For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle
1 Corinthians 14:8
PopeWatch has commented on how Pope Francis seems very reluctant to champion Church teaching under attack by elites throughout the West. Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa in a post entitled Bergoglio, the General Who Wants to Win without Fighting, explains why this is the case:
ROME, March 10, 2014 – Víctor Manuel Fernández is the first Argentine to be made a bishop by Jorge Mario Bergoglio, two months after his election as pope.
He was and continues to be the rector of the Universidad Católica Argentina, a role he took on after the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires overcame the hostility of a formidable group of opponents outside and inside the Church.
But for years he has also been Bergoglio’s most trusted collaborator in the writing of his major texts, from the Aparecida document in 2007 to the 2013 “Evangelii Gaudium,” the action plan of the current pontificate.
The book-interview “Il progetto di Francesco. Dove vuole portare la Chiesa” – recently released in Italy – in which Fernández explains and comments on the papal program is therefore a good guide for understanding it more thoroughly.
There is a passage in the book in which Fernández refers to the metamorphosis that Bergoglio went through before and after his election as pope:
“When he was archbishop he was gradually withdrawing and preferred not to appear in public very much. Moreover, there were too many campaigns of persecution orchestrated by some very conservative sectors of the Church, and I believe that this worried him a great deal. Now that he has become pope, with the new gift that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon him, he has abandoned those fears and has allowed his best features to emerge. This has renewed his enthusiasm and his energy.”
In another passage Fernández explains the reserve of the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires:
“There were sectors that were putting a strong emphasis on doctrinal certainty, on the honor of the Church and its self-preservation, and that felt that they were represented by a few ecclesial authorities. The sectors that had a plan even slightly different from these latter, like Cardinal Bergoglio and many others, were very respectful of these choices, or at the very least met them with silence.”
Fernández does not say any more. But to find out more about that tormented period of Bergoglio’s life there is another book, released a few months ago in Argentina and Italy, written by the vaticanista Elisabetta Piqué, who is the best informed and most reliable biographer of the current pope: “Francesco, vita e rivoluzione”.
On the side opposed to Bergoglio were the prominent Vatican cardinals Angelo Sodano and Leonardo Sandri, the latter being of Argentine nationality. While in Buenos Aires the ranks of the opposition were led by the nuncio Adriano Bernardini, in office from 2003 to 2011, with the many bishops he managed to get appointed, almost always in contrast with the guidelines and expectations of the then-cardinal of Buenos Aires.
On February 22, 2011, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Bernardini delivered a homily that was interpreted by almost everyone as a harangue in defense of Benedict XVI but in reality was a concerted attack on Bergoglio.
The nuncio placed under accusation those priests, religious, and above all those bishops who were keeping a “low profile” and leaving the pope alone in the public battle in defense of the truth.
“We have to acknowledge,” he said, “that there has increased year after year, among theologians and religious, among sisters and bishops, the group of those who are convinced that belonging to the Church does not entail the recognition of and adherence to an objective doctrine.”
Because this was exactly the fault charged against Bergoglio: that of not opposing the secularist offensive, of not defending Church teaching on “nonnegotiable” principles.
And to some extent this was the case. The then-archbishop of Buenos Aires could not bear the “obsessive rigidity” of certain churchmen on questions of sexual morality. “He was convinced,” writes Elisabetta Piqué, ” that the worst thing would be to insist and seek out conflict on these issues.”
There was one episode that exemplifies Bergoglio’s approach:
“In 2010, at the height of the episcopate’s battle of to block the legalization of marriage between persons of the same sex in Argentina, there emerged the idea of holding a prayer vigil [in front of parliament]. Esteban Pittaro, of the ‘Università Australe of Opus Dei, sent an e-mail to the chancery of Buenos Aires, telling them about the event. The following day he saw that he had missed a phone call and realized that it was a number of the archdiocese. Esteban called back and Bergoglio answered in person. ‘It seems like a wonderful thing to me that you should pray. But the fact that you want to spend all night in the plaza . . . It will be cold, go home, pray at home, as a family!” the cardinal told him. ‘He supported the march, but he was right to discourage the vigil, because the following day there were demonstrations in fa for of homosexual marriage. And he wanted to avoid the contrast,’ Pittaro recounts.”
If these are the precedents, it comes as no surprise that Bergoglio, as pope, should dictate this same line of conduct for the whole Church.
It is the line of conduct that “Evangelii Gaudium” has laid bare to the world. and that the book-interview of Bishop Fernández makes even more explicit, with the showy confidence of one who demonstrates that he thoroughly understands the pope’s thinking.
For example, on the following points.
Pope Francis is not naive. He is asking us to immerse ourselves in the context of today’s culture in a very realistic way. He is inviting us to recognize that the rapidity of communication and the selection of content proposed by the media present a new challenge for us. [. . .] When the Church talks too much about philosophical questions or about the natural law, it is presumably doing so in order to be able to dialogue on moral issues with the nonbelieving world. Nonetheless, in doing this, on the one hand we do not convince anyone with the philosophical arguments of other times, and on the other we lose the opportunity to proclaim the beauty of Jesus Christ, to “make hearts burn.” So those philosophical arguments do not change anyone’s life. Instead, if it can be managed to make hearts burn, or at least to show what there is that is attractive in the Gospel, then persons will be more willing to converse and to reflect also with regard to a response concerning morality. [. . .]
For example, it does not do much good to speak out against sexual marriage, because people tend to see us as if we were resentful, cruel, persons who have little sympathy or even exaggerate. It is another matter when we speak of the beauty of marriage and of the harmony that is created in the difference resulting from the covenant between a man and a woman, and in this positive context it emerges, almost without having to point it out, how inadequate it is to use the same term and to call “marriage” the union of two homosexual persons. [. . .]
There are two factors that are driving the pope to ask us not to speak “always” and “only” about certain moral principles: in order not to wear others out, overloading them and obtaining an effect of rejection, and above all in order not to destroy the harmony of our message. Continue Reading