Pope's new residence - Domus Sanctae Catherinae is available!
I have been meaning to post for a few days following on from reading Fr Ray Blake thoughtful and perspicacious meditating on the papacy of Pope Francis. Fr Blake draws attention to an article by Mark Drew in the Catholic Herald which is also very balanced and thoughtful. I would urge anyone to read both of them in full.
Reflecting on this my own thoughts lead me to wonder just how in touch Pope Francis is with the effects of what he says and does - particularly the way in which they are interpreted. I don't believe he is unorthodox in his doctrine, I don't believe he will attempt to change any substantial teaching in faith and morals - that can only be pure fantasy for those outside the Church who do not understand Her. The difficulty is that by allowing a head of steam for such ideas to build up - over the Synod on the Family, for example, there will be inevitable disappointment from the secular press and then condemnation from the secular world and this will be echoed by the dissenting and heterodox voices from within the Church, who have already jumped aboard the secular bandwagon and are trumpeting their revisionist calls to any poor souls who might be taken in by them.
Mark Drew puts it very plainly when he says:
The Pope seems to be waiting upon the extraordinary synod on the family, convened for the coming October, before making a definitive judgement. In the meantime, he will need to steady the barque if the synodal debate is to be serene and the outcome received by the whole Church. If the debate is not well guided, there is a threat to unity. A decision for relaxing the rules would risk alienating and disorientating many who have respected and defended the present discipline, often at real personal cost.On the other hand, a decision to maintain the status quo might unleash a storm reminiscent of the dissent caused by the publication of Humanae Vitae in 1967. That decision disappointed many who were confidently expecting a different outcome, and proved a turning point in the pontificate of Paul VI. That pope, who had been previously hailed as a confident proponent of reform, often appeared beleaguered and broken afterwards. To avoid such an eventuality, Pope Francis needs to play his role as teacher of the faith and centre of Catholic unity with clarity and courage. It is a daunting task for any human being, and the Pope needs our prayers.
I fear that those who campaign to revise the teaching of the Faith (as though the Church were no more than a political party) either consciously or by default will bring about just what Mark Drew describes. I fear that some may be doing this very consciously. The decision to promote the pre-synod questionnaire as a new initiative of Pope Francis (when it has always been done for all other synods) and to direct it at lay people and ordinary clergy when it was clearly aimed only at bishops (the very nature of the questions shows this most clearly) is a prime and dangerous example of this. This sort of thing is a lesson learnt from the lobbyists and fake democracy that has been such a disgrace to our own parliamentary processes since the arrival of Tony Blair and continues to hamper any real conviction politics.
Mark Drew reminds us that Pope Benedict XVI, with characteristic humility, once said to journalists that the pope, any pope, is not an oracle. He is a human being who makes prudential judgements guided by his own conscience and lights and constantly seeking divine assistance. The Holy Spirit guides him, and the whole Church, in proportion to his own, personal holiness but also to the fervour of the whole Church and the intensity of our prayer. It might be easy to make the mistake that by choosing to live in a seemingly humbler apartment, a Pope would be more in touch with "the people" but no matter where a Pope makes his "court" it immediately becomes cut off. The security kicks in and it would be no more possible for me to turn up and see Pope Francis in the Domus Martha than it would for me to get into the "grand" papal apartments (which, by the way, consist of no more than a study, a sitting room and a dining room for the Pope's private use). A Pope could, for example, decide to reside in a small parish in Lancashire (with nice grounds and a simple chapel!) but as soon as he did the security and all the other necessary bureaucracy would kick in and those who had access would become the only voices he heard. A Papal Court - no matter where it resides - still needs the Pope concerned to bring in good advisors. Neither splendour, nor lack of it, by itself makes someone wise. Again, as Mark Drew notes:
Contrary to what was sometimes affirmed, Benedict XVI willingly created bishops and cardinals of a more “progressive” outlook, provided he judged them competent and sincere in their desire to pursue constructive dialogue within the tradition of Catholic theology.
Let us not fail Pope Francis in our prayers - wherever he makes his Papal Court either now or in the future.