Monday, 1 July 2013

Pope Francis: United in our differences ...

I have found it somewhat amusing (and that is probably not to my credit) to watch the Traditionalist minded in the Catholic blogosphere trying desparately to come to terms with Pope Francis' homily for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul:
United in our differences: there is no other Catholic way to be united.
So, for example, Fr Ray observes that:
... like much of what he [ie Pope Francis] says there is often a great deal of ambiguity ..
and one of the comments on Fr Ray's post remarks that
... his [ie Pope Francis'] gift does not include precision of expressions of thought....
The Bones, after placing Pope Francis' words alongside those of Pope Benedict XVI speaking on a the same occasion a year ago, asks:
Does anyone detect a shift in emphasis?
I am amused by the sudden change from decrying perceived reluctance on the part of bishops and priests to do what they thought Pope Benedict wanted with regard to the Liturgy to a legitimising of disregard for the pastoral approach of Pope Benedict's successor, Pope Francis. It would appear that the idea of a "hermeneutic of continuity" has only lasted as long as it suited.

Now the "eastward gaze" of Pope Francis' homily becomes quite transparently obvious when it is placed alongside the address given the day before the Solemnity, to the delegation of the Ecumencial Patriarch of Constantinople, visiting Rome to join the celebration of the Solemnity. And the references to difference and to synodality gain their very specific, and not in the least big confusing or ambiguous character, from that "eastward gaze". In so far as it also has a "westward glance", the reference to the work of the Synod of Bishops - established after the Second Vatican Council as a continuing expression and realisation of collegiality rightly understood, and perhaps better characterised by the term "communion" - is equally un-problematic, though I had not previously taken cognisance of its ecumenical import in quite the way suggested here.
To confirm in unity: the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the primate.
I do actually think that, like Pope Benedict XVI before him, Pope Francis has a quite exquisite and precise choice of phrase. It is different in style to that of Pope Benedict, but in an absolute continuity with it; it has been most apparent in some of the strap lines emerging from his homilies at the morning Mass in Domus Santa Martha. The following is from Pope Francis's homily for Sts Peter and Paul , with my italics added:
In the Church, variety, which is itself a great treasure, is always grounded in the harmony of unity, like a great mosaic in which every small piece joins with others as part of God’s one great plan.
... compared to Pope Benedict XVI's homily a year before (h/t to The Bones), again with my italics added and the suspicion that Pope Benedict was referring to a thought by Hans Urs von Balthasar:
we know that together we are all cooperators of the truth, which as we know is one and “symphonic”, and requires from each of us and from our communities a constant commitment to conversion to the one Lord in the grace of the one Spirit.
As an exercise in use of the communications media, the Traditionalist minded who have sought to undermine Pope Francis' homily in the blogosphere appear to me to have scored an enormous own goal. Apart from feeling that they simply haven't "got it" as far as the homily and Pope Francis in general goes (they need to move out from their own limited territory in order to achieve that), their broadcasting of what they think others will make of it has rather given the views of those others a huge boost.

[In the context of the discussion of Pope Francis' homily, there is a very sensible analysis of how we should understand Pope Francis here: Understanding Pope Francis.]


Fr Ray Blake said...

Glad to amuse you, though not my intention!

I have never suggested any "disregard for the pastoral approach of Pope Benedict's successor", with this remark you just seem to want to take a swipe at me rather than examine what I am asking, let alone attempting to answer it. You certainly provide no evidence for this, it is just unfounded and provocative.

I think that those of us who have taken up Benedict's notion of a an 'hermeneutic of continuity' as a welcome corrective to the Ultramontane idea of the Church as being a Papal Feifdom, dependant on who is Pope at a particular time, are certainly trying to understand Francis in terms of continuity. Francis' theology is certainly less systematic than Benedict's and as he has admitted to certain degree of "disorganisation", I think it is entirely legitimate to question what precisely he means.

You, yourself, I think, are being a little too narrow in merely interpreting these remarks solely in relation to the Orthodox. Why should what he has said previously to the Orthodox be restricted to them and not include the Lutherans and other Protestants who were present? In this early period of the Bergoglian papacy, I see no reason to interpret Francis narrowly in the light of Benedict's hermeneutic, rather than that of Paul VI or early JPII, or even his own hermeneutic, which seems to be slowly emerging.

Though I suspect that Pope Francis is not exactly Cardinal Jorge; from his writings as Archbishop and Jesuit Provincial his hermeneutic seems to be pastoral rather than intellectual, founded more firmly on 'Gaudium et Spes' than 'Lumen Gentium'. He is concerned with Mission rather than clarification of doctrine, growth rather than roots.

I would like to think I am trying to be generous to Francis' thought, including his understanding of interpretation theories rather than restrictive. Benedict as Prefect of the CDF served a long apprenticeship for the Papacy, Francis, like JPII has come to it from being a diocesan bishop, we should be willing to see his understanding, and his style, developing.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Come on, you have had a swipe at me, so publish my comment!

Joe said...

Fr Ray

I have posted your comment at first sight of it. I don't always sign in to check my comments.

I hadn't intended any comment to be individually directed at you in a personal way, but rather felt that I was citing your remarks as exemplification of a school of thought.

I do think that the connection between Pope Francis's homily and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the nature of the College of Bishops relationship to the See of Peter is also worthy of an exploration not given to it in my post.