, a vision which reduces human beings to what they produce and to what they consume: this is one of the most insidious temptations of our time.’

He spoke of the need to pursue higher values of truth and goodness, and particularly an openness to the transcendent in the face of a materialism that seeks to eliminate God from the human story." 

The briefing note also stresses an idea that will seem quaint to many Australian religious orders today, that actually helping the poor - as opposed to agitating allegedly on their behalf - is a desirable work of the Church:

"And addressing diplomats from around the  world he highlighted the commitment of the Church to work of justice:

How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.’

He has called on all countries to join in this work of justice:‘My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! …

Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up.’...

Do we have to follow the example of the Pope?

Mr Timbs' post, which I mentioned above, claims that:

"One of the rock solid principles of authentic Catholic liturgical and semi-liturgical practice during the pontificate of Benedict XVI was, for Traditionalists, that dimension of his magisterium, namely the will, wishes and example of the Holy Father."

And he attacks my own post decrying exactly that view on the grounds that I'm being inconsistent having promoted exactly that attitude towards Popes John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Well no David.  If you actually read my blog you would find that I, like many traditionalists, was deeply uncomfortable abut the beatification of Pope John Paul II precisely because I think a number of his prudential pastoral decisions were very bad ones.  Nor have I been entirely uncritical of Pope Benedict XVI.

In fact Mr Timbs is confusing traditionalists and conservatives.

It is true that many Church conservatives have taken an ultramontanist position, accepting attempting to emulate every action and accept every word of the Pope as if it were of divine origin.  It leads to some fascinating convulsions in these changeover periods between Popes since each inevitably has his own style and agendas!

But this has never been the 'traditionalist' position.

How, after all, could traditionalists have justified maintaining the Latin Mass in the face of Pope Paul VI's reform of the liturgy if it had been?

In reality true traditionalists have always adopted a much more nuanced position, that certainly looks with respect to the Pope and accepts his leadership, and unlike most liberals, accepts his Magisterial teaching.

Yet traditionalists, as opposed to conservatives, would advocate that we immerse ourselves in the Churches tradition, viewing the Pope as the guardian of the tradition, not the creator of it.  Traditionalists would urge Catholics to engage their minds in assessing what a Pope says or does in the light of that tradition, and distinguish between the various levels of authority that the Pope can exercise.

Yes, traditionalists will urge that anyone calling themselves Catholic actually accept Magisterial teaching and reject ideas such as the ordination of women.  Yes traditionalists will, at times, advocate for the view on pastoral decisions such as the new missal that 'Rome has spoken, the case is closed'.

But traditionalists will also at times seek to influence the debate and even resist, what is accept what is handed down from on high where it seems to conflict with the venerable traditions of the Church.

For more reading on the difference between the two schools of thought (and especially for you Mr Timbs, so you can get it right next time), I highly recommend this article Operative Points of View, by Fr Ripperger FSSP.

1 comment:

jules said...

Good on you Kate- aren't we all tired of these 'liberal' types pointing the finger left right and center at anyone remotely a real catholic.
BTW your admirer is over here directing traffic your way again...