Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Francis Emphasizes "Growth in Continuity"

Now some people went a little crazy with these remarks.  For the life of me, I really don't understand why.   I actually think there's some food for thought here that all Catholics (including traditionalists) should really consider.

1.)  The Holy Spirit really does "annoy us" more often than not.  Jonah was a prophet of God, and he certainly found the Spirit's prodding annoying for his comfortable life.  The same occurred with Elijah the prophet.  When things didn't go his way, he took his ball and retreated to a mountain where he hoped to die so he wouldn't have to deal with this Ahab and Jezebel crap anymore.

2.)  The real legacy of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24) is not gnosticism, instead it is the idea that the Spirit can be used as some talisman of power for an individual to achieve what they want.  When Pope Francis speaks of "domesticating" the Holy Spirit, he speaks precisely of this mindset, where we lead the Holy Spirit around, and anything that we do individually is treated as the Spirit's work.  Again, this is one of the most ancient themes of the Bible.  Why our present generation (and we who are as always under the misery of concupiscence) should be exempt from this treatment is beyond me.

3.)  We haven't done much with Vatican II in the "growth of continuity."  For the past 50 years, Catholics have been told that we must be open to the "Spirit of Vatican II", which has nothing to do with Vatican II.  Whatever one thinks of the Council, this really shouldn't be that controversial of a statement.  Benedict XVI (for various reasons, I do not like the title "Pope Emeritus") spent his entire pontificate trying to emphasize the need to read Vatican II in a hermeneutic of continuity.  The Council was supposed to promote growth, and Pope Francis answers quite candidly that more often than not, we didn't get that growth, and the reason has to do with the bad decisions/motives of Catholics of all stripes.

4.)  Those who want to go back before Vatican II are "hard-headed."  Okay, this is where everyone is raging.  Yet let us actually think this through.  If we "turn back the clock" on the Second Vatican Council, do we turn back on all of it?  There's little doubt, since the end of the Council, the intellectual life of the Church is far more conversant with the Early Church Fathers, and Sacred Scripture has permeated into the lives of Catholics more.  Nowadays many lay Catholics can more than hold their own against Protestant propagandists.  Due to those like Dietrich Von Hildebrand and his intellectual successors, the Church is also on a stronger footing philosophically, in many ways being more in tune with Aquinas than the Thomists of those days.  Nobody is really calling for scrapping these things, yet they are, at least partially, a result of the Second Vatican Council.

Even in areas liturgically, can we really "turn back the clock?"  Does anyone even know what said clock looked like 50 years ago anymore?  Everyone has their nostalgia or their nightmares, but the certain truth of the matter is certainly elsewhere.  Gone are the days of priests celebrating a Sunday Mass in 15 minutes, and homilies explaining the Scriptures are far more common than before, where if you were lucky enough to get a homily, it was on something completely unrelated.  (Still a problem in some circles!)  These kind of things seldom exist in the Extraordinary Form nowadays, and it is a result of our own little liturgical reform that actually is line with the Council.

Does that mean that everything that has happened since the Council is a good thing?  The Pope's words and history clearly demonstrate otherwise.  For one reason or another, the implementation of Vatican II was a stinking hot mess.  Yet the Council was a fact of history, and it has to be dealt with.  Since nobody actually believes we should just ignore these past 50 years, we have to deal with it.   Far better to deal with it by demonstrating how Vatican II is consistent with the broader Tradition, and how in some cases it has even enriched it, as in the cases mentioned above.

5.)  Finally, I think people are trying to treat what was said today as some deep theological exposition.  It really wasn't.  It was an off the cuff homily based on the readings for the day.  As such, it deals with conditions which are not limited to any time frame.  When one looks at this as a general commentary on the readings, one is able to relax.  Could some of these remarks be aimed at the SSPX?  Certainly.  Which only goes to prove what I mentioned when Francis first became Pope:   The SSPX should have taken the deal, as for better or worse this Pope will drive a harder bargain.  Personally, I think it's for the better, as I'm tired of the SSPX controversies.

I think in the end this just reiterates what I have said all along:  If this pope is not one who approaches things the way we approach them, this does not mean he is our enemy.  It really just takes a bit of keeping calm and applying common sense to see what is said.

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