Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the March 13, 2013 election of Argentinian Jesuit, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the 'chair of Peter,' upon which he sits as Pope Francis, the 266th Bishop of Rome.
Over at her always erudite and insightful blog Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen Kochivar-Baker offers a must-read analysis of the reign of Francis and, by extension, the complex reality of the Roman Catholic Church today. Following is part of what Colleen has to say.
One thing I've learned [in the first year of Francis] is that there are at least four different Roman Catholic Churches. There is the Latin American version, the Anglo/Euro version, the African version, and the Oriental version and some of these versions are very very different in their worldview. When I looked at the results of the Univision poll which tested the views of Catholics on sex and family issues in 12 different countries I was seriously shocked at how far apart Africa was from the rest of the global Church, especially the Anglo/Euro Church. I shouldn't have been surprised because the Anglican Church has been dealing with that split for decades. Catholicism's first chance to hash this split out will come in October at the Bishops Synod on the family. We'll find out if Francis is any better at dealing with this chasm than the Anglican Primate Rowan Williams because the Catholic results show this split is not the result of progressive Anglican theology, it's about different worldviews, most of them having to do with women and gender expectations.
This brings me to the second thing I've learned this past year. Neither the Church nor Pope Francis has any idea of what to do with the problem of women in the Church. At least Francis recognized it's a problem, but his notions about the Marian and Petrine Churches do not address the problem much less solve it. I understand that Francis is taking his concepts from Von Balthasar who had a great deal of influence on John Paul II. I suppose it's a nice concept if one wants to keep men in total control because it places the feminine as the heart of the Church with the masculine as the head of the Church...a nice complimentary situation which really appealed to JPII. Really, what woman could possibly be offended by being given the role of Mary in the scheme of things? Perhaps a woman who understands that in this particular scheme of things Mary is mythologized perfection and mere mortal women are neither perfect nor myths. I've often wondered why women have to emulate perfection but men get to emulate Peter who isn't exactly anyone's concept of perfect, but I digress. This idea of Von Balthasar's only flies if you accept the underlying assumption that women somehow embody empathy, relationship, and nurturing and men don't, won't or can't without sacrificing their masculinity on the altar of celibacy. I don't happen to buy any of it, but then I also happen to believe the clerical priesthood is the root and branch of all the Church's current scandal. Which brings me to the third thing I learned this year.
Pope Francis is a priest before he is anything else. I've written that before. His defense of the Church over clerical abuse must stem from how much of a victim he feels as a Catholic priest in today's climate. One wonders why he has empathy for every other form of human misery, but not victims of his own clerical class. He better get over it because there is more to come. He can speak all he wants about the cancer of clericalism but that cancer doesn't go away because someone calls it cancer. Cancers have to be cut out, not left in place to become the next miracle for the next saint from the Vatican saint factory. Clerical abuse stands as the most salient indictment of the whole Catholic clerical system and how abusive it is to the laity, to fellow priests, and to Jesus Himself. Francis can not let this one go. If he lives long enough to call another Vatican synod it should be on the priesthood because family aside, if change doesn't come to the priesthood even the Church in Africa is going to lose its Catholic identity due to lack of sacramental access. Without meaningful change there is no doubt clerical sexual abuse will continue... and bishops will keep hiding it, especially in countries which do not have Anglo reporting requirements.
To read Colleen Kochivar's commentary in its entirety, click here.
Related Off-site Links:
Pope Marks Anniversary with Prayer and a Tweet – Jean-Louis de la Vaissiere (AFP via Yahoo! News, March 13, 2014).
Pope Francis After a Year – Thomas Reece (National Catholic Reporter, March 14, 2014).
Pope Francis: Has His Revolution Even Started? – Paul Valley (The Guardian, March 11, 2014).
A Year with Francis – Rocco Palmo (Whispers in the Loggia, March 13, 2014).
Interactive Timeline: Pope Francis' First Year in Quotes – Pam Cohen (National Catholic Reporter, March 13, 2014).
The Public Pope: Why the Intense Fascination Paid to Pope Francis—or Any Pope—Isn’t Good for the Catholic Church – Paul Baumann (Slate, March 11, 2014).
Five Truly Radical Things Pope Francis Could Do to Improve the Catholic Church – John Gallagher (Queerty, March 13, 2014).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Pope Francis' Understanding of Catholicism: An Orchestra in Which All Can Play!
Why I Take Hope in Pope Francis' Statement on Gay Priests
Quote of the Day – July 25, 2013
Doing Papa Proud
Quote of the Day – April 17, 2013
The Servant Pope
Quote of the Day – March 13, 2013
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 1)
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 2)
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 3)
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 4)