Not Universal, Parochial

Ines San Martin thinks that local circumstances may affect papal interpretation/teaching:

Just as Pope St. John Paul II’s papacy was shaped by Poland’s experience under communism, and Benedict XVI’s by Western European concerns such as relativism and secularism, Francis’ pontificate is defined in large part by the problems he encountered over several decades as a Latin American pastor and bishop.

A catalog of those core themes would include marginalization, illiteracy, inequality and poverty, sexism, corruption, governments of socialist inspiration, what South Americans often call “Jockey Club elites” who dominate their societies, as well as racism and ecological devastation.

Meanwhile, John Allen reports that Pope Francis is teaching the popes are fallible (because creatures of their times?):

As Benedict XVI put it in July 2005: “The pope is not an oracle; he is infallible [only] in very rare situations.” Benedict reinforced the point when he published his book “Jesus of Nazareth,” actually inviting people to disagree with him.

At the popular level, however, those limits often haven’t registered. Many people assume Catholics are supposed to accept everything a pope says as Gospel truth — or, at least, that it’s a major embarrassment if a pope is caught in a mistake.

In that context, it’s especially striking that Pope Francis appears determined to set the record straight by embracing what one might dub his own “dogma of fallibility.” The pontiff seems utterly unabashed about admitting mistakes, confessing ignorance, and acknowledging that he may have left himself open to misinterpretation.

Whether such candor is charming or simply confusing, leaving one to wonder if the pope actually means what he says, perhaps is in the eye of the beholder. In any case, it’s become a defining feature of Francis’ style.

During a 65-minute session with reporters, Francis embraced his own fallibility at least seven times:

Asked about a border dispute between Bolivia and Chile, Francis said he wouldn’t comment because “I don’t want to say something wrong” — an indirect admission that he’s capable of doing precisely that.

On a controversy in Ecuador over what he meant by the phrase “the people stood up,” Francis replied that “one sentence can be manipulated” and that “we must be very careful” — an acknowledgement, perhaps, that he hasn’t always shown such prudence.

Asked about tensions between Greece and the Eurozone, Francis said he has a “great allergy” to economic matters and said of the corporate accounting his father practiced in Argentina, “I don’t understand it very well.” For a pontiff who’s made economic justice and global finance a centerpiece of his social rhetoric, it was a fairly breathtaking acknowledgment.

Also on the situation in Greece, Francis said he heard a year ago about a United Nations plan to allow countries to declare bankruptcy, but added, “I don’t know if it’s true,” and, remarkably, asked reporters traveling with him to explain it if they happened to know what he was talking about. (Francis may have been referring to a UN debate in 2014 over an international bankruptcy law.)

On blowback in the United States about his rhetoric on capitalism, Francis said he’s aware of it, but declined to react because “I don’t have the right to state an opinion isolated from dialogue.”

When challenged about why he speaks so much about the poor, but relatively little about the middle class, Francis bluntly conceded, “It’s an error of mine not to think about this,” and “you’re telling me about something I need to do.”

Asked whether he’s concerned that his statements can be exploited by governments and lobby groups, Francis said “every word” is at risk of being taken out of context, and added: “If I make a mistake, with a bit of shame I ask forgiveness and go forward.”

Might these be reasons why the majority of Roman Catholics in the U.S. don’t seem to pay attention to papal teaching?


3 thoughts on “Not Universal, Parochial

  1. It’s a hazard of being a cradle. Poor prot-RC’s having to conjure up all that faith. #baptized, been there done that #present at all the dinner table conversations


  2. And now generational parochialism catches up with the papacy and liturgy:

    Pope Francis wants to convey a live-and-let-live attitude towards the Extraordinary Form. It is clear that he does not have a liturgical vision he wishes to impose on the Church and is not overly concerned about legal niceties. His focus is elsewhere, on a series of pressing practical and pastoral issues. On the liturgy, he seems happy for events to take their course. On the legal status of the SSPX, he may be more open to some incomplete, practical accommodation as a step in the right direction than more outwardly conservative popes might be. He has created a space for a less heated debate, a chance for priests and laity to experience both old and new, and, with luck and the Holy Spirit, a process of better liturgical practice, in whatever Form, replacing the not-so-good.

    Developments are being pushed along by something deeper, however, than the personal interests of popes. The inexorable turnover of the generations is having a transformative effect on attitudes within the Church. Only people now over 70 could have been caught up in the excitement of the liturgical reform as adults, and experienced what Benedict XVI called “all its hopes and its confusion”. They are being replaced by people with less emotional commitment, one way or the other: a generation that can take a step back and consider the matter dispassionately.

    Unity schmunity.


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