Magisterium as guessing game, that is the essence of the papacy of Pope Francis. Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa gives us examples:
Yes, No, I Don’t Know, You Figure It Out. The Fluid Magisterium of Pope Francis
“If we talk explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried, you have no idea what a mess these guys will make for us. So let’s not talk about it directly, you get the premises in place and then I will draw the conclusions.”
And so, thanks to this “wise” advice – Forte continued – matters came to “fruition” and the papal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” arrived. In which the reformers have found what they wanted.
Forte’s is not a confidence snatched by betrayal. He said it from the stage of the theater in the city of Vasto, of which he is archbishop, in front of a packed crowd. “Typical of a Jesuit,” he commented afterward with a smile.
Because that’s just what Francis does. He never says everything that he has in mind. He just leaves it to guesswork. And he lets the interpretations run, even the most disparate, over what he says and writes.
That this approach should be used in private conversations is understandable. But Jorge Mario Bergoglio exercises it in systematically in public, in his official acts of magisterium, even when everyone is expecting him to add it all up and give a clear and definitive response.
With respect to the magisterium of previous popes, carved in stone, polished word by word, unmistakeble, that of Francis is an epochal transformation.
“Amoris Laetitia” is glaring proof of this. In reading it, the German cardinal and theologian Walter Kasper, who for decades has been the most combative proponent of communion for the divorced and remarried, had no doubts: reformers like him, he declared exultantly, now have “the wind at our backs to resolve such situations in a humane way.”
But another cardinal theologian and fellow countryman, Gerhard Müller, has read the contrary in it. He has said that there is nothing in “Amoris Laetitia” that clearly overturns the magisterium of the perennial Church, which forbids that communion. And Müller is not just anyone, he is the prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, the supreme court in the supervision of doctrine.
But anyone who believes that at this point Francis should clearly say where he stands is sure to be disappointed. Because meanwhile the pope has promoted a third cardinal, the Austrian Christoph Schönborn, as his most trusted interpreter of the post-synodal exhortation. A role that Schönborn is playing to perfection, with explanations also in the style of Bergoglio, all to be interpreted anew, on the ambiguous border between doctrine presented as unchanged and pastoral applications that must be new and changing.
No to barred gates, no to revolutions. But the third way conceived by Francis is anything but unyielding. Just the opposite.
By bringing back into discussion what appeared definitive before him, he has opened a process that gives equal citizenship to the most irreconcilable opinions, and therefore also to the most fiery reformers.
The unparalleled example of this inventiveness of Bergoglio’s may have come last February, when he went to visit the Lutheran Church in Rome (see photo).
A Protestant married to a Catholic asked him if she too could receive communion, together with her husband. And he replied to her with such a roundabout yes, no, and I don’t know as to give no understanding, in the end, what conclusion to draw, if not this: “It is a problem to which everyone must respond.”
It was to no use that Cardinal Müller, in the subsequent days, exerted himself to reiterate that the doctrine of the Church on this point had not changed. Because what was certain was that the pope had made it a matter of opinion, he in the first place, with his statements, denials, and contradictions.
They have their work cut out for them, the bishops and cardinals of Africa, or of Eastern Europe, or of the school of Wojtyla and Ratzinger. Cardinal Kasper has understood very well how things stand: “There is freedom for all. In Germany that can be permitted which in Africa is prohibited.”
With Pope Bergoglio a new model of Church is advancing, fluid, multicultural.