Thursday, April 27, 2017
Even the Pope!
During Holy Week Michael Higgins wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail paper about the growing criticism aimed at Pope Francis. For some of us Francis is moving excruciatingly slowly toward reform of the Roman Catholic church and a more open interpretation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many in the hierarchy of the church who have become more vocal in their opposition, as well as parish priests. Here is how Higgins describes what the pontiff is facing:
As Pope Francis begins the holiest cycle in the Catholic liturgical year – the Triduum – the sufferings of humanity will not be lost on him. There are many walking their own way of sorrows, and Francis has diligently taken up their cause: the nameless migrants stranded at points of entry, the victims of violence in the Middle East, those directly affected by famine and drought in South Sudan. He has been their companion in sympathy from the onset of his pontificate.
[Francis] has washed the feet of Muslim women prisoners; he has personally housed refugees; he has travelled to dangerous regions to stand in solidarity with the persecuted.
But this year’s Passiontide also has a strong personal connection. The Roman pontiff is a bridge-builder and a symbol of unity. It is part of the job description. Dissension, disagreement, threats of division constitute the mother of papal headaches and Francis is not the first pope to face down internal threats to doctrinal and institutional unity.
But he is the first pope in centuries to have to do so in the face of increasingly aggressive displays of criticism coming from his own collaborators in ministry, from anonymous staff emboldened by a new climate of attack and by laity alarmed by the consequences of mature discipleship.
Resistance to his prophetic synodal document Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) has not diminished, disdain for his general indifference to the priorities of canon law has not abated, and defiance – dressed up as fidelity to tradition – by ecclesiastics, fearful of the decline of their authority and prestige, is growing in intensity if not in transparency.
Unflattering caricatures of the Pope have appeared in graffiti and posters on Roman streets, traditionalist Catholic scholars and clerics have publicly called for some kind of intervention because the church, as they see it, is “drifting perilously like a ship without a rudder, and indeed, shows symptoms of incipient disintegration.”
Yikes. Even the spiritual leader of the world's largest Christian body takes major heat, which is some comfort for those of us who are the clergy foot soldiers in congregations of every stripe. There are always people who are grumpy, angry, and even vile in churches. They want their own way, even when they're not sure what their way is. My experience is that some individuals have no desire to consider other points of view, and in some cases they don't really care about being Christian. And some people hate change, even though they want churches to be full like the 50's.
I got a message from a United Church colleague, ironically a former Roman Catholic priest, who is enjoying a positive ministry but is dealing with a very difficult parishioner. He is exasperated by what to do, and I certainly understand his dilemma. Apparently the pope does as well. We can pray for him and all those who are under fire in the communities where love should abound.