Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why so much confusion about Pope Francis?

Boniface offers a lament, in "Bergoglio contradicts pundits account" (Unam Santam Catholicam, April 22, 1013): "Why is there so much disinformation about Pope Francis' past as Cardinal Bergolgio? I ask this not coming from any perspective, but just from the view of a layman who is trying to figure out what sort of individual our new pope is."

Boniface refers to a number controversies about Pope Francis that continue to circulate in the media and blogsville, such as whether Summorom Pontificum was implemented by Bergoglio in his diocese of Buenos Aires, whether he banished Cardinal Law, and whether he refused the mozzetta and told Cardinal Marini, "You put it on; this carnival is over." But it's clear that the main focus of his post here is whether or not he allowed a Protestant minister to "bless" him in an ecumenical prayer gathering or whether it was Fr. Cantalamessa who blessed him. I offer the details merely to illustrate the depth of the confusion and contradictions still circulating around the Holy Father. Boniface writes:
When Pope Francis was first elected, this picture was circulated around the Internet, suggesting that he had participated in an ecumenical prayer gathering and allowed himself to be "blessed" by a Protestant minister. The Remnant, as well as some more mainstream blogs, chimed in and stated that Bergoglio was not in fact blessed by a Protestant minister; what really happened, they said, was that Bergoglio knelt down to receive a blessing from Fr. Cantalamessa when the Protestant minister stepped in to add his 'two cents' and blessed Cardinal Bergoglio without his explicit knowledge or permission. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Now we have Pope Francis in his own words contradicting the revisionist version of the story. With the appearance of Bergoglio's 2010 book On Heaven and Earthcontains his own account of the event, which he discusses in the context of speaking about undue "rigidity":
At another stage, Francis warns of the dangers of “rigid religiosity” and “fundamentalism.”

“This type of rigid religiosity is disguised with doctrines that claim to give justifications, but in reality deprive people of their freedom and do not allow them to grow as persons,” he says. “A large number end up living a double life.”

Francis acknowledges that he’s felt the sting of that rigidity himself, especially in criticism of his pastoral style over the years.

He describes once attending an ecumenical service in Argentina that brought 7,000 Evangelicals and Catholics together, where the Evangelical pastor asked if it would be okay for everyone to pray for him.

Francis says he knelt down to receive the blessing (among other things, anticipating his now-famous gesture the evening of his election to the papacy,) and the next week a traditionalist magazine carried the shot under the headline, “Buenos Aires sede vacante: Archbishop commits the sin of apostasy.”
So, Bergoglio knelt down to receive a blessing from Cantalamessa and the Protestant stepped in to add his own 'two cents', unbeknownst to the Cardinal? According to Bergoglio himself, it was the Protestant who asked him if he could receive a blessing, and Bergolgio knelt before the Protestant with full knowledge of what the Protestant minister was doing.

Thus, Bergoglio himself, in his 2010 book, contradicts the accounts of the pundits who were offering the Cantalamessa excuse to explain away the event.

It is not my point here to comment upon the propriety of Bergoglio doing this. My point is to ask why is there so much misinformation about this pontiff? It is not that two sides are disagreeing on the meaning of the facts; it is tremendously difficult to get a straight answer on what the facts are. Why is it so hard to get the facts? Why so much misinformation, and who is behind it? Even his daily homilies are only being reported anecdotally, with out the published text.

I am not in any way blaming Pope Francis for any of these ambiguities. I am voicing my frustration that well-meaning Catholics who simply want to know what kind of man the pope is cannot get straight information. This is tremendously frustrating, and I suspect the answer is that a certain group of people have a vested interest in putting a particular spin on things. Strange times, indeed.
Boniface's answer to his own question is the most obvious and easy one. I suspect that there are other, more difficult answers possible, some of which may be forthcoming in comments to his (as well as this) post. Regardless, his lament is genuine, and I suspect others may well empathize.

"Strange times, indeed," he writes. And in response to the trials of living in such times, he also offers a quite profound prescription, in "The Flame of Endurance" (April 9, 2013), concerning which we shall offer a subsequent post momentarily.

[Hat tip to J.M.]


Chris said...

Our pastor recently commented that the diabolical triumph at Vatican 2 was that people could choose between obedience to legitimate authority or obedience to the Church's constant teaching.

It seems that the possibility exists that the cause of frustrating ambiguity is the father of lies.

Anonymous Bosch said...

It's not merely the competing interest groups vying to promote their partisan "spin" on him.

The man himself is confusing, if not confused. He perfectly reflects the fractured "wilderness of mirrors," which is our time.

(Pace Max Frisch, Mein Name sei Gantenbein)

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

I have also been puzzled by this pope, but I think some "educated" guesses about him are possible.

When Bergoglio is referred to as "conservative" or "traditionalist," I think what may be meant is that he is not a proponent of liberation theology, which remains enormously influential within the South American church, despite its proscription by JP2. "The Poor" is the paramount theme of the South American ecclesia. It is simply not feasible for Bergoglio or any other cleric of his continent to be even slightly flexible on this point. And since the liberationists are regarded by many as the legitimate clerical voice of the poor, Bergoglio must become doubly strident to avoid being seen as a throwback to the colonial mindset -- which, in the minds of Argentinians, is not a long throw at all.

So huzzah, the pope is not a Christian Marxist. Double huzzah, nor is he a modernist liberal in the sense of a Joan Chittester. His nostrums are not those of the first world. He is emphatically not JP3, and even more emphatically not Benedict XVII. But he is absolutely not a traditionalist. In the parlance of Benedict's pathetic, last-ditch effort to the "save the appearances" re V2, he's a "pro-rupture" guy -- BUT from a country that was colonized -- not a colonizer.

Sheldon said...

So, what, a post-colonial cleric, or a clerical Obama, in a paisley alb washing feet at a Life Teen Mass? I like the image, Ralph.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

I would guess that, in his heart of hearts, Pope Francis is a liturgical radical (ie, inculturation as an instrument of liturgical deconstruction) and a Christian socialist (but not a marxist). He's not much interested in theological issues that obsess pecksniffy first world liberals, but if anything more interested than they in blowing up the curia, which he likely regards as Rome's version of Revolucion Argentina. His franciscan humility is becoming, until you remember that he is not a Franciscan, but a Jesuit.

I have a feeling that in Bergoglio, you see the prototype of many popes to come -- as well as the living end of all that talk about interpreting V2 in light of "tradition." It will be straight up, "signs of the time" activism from here on out.