PopeWatch: Method

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at Monday Vatican gives us some observations to explain the method of Pope Francis:



This point of view was rejected by Fr. Piero Gheddo, a longstanding missionary. Fr. Gheddo did not directly oppose the Pope. He made his arguments when he commented on the shutting down of the only missionary magazine in Italian. That shutdown – he explained – is an outcome of the crisis of the missions. And the crisis of the vocations to missions – he went on – came from a lack of identity. Missionaries were not preaching the Gospel; they mostly dealt with social issues, leaving the announcement of the faith to the sidelines. This generated a fall in vocations to the missions and in the interest to go on mission.

A vision is likely missing now. In the end, Pope Francis gives the impression of acting in a hurry. He listens to many advisors, but then he makes decisions by himself. In some cases, Pope Francis’ choices seemed to be in continuity with those of his predecessors and with the line the Church had always followed. In other cases, there is an evident discontinuity.

In fact, one of Pope Francis’ characteristics is this swinging between two poles. For example, he appointed Cardinal Robert Sarah as Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments. And Cardinal Sarah certainly has a traditional sensitivity to liturgy, though he is not an expert. But before Sarah’s appointment, the Congregation was stripped of the officials in it that represented continuity in liturgy. Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, the former Prefect, was appointed Archbishop of Valencia. And before that, with an impromptu and unexpected decision, the two under-secretaries of the Congregation, Anthony Ward and Juan-Miguel Ferrer Grenesche were dismissed. They were replaced by a single under-secretary, Corrado Maggioni, who is mostly in the (progressive) liturgical line of Archbishop Piero Marini, once St. John Paul II’s Master of Ceremonies.

Another example is given by Pope Francis’ choices at the last consistory, held in 2015. The red hat went to many bishops who in their homeland – but especially at the 2014 Synod where Pope Francis got to know them – distinguished themselves for taking a soft line on doctrinal issues, and who showed themselves to be open to innovation. Will this line be followed for the next consistory, now expected to be held in November?

Pope Francis also demonstrates a keen nose for politics. He knows when he has to wait. He is “smart,” as he admitted in his first interview that he granted to the Jesuit-run bi-monthly “La Civiltà Cattolica.” For example, Archbishop Blaise Cupich, promoted to archbishop of Chicago against all expectations, still has not received the red hat. Probably, the Pope is waiting for conditions in the American hierarchy to become more ready to accept Cupich as a cardinal. He demonstrates this same kind of waiting in the cases of other bishops. Step by step, he is carrying forward his real reform, that of the profile of bishops and cardinals.

Important indications about how Pope Francis will close the post-Synod discussion may be given by the upcoming trip to Mexico. Pope Francis will also visit Chiapas, a Mexican state characterized by the strong presence of deacons, all married. There are hundreds of them, ordained for the diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, while the priests are just a few dozen.

The ordination of these deacons took place from 1959 to 2000, and was the work of then bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia. When he resigned due to age limit, ordinations were suspended following a request from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The fact that the Pope is going to visit the area might be used to show that he approves the ordination to the priesthood of ‘viri probati’, that is, men of acknowledged faith who could replace priests in some of their tasks due to the lack of priests. The practice of ordaining ‘viri probati’ was widely discussed in the past, since it is a possible opening to the married priesthood. This opening would lead to the collapse of the obligation of priestly celibacy in the Latin Rite.


Go here to read the rest.  The direction of the current pontificate is clear, but the inability of the Pope to proceed in an expeditious manner where he wants to go may be a saving grace.

More to explorer

O Sacred Head

Something for the weekend.  O Sacred Head Surrounded.  The lyrics of this hymn derive from the latin poem Salve Mundi Salutare.  The


  1. Fr. Gheddo is referring to the magazine Ad Gentes. Apparently this was a professional journal for missionaries and had a very limited readership; most issues went to libraries. It stopped publication 8 months ago. See http://www.asianews.it/news-en/In-Italy-the-mission-to-the-nations-is-no-more-31384.html for more details.

    What is worse is the shutdown of the web site of the Missionary International News Service Agency at the end of 2015. The lay staff attempted an appeal to its readership to keep it alive but the effort was apparently too little too late. The staff implied that the publisher (i.e. clergy) was committed to its shutdown despite whatever the outcome of their appeal was. Since the MINSA site had some original reporting from missionary territories this was a great shame.

  2. “…Pope Francis’ characteristics is this swinging between two poles….”
    IMO, the “Swiss cheese” metaphor explains it perfectly–point to the holes and call it cheese and then point to the cheese when the need arises. Mere “confusion” doesn’t explain such a obviously improper methodology.
    The big question, yet unanswered, is not about the “method” (means to an end) but the goal (end itself) Is it the yellow stuff with substance, or is it the holes in the faith?

  3. Not happy about the whole married diaconate thing. Great, just what the Church needs, more plumbers, divorce lawyers, and cabbies playing part-time, weekend priest. How pray tell would encouraging this dubious practice solve the vocations problem?

    I’m sure many or most of these guys are wonderful, well-intentioned men. But the idea of a married diaconate the way it’s done in the West is ridiculous. The training and education is usually subpar, the risk of scandal is heightened (Fred the PI lawyer suing a parishoner, anyone?); and the not so subtle attack on priestly celibacy is problematic.

    If they really feel the need to have a permanent diaconate, it should be as it was: celibate and full time. Consecrated service to God should not be a part-time occupation. Participation in His ministerial priesthood should, in the West, be celibate as the rule.

  4. @Tom.

    Question. Do you have son’s?
    If so, are any of them in the priesthood. The seminary?

    I’m happy we have men, after five years of weekend study, that have filled voids due to our lack of new blood in the priesthood.

    Prisoners are being taught Catholicism.
    Hospital, Nursing Home visits and end of life visits are consoling thousands of Catholic’s and their loved ones. Without the permanent deaconate these are souls who might miss important graces and help because the parents of young men neglected to nourish the idea of religious life. I would never assume you went this path since I would never know, but other Catholic parents may have never considered such ideas, hence a Church without priests. Good News!
    In the States the numbers are coming back.

    Please don’t pick on the deaconate.
    These men are ordained and Holy.

  5. it is not well known in the United States and Canada, but in certain parts of Latin America (Oaxaca, rural Brazil to name two) there has been a long, steady push to rescind the celibacy requirement for ordination to the priesthood in the Western Church. Cardinal Bergoglio knew of this long before he became the current Roman Pontiff and his silence to opposition to this idea can be considered tacit support.

    I have pointed out that the Roman Pontiff reversed the papal edict from the 1920s that required Eastern Catholic priests in the US to be celibate, in clear violation of the Union of Uzhorod and the Union of Brest-Litovsk. This caused communities, parishes and families to be torn apart. In some cases, entire Catholic parishes repudiated these agreements and became Eastern Orthodox. They have a tradition of a married priesthood and it should be respected.

    The West does not have this tradition. In times past, the US was able to ordain more than enough men to the priesthood. Latin America never did. They often relied upon Spanish and Portugese priests, which will not happen any more. So, the calls are made to ordain married men to the priesthood.

  6. We don’t need an ordained, married diaconate to have outreach. KofC, Legion of Mary, and any number of groups have always done charitable works without the need for ordination and taking on liturgical roles.

    Married diaconate is a clever foot in the door for proponents of married priesthood, and the further breakdown of the distinction between the ordained, ministerial priesthood, and the functions of the laity.

  7. @Tom.

    Why did the church in America institute the permanent deaconate program?

    Out of need. The married deacons that I’m familiar with happen to be medical doctors and have helped tremendously to ease the workload of our respective priests. They are blessings. Will the serpent try to infiltrate the priesthood? Of course. Will he succeed. Nope. Will women become priests? Never.

    Praise God our deaconate program is a help and ordained deacon’s have a special grace that KofC, Legion of Mary and other non-ordained lay associations do not have.
    Please don’t underestimate the ordination of deacons.

    Have a blessed Lent Tom.

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