Diane Montagna, reporting at Aleteia on the reserved matters that the Missionaries of Mercy will have faculties to resolve, provides this:
Regarding what constitutes “physical violence” against the Pope, Archbishop Fisichella told journalists at Friday’s briefing: “I would say that we need to understand well ‘physical violence,’ because sometimes words, too, are rocks and stones, and therefore I believe some of these sins, too, are far more widespread than we might think.”
And that quip was enough to send people into a rage of sarcasm directed both at Archbishop Fisichella and our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
The lack of a spirit of dialogue was evident with people giving others a platform to whine by speaking of what they called a lack of purity in the usage of metaphors in the Archbishop’s statement. Without citing a long diatribe of one of the Fathers of the Church against those who spend all their time on the purity of language so as not to see the point of what is being presented by an interlocutor (such as the Scriptures themselves), I must say that all of this places into evidence the need for what Francis calls a Synodal Church, precisely what I think is going to be Step Two in Pope Francis’ plan for the Church. We need to understand some things:
- Fraternal correction, direct, incisive, public, against even one’s own ecclesiastical superiors, is something which the Common Doctor deems to be especially obnoxious, though, he admits that this is sometimes necessary in order, for instance, to combat great scandal.
- Fraternal correction of one’s superiors, however ferocious, may also be the very greatest sign of filial devotion and loyalty and, indeed, obedience, not wanting their superiors to be without any counsel just because they hold a certain office. I call this “the very greatest sign” of mercy because it often places one in a position of being marginalized without mercy into the existential peripheries.
- There is, however, needless sniping, which breeds real contempt for priests and bishops and, indeed, the Holy Father. This is a very great evil which has been combated throughout the centuries by so very many saints, even if it is not slander, but “merely” detraction. If it is not necessary to say something to protect the faith and well being of the flock, it really needs to remain in silence.
This last point needs some explanation, and regards mercy. Let’s use a common example some younger priests encounter when trying to clean up the clericalism instilled in some parishes by some of their predecessors. Parishioners might well damn such a priest to hell with terrible bitterness while they watch their long-entrenched support of clericalism and all their self-referential structures of power groups which enable clericalism go down the tubes. However gracious and welcoming the priest is in setting about to do this, if the reaction is bitterness and gossip and putting down the priest needlessly, just how many such people, I ask you, do you think are going to be lining up piously for confession in that parish or any parish? To strike out in such manner against the Lord’s anointed, whether priest or bishop or, indeed, bishop of Rome, can, in fact, sometimes be a sin as Archbishop Fisichella pointed out to us, and that sin can do untold damage to the cura animarum, to the care of souls, even more serious than a physical attack on the person of the Holy Father could ever be. Archbishop Fisichella’s point is well taken by those willing to listen.
And yet, there seems to be an almost demonic glee in needless criticism.
And now we arrive at the point of this article, a note on the epistemology of the new evangelization of mercy.
I think Pope Francis has a great deal to offer the Church. I think that, finally, I understand him, what makes him tick, what he wants for the Church and the world. I have learned much from him about surging out to the peripheries, especially in this last number of weeks. I am thankful. But this has been a painful journey for me. And it took me a while to get to this point, precisely for the reason that Pope Francis really does have a great deal to offer the Church. More on that in future articles.
True learning is painful, since it manifests to oneself that which one would rather remain in the darkness. True learning wrenches opens one’s heart and soul. The greatest saints, says the Angelic doctor, are the ones who knew this pain most often. This is an agonizing process, during which one might offer some loyal criticism, and during which some might fall into rebellious criticism. Just as I think the first should be received with thanksgiving, so the rest should be received with patience in anticipation of the day of understanding. Thus, for example:
There were some exaggerations in the liturgy by certain priests and bishops after Vatican II, especially in the early 1970s, you know, sacrileges such as pouring unused carafes of the Precious Blood down the sacristy work-sink (not even the sacrarium) after Mass because such people did not believe in the Eucharist. I saw it. Others saw similar things. Many rebelled, becoming sede-vacantists, or sede-privationists. Some became extremely bitter, but would still come to the “indult” Mass or now the “Extraordinary Form” Mass. Some of these would let their bitterness fly with no provocation and with the most horrific language concerning their truly bad experiences. Of course, some unjust judgments were also made by some of them about those who had nothing to do with such things, but my reaction was to have no reaction, except to be welcoming. This was disarming and won many friends. So much so that even this or that mistake of whatever Bishop of Rome is also seen with an eye to mercy. One might look hard at this image and at oneself:
We eagerly encourage that those who now criticize Pope Francis needlessly and with such vehemence will take up the words of Amedeo Minghi about himself when confronted with the Francis-like evangelization of mercy of Saint JPII: “Che Caino sono pure io…” “What a Cain I am myself…” That says it all.