I believe that Pope Francis has moved the church decades in six months.
He is doing the job where it should be done and in the manner in which it can only be done – from the top and with just gestures and signals. If he had been corralled in the Papal apartments he would have had to negotiate his way through the byzantine corridors of power in the Vatican. He would have had to push the accumulating deadweight of the Curia in front of him and keep an eye out for the careerist mandarins of the CDF lurking in every corner. Mission impossible!
Could we have asked for more? We could have fought on the ramparts for another twenty years and got much less.
All of the issues that some of us would love to have resolved – such as married clergy, women priests, homosexuality, masturbation, contraception, general confession, second relationships, sharing the Eucharist with Anglicans, liturgy permitting, when relevant, the occasional concelebration of weddings, baptisms, funerals etc. cannot be addressed by the system. Not even one of them can be addressed by the system. The system, as presently structured, could not conceive of or facilitate a Vatican lll. It has blocked and buried Vatican ll for over forty years. Pope Francis has said recently that we have yet to implement Vatican ll.
As Pope Francis said above “I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally”.
He has changed nothing specific, but he has already radically changed the arena.
Local bishops and clergy should now be free to discuss hitherto forbidden issues openly and, after due local reflection and discreet consultation with the authorities, gently ease in some changes. It seems to me that they are now free to more openly facilitate the “constructive ambiguity” through which many good priests have for years dealt with pastoral dilemmas on an individual “off the record” basis. No change in doctrine; just the use of each person’s informed conscience and common sense and “don’t draw prurient or hostile attention to it”. This had been happening, occasionally and quietly, until the heavy hand of the CDF came down and snuffed it, they having been anonymously informed and pressurised by the multiplicity of “restorationist” groups and institutions that have, with Vatican approval – if not urging, come to the top of the tree in recent years.
It appears to me that “aggiornamento” is back on the agenda, the windows have already been inched open. They have been nailed shut for over forty years and it will take a lot of “WD 40” over a long time to make them free again. The ACP priests, one third of our clergy, should no longer be individually persecuted through anonymous and twice-removed processes.
When I was studying organisational change in the late 1980’s, I came across Americans, John Adams and Sabina Spencer, at a course in Dublin. I was trying to facilitate fundamental change in a large organisation at the time. One sentence stayed with me -“After years of consulting in organisational change management, we have had to conclude that change is only possible if a critical mass of management is actively committed to change”.
One third of the clergy of the Catholic Church, supported by a minority of the laity, does not constitute a “critical mass” – but put that in the context of what the Pope is saying! Where do you think the bishops, other clergy and laity would stand then?
Measures such as publicly declaring church-challenging objectives, setting up costly structures, making the Irish Church more complicated than the muddle into which it has already grown through forty years of stifled inertia are unlikely to bring about change. The carefully selected CDF straitjackets dispersed since the “Apostolic Visitation” farce of last year have only served to increase the muddle and convince people that they were right to lose interest years ago.
Such activities could, however, play into the hands of those who appear to be have been strategically placed to systematically bring us back under the Nineteenth Century authoritarianism that lasted in Ireland for over a hundred years.
The only hope of change has to come from Rome – not from the Vatican, just from the Bishop of Rome.
In my humble opinion the ACI objective right now should be to say or do nothing that might impede the gentle tsunami that seems to be in motion at this critical time and show solidarity by signalling appreciation of the progress being made by Pope Francis.
Read full Interview here: http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview
Extracts from the Interview selected by the Jesuit publishers:
“I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change”
“I do not want token consultations, but real consultations”
“We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church”.
“The 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”.
“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?”
“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”.
“It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally”.
“We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church”.
“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing”.
“Ours is not a ‘lab faith,’ but a ‘journey faith,’ a historical faith”.
“The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong”.
Also worth reading:
And in case you thought everybody was happy, read this. Pope Francis may yet need the grass roots support of the reform movements. Join us now!