Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cardinal Bergoglio Becomes Pope: There May Be Hope for the Church Yet

Francisco (20-03-2013).jpg
Having just watched the announcement of Argentinian Cardinal Bergoglio as the new pontiff (Francis I) one couldn't help believing there is hope for the Roman Catholic Church yet. Hope that it can regain some of its moral authority - badly eroded after the sex abuse scandal- and also we'd see less of the Superstar syndrome and more humility. The latter was in abundance as the new pope appeared before the chanting thousands in St. Peter's Square and he asked THEM to pray for him!

This is astounding and may mean a regression in the doctrine of "papal primacy" first enunciated with force in the dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, of July 18, 1870. As some readers may know and which Theologian Hans Kung makes clear ('Infallible?' p. 77): "the definition of papal infallibility presupposes the definition of papal primacy".  Before Pastor Aeternus, the Body of the Church held paramountcy, the body as in the people. The order was reversed from July 18, 1870 with papal primacy trumping the people. How or why did papal primacy and infallibility (not evidence before 1870 in any Church doctrines) transpire?

This is made clear in the Introduction of Pastor Aeternus:

"With daily increasing hatred on all sides, the Gates of Hell are rising, to overturn the Church, if it were possible, against its divinely established foundation. Therefore we judge it necessary, for the protection, safety and increase of the Catholic flock, with the approval of the Sacred Council, to propose the doctrine of the Institution, perpetuity and nature of the sacred apostolic primacy, in which the strength and solidity of the whole Church consists, to be believed and held by all the faithful, according to the ancient and constant faith of the universal Church and to prescribe and condemn the contrary errors so pernicious to the Lord's flock."

Though wordy and somewhat convoluted, the message is:  The faithful themselves can't be trusted to judge  from whence the threats to their faith issue. Hence, they require a  spiritual "Papa" (pope) to decide and adjudicate all spiritual threats for them.  Whenever his utterances are declared ex cathedra, or from the Chair of St. Peter, they are "infallible" and can't be contradicted.

Hence, the need for papal primacy (and its implicit authority)  over the outlook or message of the faithful, including any upstart nuns. But with his simple, humble askance for the prayers of the world, this new pope has appeared to have risen above the doctrine of primacy. He even looks like a man of the people, as opposed to either Ratzinger, or John Paul II (Karol Woltyla) before him.

Further encouraging signs are his being a Jesuit (I can say that having originally attended a Jesuit university) and a scientist (chemistry). The Jesuit background tells me he will be a critical thinker and not merely a passive echo chamber or parrot for the extreme niche in the Sacred Council that Ratzinger cultivated (and which conquest would have been signaled had Angelo Scolia been elected pope).

Having a scientific background assures me that Pope Francis I will lend an open ear (and mind) to the latest scientific discoveries, even if they appear to threaten long standing beliefs by some (i.e. the Curia)  in his Church. He will, or should, then be open to Darwinian evolution, as well as the quantum theory and modern astrophysics and cosmology-  as embodied by the cosmos being billions of years old (not thousands) and initiated by the Big Bang - more and more now viewed as an origin from nothing within a quantum fluctuation.

But all this remains to be seen, and truth be told, I may well be making false assumptions.

No doubt his biggest challenge - after clearing out the sex abuse scandal detritus- will be cleaning out the Vatican Bank which has been a den of thieves more than anything else for decades. Pope John Paul I  (1978) also tried to clean it out and set it right, but alas, drank a cup of poisoned tea laced with a drug (digitalis)  that initiated a heart attack. (See David Yallop's: In God's Name)

Best advice for the new Pope should he decide to investigate that den of vipers: Be sure you always have a trusted nun or other person bring you your evening tea and maybe have her check it first before handing it to you!

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