Sandro Magister at Chiesa has a new column up which is rather troubling. Is the Pope about to softpedal Church opposition to abortion, homosexual marriage and contraception, these being relegated to the status of mere “anthropological issues”:
Pope Francis is showing that he has very clear in his mind both the battles that he wants to fight and those for which he sees no need to do so. Both “ad intra,” meaning within the ecclesial body of which he has become the supreme pastor – and in the Roman curia in particular – and “ad extra,” in the world.
With regard to the latter, pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio has said loud and clear, in the interview with “La Civiltà Cattolica,” that he does not see as a priority the battles over anthropological issues like the questions “connected to abortion, homosexual marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods.”
This undoubtedly constitutes a change of stance with respect to the last pontificates: not only of Benedict XVI and of John Paul II, but also of Paul VI, the pope of “Humanae Vitae” and of the strenuous resistance against the introduction of divorce in Italy.
It is a change of stance, this of Pope Francis, who although he has not yet eliminated even one iota of doctrine has nonetheless raised widespread expectations among the more progressive sectors of Catholicism around the world.
But it is also a change of stance that has backed into a corner those episcopates – of Italy, of Spain, of the United States – which in the past were considered models in their way of addressing on the public stage the anthropological challenges present in the contemporary world, but which now find themselves singled out as “scarcely in line” with the new papal leadership.
In Spain, one signal has come from an editorial on the website “Religión Digital” that begins with this rhetorical question: “Is the Spanish hierarchy in harmony with Francis and with the new wind that is blowing from Rome?”:
“Religión Digital” is a website of Iberian religious information that has always been critical toward the cardinal of Madrid, Antonio María Rouco Varela, for about twenty years the uncontested leader of the episcopate and the bearer of a stance theologically orthodox and politically opposed to the anthropological revolution decisively introduced above all by Rodríguez Zapatero, as well as being contrary to the pro-independence currents also very strong within the ecclesial body of Catalonia and of other regions.
In the United States, the liberal magazine “National Catholic Reporter” has emphasized the extent to which the words pronounced by Francis against “the current pastoral ‘obsession’ with gay marriage, abortion and contraception” manifest an “imbalance” between the pope and the U.S. bishops that goes so far as to “undermine” also the vigorous campaign for religious freedom undertaken by the latter against the morally unacceptable aspects of the healthcare reform of the Obama administration in relation to American ecclesial institutions:
In Italy, finally, in the newspaper “La Stampa” the vaticanista Andrea Tornielli has presented it as a certainty that with Pope Francis comes “the end of an era: that inaugurated by Cardinal Camillo Ruini and continued by his successor Angelo Bagnasco, now called to open another”:
This same shift has also been welcomed by the historian Alberto Melloni, who has noted how in his first encounter with all the Italian bishops last May the pope “gave a talk soft in its forms but hard in its substance, and indicated a stance different from those followed until now.” The representative of the “school of Bologna” – which advocates a progressive interpretation of Vatican II – added: ‘In recent decades a pastoral and political project has been proposed by the Italian episcopal conference. Now the pope is placing at the center of attention a model of the bishop. For Italy it is a great leap.”
The outgoing secretary general, Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino – a Jesuit like Bergoglio, but in full harmony with the hardly “Bergoglian” Ruoco Varela – cannot be reelected. Now it remains to be seen if the bishops will select his successor from among – to use the language of the aforementioned Iberian website – “los candidatos de Rouco” or “los candidatos franciscanos.” How the Spanish bishops will vote, and how strongly the “new wind from Rome” is blowing in Madrid will therefore be seen before too long.
But Pope Francis will also be able to intervene more directly in the leadership of the Spanish bishops when he appoints in Madrid the successor of Ruoco Varela, who has passed the age of 77 and whose mandate as president of the episcopate expires in March.
One strong candidate for the succession, not one of Ruoco’s favorites, seems to be the cardinal of the curia who is the current prefect of the congregation for divine worship, Antonio Cañizares Llovera, more inclined to dialogue in the political arena. The pope will probably make his decision on Madrid after receiving the Spanish bishops on an “ad limina” visit between the end of February and the beginning of March.
The assembly of the bishops of the Unites States, the USCCB, will also meet November 11-14. And this will also be an electoral session. The American prelates, in fact, will have to choose their new president and vice-president for the next three-year term.
Three years ago the bishops, in a surprise break with a longstanding tradition, did not elect as president the outgoing vice-president – the bishop of Tucson, who had been the auxiliary of the deceased cardinal of Chicago, the “liberal” Joseph L. Bernardin, for decades the undisputed leader of the USCCB – but over him chose the combative archbishop of New York, Timothy M. Dolan.
Now the vice-president is the moderate Joseph E. Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville, and it remains to be seen if he will be made president or if another will be preferred to him, for example Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston. There are ten candidates currently in the running, almost all of them moderate or conservative.
In the United States as well, Pope Francis will be able to intervene directly in the episcopal leadership. In fact, the moment is drawing near for the selection of the occupant of the important see of Chicago, where Cardinal Francis E. George will turn 77 in January.
But also drawing near is the date of the first consistory of the current pontificate, expected to take place in February, which means that the names of the new cardinals would be announced in January. It will be interesting to see which churchmen the pope will wager on, to verify if there will or will not be a return to the Bernardin era in the United States, as the “National Catholic Reporter” seems to anticipate and hope:
Go here to read the rest. Pope Pius XII has often been taken to task, falsely, for not speaking and acting in regard to the Holocaust. A Catholic Church which did not actively speak out against abortion and homosexual marriage and in favor of the liberty of the Catholic Church could justifiably be criticized as a Church which restricted the message of Christ to an hour on Sundays only. Additionally, the retreat or silence of the Church on such vital issues would merely embolden those who hate and despise the Church and wish to see her silenced in the World. PopeWatch hopes this column by Magister is merely a false alarm.