Facelift or Major Surgery?
This article ("Hard Questions" -- see below) caught my attention back on September 5. I saw it again today, read it for a second time, and it still has my attention. You might find it enlightening too.
A big, ballyhooed synod in Rome (about the challenges of family life today) is about to occur during October. Heavy concerns -- family life, birth control, abortion, euthanasia, women's roles in the church and women's ordination, divorce and remarriage, cohabitation by singles, the Eucharist and the divorced, to simply name a few -- will either be discussed via the formal synod agenda or, alternately, will likely swirl around and above the central synod sessions like storm clouds drawing nearer by the minute. Other pressing concerns: youth (as 'spiritual but not religious') in the church, declining Mass attendance in many countries, a growing shortage of priests, bishops and priests who have done wrong but remain in office/ministry, nefarious financial dealings in the Vatican, a truculence in Curia operations, and, ta da!, the dastardly and spreading (and oh so costly) sexual abuse crimes and cover-ups -- will percolate in various ways on the table or below the table at the Rome meeting.
Into the growing anticipation, the writer, John Allen Jr., inserts a question. Does the current media-savvy, Pope often get a pass when it comes to some very hard questions and issues that affect the church and the world? Like a famous dead U.S. President, does Francis have something like teflon coating. For example, he has been Pope for some time now. Consider what he has done and, more, all that he has not done when it comes to the egregious matter of criminal sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable persons, across many dioceses and countries, by adults linked to the church, especially priests, teachers, coaches, and members of religious communities.
Like the spectacular Catholic theologian, Rev. Hans Kung, a one-time friend and colleague of Pope Benedict XVI, I think that Pope Francis' novelty and window of opportunity to effect significant changes and reforms will erode soon if he is not more bold in his actions and decisions. Widespread disillusionment and cynicism among Catholics and other world citizens might set in soon if the new, smiling Pope proclaims God's mercy but dithers on the big stuff.
The Patient is Ready, Doctor
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York says that Francis has surprisingly given the church a "facelift." That sounds essentially right. But also like rather shallow praise.
Consider the metaphor. Plastic surgery mainly makes changes to the surface appearance(s) of a reality. It does not dig deep to solve and heal troubles like other types of operations do. Facelifts suggest style, not substance. How long (i.e., how much time) will Pope Francis be granted the people, the body, the community of believers, to get in up to his elbows to deeply address and deal with the modern church's obvious ills? The pontiff has hinted that there may not be many substantive doctrinal (and other?) changes during his papacy.
Does that mean we should expect years of "small ball" out of Rome rather than more sizable and radical approaches to issues and possibilities?
Francis has been known to say (paraphrased), 'Hey. Remember this. Bottom line I am a faithful son of the Church.'
Like Fr. Kung, I think the clock might be winding down to a shrug and a whimper, not a bang. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tock. Tock. Tickety-tock . . . . Tick . . . .
Have a day! Butch Ekstrom