Skip to comments.Is Pope Francis a Loose Cannon?
Posted on 05/03/2014 4:54:44 AM PDT by markomalley
Vaticanista John Thavis reports here about the unease some Vatican officials feel about Pope Francis informal style. What are they to do with a Pope who makes informal pastoral phone calls, improvises his homilies at daily Mass, makes off the cuff remarks to journalists and basically says whatever he wants to whoever he wants?
Thavis portrays the problem as a bunch of uptight, legalistic, po-faced Vatican bureaucrats being fussy about a pope who is a relaxed, easy going people person. Thavis paints the picture of happy go lucky Pope Francis who wont be reigned in by the stuffy traditionalists.
This is the sort of trite observation and shallow analysis we are used to hearing from Thavis.
Im sure there are some stuffy, legalistic types haunting the halls of the Vatican, but it doesnt take one of them to see some of the communicate problems Pope Francis is causing.
When he behaves in this way he is causing confusion among the faithful. Should a pope interfere in the pastoral matters of an individual in another country? Shouldnt it be the responsibility of the local pastor and bishop? Isnt it a fair observation to ask why a pope who is all for downsizing the papacy, delegating and handing over to the people should then step in an get involved at a very local level? To ask these questions does not mean one is an arch conservative semi sedevacantist. Its a matter of common sense.
Furthermore, shouldnt a pope realize he is pope and behave accordingly? No matter what the popes personal style and personal preferences, he is now the pope and whether he likes it or not, people hang on his every word and action. Yes, yes, we all know that a chat with reporters on a plane or a personal phone call by a pope are not infallible doctrinal statements. The problem is, a huge number of people in the world dont realize that. Pope Francis should therefore understand that he is no longer Padre Bergoglio and learn that one of the greatest things a pope can do is to not do anything.
There is another problem with Pope Francis style which is lurking in the background which I have not heard anyone else commenting on, and it is this: if a person in a public role trivializes that role with a very personal and informal style, then when they want to make a formal pronouncement the chances are that they will not be taken seriously. Make enough gaffes and speak off the cuff enough and soon the world will consider everything you say to be a gaffe and all your pronouncements to be inconsequential, off the cuff matters of opinion.
So when Pope Francis makes an off the cuff remark or an informal phone call that has to be re-interpreted and put into context by everyone from mommy bloggers in Iowa to the Vatican press office it cheapens all his statements. When he stands up and speaks formally about the evils of greed, the threat of war, the horrors of abortion or the crime of human traffickingbecause he has made public off the cuff remarks which are matters of opinion hoi polloi and the press will treat those comments also as being no more than a matter of opinion.
When our modern relativistic society already considers most statements on everything to be no more than a matter of opinion, then the popes serious statements will then be dismissed as no more than one mans opinion. Hes a nice man and everybody likes him, but his informality and off the cuff remarks have then cheapened his authority and whatever he says will be treated as no more than the opinion of that nice old codger in the white outfit in Rome.
Catholics around the world are right to be alarmed at the Popes style. I for one, am an admirer of Pope Francis. I think hes a breath of fresh air. I like the fact that he is willing to turn over a few tables and bring reform and renewal to the church.
However, I think he should also be careful and listen to his advisers in this very serious matter of communications. The way things stand at the moment there are only two conclusions one can draw: first, that the Pope knows exactly what he is doing and the consequences of his style, and that it is his intention to weaken the authority of the papacy and bring it down to no more than the opinion of one person or second, that in this area of personal style and communications he is an amateur and he needs to stop, take stock, listen to the experts and reign in his style.
A pope after all, must integrate his own personality and style into the living tradition of the papacy for as he does he is not only keeping the papacy alive and renewing it with the charism of his own style, but he is also setting precedents for the futureand that is a serious task and responsibility.
Read Thavis whole article here.
Theres been a lot of media attention to Pope Francis now-famous phone call to an Argentine woman who is civilly married to a divorced man, reportedly telling her she could receive Communion.
While in Rome this week, Ive made some soundings inside the Roman Curia, and found concern among Vatican officials in two areas. First, theyre worried about the doctrinal and pastoral implications of the popes supposed remarks, and the risk of raising expectations for a change in church policy that may never occur.
Second, and more broadly, theyre concerned that the Vatican is losing control over papal communication. In that sense, the phone call was a tipping point: an institution that has spoken for centuries in a formal, calibrated hierarchy of expression is now headed by a man who chats on the phone, delivers soundbites to reporters and improvises daily sermons.
That explains the unusual statement from Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, who announced to journalists a few days ago that the popes phone call indeed, any papal phone call did not form part of the Magisterium, the official teaching of the church. Consequences relating to the teaching of the church are not to be inferred from these occurrences, was the way he put it.
Father Lombardis statement was probably drafted by the Secretary of States office, which used to be the communications gatekeeper at the Vatican, but which today finds itself increasingly on the sidelines. Quite often, Pope Francis does not go through the usual filters anymore.
The Old Guard at the Vatican tends to view many of the popes interviews, Tweets and off-the-cuff remarks as expressions of lesser consequence. His morning Mass homilies make headlines almost every day, but reportedly at the popes request are not being collected for publication in the permanent Vatican record, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (they are extemporaneous talks, so theres no complete text.)
None of this less formal output is considered part of the capital M Magisterium. But for most Catholics, thats a distinction without a difference. They dont care whether comments like Who am I to judge? find their way into the Vaticans official archives. All they care is that the pope said it.
In the case of the Argentine woman, the fact that Pope Francis would even make such a call bothers some officials at the Vatican. On one level, they say, it creates confusion, because no one is sure exactly what the pope said. The pope should know by now that any private conversation like this will eventually come out in some unsanctioned manner (in this instance, on the Facebook page of the womans husband.)
And as one Vatican monsignor put it, why should the pope be talking to her at all? Shouldnt he be referring her to her spiritual advisor, or asking the local bishop to follow up?
If the gist of the popes call was accurately relayed that the woman could receive Communion thats seen by some Vatican conservatives as crossing the Rubicon.
In this case, the woman had been told by her pastor that she could not receive Communion unless her husband received an annulment and the two were married in the church. Didnt the pope undercut the authority of priests everywhere with his phone call? How are priests to respond when divorced Catholics come to them and declare: But Father, the pope said its OK?
Its clear that Pope Francis wants the church to find a better pastoral solution to the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics, and all indications are that this falls Synod of Bishops will propose some changes perhaps, as outlined by Cardinal Walter Kasper, a penitential practice that would allow divorced Catholics to receive Communion, with the understanding the church could tolerate, though not accept, second unions.
That idea has generated much debate among bishops and cardinals, and enthusiasm among many Catholics. But it is not playing so well inside the Vatican. If that happens, weve crossed the line into heresy, one official told me.
I think Francis has some prep work to do in his own backyard.
Is the pope Catholic?
He might be following a somewhat loose canon.
Translation: "Back on the plantation, Francis. Stick with that which makes everyone feel comfortable and doesn't engender thoughtful discourse about the world we live on. Put on the Mona Lisa smile and let people decide for themselves whatever enigmatic thought might be swirling around in your Pope mind so they can all agree with you because you are obviously thinking exactly what they decide you are thinking. Don't rock the boat without calming the seas so the faithful don't have to suffer twinges of discomfort."
In uncharitable moments, I wonder if Benedict was “made an offer he couldn’t refuse.”
All you need to know is that he is Argentinian.
I, too, thik that is an excellent question. Put him in the same room with Pius X or Leo XIII and I think the answer would be very clear.
Hmmm, and I thought I was the only one whose mind wandered in that direction............
And he’s a Jesuit.
Further, I think of the unprecedented resignation (abdication?) of Benedict XVI and "retirement" within the walls of Vatican City State--one would think living out his days within a monastery the natural choice.
Now, there are two popes living in Rome. The whole affair strikes me as odd.
Pope John Paul II was strongly influenced by his first hand experience of living under Communism. It seems that Bergoglio has been influenced by the Argentinean peronism; a supposedly third way between socialism and capitalism, although in reality it is another form of fascism. What is more worrisome is the close relationship of Pope Francis with the most radical leaders of the Marxist Liberation Theology. The liberationists rejoiced with the election of Cardinal Bergoglio, it seems that they take for granted that he is one of them. One of Pope Francis most vocal supporters since his election has been Leonardo Boff, one of the founders of liberation theology, and the most radical at it, a man silenced by the Vatican in 1985, and later by his Franciscan Order, because of attacks to the Church. An exulted Leonardo Boff expressed his feelings: ‘This pope will change the church’, basically according to Boff we shouldn’t need a pope. The church could build a network of religious communities which communicate with each other.