30 July 2013

Francis: parodies of missionary discipleship

Before heading back to Rome after a wildly successful WYD, the Holy Father met with the bishops of the CELAM (the South American equivalent of the USCCB).

In his address, the Holy Father commented on the CELAM's Aparecida Document issued in 2007.

Taking up the theme of "Temptations against missionary discipleship," Pope Francis outlined several contemporary obstacles to preaching the Good News:

[. . .]

I will mention only a few attitudes which are evidence of a Church which is “tempted”. It has to do with recognizing certain contemporary proposals which can parody the process of missionary discipleship and hold back, even bring to a halt, the process of Pastoral Conversion.

1. Making the Gospel message an ideology.

An example: Aparecida, at one particular moment, felt this temptation. It employed, and rightly so, the method of “see, judge and act” (cf. No. 19). The temptation, though, was to opt for a way of “seeing” which was completely “antiseptic”, detached and unengaged, which is impossible. . .  The question was, rather: How are we going to look at reality in order to see it? Aparecida replied: With the eyes of discipleship.

     a) Sociological reductionism. This is the most readily available means of making the message an ideology. . .It involves an interpretative claim based on a hermeneutics drawn from the social sciences. It extends to the most varied fields, from market liberalism to Marxist categorization. [This critique hits everyone from Neo-Cons to America Magazine]

     b) Psychologizing. Here we have to do with an elitist hermeneutics which ultimately reduces the “encounter with Jesus Christ” and its development to a process of growing self- awareness. It is ordinarily to be found in spirituality courses, spiritual retreats, etc. It ends up being an immanent, self-centred approach. It has nothing to do with transcendence and consequently, with missionary spirit. [This hits LCWR-types, various New Age perversions, extreme social-justice advocates]

     c) The Gnostic solution. Closely linked to the previous temptation, it is ordinarily found in elite groups offering a higher spirituality, generally disembodied, which ends up in a preoccupation with certain pastoral “quaestiones disputatae”. . .Generally its adherents are known as “enlightened Catholics” (since they are in fact rooted in the culture of the Enlightenment).  [Another hit for LCWR-types, elitist academic theologians, those preoccupied with continental-style philosophical theology, Roger Haight's Christology comes to mind]

     d) The Pelagian solution. This basically appears as a form of restorationism. In dealing with the Church’s problems, a purely disciplinary solution is sought, through the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful. In Latin America it is usually to be found in small groups, in some new religious congregations, in tendencies to doctrinal or disciplinary “safety”. Basically it is static, although it is capable of inversion, in a process of regression. It seeks to “recover” the lost past. [Obviously, a hit at Traditionalists, certain Neo-Con tendencies, those preoccupied with Form over Substance, "law & order" Catholics]

2. Functionalism. 

Its effect on the Church is paralyzing. More than being interested in the road itself, it is concerned with fixing holes in the road. A functionalist approach has no room for mystery; it aims at efficiency. It reduces the reality of the Church to the structure of an NGO. What counts are quantifiable results and statistics. The Church ends up being run like any other business organization. It applies a sort of “theology of prosperity” to the organization of pastoral work. [This is pretty much a hit against most of the Spirit of Vatican Two interpretation of the Council. Think: bare modernist liturgy, stripped altars/churches, a focus on organizational problems/solutions, the bishop as CEO, the priesthood as a job, diocesan bureaucracy, commissions/committees/study groups, process-process-process, and my favorite functionalist bit of nonsense: referring to diocesan clergy as "personnel"]

3. Clericalism 

. . .is also a temptation very present in Latin America. Curiously, in the majority of cases, it has to do with a sinful complicity: the priest clericalizes the lay person and the lay person kindly asks to be clericalized, because deep down it is easier. The phenomenon of clericalism explains, in great part, the lack of maturity and Christian freedom in a good part of the Latin American laity. [Notice that his critique hits at the modernist version of clericalism not the pre-modernist version (Fr. Mack the tyrannical pastor of St. Bubba's). Clericalism, in its modernist version, relieves the laity of its specific baptismal responsibilities by granting it clerical status; thus, leaving lay folks to believe that only by being clericalized can they be truly Catholic. In this section the Holy Father also commends popular piety, another victim of functionalism and modernist attempts to eliminate transcendental elements from the faith]

[. . .]

Read the whole thing.

This talk effectively puts to an end any talk of the Holy Father being an advocate of Liberation Theology. He embraces certain elements of that approach (base communities, focus on the poor) but absolutely rejects its Marxist analytical tools, esp its reliance on the fiction of historical materialism.  It also puts Traditionalist elements of the Church on notice that mere "restorationism" is not a viable means in pursuing our missionary work. 

There's something in this talk to offend/energize just about everyone. This Pope is quite the dynamo!
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  1. Anonymous7:19 AM

    Re clericalism:
    He says: the spread of bible study groups...Of pastoral councils is in fact helping to overcome clericalism (next to last paragraph) makes me think he isn't just talking about the modern clericalism but older. Maybe they have both? I have seen both here and I do wonder if one, being corrected, went to the exact opposite - he will let them do everything - that will show them! Like a spoiled child and very immature.

    1. A properly functioning pastoral council will advise the pastor and keep him informed about the parish's concerns. PC's are not meant to be governing bodies or pseudo-Cabinets. And there's no telling how an immature pastor would respond to a rebuke from the bishop! I can certainly see the adolescent reaction as a possibility.

  2. Anonymous7:39 AM

    The more I think about clericalism, and the more I can now see in hind sight, it could be a litmus test to have the priest apply either or. Let me explain. You have fr tyrant and the bishop speaks w him, urging correction. If fr tyrant is truly infected w clericalism he could be tempted to go exact opposite- lay does everything and he will show them by gosh! Terribly immature. Or you have fr you do it all, when correction comes he is a micro manager. I wonder if they will swing from one pole to the other? I think there are terms to deceive this is psychology too, no? But if I am correct, it would explain why what I think I have seen went from one to the other. Neither good as it is both clericalism. Also helps in in understanding the many different definitions of it.

    1. The term you're looking for is "passive-aggressive." The ideal here is to treat parishioners like mature Christians who are seeking holiness and encourage them in their proper ministry to the world. The problem with modern clericalism is that it gives lay folks the idea that the only proper way to be Catholic is to become a cleric.

  3. Anonymous8:33 AM

    yes, passive aggressive is it. I have experienced something that seemed like clericalism but when corrected, he went to exact opposite. I am not sure if this is common in those who support clericalism, infected with it, or something entirely different.