Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Russell Shaw: stop blaming the media

Russell Shaw, "Shaw: Getting a grasp on Pope Francis' strategy for reform" OSV, October 13, 2013):
Among Catholics who've been rattled by remarks by Pope Francis in his famous interviews, some have sought solace in blaming the media. They have a point. Sensationalism, oversimplification and ignorance (headline writers notwithstanding, "proselytism" and "conversion" are two quite different things) really have marked some of the papal coverage to date.

But when you're through criticizing the press, the fact remains that the reporters have gotten it essentially right. Pope Francis truly is saying something different while apparently preparing to set the Church on a significantly new path. This makes it a matter of urgency that Catholics, instead of getting hung up on media mistakes, grasp where the pope's newness really lies.

Italian Vaticanologist Sandro Magister offers a helpful insight on that. To comprehend Pope Francis, he says, he should be seen in the line of two larger-than-life figures of the not-so-distant past — Cardinal Carlo Martini of Milan and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago.

Cardinal Martini, a Jesuit like Pope Francis, died in 2012. For many years he was Catholic progressives' favorite candidate for election as pope. Cardinal Bernardin died in 1996. During most of the preceding two decades he was the dominant figure among his brothers in the U.S. hierarchy.

By no means is Pope Francis' resemblance to the two cardinals a perfect likeness. The pope is very much his own man, with his own style and his own priorities. Still, no one who knew either Cardinal Martini or Cardinal Bernardin can help but notice the similarities. Especially, as Magister suggests, these concern the stance the Church should adopt in addressing the secular culture.

In modern times, the stance has generally been confrontational and combative: error must be corrected, evil resisted, no matter the cost. By contrast, the Martini-Bernardin approach is notably different: instead of confronting the secular culture, seek common ground; where no common ground can be found, downplay the conflict as much as can be done without sacrificing principle.

And the pope? His strategy is reasonably clear from the metaphor used in his interview with several Jesuit journals to describe the role of the Church in today's world.

"I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugar. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds ...”

Here is the context in which to read Francis's words later calling on Catholics to talk less about abortion, gay marriage and contraception. First, he's saying, stop the spiritual hemorrhaging from the wounds inflicted by the culture on faith and hope, and only then turn to specific problems.

We now have clear evidence that Francis doesn't intend only to talk about these things. It's his move in summoning an "extraordinary" — that is, out of the regular cycle — session of the world Synod of Bishops a year from now to consider "the pastoral challenges of the family."

This consultation with bishops from around the world reflects his commitment to collegiality as well as his concern for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. If Pope Francis has anything to say about it — and it hardly needs saying that he will — the Church's pastoral approach to them will be at the top of the Synod agenda.

So, unavoidably, will questions this unavoidably raises regarding Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage. Never mind the press — the truth is, we're in for an exciting ride.
Ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times!"

[Hat tip to GM]


Anonymous said...

"downplay the conflict as much as can be done without sacrificing principle."

There's the rub, no?

JM said...

"First, he's saying, stop the spiritual hemorrhaging from the wounds inflicted by the culture..."

Um, how do you stop the bleeding if you won't point out the behavior that is cause as well as a symptom? And how do you treat people who don't think they are sick? Maybe the turf is quite different in Latin America, but Catholics in America do not seem especially aware they may be in need of a hospital. What they want is someone to preside at the family rituals where they affirm their clans. Tell them they are sick, and you'll get lots of nasty calls to the Bishop's Office.

I am not Spartacus said...

OCTOBER 11, 1962

...At the outset of the Second Vatican Council, it is evident, as always, that the truth of the Lord will remain forever. We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations. Not, certainly, that there is a lack of fallacious teaching, opinions, and dangerous concepts to be guarded against an dissipated. But these are so 
obviously in contrast with the right norm of honesty, and have produced such lethal fruits that by now it would seem that men of themselves are inclined to condemn them, particularly those ways of life which despise God and His law or place excessive confidence in technical progress and a well-being based exclusively on the comforts of life. They are ever more deeply convinced of the paramount dignity of the human person and of his perfection as well as of the duties which that implies. Even more important, experience has taught men that violence inflicted on others, the might of arms, and political domination, are of no help at all in finding a happy solution to the grave problems which afflict them.

In Karl Keating's E-Letter (March 8, 2005), he noted that for 26 years of the John Paul papacy, of which Ratzinger was the doctrinal watchdog for 24 years, only 24 people were disciplined. Keating comments: "That is fewer than one per year!... The Catholic Church boasts 1.1 billion members. This means that, on average, over the last quarter century, the Vatican has disciplined only one out of a billion members per year. This is about as close to zero as you can get. Is there any social, commercial, or governmental organization that disciplines such a small percentage of its people?... If the Church had the kind of inquisitorial bureaucracy that its critics imagine, the Vatican would be disciplining 24 people each week.... However you look at it, 24 cases in 26 years is...laughable." It appears that Ratzinger (now Benedict) is not thePanzerkardinal after all, not God's Rottweiler. 

Mr. Shaw avers: In modern times, the stance has generally been confrontational and combative: error must be corrected, evil resisted, no matter the cost

Got a song for you, Mr. Shaw

JM said...

Relevant, if stinging. I wish I could take pleasure in a couple of its great lines...

Anonymous said...

In terms of the "hospital" metaphor attributed to Francis, it has been said before.

My personal experience with this is that the Catholic Church is mostly non existent for the healing of badly wounded marriages and is, in fact, the cause of many iatrogenic infections destructive to marriages.

Not just in my case but in many others I have heard of, priests, deacons and other Catholic operatives endlessly and openly supporting divorces (ask Bai Macfarlane, a staunch Catholic, about this) for those who, because somehow presciently they know, people "deserve" annulments. Everywhere I read and see of the ubiquitous availablity of annulments. But rarely do I see, except for an occasional reference to Retrouvaille, any programs for healing wounded marriages, except through private counselors. My experience there was that most of these are pro-nullity.

The situation in the United States has long been scandalous. Those of us who have complained about it for decades are marginalized as lunatics, as our spouses and their lovers are welcomed into this "hospital", their wounds dressed, they are healed and are encouraged in their adultery. They are never told to repent and undo their destruction. We are left to die. Our wounds are left to fester without succor.

I am suffering through a second, forced, go around through the nullity process, twenty two years after the onset of my wife's failed (after twelve years in Tribunals) initial attempt. Recently, the first instance court, in New York, found against nullity and I am awaiting, with no time frame given, the outcome of the second instance court, which must review the case and either ratify the existing decision or reopen the case and have its own hearing.

This is absolutely ridiculous and disgusting!

For most of the years in between, until I grew tired of being ignored or worse, I sought intercession on behalf of our valid marriage. What an open scandalous joke that is! No one would lift a finger to try to heal our badly wounded marriage.

This is how reality works in this, so-called "Catholic hospital".

I think Francis' papacy will wipe out the small recovery that has occurred in the wake of the disastrous hijacking of Vatican II.

I think the fate of the Episcopal/Anglican Church/Communion is the future of the Catholic Church.

I expect to "win" the annulment battle with my wife. But, nothing will be done to educate either her or her lover as to the wrongs they have done. Nothing. So, on it will go. This is unacceptable to me and should be unacceptable to any practicing Catholic. But, we have no say in the governance of the Church.

Recently, I have been having a crisis of faith due to things in the Church, things in America and things with this marriage, as, our oldest daughter, now married and a mother at 33, who suffered greatly under her mother's authority after I was discarded, eventually having a nervous breakdown at 17 over it, has had a blossoming of her Catholic faith. During her up and my down, she commented and explained to me that it was my physical presence in our children's lives and my public observation of the sanctity of our wedding vows, which our children have always seen starkly against their mother's open adultery, while claiming to be a practicing Catholic with the open support of the Catholic Church for her adultery, which was critical for her to regain her faith.

It brought me to tears.

The stakes are high for her. She lives in a Protestant household and is bombarded with anti-Catholicism, usually passively but persistently, everyday. So, this choice of her's is not for convenience sake but because she believes it, after seeing me suffering and trying to live it, now for more than two decades.

So, even though I think Francis' will do great harm to the Catholic Church, I will not give up even if he says that adultery is a sacrament!

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Anonymous. That is a profound post and my heart and prayers go out to you.

I think those who were born prior to the V2 revolution are very aware of similar disgusting and indefensible ror-adultery actions within the Church.

My daughter was in a Catechism Class during which her instructor told them (she was in the 6th grade) that she was going on a vacation to Hawaii with her "Honey" to celebrate her annulment; and then she told the kids what an annulment was.

That was the last time my children ever went to Catechism.

It is the time of the great apostasy.

Your reward for your fidelity is the restoration of your daughter's faith whereas the Bishops, who long ago surrendered to the psychiatric profession, have abandoned the Faith, and the Faithful, a long time ago and all of us are on our own.