Monday, September 23, 2013
Disconcerted by Francis #2
Following on from the previous post, I understand that not a few African bishops have been disconcerted Pope Francis' interview, mainly by his words on homosexuality. As archbishop of Buenos Aires he could tailor his words for his own audience, knowing the reaction of the faithful and to some extent of the local media, as Pope his words are thrown to the four winds and in many places reinterpreted in way to cause the maximum damage the Church.
The proper role of the Pope is to teach and safeguard fundamental Christian principles, it is the role of local bishops to safeguard and to enculturate these principles in the context of the culture in which they are missioning. Fifty years ago it might be possible to make assumptions that western, indeed European culture, with its strong Christian underpinning was superior. In the nineteenth century, and before the Church had flourished in the wake of European colonisation, first of all the Spanish and Portugeuse, then the French and British, and finally the tremendous influence of Americanisation, today there is perhaps much greater cultural diversity and European and Western culture sees itself at enmity with its Christian roots. Just as the age of of monarchy and colonialisation has past, so the age of a strongly centralised Church has past. The centre is not holding.
Pope Francis points us the Orthodox or Byzantine model, presumably because it is also a Catholic model which pre-existed the 19th century Ultramontane doctrine. I have no problem with the doctrines of Vatican I, I do have problems with how these doctrines became so quickly corrupted by the middle of the 20th century. I remember asking an Orthodox priest historian after an ouzo filled discussion on pre-Great Schism on Church discipline, why he didn't become a Catholic. With a degree of fury he slammed down his glass and said, 'How could I become a subject of the Pope of Rome when he personally can sign a document which abandons two millennia of Tradition'. He was speaking of Paul VI's act of 'abrogation' of the Traditional Liturgy. He saw that act as the fruition of Ultramonatanism: a pen stroke made in Rome that changed the nature of the entire Catholic Church throughout the world.
He suggested that having fruited, the plant had died, because for him as an Orthodox the essential constituents that held the Church, were adherence to the Ecumenical Councils and their Symbols, adherence to to the teachings of the eastern synods, adherence to the writings of the holy Fathers and most importantly adherence to the Sacred Liturgy. In summary it was holding on to that which was passed on, faithfulness to Tradition, that marked the Church and for Orthodoxy guaranteed unity. For him, the West was in a state of disunity; little, except the historic label seems to mark the Catholic Church's unity and he wondered how long that would last. In many ways he was obviously a little partisan but the observation was interesting.
The problem for Pope Francis' reforms is that the unity that the Liturgy once gave the Church has been severely damaged, it is after all the Liturgy that is the main mark of communion for the billion Catholics throughout the world. The 20th century anti-Traditionalism, which some see as a 'movement', that marked much of the implementation of Vat II could actually be seen as being encapsulated in the Bergoglio Papacy.
What holds Orthodoxy's together is its 'Traditionalism' something which is held in common by bishops, priests and laity. Survey after survey in the Catholic Church seems to suggest there is gulf between the faith of the heirarchy and that of the rest of the billion plus. There is crisis of trust, therefore of unity between people bishops, the upheavals from the Council, the abuse crisis have seriously damaged the trust of both priests and people in their bishops.
Some might well be fearful that the Church can withstand yet another shake up.
I would wonder whether many of our bishops are capable of taking responsibility for the local Church. The insistence on Catholic doctrine has since the rise of Modernism not been a strong point of Catholic bishops. Local bishops covered up the abuse crisis, it was Rome or rather Pope Benedict who stepped in to cut out the disease. Local bishops dither not knowing how to deal with Catholic politicians who enact laws contrary to the faith, local bishops seem to want to cosy up to the governments or political parties.
The great weakness of taking the Orthodox as a model is that the Church easily becomes a nationalist Church, supporting either the Emperor, or the Sultan or the Czar or even Stalin or as we have seem in Serbia in recent years to its shame was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia.