I have been pondering the connection between 'trust' and 'faith'. Because Christ gave us a Church founded on the Apostles rather than a book in order for people to believe in Christ they must first of all trust the Apostles, the bishops are the successors of the Apostles. Perhaps the saddest development in the Church has been the break down in trust between the faithful and their bishops and maybe equally important the paralleled break down in the trust between the world and the Church, to the point, in the West at least, where the idea of the Church was on the verge of becoming toxic.
The child abuse crisis was certainly one important contributor contributor to this toxicity. It is interesting to compare the two ways in which Francis and Benedict dealt with it. Benedict, with a truly pastoral heart, dealt personally with cases brought to him. It was his Friday penance to weep over and deal with the dossiers, and every pastoral visit had with it a meeting with the abused and a public apology. Francis, a more political Pope, or perhaps just a more skilled administrator, has set up a commission to deal with the matter, has had a few meetings with abused but still feels able to console the US bishops on the suffering they endured over the issue and is confident enough to invite Cardinal Daneels, who has a well documented history of cover-up to the Synod, and the media seem quite disinterested.
One of things we might admire Francis for is taking the poison out of the relationship between the Church and the world. In many ways he is less revolutionary than his predecessor, he says and does the things the world expects the Pope to say and do. One of the problems is perhaps that he appeals more to those outside the Church than those inside it. Benedict carefully chose to conceal the Papacy under signs and symbols, Francis has got rid of most of those and placed his personality front and centre. The world seems more comfortable with that, it can deal with 'personalities' especially political ones. One of things that fascinates me is that, listening to the Pope, I never quite know what he is saying or I think he is saying one thing, only to have it readjusted a few days later, if it has caused a little storm in the media, by Fr Lombardi, who carefully explains what His Holiness had really meant.
The change in the relationship of the Church and the media is the most significant but within the Church Francis seems to be much more divisive figure. 'Cardinals are fighting like ferrets in a sack', as one commentator said recently. The bishops arriving at the Synod can easily be divided into 'innovators' and those who oppose them, even Cardinal Prefects speak openly of the possibility of schism. There is a sense of suspicion alive in the Church, an open mistrust of certain bishops and some even dare to suggest that the Pope himself is not to be trusted, though more loyal Catholics are likely to criticise the Pope's ministers rather than the Pope himself. There seems in some instances a visceral hatred of Francis on some internet sites.
Again, as one recent commentator said, 'No-one disputes Pope Francis can make a mess (lio), now he must bring order out of the mess'. Perhaps Cardinal Erdo's opening speech to the Synod yesterday was the beginnings of that. The Papacy as portrayed by both Vatican Councils is hardly the vision most Catholics have. Pastor Aeternus seems a closed book to many Catholics and certainly to the worldly media (Dr DeVille has a very good article on the limits of Papal authority). Jesus Christ, not the Pope, is after all the head of the Church, though many Catholics, even some bishops might go along with the rather iffy Mgr Pinto of the, Dean of the Rota saying, "The Jubilee Year of Mercy expects this sign of humble obedience (on the part of the Church's shepherds) to the Spirit who speaks to them through Francis". That is just Ultramontane heresy, with friends like that who needs enemies?
The centrality of Peter is essential to the Church, it is Dr DeVille points out at the service of 'unity'. After the lio Pope Francis has to re-establish trust not just in himself but in but in the bishops in the Church as he has done outside it in his Papacy, because trust is an essential to faith and mistrust of the Pope and Bishops is seriously damaging to the Church's integrity and ultimately to individuals' faith. Unitatis Redintegratio is clear that not only is disunity a scandal but it is also detrimental to faith. Speaking for myself the shifting sands of the build up to the Synod has hardly strengthened my faith.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
"After the 'lío'" Fr. Ray Blake's Blog, October 6, 2015):