Viewpoint

Nitpicking rules

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How will Catholic leaders here react to Pope Francis’ call to move beyond “small-minded rules”? Focus instead on “becoming merciful,” the Pontiff has urged in a La Civilta Cattolica magazine interview.

“Heal the wounds and seek those fallen away,” the 265th successor to Peter the Fisherman stressed. Or the Church’s moral structure will lose “the Gospel’s fragrance…and fall like a house of cards.”

The interview was conducted by editor Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, in the Pope’s spartan private quarters in Casa Santa Marta. Francis had earlier waved away sprawling Apostolic Palace digs.

Time magazine distills Francis’ interview into four themes. First: The Church must have a pastor’s heart. Second: Faith demands putting people over issues, not the other way around. Third: Stop constricting Christ’s message to abortion, gays and contraception. The Gospel’s message is not to be “reduced to some aspects that, although relevant on their own, do not show the heart of  Christ’s message.” Fourth: “We must work harder to develop a profound theology of women.”

“This pope is not shattering traditional doctrine,” veteran Vatican correspondent John Allen writes. He quotes Francis: The “teaching of the church … is clear and I am a son of the church… But it is not necessary to talk about gays, contraceptives, abortions all the time. It is not possible.”

“Instead, this pope is trying to shift the emphasis away from condemnation to mercy and craft the church as a force for tolerance.” Benedict XVI had called for a smaller Church of orthodox followers. Francis says the 1.2-billion-member Church should be the “home for all.”

This is the approach he took as Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in Latin America, the Christian Science Monitor recalls. Latin American clergy applied Church doctrine “progressively, choosing to focus on the poor in a region deeply divided along class lines.”

Not everyone is pleased. US Bishop Thomas Tobin is “disappointed” that Francis did not address abortion. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has declined comment—for now.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, however, rushed in where angels fear to tread. The Lipa archbishop boxed in the Pontiff’s open arms, saying he was only “talking about repentant people whom the Church should attend to with God’s mercy.” Arguelles’ exclusions supplanted Francis’ inclusions.

Is mercy to be withheld from those who supported the Reproductive Health Law (RA 10354) now being challenged in the Supreme Court? In the last election campaign, Arguelles urged voters to repudiate those candidates who had backed the RH Law—and was badly trounced.

“We must be a listening Church,” Cardinal Luis Tagle has urged. Filipino mothers are hard put to get family planning services. Daily, 14 to 15 women die at the hands of underground  hilot. In 2010, the “silent screams” from induced abortions numbered 560,000—up from 470,000 in 2000. The Cagayan de Oro archdiocese provides family planning services in 54 parishes. What about Lipa?

“A surprise pope keeps on surprising,” says the New York Times. “Francis is challenging the status quo so determinedly, shaking up the scandal-mired Roman Curia.” Bigger changes could range from revamp to national conferences of bishops or synods. “The Curia should be at the service of the church, the bishops and the pope—not vice versa.”

Ahead is the meeting of the “G8”: Eight cardinals—none of them Italian—will meet in October. Francis has asked them to consider the prickly issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried, aside from Curia reforms. Another panel will recommend changes for the scandal-tarred Vatican Bank. That may include a shutdown… “Francis wants feedback from people who aren’t just telling him what they think he wants to hear.”

The Pope’s interview “hit the Catholic world like a thunderbolt,” the Los Angeles Times notes. “Liberals, conservatives, the devout and the secular find something to like—for widely divergent reasons.”

The liberals and those outside the Church are delighted with his complaint that the Church has been unduly “obsessed” with abortion, contraception, etc. Those who focused on these remarks—roughly 600 to 800 words out of the 12,000-word interview—“missed  the forest for a few trees,” counter the conservatives, who say Francis merely expressed Catholic doctrine.

“The interview revealed the Pope’s thinking on a wide variety of issues, and reflected the Catholic Church’s ability to ‘reboot’ itself to be relevant to contemporary society,” writes Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review Online. “Whatever your politics, be careful what you read into this. Francis is talking to you. He’s talking to me. He’s reminding himself. The news isn’t that he isn’t ‘a right-winger,’ as he tells us. It’s that he’s a pastor. He’s a priest, not a politician.”

“The Pope is right that single-issue Catholics need to rise above their immediate concerns,” the conservative Catholic League’s Bill Donohue writes in his organization’s website. “He did not say we should not address abortion or homosexuality. He said we cannot be absorbed by these issues. Both the Left and the Right should heed his message.”

Does Francis have a grand strategy? John Allen isn’t certain. In any case, “its path is not completely predictable.” Cardinal Bergoglio was known best for his pastoral style. He didn’t hesitate in confronting more liberal Jesuit Argentines.

The 217 cardinals at the March conclave “believed they were electing a conservative,” Allen adds. “I don’t know if they felt they were electing a moderate who would reposition the church ideologically. But that is, in fact, what is happening.”

(E-mail: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com)

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  • eduardo Roa

    Archbishop Arguelles is an example of narrow mindedness. Instead of extending God’s mercy to everyone he creates limits as to who God should save. This is precisely what Pope Francis reproaches; a church all wrapped up in itself.

  • bgcorg

    There is a danger in trying to put the Pope against a whole tradition of ordinary teaching of the Church, documented through time and emphasized by his predecessors as bishop of Rome. Taken out of context, atheists, homosexuals, secular divorcees, abortionists and violators of the sacredness of life, extreme feminists can feast on skeletons! He was speaking more about pastoral orientation to convey the Church’s understanding, forgiveness, love and compassion, rather than doctrinal or moral guidelines which, cannot be overemphasized, too! There are many gifts in the Church.

    • Edgar Lores

      In the context of Christianity, forgiveness, love and compassion are not gifts of the Church, because the Church is only a messenger. They are the gifts of Christ.

      • FrancisXIII

        Actually, in the context of Christianity, forgiveness, love and compassion are gifts that all people can and are asked to give, and we strengthen our capacity to give these through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God that includes the person of Jesus Christ. The Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ himself and his spouse, offers these gifts through the sacraments, all of which have been instituted by Christ as well.

      • Edgar Lores

        Actually, in the context of Christianity and the Bible, God, in his love and compassion, provided men the Way for our sins to be forgiven. That Way is through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, who died for our sins. That forgiveness is the gift of God.

        From the Protestant point of view, the claim that the Church is the mystical body of Jesus is blasphemous because it is the messenger exalting itself, equating itself with Jesus.

      • FrancisXIII

        Yes, your comment on forgiveness is definitely true as far as it goes. I wouldn’t contest that. But I don’t think it precludes what I have said about forgiveness, love, or compassion…. in the context of Christianity. As for the Church being the Mystical Body of Christ, well, also in the context of Christianity and the Bible, that is doctrinal … though, ecumenically speaking, I am quite willing to dialogue about it. … though I am not sure that social media would be quite the venue for that. Would have been nice over a cup of coffee …

      • Edgar Lores

        The Church being the mystical body of Christ may be doctrinal but it is hardly scriptural. Again, this is the Church interpreting the Bible to suit its own ends.

      • FrancisXIII

        Well, I guess for now we will have to agree to disagree on this one. The real tradition and sense of communion between the Church and Jesus Christ (“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”) makes me believe otherwise. Nevertheless, I am impressed by your passion on this.

    • crazy_horse_101010

      you been chewing on any bones lately. you speak for the pope now?

  • Edgar Lores

    Francis is emphasizing mercy over faith? He is still not emphasizing a positive. He does not go far enough, because mercy denotes wrongdoing. Yes, forgiveness for wrongdoing, but nevertheless wrongdoing.

    Which is why politicians engage in wrongdoing, because they know they will have mercy and be forgiven.

    Francis should emphasize happiness, the peace and the grace that comes from either just being good or, better still, doing good.

  • FrancisXIII

    The author says ” Benedict XVI had called for a smaller Church of orthodox followers.” Not so, I believe. Benedict XVI always spoke and wrote of the Church’s mission of gathering the people of God so that we could share or participate in the life of God. In fact, I think Pope Francis echoes Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI somehwat, who said the following when addressing the bishops of Switzerland in 2006.

    “I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and
    ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the
    questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women,
    contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

    If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the
    Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we
    give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat
    antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the
    faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight
    the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow
    such situations to divert us.”

  • virgoyap

    Once mercy and compassion will be the banner for every Christian then everything will be resolved peacefully even those very much heated issues of our times. Yes the teachings of the Church stay but let LOVE prevail. I think that is the message of my favorite Pope.

    • FrancisXIII

      Now this is well said …. and captures the interview quite well…

  • $16256071

    There are a lot of intangible mysteries in life. And much of those intangibles, invisible definers of our character is in our heart. Not in some man-made external domain which the world is openly and indisputably identified with. All we need to do is to seek divine guidance all the time in prayer to help us keep our spiritual sanity in check and to “reboot” up without hurting other people.

  • pabulaka

    I do believe that many Liberals do more good than Conservatives in real life.

    • FrancisXIII

      ….pretty sweeping generalization .. I would have to respectfully disagree

      • rqui

        I hope many people become more like you in the sense of respectful arguments. many commenters here just say stupid stuff without offering any explanations or suggestions.

  • Mang Teban

    Juan L. Mercado:
    I don’t know your agenda to keep on putting the entire Catholic Church into the limelight on critical matters you find useful to push for the RH law.
    It is obvious though that you favor contraception like a “concerned citizen” over the daily mortality rate of pregnant mothers you claim die in the hands of “undergound or hilot”. Have you not understood that the inadequate health services by the government that is supposed to provide to the poor is the culprit for those deaths? Why blame the manghihilot? In fact, successful deliveries are attributed to them better than going to government hospitals without the doctors, medicines, and equipment to keep the infants alive upon delivery. The problem is LACK OF MEDICAL ATTENTION – no prenatal and postnatal services which also contribute to the deaths of mothers who die a few days after delivery.

    Can you leave the matter of reconciling the views of bishops and the pope to them? It is natural for disagreements to occur in organizations as small as a family sari-sari store to as large as the Catholic Church. But, to try to sow intrigues and make the matter like something that will cause catastrophic collapse of the Church is the work of a devious mind. Wait and be patient with the leadership of the Catholic Church. In the history of the Church, disagreements happen but later on the Holy Spirit of God comes to renew and refresh the faithful and harmony among the Church members prevail. Some Catholics leave the Church while others seek answers within and succeed to find the way to the Truth. Instead of finding fault in the Church, should you not do something positive for peace to reign in our country? What you are doing is to agitate Catholics. Do you find pleasure in this?

    • crazy_horse_101010

      if women werent having 8 kids they wouldnt be needing medical care. so it all goes back to the church wanting everyone to breed like lab rats so they can make more money and have more power. does the church like driving around in their new cars and watching kids begging in the streets. or at traffic lights.and ive done more to help the poor here than the church has ever done, with their double donations to rebuild the church this has been going on for years and they havent bought a brick yet the priest does have a nice new car and 2 purebreed dogs worth 25000 pisos each . and i dont find pleasure in what is going on.

      • Mang Teban

        Help! This guy does not understand the importance of punctuation marks…ugh! A desperate pain in the behind seeking attention….grabe!

      • crazy_horse_101010

        typical when someone has nothing they can say they attack grammar and still wanting to know what kind of sex my wife has with me because you kept asking about it pervert. cant read wlthout a dot then dont read it hypocrite . and that is funny coming from you about seeking attention since you post your boring cut and pastes all over these forums over and over again pain in the azz and im not grabbing you fanatic. to slimy for me

      • Mang Teban

        ?????? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • crazy_horse_101010

        HEEHEEHEE

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