Get with the program, loosey-goosey…

 “2 Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.  3 For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: 4 And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.”

II Timothy 4

“The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, … the parish [must prove] capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity…. The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open…. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. … The Eucharist … is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse [NB: this is an Eastern Orthodox term, of which more shortly]; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”

Evangelii Gaudium §§ 28, 47

“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. God manifests himself in time and is present in the processes of history. This gives priority to actions that give birth to new historical dynamics. And it requires patience, waiting.

Pope Francis to Fr. Spadaro

On December 5, Abp. Georg Gänswein, secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, was reported as saying the following in a piece:

Curial archbishop Georg Gänswein, personal secretary of Pope Benedict XVI, considers the resignation of the German pope an “ache”. He said this in an interview that appeared Thursday in the Hamburger weekly, Die Zeit. He experienced the resignation as an “amputation”. … Gänswein still speaks of Benedict XVI as “Holy Father”, which does nothing to change a basic fact: “There is only one pope.” 

He feels torn hither and thither between two worlds on account of his two tasks. For a year he’s been the Prefect of the Papal House in the service of the new pope. At the same time, though, he carries on as the secretary to Benedict XVI, who lives in solitude in the Mater Ecclesiae cloister. … Vis-à-vis the reforms of Pope Francis, Gänswein says: “I begin each day wondering anew what will be different today.”

Pope Francis’s decision not to reside in the papal quarters in the Apostolic Palace, but rather in the guesthouse of Santa Marta in the Vatican, struck Gänswein as an “affront” to Benedict XVI. This is especially so since the pope from Argentina said that the residence which prior popes had occupied made him feel “gloomy” and above all he wanted to live “among people”. At the same time, though, the new pope and the Prefect of the Papal House could tease each other about this, Gänswein confided to Die Zeit.

Then on December 8 reported the following about Gänswein: 

“It’s nonsense that I’d be against the pope, otherwise he wouldn’t have confirmed me [in my position].” Thus did [Gänswein] judge a report in Die Zeit about his supposed difficulties with Pope Francis. “I did not read the article. This morning I received a few emails that criticized me. I don’t know (anymore) what I said. I spoke to a journalist a few months ago, but it was no interview.”

Did somebody say, “This isn’t Denzinger”? Just more of the same from the Barrel Roll Boys. He may miss Benedict XVI, but clearly Gänswein is getting the hang of things. Indeed, on December 18, reported the following concerning Abp. “Goosewine”, indicating once more how quick a learner he is:

[He] sharply criticized “certain powers” which want to claim Pope Francis for their own interests. “I scarcely believe that the pope is going to let himself be pressured in his pontificate by known German initiatives,” clarified [Gänswein] in the magazine Cicero (January edition). The joy of some now enthusiastic about Francis will remain stuck in their throats, prophesied Gänswein.

Undoubtedly Gänswein had in mind the rising unrest in Germany these days, personified most vividly in Cdl. Walter Kasper. Hilary White at Life Site News reports:

A prominent curial cardinal, and favourite of Pope Francis, has defied the Vatican’s doctrinal office, saying that he expects a change. …

In an interview with the German language paper Die Zeit, which was later picked up by Vatican Radio, Cardinal Kasper (who is himself a member of the CDF) said, “Christians who want to live by faith [alone?] with the Church [as an equal, as opposed to under or through Her qua Mater et Magistra], who acknowledge that mistakes were made they have made ​​mistakes by the breaking of the first [Ahem.] marriage, which they also regret – for them it should be a way back fully to participate in Christian and ecclesial life.”

“What is possible with God, namely, forgiveness, should help to achieve this even in the Church,” he said. [The implication, of course, is that the Church needs to catch up with God’s deeper and more progressive mercy, or, to paraphrase a leading figure in Francis’s papacy, that the Body of Christ must catch up with its Head.]

In November, during a talk at the University of Munster, Kasper followed up on the theme, saying, “Turning someone away from the communion rail – one doesn’t do that.”

The controversy was rekindled in October this year when the Archdiocese of Freiburg released a document laying out plans to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion if they promised to enter “a new moral responsibility” with their new spouse.

In response, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the CDF, published an article in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano saying that the practice of withholding Communion from those in a state of mortal sin would remain in place. This was followed by a letter to the German bishops ordering them to revisit their draft document.

The German bishops responded to this with more defiance, with Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Stuttgart saying in November they had voted to adopt the guidelines and expected them to be approved at their next plenary meeting in March 2014.

While Müller’s article, and a strongly worded letter to the German bishops, made it clear that such persons were objectively in a state of mortal sin that precludes them from receiving Communion, Kasper said the change in practice is imminent.

What does Kasper know that we don’t? Whence his confidence? We may have to wait until next year’s Synod on the Family to see if Kasper’s Teutonic confidence will be borne out. For now, two other data are worth keeping in mind as the crisis in Germany comes to a head. First, Pope Francis himself, along with clerics very close to him (viz. Baldisseri), has already expressed a distinct sympathy for the Eastern “oikonomia” approach to remarriage.

Second, the recent shake-up of the Congregation of Bishops is suggestive of the same trend, and certainly does nothing to undermine Kasper’s optimism. Cdl. Donald Wuerl is notorious for being almost willfully lax about restrictions to Eucharistic communion (in one case going so far as to reprimand a priest for denying the Host to a woman openly defiant of Church teaching), yet he was recently elevated to the Congregation, while his apparent nemesis on the matter of canons 915-916, Cdl. Raymond Burke, was removed from the Congregation. Likewise, the same Baldisseri who seems so willing to “discuss” the “options” for the remarried “without taboo” was elevated to the Congregation (along with, note well, yet another decidedly squishy prelate, Abp. Nichols of Westminster). In a similar vein, according to the L.A. Times, Abp. Chaput’s predecessor, Cdl. Rigali, was removed from the Congregation, which sends a sort of proxy message that Chaput’s starchy conservatism is not so welcome under this open-collar papacy. Moreover, and not insignificantly, for the first time in a century, the Prefect of the CDF will not be on the Congregation for Bishops, and apparently the only member of the CDF will be none other than–wait for it–Cdl. Wuerl.

These adjustments are all of a piece with the clearly centrist-to-lefist realignment which Pope Francis recently effected in the Congregation. Despite their differing ideological dispositions, both John Allen, Jr. and Matteo Matzuzzi agree: heads are rolling in one direction while being elevated in the other.

By the way, to make a small detour, I have seen the objection more than once that Wuerl can’t be so bad, since, after all, Pope Benedict XVI made him an archbishop and a member of the CDF, and elevated him to the cardinalate. Unfortunately, though, the cardinalate is the most overtly political dimension of the Church, so in response to the claim that a man’s orthopraxis is directly proportional to his rank on the totem pole, I’ve got six words: Cardinal MahonyCardinal Martini, Cardinal Kasper.

Likewise, I’ve heard the defense that, hey, Cdl. Burke is still a busy man, and, most important, he’s still the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Howeber, something–or perhaps someone–tells me that Burke’s adjustments are not over yet. As for his clout in matters canonical, Pope Francis showed us from the very start that he gives a flip about canonical order, so, it’s very likely that Burke’s forte (canon law) is an impediment to the constant adaptivity of evangelism in the pope’s eyes. Time will tell where Burke ends up.

Let me close with one of Michael Voris’s most recent videos, in which he analyzes the grim implications of the new geometry of the Congregation for Bishops. As we’ve seen before, Voris, for reasons known only to himself, seems constitutionally unwilling, or perhaps even cognitively unable, to admit any culpability for or likeness to the Church of Nice on the part of Pope Francis. This latest video has got to be the most painful display of his struggle not to admit the obvious: Pope Francis is galvanizing all the wrong people (including Masons?!) by using all the typical buzzwords and policy shifts. This “seismic shift in Rome”, as Voris calls it, much like the ongoing, draconian suppression of the FFI, comes from Pope Francis himself.

“To pass this off as, well, ‘no big deal’ demonstrates either a head-in-the-sand reaction, or a massive immaturity when it comes to matters ecclesiastical. … That self-described ‘conservative’ Catholics would jam their heads in the sand, and pretend this [is] nothing–that’s pitiful!–and yet another demonstration of their inability to clearly see where things are headed. … The point isn’t whether Pope Francis agrees with [the progressives]; the point is that they think he agrees with them.”

Now, where on earth would they get that impression?


About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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19 Responses to Get with the program, loosey-goosey…

  1. ErnstThalmann says:

    It pains me to learn that Cardinal Kasper is the party leading the charge toward communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. His writings on the history of the dogmas of the Holy Trinity (The God of Jesus Christ) and the hypostatic union (Jesus the Christ) have strongly influenced my understanding of them and he is clearly a first rate theologian. It would be my guess that the logic undergirding Kasper’s support of this change stems from his ecclesiology which places a greater stress on the local Church than can be found, for example, in the ecclesiology of Joseph Ratzinger. A contestation of importance on this question took place between these two men in the early years of the last decade:

    Should my appraisal of the basis of Kasper’s thinking be accurate and his general appeal as a theologian to Pope Francis also be true as reported here, one can expect any changes in Church practice either in this or in other respects to be rationalized in terms of Kasper’s ecclesiology. If so, all manner of mayhem may be in the cards.

  2. Proph says:

    Cdl. Burke is out at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, as well. And one cannot help but note that Piacenza and Bagnasco, both conservatives and allies of B16, were ousted from Bishops as well. Piacenza was also recently ousted from Clerics and exiled to the Apostolic Penitentiary, nearly unheard of; headship of the AP is normally reserved to very aged Cardinals on their way out the Curial door.

    What do you conclude if it looks like a purge of Curial conservatives, is understood by everyone as a purge of Curial conservatives, only makes sense if it’s a purge of Curial conservatives, etc.?

  3. Proph says:

    If this is correct than we might reasonably expect any change to canon 915 not to be implemented universally, but for permission to be given to local ordinaries to waive it in order to admit manifest adulterers to communion. Then we might at least get a sense of which bishops are worth a damn, and the age of the gray-faced episcopal organization man might come to an end.

  4. Well, so much for the vaunted humility and charity of the Pope for is he does allow serious public sinners – the divorced and remarried under discussion – access to Communion then he will be materially cooperating with their drinking judgment and eternal death unto their own selves by their unworthy reception of the Holy Eucharist; that is, if they die unrepentant these unworthy communions will increase the intensity of their eternal punishment.

    I spose one could think of a more hateful act, but I won’t try right now.

  5. Enough griping, you neopelagian restorationist, can’t you feel the JOOOYYYYYYY?

  6. Proph says:

    There’s a weird dynamic at work in the “we must be realistic” pastoral approach to Nancy Pelosi et al. types. We are told that we must be realistic and acknowledge that denying communion to Nancy Pelosi will not conduce to the salvation of our soul, but somehow this test is never applied in reverse — how will continually admitting her to communion conduce to that salvation? It is fruitless to the unrepentant, is it not? And I suspect “we must be realistic” will become the crutch used to justify never doing anything to actually induce her to repentance.

  7. Remember: anything for The Cause, comrade! It almost sounds like you’re in need of reeducation… again… But hopefully it will stick this time.

  8. Tony Jokin says:

    Hmm, but Pope Francis has kept some of the old hands like Cardinal Ouellet and Cardinal Mueller, no?

    In all honesty though, this fluffy pastoral approach was in the making for a long time now. It seemed like it hit a wall with PBXVI to some extent but it seems to be back again with a vengeance. Apparently for almost 2000 years (I guess even St. Paul considering his words on the sinner in Corinth) had never understood who Christ really was. Ironically, if that were true, it seems like a big joke to be told to accept that “NOW we know!!”. Most likely one would have to conclude that “Now you think you know but you are probably as wrong as those who came before you”.

    All of this would be quiet funny if I had been a non-Catholic but now its just sad to see what is happening.

  9. ErnstThalmann says:

    The whole thrust of this advocacy is simply to make the secular culture more comfortable with the Church. It is as though Kasper and others feel that the Church’s survival depends upon pandering to Nancy Pelosi. What is at stake, clearly, is the substitution of an absolutized, Enlightenment notion of tolerance for the presence of God in the marital state, a change that will have the effect of destroying marriage both inside and outside of the Church. Years ago, strangely, Kasper spoke of an exception based upon a divorced and remarried Catholic’s subjective sense of whether or not their first marriage was valid in light of Church law! Are we to throw out diocesan annulment tribunals, notoriously lax in their standards in any case? I write as a divorced Catholic who has not remarried. I find the pressure for this change dangerous and the changes in prospect mpossible to accept.

  10. tamsin says:

    I like your thought experiment: We are told that we must be realistic and acknowledge that denying communion to Nancy Pelosi will not conduce to the salvation of our soul, but somehow this test is never applied in reverse — how will continually admitting her to communion conduce to that salvation?
    I notice you refer to “our” soul rather than “her” soul? On purpose? To complete the transformation, then: We must be realistic and acknowledge that denying communion to Nancy Pelosi will not conduce to the salvation of our Church as a force for good in this world; if we cut her off, we kill ourselves, therefore continually admitting her to communion conduces to our salvation. In other words, either all are saved or none are saved.

  11. Bemused says:

    Just wondering, I saw that the Vatican was hiring McKinsey consulting group to assess their communications structure. Then saw this from June 2013, anyone heard of this book mentioned below?
    Pope Francis has asked a German management consultant to suggest administrative changes at the Vatican.
    Thomas von Mitschke-Collande, a manager of the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company, was recommended to the Pontiff after he furnished advice that helped to streamline the financial affairs of the Berlin archdiocese and the German bishops’ conference.
    Mitschke-Collande is the author of a book entitled Schafft sich die katholische Kirche ab? (“Is the Catholic Church Self-Destructing?”). He has argued that the Church faith should be spreading rapidly, in light of the popular demand for a sense of spiritual direction, but Church leaders have failed to respond to that demand.

  12. ErnstThalmann says:

    It certainly is true enough that Church leaders have failed to respond to a perceived need for spiritual direction. Probably a quarter of Frank the Hippie Pope’s flock defected to Evangelical Churches while he was in Argentina. Why, because the Church is hollow and it’s no less so now with Frank’s grandstanding and his theology of “encounter”. The more Frank abstains from the judgement of active homosexuality, laments the “obsessive” in pro-life activism and can’t find his voice when questioned about Church plans concerning communion for divorced and re-married Catholics, the more you can expect seekers to find elsewhere. This isn’t the marketing department, its the Christian religion and spiritually needy people won’t buy shoddy merchandise. Instead of hiring a consulting firm maybe someone ought to send Frank off to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. He’d learn something about how to build Christian fellowship there.

  13. Proph says:

    Yep, that was a typo on my part. Should say “her.”

  14. E.M. Howard says:

    I’m getting more and more frightened by the day. I converted to the Catholic Church 9 years ago and I staked everything on the teachings and traditions of the church being the Truth. I don’t recognize that Truth in Pope Francis’ spiels. In fact he often seems to contradict the doctrines I have come to believe and love. What if he is right and the Holy Spirit is ‘doing a new thing’.? By the way, that’s the same argument my erstwhile protestant church used to bless pseudo same-sex marriage. Please dear Lord intervene in some way to stop this. The purging of the faithful bishops is really scary.

  15. Pingback: Day 7 of the Christmas Novena… | FideCogitActio : "Omnis per gratiam"

  16. Dear BC. I like Mr. Voris a lot and I’d be surprised if his thinking was not much closer to ours than he can admit if he hopes to keep his audience. He’s a smart man and I think you will see him, over time, incrementally moving closer to the traditionalist position but publicly criticising a Pope may be a bridge too far (Pontiff Pun); that is, too much for him to overcome.

    Hell, man, I am often depressed that I overcame my natural inclination to do so; it isn’t in my Irish-Injun Heritage to do what I have done. I was Born and Bred a Knee Jerk Papal Loyalist and while I may no longer be one of those, I may well ease all criticism of Pope Francis for reasons I don’t yet feel like publicly writing about.

  17. Steve Fowler says:

    Getting deeper into tradition gives one a greater sense of perspective I think. There have been lots of bad Popes. There have been lots of time where there was valid reason to believe that the Pope might teach error. And on rare occasion they did, but the never bound the faithful to it: they never defined error.

  18. Pingback: Birds of a feather… | FideCogitActio : "Omnis per gratiam" fidescogitactio @ gmail . com

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