Sunday, March 24, 2013

Something to Think About . . .

Sometimes small things communicate a big message.

– Marek Bożek

And Colleen Kochivar-Baker writes . . .

. . . [John] Allen and [Andreas] Tornielli can do their best to make Catholics believe there is no real difference in substance between the papacies [of Benedict and Francis], but no amount of spin can do the same for the differences in style. Unfortunately for these Vaticanista [i.e., those Vatican reporters who are acclaimed for their insight into all things papal and Vatican] the differences in style point to real differences in substance.

Pope Benedict 'ruled' as a self styled 'benevolent dictator,' not dissimilar to how he 'ruled' in his classroom. At times he appeared to give out grades. The LCWR, amongst others, garnered an 'F.' Priests like Fr Roy Bourgeios were expelled, bishops like Australia's William Morris lost their tenure. Benedict's was an autocratic authoritarian style somewhat different from JPII, but just as authoritarian. For Pope Benedict the truth in Catholicism, as he taught and understood that truth, trumped living the Way as actually taught by Jesus. The long Tradition of Catholicism and it's two thousand year history of interpreting the Way held more authority in Benedict's teachings. This was borne out in his Liturgical preferences. Upon his elevation to the papacy Benedict advocated and modeled an ostentatious liturgical style designed to emphasize the Church Triumphant – and by extension, the power and authority of the clerical priesthood – over and above the lowly people of God. The fact Jesus has multiple attributions in the Gospels directly against this kind of worship and priestly authority had no bearing whatsoever at all on how Pope Benedict enacted liturgy. It was Tradition.

In contrast, JPII had such a force of personality he didn't need the liturgical trappings to make the same point. This attitude of his is borne out in Ordinatio Sarcedotalis, whose driving rationale for the permanent exclusion of women from ordination is not derived from the Gospels, but from the sheer authority of the papacy, and his own papacy in particular. While Pope Benedict never used his own authority as pope for any similar definitive statement, he had no problem citing his predecessor as the authority for maintaining similar stances. JPII provided a lot of footnotes for Benedict's professorial approach. For an academic there is safety and authority in footnotes. Truth and fact are another matter.

Pope Francis is not cut from the same cloth as his two predecessors. He is not an authoritative autocrat or a theologian heading the ultimate theology department. He is not a professor with a billion students, over half of which are flunking out. He is a student himself, and a student of the Way of Jesus as Jesus' Way is recorded in the Gospels. This is a radical change in approach from his two predecessors and implies real differences in substance. Francis is a pilgrim pope leading/following a pilgrim church. No matter of spin and apologetics can change this fact. . . .

– Colleen Kochivar-Baker
"Two Popes With Two Styles That Symbolize Real Differences"
Enlightened Catholicism
March 24, 2013

Related Off-site Links:
A Different Kind of Pope – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, March 15, 2013).
New Pope's Style an Implicit Criticism of Benedict's Papacy – Tom Heneghan (Reuters via Yahoo! News, March 18, 2013).
Pope Francis Signals New Course for the Papacy – David Gibson (Religion News Service, March 18, 2013).
Francis' Election Full of Symbols, Signs of New EraNational Catholic Reporter (March 23, 2013).
New Pope Promises to Bring New Look to Church – Crispian Balmer and Philip Pullella (Reuters via Yahoo! News, March 13, 2013).
Garry Wills: The Pope Shouldn't Be King – Sally Quinn (The Washington Post, March 15, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Beyond Papalism
A Return to the Spirit
Casanova-inspired Reflections on Papal Power - at 30,000 ft.
It’s Time We Evolved Beyond Theological Imperialism
Re-Forming "the Vatican" Doesn't Mean Destroying the Church
Pan's Labyrinth: Critiquing the Cult of Unquestioning Obedience
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
Roger Haight on the Church We Need
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)
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 5)

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