Or, How I Learned to Stop Caring and Play the O! Brother Francis Drinking GameTM (or, O! BFD G).
[I have amended this post, as indicated by the text in red.]
Pardon me as I once again post some excerpts from the Pope’s tumultuous “encounters” so far. They take on new meaning and implications with each passing day, and thus make for a daily spiritual ice-bath. The key in this post is to note the resonance, not only between the passages from two authors whom I cite after citing the Pope, but also between his cited words and those of the speech I cite at the end of this post.
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From the Pope’s 4 September 2013 letter to Eugenio Scalfari:
“I would not speak about ‘absolute truths, even for believers, in the sense that absolute is that which is disconnected and bereft of all relationship. Truth, according to the Christian faith, is the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. Therefore, truth is a relationship. As such each one of us receives the truth and expresses it from within, that is to say, according to one’s own circumstances, culture and situation in life [or, Sitz im Leben!], etc. This does not mean that truth is variable and subjective, quite the contrary. But it does signify that it comes to us always and only as a way and a life. Did not Jesus himself say: “I am the way, the truth, and the life?”
It is a subtle point, but worth noting. While truth, according to Pope Francis is not s”variable and subjective,” its expression/conception always is, and therefore its expression/conception is always susceptible to historical change.
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From the Pope’s 19 August 2013 interview (released 21 September) with Fr. Spadaro (not all of them in proper sequential order, sorry):
“Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor. My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. …
“Only in narrative form do you discern, not in a philosophical or theological explanation, which allows you rather to discuss. The [Jesuit] style … is … shaped by … discernment, which of course presupposes discussion as part of the process. The mystical dimension of discernment never defines its edges and does not complete the thought. The Jesuit [Pope] must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking. …
“I do not want token consultations, but real consultations. The consultation group of eight cardinals, this ‘outsider’ advisory group, is not only my decision, but it is the result of the will of the cardinals, as it was expressed in the general congregations before the conclave. And I want to see that this is a real, not ceremonial consultation. …
“The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church. … Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture…. Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. Its fruits are … as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation. Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualising its message for today … is absolutely irreversible. … When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human…. The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching. …
“[T]he thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. 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 sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. … The structural and organisational [R]eform[ation]s are secondary — that is, they come afterward. The first [R]eform[ation] must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, … who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany [accommodate?] the flock that has a flair for finding new paths. Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself….
“Finding God in all things is not an ‘empirical eureka.’ When we desire to encounter God, we would like to verify him immediately by an empirical method. But you cannot meet God this way. God is found in the gentle breeze perceived by Elijah. The senses that find God are the ones St Ignatius called spiritual senses. Ignatius asks us to open our spiritual sensitivity to encounter God beyond a purely empirical approach. A contemplative attitude is necessary: it is the feeling that you are moving along the good path of understanding and affection toward things and situations. Profound peace, spiritual consolation, love of God and love of all things in God – this is the sign that you are on this right path. …
“God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space crystallises them. God is in history, in the processes. We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes. We must initiate processes rather than occupy spaces. … This gives priority to actions that give birth to new historical dynamics. And it requires patience, waiting. …
“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 [dogmatic?] 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. …
As the Hallmark card says, the journey is the destination.
“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus.
“The young Catholic churches, as they grow, develop a synthesis of faith, culture and life, and so it is a synthesis different from the one developed by the ancient churches. …
“St Vincent of Lerins makes a comparison between the biological development of man and the transmission from one era to another of the deposit of faith, which grows and is strengthened with time. Here, human self-understanding changes with time and so also human consciousness deepens. … [T]he other sciences and their development help the church in its growth in understanding. There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings [over time?] is wrong. … There is always the lurking danger of living in a laboratory. Ours is not a ‘lab faith,’ but a ‘journey faith,’ a historical faith. God has revealed himself as history, not as a compendium of abstract truths.“
And lastly I provide a couple of excerpts from the Pope’s 9 October 2013 interview with Scalfari:
“We need to learn to understand each other, listen to one another, and increase our knowledge about the world around us. It often happens that after one meeting I want to have another one because new ideas emerge and new needs are discovered. This is what is important: to know one another, to listen to one another, broaden the range of thought. … [O]ur objective is … to listen to needs, aspirations, disappointments, desperation and hopes. We must restore hope to the young, help the elderly, open up to the future and spread love. To be poor among the poor. We must include the excluded and preach peace. Vatican II, inspired by John XXIII and Paul VI, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to open up to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that opening up to modern culture would mean religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. Subsequently, however, little was done in that regard. I have the humility and ambition to want to do it. …
“I decided that the first thing to do was to appoint a group of eight cardinals to be my advisors. They are not courtiers but rather wise men who share my intentions. This is the beginning of a Church whose organization is not only vertical but also horizontal. When Cardinal Martini spoke about this and emphasized the role of the Councils and Synods, he knew only too well how long and difficult the road ahead in that direction would be. It must be taken with prudence, but also firmness and tenacity.”
As you’ll see, you’re lucky we haven’t started playing the O! BFD G yet!
Now let me quote from an unclean source: a rigorously Thomistic tome written before Vatican II. It is titled Nature, Knowledge and God, and was written by Brother Benignus in 1947. I shall cite pages 439 and 440:
“Modernism gets its name from the fact that it is an effort to modernize religion, that is, to bring dogmas and ecclesiastical institutions into harmony with modern scientific knowledge and with modern social needs. Its aim is, in the words of one of the Catholic modernists, Abbé Loisy, ‘To adapt Catholicism to the intellectual, moral, and social needs of the day.’ … [M]odernists … clung to the old faith, but ‘reinterpreted’ it to bring it into harmony with the ‘new knowledge.’ The traditional conceptions of revelation and dogma had to be radically changed so that they would … be able to remain valid in a world of changing needs … under the universal law of evolution. …
“[According to Modernism, faith] in the supernatural must find some other foundation than intellect, for intellect is only in the realm of the material and sensible [i.e. the empirical, the ‘lab faith’]. This new foundation is feeling–man’s feeling for God, his inner aspiration for perfection. There is no such thing as Revelation in the sense of a direct communication of supernatural [or abstract] truths from God to man. Rather, it is man’s feeling for God that is the source of revelation. The human soul, reaching upward toward the unknowable God, endeavors to interpret its spiritual experiences and sentiments in intellectual [or, ideological?] formulas. … [The value of the Church’s dogmas] lies in their usefulness in preserving faith, and they preserve it as long as they are relevant to man’s needs. When they have outlived their usefulness they ought to be abandoned. Hence the truly religious soul will strive constantly to bring the Church to modernize its teachings. … The only source of dogma, according to modernists, is private consciousness; dogmas come into being with the rise of new needs and pass away with the passing of these needs. The truth of dogma is not its conformity to a real fact or object, but its capacity to satisfy a momentary need of the religious sentiment.”
Now let me cite from a much less prurient source, namely, one that was published in the heyday of Vatican II. I shall cite pages 35 of The Catholic Catechism (1975) by Fr. John Hardon, SJ:
“How does a Christian, in Modernist language, pass from agnosticism in the secular order of faith to faith in the order of religion? He does not. Nothing from outside of man explains faith. It is uniquely from within. In fact, it is part of our nature, ‘a kind of motion of the heart,’ hidden and unconscious [like leaven]. It is a natural instinct belonging to the emotions; ‘a feeling for the divine’ that cannot be expressed in words or doctrinal propositions [or a compendium of abstract truths? or a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently?] because it has no intellectual content to express.”
Indulge me to cite one more time one of my all-time favorite Francisian nuggets:
Only in narrative form do you discern, not in a philosophical or theological explanation…. The mystical dimension of discernment never defines its edges and does not complete the thought. The Jesuit [Pope] must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking.
By now you might want to know how to play the O! BFD G.
The following rules may be retroactively applied to the quotations above, and/or limited to the speech cited below, but the optimal method is to play as often as possible as this papacy continues to unfurl its murky chrysalis.
Rule 1. If you hear the word “modern” or “future”–drink!
Rule 2. If you hear the word “open” or “bridge”–drink!
Rule 3. If you hear the word “dialogue” or “the people”–drink!
Rule 4. If you hear the word “reform”–capitalize and reify it (The Reform…), steady your hand, and then drink.
Rule 5. If you get called a hater, a Pharisee, a RadTrad, or functionally illiterate–oops, time to stock up again.
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Jitters all gone now? If so, let’s wrap things up by listening to the other side of the echo effect in this post.
Whispers in the Loggia (Rocco Palmo) provides the full text and audio of some talks that Pope Francis’s personally appointed coordinator of the Francis-selected Gang of Eight, the Honduran Cardinal Maradiaga, gave recently in Dallas. Palmo calls it “the vision of this pontificate through the eyes of the closest thing Francis has to a ‘Vice-Pope.'” It’s 5,500 words. I will not be fisking the speech, but I will leave you with some of my favorite knee-slappers so far.
But first, a modest conceptual framework.
The new head of the CDF, Cardinal Müller, recently issued a lengthy defense of the Church’s teaching on divorce, remarriage, and communion. It was taken with great relief (albeit in stride) by Pope Francis’s defenders, since surely a prelate as high up as Müller, addressing a major topic about which the Pope, to much media fanfare, has spoken in the past few months, is speaking in loco Papae. This feat of magisterial ventriloquism was taken as another handy vindication that Pope Francis is, in fact, not out to deform the Church’s tradition, after all. But what’s sauce for the Müller is sauce for the Maradiaga. If Müller is supposedly a hand-puppet for the Pope on divorce, then might not Maradiaga be a pilot test for the newest face of Catholicism? If Müller was speaking in the very voice of Pope Francis, then we have every right to assume that Maradiaga is doing the same.
Even so, I grant that no one, not even the Pope, can ensure that his selected aides always and totally express his own ideas. I am willing to grant that there is a gulf between Maradiaga’s Spiritism-of-Vatican II pontifications and the Pope’s own views of the matter. Indeed, given the Pope’s famously warm rapport with Jews, if this news is reliable (“Is Pope Frontrunner From Honduras Anti-Semitic? Cardinal Rodriguez [Maradiaga] Blamed Priest Abuse Scandal on Jews” – 17 February 2013), it seems that Maradiaga may have very different feelings about the Jews.
Which is an interesting dialectical twist in its own right: for if we grant a wide divergence of thought between the Pope and Maradiaga, we are logically compelled to grant a similar cleft may exist between Müller and the Pope. Interesting times.
Keeping in mind, then, the Neo-Theodrome of quotations that began this post, take a whiff of the groovy space brownies baking in the Gang of Eight Bakery. [DRINK-SPIT-LAUGH WARNING!]
The Second Vatican Council was the main event in the Church in the 20th Century. In principle, it meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and modernism, which was condemned in the First Vatican Council. On the contrary: neither the world is the realm of evil and sin –these are conclusions clearly achieved in Vatican II—nor is the Church the sole refuge of good and virtue. Modernism was, most of the time, a reaction against injustices and abuses that disparaged the dignity and the rights of the person.
Wait a minute. If Vatican I was a dogmatic and infallible council, while Vatican II, by its own charter, was merely a pastoral council (with admitted ambiguities built into it), and if Vatican I condemned the essence and implications of Modernism, then how could the pastoral Vatican II rescind any dogmas of Vatican I?
Incidentally, reading this comment finally swayed me to add this caveat, which I had intuited when I was writing this post, but was not confident enough about to bother including: Technically, I think Cdl. Maradiaga is incorrect when he says that Vatican I condemned Modernism, but–I take his point to be that, insofar as the post-Vatican I Church was vigorously anti-Modernist, Vatican I was the magisterial fuel for condemning said anti-Modernism. Thus, insofar as the goal of Vatican II was to redress the “fortress” ecclesiology of Trent and Vatican I, it entailed rejecting the post-Vatican I Church’s anti-Modernism, and thus entailed marginalizing the anti-Modernism latent in Vatican I. Even with that caveat, though, I think Maradiaga’s point is as clear as it is damning: Vatican II intentionally embraced Modernism.
Further, and I mean this genuinely, how can a pastoral council be infallible? I understand that the reception of Vatican II is an infallible expression of the ordinary Magisterium, but if each particular doctrinal component of Vatican II is merely pastoral, how can any one component (unless it plainly just reiterates prior infallible canons) be considered infallible? I accept the claim that it is an infallible teaching of the Church that the texts of the Second Vatican Council must be obeyed insofar as they conform to the Tradition, but that is logically distinct from the claim that the texts themselves are infallible. Pondering…..
In any event. Back to Maradiaga:
“Within the people [of God], there is not a dual classification of Christians –laity and clergy, essentially different.”
I think the shamans of the Spirit of Vatican II need to dust off their copy of the actual texts of Vatican II, because according to Lumen Gentium, #10, 2:
Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist.
Sorry! Back to not fisking.
“Even Christ himself did not proclaim or preach Himself, but the Kingdom. The Church, as His disciple and His servant, ought to do the same. … She must do this service living in the world, herself a part of the world [!] and in solidarity with it, because ‘the world is the only subject that interests God.’“
Back to macro-fisking!
John 17: 14 I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world; as I also am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil. 16 They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world.
Romans 12: 2 And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.
James 4: 4 Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the scripture saith in vain: To envy doth the spirit covet which dwelleth in you? … 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners: and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into sorrow.
I John 2: 15 Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever. 18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that Antichrist cometh, even now there are become many Antichrists: whereby we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have remained with us; but that they may be manifest, that they are not all of us. … 24 … [L]et that which you have heard from the beginning, abide in you. If that abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning, you also shall abide in the Son, and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise which he hath promised us, life everlasting. 26 These things have I written to you, concerning them that seduce you.
And now back to Cardinal Wackytobbacky:
“[W]ith the dawning of the Age of Vatican II, the] Church did not have a monopoly on truth [?] anymore, nor [!] could she pontificate on a thousand human matters, or hold stances denoting arrogance or superiority. Instead, she should go out into the common arena, plainly and humbly, and share in the common search for truth.“
As if the Church had ever claimed to have a monopoly on all truth. On the truth of salvation, yes; on everything else, much less “a thousand human matters”? Child, please.
If you go on to read the whole of Maradiaga’s speech, be sure to bring a designated driver. Happy drinking!