I don't write often on this blog about things overtly or institutionally religious. My stories sometimes touch on this -- but not the news-y and nonfictional. Yet an article about the newness of and the 'paradox of Pope Francis,' by the revered German theologian, Hans Kung, caught my eye yesterday.
Intuitively, the challenge and the paradigmatic spiritual model that Francis (formerly Jorge Bergoglio, a Cardinal archbishop from Buenos Aires, in South America) has suddenly presented to the church and world is at once both ancient and refreshingly inspirational. One need not be a Catholic, or even Christian or a religious person, to find a sense of fresh uplift and spirit in what the new pope, in his simple all-white outfits, is trying to say via his symbolic actions, his non-verbal gestures, and sometimes actual words. PF1's emerging example reminds me of a maxim that an another revered reformer of the 13th century, Francis of Assisi, once addressed to all who would hear:
'Through your life, spread the good news without
ceasing, use words if they become necessary.'
'To conclude . . . what is to be done if our expectations of reform are quashed from above? In any case, the time is past when pope and bishops could reckon with the obedience of the faithful. The 11th-century Gregorian Reform also introduced a certain mysticism of obedience: Obeying God means obeying the church and that means obeying the pope. Since that time, it has been drummed into Catholics that the obedience of all Christians to the pope is a cardinal virtue; commanding and enforcing obedience -- by whatever means -- has become the Roman style. But the medieval equation, “Obedience to God equals obedience to the church equals obedience to the pope,” patently contradicts the word of the apostle before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem: “Man must obey God rather than other men.”
'However, if he just lets things continue as they are, without clearing the logjam of reforms as now in the case of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, then the call of “Time for outrage! Indignez-vous!” will ring out more and more in the Catholic church, provoking reforms from the bottom up that will be implemented without the approval of the hierarchy and frequently even in spite of the hierarchy’s attempts at circumvention. In the worst case -- as I already wrote before this papal election -- the Catholic church will experience a new ice age instead of a spring and run the risk of dwindling into a barely relevant large sect.'
-- Rev. Hans Küng
May 21, 2013
Bottoms up! What an unusual and never complacent time to be alive.