The Pope's 'Second Interview' - Two Questions

Seattle, Washington. — I am here at Seattle University doing some workshops for the School of Theology and Ministry on interreligious learning — this school is a leader in the new wave of interfaith ministerial training — and so I have fallen behind a bit on the news. But a friend sent me the link to the pope’s second interview, with Eugenio Scalfari, founder of La Repubblica. It too is a breath of fresh air and still, so early in this new and new-styled pontificate, a breath of fresh air after the past 35 years of very different papal styles. I was happy to read almost all of these new comments, and grateful for Francis’ new approach. So I am reluctant to raise a couple of concerns that came to me in my reading, but since they have lingered with me since yesterday, I think it apt to pose them here.

First, the pope continues to be critical of the Vatican bureaucracy, the Curia: “Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy… [Yes,] there are sometimes courtiers in the curia, but the curia as a whole is another thing. It is what in an army is called the quartermaster's office, it manages the services that serve the Holy See. But it has one defect: it is Vatican-centric.” It is a little difficult, even on a second and third reading, to get his distinction between the “leprosy of this court” and the good functions of the curia, it true outward function and its narcissicism. In any case, if the curia, or some part of it, is a blight on the church, and desperately in need of reform and house-cleaning, why does Francis rush to canonize John Paul II, who presided over it, fostered and nurtured it, appointed its officials, and let it be, for 27 years? It is hard to blame “heads of the church” and “elements in the Curia” and to criticize the narcissists and courtiers, without some blame being laid at the feet of this powerful pope who reigned for so long. Whether or not popes should be canonized is open to question; but when they are to be canonized, how well they ran the Vatican itself should be a major criterion, and it is odd that Francis continues the rush to canonize John Paul II when he is so critical of a major dimension of his predecessor's administrative legacy.

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Second, later in this second interview, in response to a question about the “minority status” of the church in today’s world, Francis responds in part, “Vatican II, inspired by Pope Paul VI and John, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to be open to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that being open to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. But afterwards very little was done in that direction. I have the humility and ambition to want to do something.” (My emphasis.)

It is astonishing to suggest that “very little” has been done with respect to ecumenism and dialogue since the council. I readily admit that at least with respect to interreligious dialogue two steps forward have too often been followed by a step backwards. Think of "Dominus Iesus" and the trials of Jacques Dupuis, SJ. Surely there is much more to be done, and further regrets to be expressed. But it is ought not be said, so casually and in passing, that “very little” has been done since the council. Enormous strides have been made in ecumenical exchanges with a wide array of Christian Churches West and East, and through the Pontifical Council on Interreligious Dialogue and other global and local offices and communities, and in the lives of ordinary Catholics everywhere, great strides have been made in altering the church’s previous often arrogant and polemic attitude toward other religions, toward eradicating anti-semitism, toward an opening to our Muslim brothers and sisters, and toward various richer and deeper exchanges with Hindus and Buddhists. So what does Francis mean by “very little” in this regard—what is his measure? Had he done more in Argentina as cardinal?

It could be, to put this in perspective, that in Argentina, as provincial and bishop and archbishop and cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was not involved in ecumenical and interreligious exchange in any concerted fashion (even if he is respected for fostering Jewish-Christian relations). Perhaps he never entered into encounter with the theologies and practices of the Asian religions, for instance, and did not urge his staff to work at implementing the council’s ecumenical and interreligious vision. Perhaps there was less need in Argentina, and he was too busy to notice what was happening elsewhere in the church. But surely, now that he is pope, he needs to be more careful, more attentive to what others have done and what the church really has achieved in the past 50 years.

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king andi
4 years 1 month ago
it's very easy for us to look at others - their works and words - then eventually will make judgements or put some labels or worst put then in a box as if change is not a reality... And most of d time we usually see d weak side and highlight it to d point of covering the strength and good side... i admire you sir for having such a critical thought but i hope for once you were able to apply to urself the measure u used to pope francis...like asking have you done any concrete acts in so far as the issues u r concerned at? - or else ur like no other than a "sounding gong" - how much THOUGHT and TALKED have u WALKED???
Murali Karamchedu
4 years 1 month ago
> ...like asking have you done any concrete acts in so far as the issues u r concerned at? - or else ur like no > other than a "sounding gong" - how much THOUGHT and TALKED have u WALKED??? As an external, non-christian observer of discussions here, I wish to defend Fr. Clooney's 'walking the talk' (I am sure he does not need me to, and is more than capable of giving his usual and thoughtful response.) What you ask here is pertinent, and I would encourage you to look at his long career in inter-religious dialogue. I have always found his commitment to Christianity and his respect for other faith traditions profoundly instructive - he never patronizes or talks down to his readers, his elucidation of Christian topics are reflective and encourages deeper questioning, he is always acutely sensitive to the cultural dimensions of dialogue, his scholarship and intellectual rigor is infectious and his example is one well worth following. I find his openness refreshing and wish more of us were like him.
Tim O'Leary
4 years 1 month ago
To address each of Fr. Clooney's two points, I think the rationale for canonizing Pope John Paul II ("the Great") is based on his personal life story, his evident personal holiness and the miracles that have attested to this sanctity after his death, and not specifically to how well he managed the Church or how competent or sinful Church clergy (or indeed the Catholic laity) were under his watch. The fact that he was the most influential pope and maybe even world leader of the second half of the 20th century would not in itself be a reason for canonization. Similarly, the fact that some bishops and priests and many laity failed in their Christian duties should not determine the Church's declaration of his present state. While I absolutely love the way Pope Francis is evangelizing, I do agree that in a conversational style interview, it is possible for words to come off as unduly harsh (leprosy, narcissism, make a mess, right-winger, female machismo, etc.) or for expressions or answers to be incomplete and open to misunderstanding. There is also the editing and translation that could be impacting the communication. For example, the very day after the very long America interview was released that contained the reference to abortion and homosexuality (and the secular media took one line out of 12,000 as if it was the central point of the interview - talk about an obsession), Pope Francis reiterated the Church's teaching on the terrible injustice of abortion and the obligation on social justice grounds to fight for its abolition. (http://www.catholicsun.org/2013/09/20/pope-condemns-abortion-as-product-of-throwaway-culture/). On ecumenism, there is always more that could be done. A couple of considerable recent advances include the "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" project and the Catholic-Lutheran dialogue ahead of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's protest (see here http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/after-five-centuries-of-division-catholics-and-lutherans-consider-their-com/). Still, I think ecumenism is in great new difficulties with the parting of several Protestant churches from their own long-standing Christian moral teaching in sexual matters. I think this gap will not be closed by a change in style but only by a true re-conversion.
Jumel Lee
4 years 1 month ago
Two things are essential to remember about cultures: they are always changing, and they relate to the symbolic dimension of life. best online slots
Alejandro Stanham
4 years 1 month ago
Thanks father Clooney. I understand you were reluctant to make these comments because undersatndably you enjoy the fresh air of Bergoglio´s papacy as I do. But I`m grateful you took this step forward with prudence and tenderness. I admired John Paul II as a simple member of the church - a simple follower with lack of information. He went around the world and called us not to be afraid. I understand many concerns of apparent administrative issues, especially on his last years. Are these shortcomings enough to keep him from being canonized? I definitely admire Francis, his welcomed nearness makes him more vulnerable to eventual lack of prudence with some remarks. Perhaps it is a negative side effect of a beatiful medicine. Hope Francis keeps his nearness and simple language, though of coruse I feel your feedback is wise.

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