The Personalist Project

Austen Invereigh, author of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, has an article on Crux today about a just-published interview with Pope Francis by an Argentine correspondent. 

The interview was to mark the tenth anniversary of the milestone meeting of the Latin-American bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, for the so-called “Fifth Conference” of the Church’s continental body CELAM. 

It was Jorge Bergoglio's leadership at that milestone meeting, some say, that drew the attention of the Cardinal electors to his papal potential. It's not surprising, then, that his reflections on that event would throw light on his papacy.

One section in particular catches my eye, and lifts my heart.

Asked where the Church in Latin America has made least progress since Aparecida, Francis says: “pastoral conversion. It’s still very much halfway there.”

(“Pastoral conversion” is a key term in Aparecida, and for the Francis papacy. It refers to a move from maintenance to mission, and a pastoral focus on concrete people and their needs rather than taking refuge in abstraction and legalism.)

Asked why, he blames clericalism, telling Reyes that it remains pervasive in Latin America, where the lay vocation “has to be rediscovered and developed and given its proper weight” in the Church.

Yes! That's what I see too! And not only in Latin America, but throughout the Church.

I still hope to manage a follow up post to my long article on Confirmation. My intuition tells me that these things are related—Vatican II, the turn toward subjectivity, the lay vocation, the sacrament of Confirmation, and the move from maintenance to mission. And personalism is the key to them all.

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Comments (13)

Joy

#1, Nov 11, 2017 11:20am

What are your thoughts on this . . . 

http://archphila.org/archbishop-chaputs-address-at-the-national-assembly-of-filipino-priests-usa-amoris-laetitia-and-the-nature-of-mercy/#.WgUgDFjU_ac.facebook

I would love to hear your take on Chaput's words. I think he makes some good points.  Do you think he's missing something?  And could Pope Francis be missing something?  

Katie van Schaijik

#2, Nov 11, 2017 11:43am

Hi Joy.

Since you ask: Yes, I think he's missing something.

I think he misunderstands the Pope's idea of accompaniment. And I think he misreads the controversial part of AL. I thought his public declaration, shortly after it was published, (that divorced and remarried couples are eligible for Holy Communion only if they are committed to celibacy) proved that he is missing the key to its vital message.

That message is that pastors should deal with those in "irregular unions" individually, not "as a class" and under a rule, because no rule can cover every human situation, since persons, being unique moral subjects, surpass general rules. Plus, rules are alienating. (NB: Rules are different from absolute moral norms.)

I think the right pastoral response would be for each bishop (and pastor) to invite all divorced and remarried individuals in his diocese or parish who would like to be restored to full communion to please come see him. He will make time in his schedule for them. He knows the Holy Father has a particular love and tender concern for them; he promises to look closely at their cases, and see what doors might be opened...

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Nov 11, 2017 11:58am

As to the question of whether the Pope might be missing something:

Of course, being a human being, he doesn't see everything. He isn't perfect. He'll have the same tendency as every other mere mortal to put too much stress here, too little there...

But, the key thing for the faithful is that he alone is the Pope. He is the one person on earth, chosen through the Holy Spirit, with the competence and charism to lead the Church in our day and time. It is his teaching in union with the bishops and in the area of faith and morals that has authority. 

We owe him an openness, deference, and docility that we owe to no one else, not even an Archbishop Synod Father.

Nor has the Pope pretended to say everything that needs saying. He expresses his awareness of the incompleteness of his teaching constantly. It is why he has directed the JP II Institute in Rome to study the implications of AL. 

But, as he said in AL, he has taught what he "strongly believes" Jesus wants him to teach.

And I think it is much greater and deeper than the Archbishop realizes.

Katie van Schaijik

#4, Nov 11, 2017 1:59pm

I'm going to fill out my thoughts further in a separate post. 

Sam Roeble

#5, Nov 11, 2017 3:07pm

Back to Aparecida: the document addresses the priest shortage, as well as applaud the laities response but does not directly deal with clericalism.  This must have  been a meditation that Francis had after the fact

Joy

#6, Nov 11, 2017 4:03pm

But does he miss the individual and the personal? 

You say, “I think the right pastoral response would be for each bishop (and pastor) to invite all divorced and remarried individuals in his diocese or parish who would like to be restored to full communion to please come see him.”

Isn’t that what Chaput is suggesting in this comment,   

 “As a Church we need to meet people where they are.  We need to listen to their sufferings and hopes.  We need to accompany them along the path of their lives.  That demands from us as priests a spirit of patience and mercy.  We need to have a bias toward welcoming, and a resistance to seeing individual persons merely as parts of alien or alienated groups.  The divorced and civilly remarried are not exiles from Church life.  They need to be invited back” . . .

 

Joy

#7, Nov 11, 2017 4:04pm

. . . “I do think Francis is right in pushing all of us as priests to engage our people more directly, personally, with an open heart and a patient spirit.  And we need to really listen to the truth in the Holy Father’s words.  There’s a great temptation in ecclesial life, including parish life, to hide behind staff and offices and committees and programs and schedules.”

“But God doesn’t ask us to save the Church or fix the world.  That’s in his hands.  What he asks is much simpler and more important.  He asks each of us as priests to be faithful, and to be his healing presence to his – and to our – people.”

 It just seems to me that he does recognize, as he repeats several times, that we need to meet people where they are.  I guess I ask can’t we achieve both?  That is, can’t we be welcoming and pastoral and merciful AND as Chaput says, “defend the permanence of the marriage bond wherever and whenever we reasonably can.” 

 Aren’t we on the same page?     

Katie van Schaijik

#8, Nov 11, 2017 5:49pm

I don't think so. Not entirely. I mean I don't think Archbishop Chaput and Pope Francis are entirely on the same page when it comes to AL. 

But, as I say, I'll try to lay out my sense of it more completely in a further post.

Katie van Schaijik

#9, Nov 11, 2017 6:04pm

 

Joy wrote:

In response to this:

Isn’t that what Chaput is suggesting in this comment,   

 “As a Church we need to meet people where they are.  We need to listen to their sufferings and hopes.  We need to accompany them along the path of their lives.  That demands from us as priests a spirit of patience and mercy.  We need to have a bias toward welcoming, and a resistance to seeing individual persons merely as parts of alien or alienated groups.  The divorced and civilly remarried are not exiles from Church life.  They need to be invited back” . . .

 I'll just say again that he in fact, so far, hasn't invited the couples in question to come and see him—at least not to my knowledge, which of course is limited, so I'm open to correction if I'm wrong. What he has done is publicly instruct all his priests that no divorced and remarried individuals may receive Communion unless they are committed to celibacy. In other words, he issued a general rule grounded on Veritatis Splendor, and (as I read it) in practical opposition to the intent of AL.

I think AL asks pastors exactly not to proceed that way.

 

Sam Roeble

#10, Nov 13, 2017 1:57pm

 Turns out Aparecida was the blueprint for Evangeli Guadium's 4 principles : 

"Those principles are: “time is greater than space”; “unity prevails over conflict”; “realities are more important than ideas”; and “the whole is greater than the part.” Francis has returned to these principles throughout his pontificate"

These are crucial to understanding not only" what the Pope sees" as Katie suggests but also how I need to come to understand the Pope 

Joy

#11, Nov 16, 2017 9:03am

I don’t understand why it has to be one or the other.  Can’t both a welcoming and “imposing” of the rules be practiced? As a revert to the faith, this dual approach was very attractive to me.  As G.K. Chesterton said, “I don’t want a church to be right when I am right.  I want a church to be right when I am wrong.”  I did not need or want to hear what I wanted to hear – the world outside the Church gave me that.  I was tired of living a sugar coated truth.  I longed to be given it straight and found those willing to do so to be the most helpful for me in coming home.  Of course, I have always found myself an odd duck and try to remember not everyone feels the way I do. 

Katie van Schaijik

#12, Nov 16, 2017 9:14am

It's definitely not a case of one or other. I mean it's not that we EITHER abandon the moral law OR be unwelcoming.

That's not what the Pope proposes. He repeatedly stresses that we must constantly uphold and proclaim the teaching of the Church in all its fulness and splendor.

I would say that it's the Pope's critics, including Archbishop Chaput, who present that implicit false alternative. It is they who suggest that the Pope's calling on pastors to be more welcoming means that the Pope is lax on the law.

He's not lax on the law at all. He's not touching the law (though he is touching a rule). He's talking about the attitude, disposition and mode of pastors. He is directing them to stop "coming at people", as it were, with the law. Come at them instead with the good news, with compassion, with hope, with mercy. 

When a pastor, like the Archbishop, responds to this call by doubling down on the law, he shows that he's not hearing the Pope. 

That's how I see it. I'm working on a more complete response. It's going to take some time.

Joy

#13, Nov 16, 2017 9:43am

But to me I would say the either or is not what Chaput is proposing.  Also, as he mentioned, I don’t see/know a whole lot of priests who are wanting to condemn or punish.  I see that as a false alternative that perhaps the Pope is suggesting.  You claim critics feel Francis is lax on the law, but I would argue critics claim those like Chaput are lax on the welcoming.  I just don’t see the attitude and disposition of most pastors as harsh or rigid.  Who and where are these pastors?  Perhaps both sides are perpetuating false narratives.  But I'll wait for your more complete response.  I would really like to understand all this.

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