Thursday, September 19, 2013

Unlikely house of reason and mercy

Pope Francis laments that the church "sometimes has locked itself up in small things." Rather, he says with unusual insight for the office, "the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all."

I can't wait for Myk's commentary.

Of course, Peter, the elder, would say, who cares what the Pope says? I would agree. For historical and social reasons, what the pope says matters. But for religious reasons, you listen to the pope at your peril. 


Big Myk said...

This sounds a little like the line from Carlo Maria Martini, former Cardinal of Milan, also a Jesuit, who sadly left us a year ago about this time: "God leads us outside, into the immensity. He teaches us to think in an open way."

I care what the pope says, mosty because others do. One hopes that this pope may introduce a little more mercy, compassion and understanding into this crazy world.

And, we should listen to the pope, as we should listen to others who have something to say worth listening to. It's all about thinking in an open way.

But -- and I think that this is Pete's point -- does the pope get the final word? Absolutely not, unless your are prepared to assert the Nuremberg defense the last day. Again, Cardinal Martini pretty much nails it: “The word of God is simple, and it seeks a heart that listens. Neither the clergy nor church law can replace man’s internal judgment." Mr. Catholic himself, Thomas Aquinas, said the same thing.

James R said...

More than the pope doesn't get the final word, I think Peter means (don't worry, Peter will never show up to say what he really means) the pope gets no more important word than your neighbor, Al Schwarz. Titles mean nothing except, as you say, if the one with the title has something worthwhile to say. This pope seems like he may be saying something worthwhile, but, as you also point out, you have the responsibility to judge yourself.

Big Myk said...

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of the Antonio Spadaro interview with Pope Francis. Jim's post doesn't really even scratch the surface of the riches there. If nothing else, I think it signals a huge change in the tone and hopefully policies coming from the Catholic clergy and hierarchy.

The interview took place over three meetings in August between the pope and Father Spadaro, who conducted the interview on behalf several Jesuit publications. The entire text is well-worth reading. See A Big Heart Open to God.

Among other things, the Pope reaffirmed his support of gays and lesbians: "In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."

He also said that the Church had to stop obsessing over the "sex" issues: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

To be continued in next comment (because I'm worried about running out of space).

Big Myk said...

But the most impressive part of the interview in my humble opinion were the pope's comments on uncertainty -- good advice for anyone, believer or non-believer. One finds himself asking, what does this have to say about infallibility?

" this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.

“The risk in seeking and finding God in all things, then, is the willingness to explain too much, to say with human certainty and arrogance: ‘God is here.’ We will find only a god that fits our measure. The correct attitude is that of St. Augustine: seek God to find him, and find God to keep searching for God forever.


“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life."

I don't really know Al Schwarz, and he may have something of great value to add, but this pope is worth listening to.

James R said...

This was the commentary I was looking for, and, by God, it was provided by Pope Francis himself. He seems to understand religion as least as well as Myk, which is a miracle.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the kinder/gentler republican party under G.W. Bush

James R said...

Hmm…that analogy doesn't work for me, other than the Republican Party probably did need to be kinder/gentler (re: mercy) under G. W. Bush, and both organizations, the Catholic Church and the Republican Party, were seemingly far afield from their stated missions.

I think reading the full interview would show this is not a meaningful analogy. Myk gives the link in his comment and here it is again. It is long. I still am working on it. But this is obviously an intelligent, well read (in both theology and philosophy), humble, practical man, who may actually be able to translate complex, contradictory conditions of life into practices we may be able to understand.

James R said...

At second thought, I may have missed the humor in anonymous' comment. If so, I'll get my coat.

Big Myk said...

Commentary is all over the board as to what sort of pontiff we should expect from Francis based on this interview. The views range from, "he's really a conservative Catholic, just you wait and see" to Slate Magazine's Pope Francis Is a Flaming Liberal. The best commentaries I've read, however, say that he is that he is neither liberal nor conservative mostly because those categories don't really fit here.

I liked what Philadelphia Magazine said:

Pope Francis isn’t turning the Catholic Church into an institution of “Abortions for all! Tiny American flags for others!” He’s not changing church doctrine. He’s just saying that the church is more than the sum of a few of its doctrines, and that it risks needlessly shutting off people from the gospel if it continues it’s obsessive focus on a few rules instead of the broader message and ministry of Jesus. That’s a message that won’t completely satisfy secular liberals, but it’s probably not going to make the more-Catholic-than-the-pope folks like William Donohue and the folks at National Review very happy either.

Which is a too narrow, left-right, typically American way of looking at it. All we know is, this papacy is really, really interesting.

Big Myk said...

Two more observations on this. One from Andrew Sullivan -- openly gay, steadfastly Catholic, and aspirationally conservative -- who probably has as much at stake here as anyone. See The Rebirth Of Catholicism. On the lighter side is Andy Borowitz: Scalia Forms Search Committee for New Pope.