Topic host: Tony Flannery
- His election gave us all a shot in the arm. It was obvious from the very beginning that he was different, — the way he spoke, the language he used, his choice of accommodation and transport, his shoes, and many more. We knew we had something different, more hopeful, and we breathed a large sigh of relief.
- His openness, as he settled into the position. He spoke freely, and clearly often unscripted. There was an unpredictability about him that must have driven the papal handlers crazy!
- The Joy of the Gospel. We had got nothing like this from the Vatican since Vat. II.
- His emphasis on dialogue. We began to realise that we were emerging out of an era of black and white certainty, and into a world of grey, where things could be openly discussed.
- The Synod of Bishops; where he put his ideas about dialogue and discernment into practice. In doing so he re-defined the notion of Episcopal Synods, and restored their credibility.
- His constant emphasis on the Love of God for all people, not just for the few.
- And, as a consequence, our church must be a welcoming place, where all can feel at home, not matter what the state of their lives or their faith.
- The Year of Mercy; a further expression of this openness and welcome.
- The Commission to study womens diaconate in the early Church, with a view to considering the introduction of something similar.
- A blind spot in relation to womens place in the church. While he emphasises the importance of dialogue, and listening, he still holds that the topic of the ordination of women to the priesthood cannot be discussed. Does he not see the contradiction in this?
- Sometimes, in what he says, he is extremely patriarchal, and patronising towards women.
- Despite his famous “Who am I to judge” he is a disappointment to the LGBT community. He has done nothing to remove the very objectionable language about gay people in the catechism and church teaching.
- While he has bypassed the Curia, and especially the CDF, in many ways, he has done very little to change structures within the Vatican. With a few exceptions, he has been over tolerant of the fundamentalist traditionalist within the Vatican.
- The Year of Mercy has promised much more than it has delivered so far; is that a metaphor for Francis’ papacy?
- He is old! If he were to die, or retire, in the next few years, there would be one hell of a battle at the next consistory! Usually the conservative wing of the church is more organised and ruthless than the liberals. If they get their way, and have one of themselves elected next pope, it won’t take any length to re-instate a similar regime to what we had with the last two popes. And then Francis could easily become just a pleasant memory, but with no lasting legacy.
Putting all of the above, and much more that could be added, what is it that we can do to support and encourage the aspects of Francis’ papacy that give us hope?
What I most support from Pope Francis’ agenda is his throwing the doors of dialogue open within the discernment tasks of the church. This is VERY in sync with the Vatican II “sign of the times”.
It is no accident that Vatican II took place after WW I & II. These world wars were conflicts generated by the egos of imperial governance systems getting out of balance, e.g. the Fuhrer and the Japanese Emperor! Thinking that Hitler could be managed by signing a “concordat” with him was to buy into the delusions of imperial systems. 2,000+ bishops, recovering from the ordeal of WW I & II, would set the church in a new direction–being far more open to a broad-based discerning the “movement of the Spirit” and a backing off illusions of concentrating power in the Pope’s role of serving the church by “decree”. This “new direction” was not all that new. In fact, it was most “traditional” harkening back to Pentecost which showed itself in the mist of the Roman Empire and within an out of balance juridical culture of the Jewish tradition.
In an “information age” where each human being can easily drown in data, to NOT dialogue, discern and “interface with real faces” is absurd. The “egos” of all corporate systems are being challenged these days. As social creatures we need healthy corporate systems. To dismantle and destroy them is to injure our need to discern the movement of God’s Spirit. To suppress “dialogue” and lock-in on imperial decrees in order to manage the “signs of the times” is also to betray the task of discerning the movement of God’s Spirit. We are not in an “era of change”. We are in a “change of era”! Pope Francis knows that Vatican II launched this consciousness into the life of the People of God.
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