In the Süddeutsche Zeitung from Munich – most likely a newspaper Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reads daily – Matthias Drobinski is noting the contrast between Pope Francis and his predecessor.
“The Opposite of Benedict’s Program” reports on the “sensation” of the short speech Jorge Mario Bergoglio made at the cardinals’ meetings before the conclave, made public with his permission. Dobrinski sees it as the “program of the new pope,” like the 2005 homily of Joseph Ratzinger at the Mass before the 2005 conclave.
Efforts are underway to put Bergoglio in the light of continuity with Ratzinger, Drobinski says. Both are against relativism and for the truth of the Gospel. Bergoglio warn of a “worldly” church, which fits with Benedict’s desire for “desecularizing” the church.
But note the contrasts:
In 2005 Joseph Ratzinger described the church as a little ship threatened by the high waves of the “dictatorship of relativism.” What can a ship crew do in a storm? Shorten the sails, close the hatches, raise the ship sides, close oneself off from the danger from the outside. In 2005 Joseph Ratzinger preached hermeticism, securing of what one has, preservation of the entrusted treasure in a secure place. This is – to put a fine point on it – what his successor castigates as an “egocentric church” which “seeks Jesus within.”
The image of a church that goes to the borders of the world and human existence is not compatible with the image of a ship in a hostile storm. A church that goes to the borders risks something. It risks losing its own security. And the treasure of Catholic tradition, in view of the cries of the present day, appears as something beautiful but secondary.
To go to the periphery: the notion derives from Latin American liberation theology, whose proponents left their rectories in the 70s to live with the poor. For many in the curia – but by no means for all – this is a battle cry: to be a liberation theologian and thus naturally a Marxist is a curse. It is a battle cry just like the demonstrative renunciation of insignia, trappings, and formalities of papal existence, the renunciation of forms that have long since broken free from their content, that have become self-referential and narcissistic.
The cardinals have voted for this battle cry – with full knowledge of the inflammatory speech of the cardinal from Buenos Aires, Argentina. With a two-thirds majority, they are fed up with the royal court carrying one of the curia, the sacralization of form over existential content, a church leadership scandalously concerned with itself, with a pope at the peak who is, to be sure, a man of integrity and well-educated, but increasingly out of his depth.
They voted for a change that they had not yet wanted in 2005. These cardinals will now have to support their Pope Francis over against the mentality of adamancy, of closed hatches. For those powers are very strong in the Catholic Church.
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In Drobinski’s “How Pope Francis Thinks,” there is interesting information about Bergoglio’s wrangling with Vatican officials. Drobinski writes:
It was a bitter battle about wording and formulations. It was embedded in brotherly gestures, in chants and prayers. The battle took place in the shadows of the modern cathedral of Aparecida, the big Marian pilgrimage shrine of Brazil, in May 2007. The bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean had gathered to talk about how the Catholic Church on the continent should react to globalization, the division of society into rich and poor, secularization, loss of faith, and the success of the Pentecostalist churches.
We have to open ourselves anew, found the majority of those gathered. For the conservatives and the Vatican delegates, that was threatening. They sought to influence the process, and they had supporters: the people from the “Sodalicium vitae christianae” of Peru, a very conservative brotherhood which managed to take over the work of translation, administration, and media relations.
Suddenly, the next morning, the document approved the night before sounded different. At some point, the leader of the editorial commission had had enough. He himself now supervised the process and took over media relations. It remains unclear whether the sickness that caused Opus Dei Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima and Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo of Bogotá to depart was of viral or political cause. But in any case for Jorge Mario Bergoglio, cardinal from Buenos Aires and leader of the final editing, it was a triumph – over all wishes for change out of Rome.
Whoever wishes to know what Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict, thinks, can go back to his hundreds of books and articles… […] Whoever on the contrary wishes to know what Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the new Pope Francis, thinks, must above all look at his life and his deeds. He has never produced a theological work of his own … […] Bergoglio has written a half-dozen books and edited a few more; there is an authorized biography and an interview book together with Rabbi Abraham Skorka. That really isn’t much. […]
Asked about the conflicts at the gathering in Aparecida, Bergoglio answered that in the Church the Holy Spirit is the “author of unity and diversity. When it is we who create diversity, it comes to schism. And when it is we who want unity, it comes to uniformity and synchronization.” Yes, the Church must always change: “One does not remain faithful by clinging to the letter like traditionalists or fundamentalists. Faithfulness is always change.” […]
One can understand why they are nervous in the curia when Pope Francis wears black, orthopedic shows instead of red, and washes and kisses the feet of prison detainees on Holy Thursday. These gestures are not for their own sake, they are the program. This Francis from far-off Argentina is at once revolutionary and conservative. […]
For many Europeans, the new pope will be hard to stomach.