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PopeWatch: Silences

 

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

Since his election, the world has been focused on what Pope Francis says.  However, as Sandro Magister points out at his blog Chiesa, what the Pope is silent about may be just as significant:

In Francis the collegiality of governance is more evoked than practiced. The style is that of a superior general of the Jesuits who in the end decides everything on his own. This can be grasped from his actions, his words, his silences.

For example, Bergoglio has spent weeks behind the scenes cultivating relationships with the heads of the powerful “Evangelical” communities of the United States. He has spent hour after hour in their company at his residence in Santa Marta. He has invited them for lunch. He immortalized one of these convivial moments by giving a high five, amid raucous laughter, to Pastor James Robinson, one of the most successful American televangelists.

When no one knew anything about it yet, it was Francis who alerted them about his intention to go visit their Italian colleague in Caserta, and explained the reason: “To extend the apologies of the Catholic Church for the damage that has been done to them by obstructing the growth of their communities.”

As the Argentine he is, Bergoglio has experienced first-hand the overwhelming expansion of the Evangelical and Pentecostal communities in Latin America, which continue to take enormous masses of faithful away from the Catholic Church. And yet he has made this decision: not to fight their leaders, but to make them his friends.

This is the same approach that he has adopted with the Muslim world: prayer, invocation of peace, general condemnations of the evil that is done, but with careful attention to keep his distance from specific cases concerning precise persons, whether victims or butchers.

Even when the whole world mobilizes in defense of certain victims and everyone is expecting a statement from him, Francis does not abandon this reserve of his.

He did not speak a single word when the young Sudanese mother Meriam was in prison with her little children, sentenced to death only because she is Christian, although he received her once she was liberated thanks to international pressure.

He did not say anything on behalf of the hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram, in spite of the campaign promoted even by Michelle Obama with the slogan “Bring back our girls.”

He is silent on the fate of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani mother who has been in prison for five years awaiting an appeal against the verdict that has sentenced her to death with the accusation of having offended Islam.

And yet the campaign for the liberation of Asia Bibi sees the Catholic world everywhere highly engaged on her behalf, and at the beginning of this year a heartfelt letter was made public after she had sent it to the pope. Who did not respond to her.

They are silences that are all the more striking in that they are practiced by a pope who is known for his highly generous availability to write, to telephone, to bring aid, to open the doors to anyone who knocks, whether poor or rich, good or bad.

Go here to read the rest.  PopeWatch believes that it is easy due to the careless way that the Pope sometimes expresses himself to assume that he has no longterm strategy.  PopeWatch believes that is an error and that the faint outlines of a strategy can be discerned.  That strategy seems, in part, to gain allies outside of the Church, even at the risk of alienating portions of his flock.  PopeWatch makes no assessment as to the wisdom of this strategy, but merely notes that it is precisely the type of strategem one would expect from a Jesuit, and PopeWatch believes that Pope Francis is a Jesuit’s Jesuit, a fact which is critical in understanding this pontificate.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

18 Comments

  1. Only time will tell the meaning of his silences. Your photo of him shows him checking the time (which accepts no master, not even a pope ). We can only wait and see.
    Tho it does seem he sometimes expresses himself carelessly, he may not be careless or artless at all,; seeming to be unsophisticated he is sophist?
    If that’s the case, I would much prefer a more straightforward tack.
    This disarming of enemies of the Church may work … I have no appetite for disingenuity.

  2. Pope John Paul II was in St. Louis petitioning the governor to spare the life of a capital one murderer by commuting his sentence to life in prison, which the governor did. At the same time a convict escaped in Arkansas and killed a man and a five year old boy for the man’s truck to escape. These are matters of state. It is the duty of the state to deliver Justice.
    .
    Asia Bibi is in prison for blasphemy against Islam. This is a matter of religion. It is the duty of religion to deliver mercy and compassion. Tolerance of the atheist, but not of atheism. Tolerance of the Muslim, but not of a religion that kills.

  3. He was notably mute when the Belgians sprang into legislative action to murder their born children.

    And he’s certainly willing to ring up people out of the blue when the mood strikes him–e.g., Argentine divorcees. Even a slow food advocate got some phone time.

    Welcome to the Vatican II Reboot, folks–all aggiornamento, all the time.

  4. These are strange and sad days for faithful Catholics. I had come to expect a clarity of reasoning from Pope Benedict. I knew his time in office would not be long as he was old when elected. The Ordinariate, the new English translation of the Roman Missal and Summorum Pontificum were major successes of his papacy, as the fall of Communism in the old Warsaw Pact was a success during the time of John Paul II.

    We have no clarity. It is as if the 1970s are back. Rampant and radical Islam are on the march. Bishops conferences in Germany, Austria and the US sometimes border on heresy. Russia, never a friend of the Catholic Church, has taken a piece of Ukraine and threatens more.

    The only groups Pope Francis takes noticeable actions against are the FFI and the Diocese of Ciudad del Este.

    I pray for him – not enough. I admit to not liking him personally due to the things he spouts off about and not liking his management style.

    The Church in Latin America has almost no interaction with Islam. It is as if Pope Francis is afraid of Islam himself.

    Radtrads constantly bring up one of their gripes against John Paul II – that he kissed a Koran as a gift during the Assisi conference in 1996. JPII restored the Most Holy Name of Mary to the Church calendar in 2002 and hong a painting of the Polish Hussars in his apartment. He may have figured it out late but he did get it.

    In these times, I take comfort reading about Church history. I find inspiration in the clergy, the laity and the Catholic heads of state who stood tall, rose up and confronted Islam by doing the only thing Islam understands – punching it in the face until it backs off.

    The Vatican II statement about Muslims should be stricken from the record and repealed.

  5. “The Vatican II statement about Muslims should be stricken from the record and repealed.”
    /
    Amen! Amen

  6. We have no clarity. It is as if the 1970s are back.

    If I’m not mistaken, the most troublesome acts of Paul VI were promulgated during the years running from 1965 to 1971 (the two missals, the end of Friday abstinence in 1966, the birth control commission, undermining Cdl. O’Boyle, and a number of bad episcopal appointments – esp. Cdl. Madeiros and Bp. Tschoepe). The Church was falling apart on the ground level, the Pope’s intentions aside.

  7. @Anzlyne, at this point, I figure he says what he means and means what he says, and if he doesn’t say it, he doesn’t mean it either. So yes, he may be maneuvering, but his maneuvering may be to bring Vatican II to completion. I choose Douthat’s “late-Soviet” scenario until proven otherwise.
    @Penguins Fan, In these times, I take comfort reading about Church history. Yes. To include history within the Church; last night I was reading A Cloud of Witnesses by David N. Bell, in which we find, e.g. after the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus and its counter-synod, “At this point [Emperor] Theodosius imprisoned both Cyril and Nestorius while he decided what to do…”

  8. Not long ago, I met a young man, who is a Baptist and who held
    the Catholic Church in great contempt. This young man was
    a member of an evangelical missionary family, who had spent
    many years in Latin America arguing against the Church with
    the hope of proselytizing many ignorant Catholics. I mentioned
    to him that we live in very dark times and that we (Catholics and
    evangelical Protestants) should unite to fight the great evil, which
    has taken control of our country. He turned to me with a very
    determined look, and said with great emphases, No!

    I don’t see how the Pope’s strategy to reach out to evangelicals
    will succeed.

    To test the possibilities of such a strategy, the Pope should invite
    John Hagee to Rome to pray with him the Rosary in honor of our
    Lady of Fatima.

  9. Franco

    I would suggest that in all ecumenical dialogue, it is important to keep in mind a distinction drawn by Bl John Henry Newman, “Revelation sets before it certain supernatural facts and actions, beings and principles; these make a certain impression or image upon it; and this impression spontaneously, or even necessarily, becomes the subject of reflection on the part of the mind itself, which proceeds to investigate it, and to draw it forth in successive and distinct sentences… as the inward idea of divine truth, such as has been described, passes into explicit form by the activity of our reflective powers, still such an actual delineation is not essential to its genuineness and perfection. A peasant may have such a true impression, yet be unable to give any intelligible account of it, as will easily be understood. But what is remarkable at first sight is this, that there is good reason for saying that the impression made upon the mind need not even be recognized by the parties possessing it. It is no proof that persons are not possessed, because they are not conscious, of an idea.”
    Thus, writers of the French School distinguish between « La religion » – what Newman calls the “impression or image” and « La théologie » – our reflections on it.

  10. “But what is remarkable at first sight is this, that there is good reason for saying that the impression made upon the mind need not even be recognized by the parties possessing it. It is no proof that persons are not possessed, because they are not conscious, of an idea.”
    .
    “Thus, writers of the French School distinguish between « La religion » – what Newman calls the “impression or image” and « La théologie » – our reflections on it.”
    .
    The newly conceived mind possesses an Idea of God.

  11. Mary de Voe wrote, “The newly conceived mind possesses an Idea of God.”

    Yes, but as Abbé Brémond puts it, “this kind of knowledge is like bathing in a fathomless ocean, or breathing an intangible and limitless air. It gives contact and certitude, but not understanding: as breathing or bathing give us certitude about the air and the ocean, but no information about their chemical constitution.”

  12. “We have no clarity-it as if the 1970’s were back!”???

    While I recognize that Pope Francis’ ministry has been more ‘pastoral’ I just don’t this alarmist position. I am 64 years old so I remember all this time frame well of which we are speaking.

    It is important to note first of all that much of what we were experiencing had to do with ‘the sixties’ [especially 1968-the year I graduated from HS and entered college]. The whole of the West was going through a vast cultural revolution as while, interestingly, Communist China. The West’s cultural revolution is still in full swing, and there is no sign of it abating. One thing is certain and that it the West is running from its Judaeo-Christian roots and value system. Since Western Civilization is the uniting of Graeco-Roman with Judaeo-Christian-and the cultural revolution is cutting off half its foundation-your guess is as good as mine as to where the West is going. In regards to the Church however, I would hope Catholics today would have a better sense of the distinction between the Church and the wider culture than we did back in the 60’s. Vatican II and the West’s cultural revolution are both quite distinct, with their own roots and their own purpose. They simply happened at the same time.

    As for the Church ‘being back in the chaos of the sixties and seventies? I don;’t get it. As to the solid interpretation of Vatican II we had the Extraordinary Synod of 1985 [from which we received the principles of interpretation of the Council summed up in the hermeneutic of continuity-rather than disruption]

    We have the 1983 Code of Canon Law which solidly encodes the canonical tradition of the Church along with a canonical interpretation of Vatican II

    We have the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the authoritative Compendium of all that the Catholic Church teaches [just as the “Roman Catechism” did after the Council of Trent] and is another instrument of interpreting Vatican II

    We have the many Synods of the Church under Saint John Paul and Pope Benedict with their Post-synodal exhortations passing on to us the essence of what the bishops arrived at concerning the many issues these synods addressed

    We have some amazing encyclicals from Servant of God Paul VI, Saint John Paul and Pope Benedict which authoritatively teach us what the Church believes in the particular areas they address.

    Liturgically [ahh the Liturgy] we have the Roman Missal Third Edition with its new translation [as close to a literal translation from the Latin as possible, returning both theological symbolism etc as well as a more dignified vernacular (rather than ‘common parlance)] for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. And we have the restoration of the 1962 Roman Missal for those who love the Tridentine Liturgy for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. We also have been blessed with the reconciling of the old Sarum Rite through the Anglican Usage in the Ordinariate

    I simply do not see us still being in or returning to the chaos of the 60’s and 70’s. Don;t get me wrong. Individual priests or religious or even a bishop or two might ‘pull some stunt’ or teach something that’s ‘way off base’-but that is not the whole Church. Are there areas still needing to be addressed? Yes, definitely. Are we still being battered by the storms outside the Church? Absolutely! Are Catholics and Christians in general going through terrible persecution in many parts of the world? Without doubt-perhaps the worst persecution so far in our history!

    However, think about this for a moment. We “believe this” yet how many of us reallly have unpacked it for consumption. Of all the forces, religious and secular that we are witnessing on the world’s stage today, the only one which will enter into the Eschaton: the Absolute and Glorious Future will be the Church of Jesus Christ which subsists in the Catholic Church. We will enter it, just as our Master, through the Paschal Mystery-but the Church will indeed enter it.

    Be not afraid.

  13. I understand the young Baptist I spoke about and John Hagee
    are in error. Their notion of the Catholic Church is false, which,
    I believe, terrifies them. So, the young Baptist and Hagee have
    to discredit the Catholic Church for the legitimacy of their
    non-denominational evangelical faith. Were they to accept the
    truth concerning the theological errors of their evangelical faith,
    the young Baptist and Hagee would have to become Catholics,
    which they cannot accept. To the young Baptist and Hagee the
    Catholic Church will always be the whore of Babylon.

  14. Franco wrote, “To the young Baptist and Hagee the Catholic Church will always be the whore of Babylon.”

    In his Grammar of Assent, Bl John Henry Newman emphasises that it is not “mind,” but concrete individuals that reason and form judgments.

    “Nor, again, is it by any diagram that we are able to scrutinize, sort, and combine the many premises [sic] which must be first run together before we answer duly a given question. It is to the living mind that we must look for the means of using correctly principles of whatever kind, facts or doctrines, experiences or testimonies, true or probable, and of discerning what conclusion from these is necessary, suitable, or expedient, when they are taken for granted; and this, either by means of a natural gift, or from mental formation and practice and a long familiarity with those various starting-points. Thus, when Laud said that he did not see his way to come to terms with the Holy See, “till Rome was other than she was,” no Catholic would admit the sentiment: but any Catholic may understand that this is just the judgment consistent with Laud’s actual condition of thought and cast of opinions, his ecclesiastical position, and the existing state of England.”

    The limitations of logic are illustrated in this passage, “all reasoning being from premises (sic), and those premises (sic) arising (if it so happen) in their first elements from personal characteristics, in which men are
    in fact in essential and irremediable variance one with another, the ratiocinative talent can do no more than point out where the difference between them lies, how far it is immaterial, when it is worth while continuing an argument between them, and when not.”

  15. Michael Paterson-Seymour: “Mary de Voe wrote, “The newly conceived mind possesses an Idea of God.” Yes, but as Abbé Brémond puts it, “this kind of knowledge is like bathing in a fathomless ocean, or breathing an intangible and limitless air. It gives contact and certitude, but not understanding: as breathing or bathing give us certitude about the air and the ocean, but no information about their chemical constitution.”
    .
    It is not necessary to know the chemical constitution of air and the ocean to beathe and bathe. It is only that air and water are God’s creation. In like manner, it is not necessary to know the newly begotten sovereign person, for this is life’s journey, only to know that he is alive and growing and that he is God’s creation.
    Francisco Suarez says, based on Thomas Aquinas, “Human existence is the criterion for the objective ordering of human rights.” The sovereign person exists from the very first moment of life and from thence he constitutes the sovereign nation and the human race. Abbe Bremond’s contention that air and water, all nature, may be equal to the rational, immortal human soul falls lamely on idol worship. Abbe Bremond’s intent was not to disparage the human being but he did.

  16. Franco: “I understand the young Baptist I spoke about and John Hagee are in error. Their notion of the Catholic Church is false, which, I believe, terrifies them. So, the young Baptist and Hagee have to discredit the Catholic Church for the legitimacy of their non-denominational evangelical faith. Were they to accept the truth concerning the theological errors of their evangelical faith, the young Baptist and Hagee would have to become Catholics, which they cannot accept. To the young Baptist and Hagee the Catholic Church will always be the whore of Babylon.”
    .
    This is the finest description of non-Catholicism. Thank you, Franco. I am going to save it.

  17. Abbé Brémond is talking of the idea of God in the newly-conceived mind: Tauler, you will recall, speaks of “the Abyss which is unknown and has no name . . . more beloved than all that we can know.”

    As the anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing says, “”For He can well be loved, but He cannot be thought. By love He can be grasped and held, but by thought, neither grasped nor held. And therefore, though it may be good at times to think specifically of the kindness and excellence of God, and though this may be a light and a part of contemplation, all the same, in the work of contemplation itself, it must be cast down and covered with a cloud of forgetting. And you must step above it stoutly but deftly, with a devout and delightful stirring of love, and struggle to pierce that darkness above you; and beat on that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love, and do not give up, whatever happens”

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