Sunday, March 31, 2013

He should not be Pope!

Well, it’s already begun. Barely two weeks into his papacy, persons calling themselves ‘real’ Catholics are already criticizing Francis for being who he is, rather than being a pope completely in line with their own thinking. It seems that they accept the involvement of the Holy Spirit in papal elections only when the outcome results in mirror images of their own thinking and their own ways of believing.

Calling themselves ‘traditionalists’, they are objecting to just about all of Francis’ actions since being elected—actions that differ from the way things are supposed to be, in their minds: washing the feet of woman; including Muslims in a Holy Thursday Mass; not wearing the fancy yet outdated clothing that sets the pope apart from every other believer; not being adamant about bringing back Latin as the sole language of Church worship. In other words, they object that he is validating Vatican II and its vision of Church.

To my ears, one of the most encouraging statements the new pope has made so far is about how the focus of the Church should not be on preserving itself as an institution but rather on serving the needs of the world, especially its world. The Church should not see itself as the world’s most important entity, with the prime responsibility of preserving and protecting itself, even if that means covering up the horrendous crimes of Church officials. The Church must be willing to sacrifice its own life!

If there is any institution that should be open to risk and misunderstanding and to being persecuted for the sake of what is right, it is the Church! When we put self-preservation ahead of dying to self, we are not the people of God. When rules and traditions are given priority over the teachings of Jesus, when obedience and discipline are considered to be the greatest virtues a person can have, to the neglect of placing love first, we are not the Church.

Comparisons to America’s political realities are very easy to make. Both the people whose candidate does not win a presidential election and those decrying Francis’ election are basically saying the same thing: the only valid truth is my perception of truth. Anyone who does not completely adhere to everything I consider important is wrong. There is no possibility that there are truths other than what I perceive. Unless my candidate or my pope is elected, whoever is elected is an usurper —a fraud—is wrong. Even if he or she is the Risen Christ!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Viva il Papa!!

At the start of our Mass at noon on March 13th, I knew we had a pope, but had no idea who he might be.  Then, along with the offertory gifts, was a post-it note.  Written on it was “Cardinal Bergoglio, Argentina” and “Francis I”.  I shared that with the congregation and went on with the Eucharist.  It felt good to have a name to say in the part of the Eucharistic prayer where we pray for N. our Pope and N. our Bishop.  Here in Oregon we will have two new names to get used to, as we’ll have a new Archbishop April 2nd —Alexander. In Chicago they’ll say: ”Francis our Pope and Francis our Archbishop”.  Keeps it simple.

After Communion, while we sat quietly, I had a few thoughts on the new Pope.  At that time I knew very little about him, but was glad it was someone from the southern hemisphere, where most Catholics live.  I was impressed that he took the name Francis and is the first pope with that name. I admire St. Francis and Cardinal Bergoglio’s choice of a name new to the papacy suggested the possibility that he would boldly go where no pope has gone before.

Too, it felt good to have a pope.  This surprised me.  I did not feel bad when the seat was vacant, but now having someone sitting in it brought a refreshing sense of newness and possibility.  Remember, at this point I had no idea even of what he looked like.

After Mass I got to a television and switched between MSNBC and CNN.  They were replaying all we’d missed during Mass—the announcement and his appearance on the balcony.  My first reaction was that he looked scared to death.  Then he smiled.  The pundits were saying he is very Orthodox and very committed to the poor and to Catholic teaching on social justice.  They also informed us that he had never been assigned to the Curia in Vatican City, rode public transportation, had sold the Archbishop’s palace and did his own cooking.  Something for everyone.  He has the potential of unifying the varying ecclesiologies (notions of the role and purpose of the Church) within the present Church.

By the time you are reading this, perhaps we will have a clearer picture of how he will be as Pope.  But did you notice how he never used that word?  He said he is the Bishop of Rome and was elected to be bishop for the people of Rome.  Is that a hint of some impending collaborative arrangement with his fellow bishops?

The deputy press official in the Vatican made this comment, perhaps unwittingly:  We've just elected a pastor, a good shepherd. We're going to have to get used to this!"  Viva il papa.