[I provide further commentary on some excerpts from Razing the Bastions in this post.]
I have been meaning to post the following pages since Christmas. My original plan was to post quotations from Francis, under each photo, that echo the young Balthasar’s brazen-razin’ theology (or as I call it, “A Razin’ in the Son”). Since I am, however, trying to ne slightly less obsessive about this papacy, I think any reader of FCA who has held on this long is conversant enough in the Bishop of Rome’s “style” to be able to provide related quotations/anecdotes of their own. Please do so in the comments section!
For now, though…
Evangelii Gaudium is Pope Francis’s version of Razing the Bastions. It is his programmatic not-so-little book. As I’ve noted before, Francis’s penchant for erratic and obscure paradox– which is unlike Chesterton’s famous penchant for consistent and illuminating paradox– is very likely due to his indebtedness to de Lubac’s devil-take-care, fugue-like theologizing.
At this time of crisis we cannot be concerned solely with ourselves, withdrawing into loneliness, discouragement and a sense of powerlessness in the face of problems. Please do not withdraw into yourselves! This is a danger: we shut ourselves up in the parish, with our friends, within the movement, with the like-minded… but do you know what happens? When the Church becomes closed, she becomes an ailing Church, she falls ill! That is a danger. . . .A Church closed in on herself is the same, a sick Church. (18 May 13)
In the past, the enclosure of the Church within Christ, and the analogical enclosure of the believer within the wings of the Church, was an image of the chaste–or, holy, or set-apart–Bride of Christ. But none of that for this gregarious Girondist.
It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply “connected”; connections need to grow into true encounters. We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. We need to love and to be loved. We need tenderness. (23 Jan 2014)
“In fact, there is a temptation to seek God in the past or in a possible future. God is certainly in the past because we can see the footprints. And God is also in the future as a promise. But the ‘concrete’ God, so to speak, is today. For this reason, complaining never helps us find God. The complaints of today about how ‘barbaric’ the world is—these complaints sometimes end up giving birth within the church to desires to establish order in the sense of pure conservation, as a defense. No: God is to be encountered in the world of today.
“God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space crystallizes 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. (30 Sep 2013)
“Let me tell you what I hope will be the outcome of World Youth Day: I hope there will be noise. Here there will be noise, I’m quite sure. Here in Rio there will be plenty of noise, no doubt about that. But I want you to make yourselves heard in your dioceses, I want the noise to go out, I want the Church to go out onto the streets, I want us to resist everything worldly, [which is to say,] everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves. The parishes, the schools, the institutions are made for going out … if they don’t, they become an NGO, and the Church cannot be an NGO. May the bishops and priests forgive me if some of you create a bit of confusion afterwards. That’s my advice. Thanks for whatever you can do.” (25 July 2013)
“The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God in the Church. He keeps the Church going, keeps the Church moving forward. More and more, beyond the limits, onwards. The Holy Spirit with His gifts guides the Church. You cannot understand the Church of Jesus without this Paraclete, whom the Lord sends us for this very reason. And He makes unthinkable choices, but unimaginable!” (12 May 2014)
“This discernment takes time. For example, many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time. I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment. Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought you would do later. And that is what has happened to me in recent months. 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. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing. …
“But I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time. [If only he were so circumspect with his homilies!] The wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life….
“When you express too much, you run the risk of being misunderstood. [Oh, the irony!] The Society of Jesus can be described only in narrative form. Only in narrative form do you discern, not in a philosophical or theological explanation, which allows you rather to discuss. The style of the Society is not shaped by discussion, but 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 must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking. There have been periods in the Society in which Jesuits have lived in an environment of closed and rigid thought, more instructive-ascetic than mystical…. (30 September 2013)
Pope Francis is seeking to build a “new way of being church” for Roman Catholics in a similar way to how St. Francis of Assisi reported being told by God to repair the church [Oh, the irony! “Repair”, like “renew” and “reform”, is being used as a leftist fudge word for “reconstruct”. We trads are targeted as the “unreconstructed bourgeoisie”.] during the 13th century, a cardinal who is one of the pontiff’s closest advisers said.
“There is a new concept of church here” in how the pope is governing the Vatican, said Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, speaking April 8 in St. Petersburg, Fla. “There is a new way of thinking, including the way of governing in the church, here.”
However, Rodríguez said, while Francis is popular among people around the world, he is facing opposition in the Roman Curia.
“We have to be prepared, since this beautiful but strange popularity is beginning to strengthen adherences, but equally to awaken deaf opposition not only in the old Curia, but in some who are sorry to lose privileges in treatment and in comforts,” Rodríguez said.
“Expressions like ‘What can it be that this little Argentine pretends?’, or the expression of a well-known cardinal who let slip the phrase, ‘We made a mistake,’ can be heard,” Rodríguez said, making an apparent reference to a cardinal who regrets the selection of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as pope. …
Saying the pope is creating “a new way of being church,” Rodríguez said Francis “feels called to construct” a church that is, among other things:
- “At the service of this world by being faithful to Christ and his Gospel”;
- “Free from all mundane [i.e. pietistic or traditional] spirituality“;
- “Free from the risk of being concerned about itself, of becoming middle-class, of closing in on self, of being a clerical church”; [Always with the irony, these guys!]
- Able to “offer itself as an open space in which all of us can meet and recognize each other because there is space for dialogue, diversity and welcome in it”;
- A church that pays “just attention and gives importance to women in both society and its own institutions.”
Rodríguez ended his talk by directly relating God’s reported message to St. Francis to Pope Francis.
“Today, as in the past, the Lord has again called Francis and has asked of him the very same thing he asked of him of Assisi,” Rodríguez said. [What Orwellian Quatsch! St. Francis would have been suppressed like the FFI for his rigorism, and branded as an ideologue for his missionary zeal. The ghost of Joachim of Fiore is afoot! The fearsome fanatical Fraticelli are afloat!] (21 April 2014)
“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, 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 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 and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”
I take in what the pope is saying, and I mention that there are Christians who live in situations that from the point of view of the church [?!] are irregular or somewhat complex, Christians that, in one way or another, live with open wounds. I [Fr. Spadaro] mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use? The pope signals that he understands what I mean and he responds:
“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ [What? Huh? Modern Argentine society condemns active homosexuals? Or would that be Catholic teaching?] because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. [Yet of course the Church does not condemn chaste homosexuals, so this is just another, typical, liberal false dichotomy. #feelings #caring] 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.
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. [Did someone say anthropocentrism? Oh, we live in the V2 Church, so… OF COURSE ANTHROPOCENTRISM.] Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. [Situationist ethics, anyone?] It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.
“This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better [Even if “doing better” means staying in an adulterous marriage?]. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed [Yet valid?] marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries […?], and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do? (30 September 2013)
The consort who helps… or the “ecclesia pedisequa“.
As naive as Balthsar’s youthful theologizing sounds now, we must recognize that it is still very prevalent (cf. POPE FRANCIS), while also being aware that the older Balthasar, as Schönborn (grudgingly?) admits, more or less rejected his youthful radicalism, as I intend to show in a post about a much later, and saner, book, of about the same size, by Balthasar, In the Fullness of Truth. (I think that later book was Balthasar’s own ballast to Razing the Bastions.) Ratzinger tried to do the same barrel roll in the decades following the New Pentecost That Wasn’t, and especially whilst heading the CDF, but in both cases, the damage was already done. As even a more mature Ratzinger wrote in one of his largest, and most systematic works:
Does this mean that the Council should be revoked? Certainly not. It means only that the real reception of the Council has not yet even begun. [As always, we are handed the bill of goods known as the “authentic fruit” of the Council (otherwise known as a confirmation bias). When will this confabulating promissory triumphalism just wither and die?] What devastated the Church in the decade after the Council was not the Council but the refusal to accept it. [WELLLLLL, then!!!!! Ta-da!!!] This becomes clear precisely in the history of the influence of Gaudium et spes. What was identified with the Council was, for the most part, the expression of an attitude that did not coincide with the statements to be found in the text itself [as if those statements themselves are not often crucially ambiguous], although it is recognizable as a tendency in its development and in some of its individual formulations. The task is not, therefore, to suppress the Council but to discover the real Council [Ahem…] and to deepen its true intention [Ah-HEM…!] in the light of the present experience. That means that there can be no return to the Syllabus [Where in the V2 documents it any licence stated for abrogating prior papal teaching!? This is ideological Montanism!], which may have marked the first stage in the confrontation with liberalism and a newly conceived Marxism but cannot be the last stage. In the long run, neither embrace nor ghetto can solve for Christians the problem of the modern world. The fact is, as Hans Urs von Balthasar pointed out as early as 1952, that the “demolition of the bastions” is a long-overdue task.
— Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, p. 391
Although God may console Us with you, We are nonetheless sad. This is due to the numberless errors and the teachings of perverse doctrines which, no longer secretly and clandestinely but openly and vigorously, attack the Catholic faith. You know how evil men have raised the standard of revolt against religion through philosophy (of which they proclaim themselves doctors) and through empty fallacies devised according to natural reason. In the first place, the Roman See is assailed and the bonds of unity are, every day, being severed. The authority of the Church is weakened and the protectors of things sacred are snatched away and held in contempt. The holy precepts are despised, the celebration of divine offices is ridiculed, and the worship of God is cursed by the sinner. All things which concern religion are relegated to the fables of old women [or perhaps of a ‘mugna quacia’?] and the superstitions of priests. Truly lions have roared in Israel. With tears We say: “Truly they have conspired against the Lord and against His Christ.” Truly the impious have said: “Raze it, raze it down to its foundations.”
— Pope Pius VIII, Traditi Humilitate Nostrae, May 24, 1829
Ratzinger, in the same book, is on record as calling Gaudium et Spes an anti-Syllabus. Note also how he says GS breathes an amazing optimism, the implication being that the Syllabus breathed an amazing pessimism. But in fact the Syllabus only breathed with a papally sanctioned realism.