U. S. Catholic defenders of Pope Francis “Mobilize” behind closed doors

Do rightwing American Catholics hate pope Francis?

Is the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Jewish?

On a scale of 1 to 10, would 25 be close enough?

From my outside liberal Quaker perspective, Francis is not all that progressive: slow on smashing the priestly pedophile protection racket; mushy on cleaning up the sewer of financial sleaze around the Vatican; status quo on women, anti-abortion & and  anti-LGBT matters (a few sorta-friendly comments don’t cut it.) Also he’s much too patient with the sowers of slander &  schism in his own ranks.

After all, what good is a papacy, if it’s not taking charge? Sometimes his Vatican sounds like one of our “Clearness Committees” that never reaches any clearness. (Hey, Francis, take it from me— one  denomination mired in what is too often the quicksand of finding the ”sense of the meeting” is plenty.)

Besides, from my external perch, I’m also often reminded that Francis heads the largest organized church on the planet. His and its fates reverberate far beyond their parishes, convents and monasteries.

Further, compared to his recent predecessors, judging him in his hidebound institutional context, he’s by far the most humane pope in my lifetime.  He should be headed straight to the church’s roster of saints . . . Unless the clerical fascist caucus burns him at the stake  first.

(Hmm, do I smell smoke?) The wingers are already maneuvering behind their favored reactionary papal wannabes, counting the days til the Reaper catches up with the 85-year old, in-less-than-great-health pontiff. And I sure hope he has someone tasting his food before he eats. . . .

American liberal Catholics, who don’t strike me as much of an organized insider activist force compared to the highly-politicized culture war factions, are evidently trying to mount a pro-Francis defense. Or at least they’re talking about it, semi-openly. Their leading media outpost, the National Catholic Reporter, just described the latest effort.

Defenders of Francis note that the rightists are aiming to roll back the numerous internal reforms that came out of the Second  Vatican Council (1962-65). Many historians argue that Vatican Two, as it’s called, moved the Church forward 500 years. (Skeptics point out that much of the Church was considerably more than 500 years behind the times; today’s rightwingers want to turn back the clock and make that joke into a fact.)

I quickly lost count of how many mysteries & thrillers share this title . . .

But are the reactionary Roman battalions now supposed to, er, Quake in their boots at the palaver of theologians? (“A Palaver of Theologians” — is that a thing? Like “a murder of crows”?)

I wonder what input our extra busy Ukrainian friend Volodymyr would have for them?)

Here are some excerpts from NCR’s account:

Cardinals, theologians gather to plan how US church can support Pope Francis — Mar 29, 2022
by Joshua J. McElwee

CHICAGO — A group of about 70 cardinals, bishops and theologians gathered privately for two days here from March 25-26 for conversations focused on how the U.S. Catholic Church can better support the agenda of Pope Francis.

Through a series of keynote presentations and panel discussions centered on tracing the roots of Francis’ papacy to the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, invited participants also considered the opposition the pope continues to face from some quarters of the U.S. church, more than nine years after his March 2013 election.

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, one of the attendees, told NCR that part of the purpose of the event was to “understand the spirit of what they call the ‘opposition.’ “

“We have this what they call ‘opposition’ to the pope. It’s trying to build walls, going backwards — looking to the old liturgy or maybe things before Vatican II,” said Rodriguez, who is also the coordinator of the pope’s advisory Council of Cardinals.

“Vatican II is unknown by many of the young generation,” said the cardinal. “So, it’s necessary to come back and to see that all the reforms of Pope Francis are rooted in Vatican II.”

The event, which carried the title “Pope Francis, Vatican II, and the Way Forward,” was co-organized by Loyola University Chicago’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, Boston College’s Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, and Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture. Also helping with the organization was NCR political columnist Michael Sean Winters. . . .

Christine Firer Hinze, one of about a dozen theologians attending the event, said she found the conversations between the participating academics and bishops “heartening and hopeful.” Pointing to the willingness of the bishops to listen to the theologians’ viewpoints, Hinze called the experience an example of “servant leadership.”

“It feels more like collaboration,” said Hinze, chair of the theology department at Fordham and president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. “It doesn’t necessarily change when you go back to your own diocese, everything that’s going to happen. But at least it points in a direction.”

Beyond Rodriguez, other bishops attending the conference included Cardinals Blase Cupich, Sean O’Malley and Joseph Tobin; and Archbishops Mitchell Rozanski, John Wester, Charles Thompson and Roberto González Nieves. Also present was the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, and the undersecretary of the Vatican’s office for the Synod of Bishops, Xavière Missionary Sr. Nathalie Becquart.

The three keynote presentations at the conference were given by Villanova theologian Massimo Faggioli, Loyola Chicago theologian M. Therese Lysaught and Peruvian Archbishop Héctor Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, who is president of the Latin American bishops’ council, commonly known as CELAM. (Cabrejos was unable to attend, so his talk was read by Archbishop González.)

Among topics brought up in the panel discussions: the impact of moneyed conservative influence in Catholic social movements and media companies; polarization and division among U.S. bishops; the atmosphere of education at American seminaries, and the reluctance of some U.S. dioceses to implement the grassroots consultation process requested by Francis for the 2021-23 Synod of Bishops.

So: “presentations and panels” speaking delicately of “what they call the ‘opposition’ to the pope”? Is this how they are “planning” to take on an anti-crusade hard at work folding the Catholic Church into the MAGA cult?

I wish them the best. But include me in, what you call the ‘underwhelmed.’ And Francis, my friend, keep a wary eye on those crows . . .

4 thoughts on “U. S. Catholic defenders of Pope Francis “Mobilize” behind closed doors”

  1. One of the aspects of the Catholic Church I like most is precisely its tradition of heresy or opposition, dating back to the Middle Ages when the Pope had no way of knowing much about what was happening in Milan, let alone Poznan or Canterbury. In addition, there are all these independent orders outside of the authority of the dioceses. It makes for a pluralistic church, one where all the parts do their own thing and disagree with each other but remain one church.

    It *is* mired in the “sense of the meeting”, with the added burden that they don’t have the option of splitting.

    Think of it this way – when we have a conservative pope, this becomes a feature.

    The only real power of the pope is the power to appoint bishops. Let that work over time.

  2. Francis has purged the oldies from the Curia and put in new Cardinals who are from 3rd-world countries and who support his direction from the Church. Short of a schism, the revanchistas will be left fuming. He’s playing the long game.

    PS: he lives and eats at a church “hotel” on the Vatican grounds. He has 120 or so tasters.

  3. The major reason that the current American Roman Catholic church is so hidebound, and the liberal sector of the church so small, is that we of the liberal sector got very tired of a) the gains of Vatican II being pushed aside, negated, ignored, and b) being bullied by John Paul II and Maledictus , who never said anything positive so why should he be Benedictus? We who cared, left for places where we might fit better and be able to fulfill our callings — in the Episcopal Church, in Quakerism, in various denominations of Paganism. I am not happy about the current state of the American branch of the church — but it it not my problem any more, and I believe in that I can speak for many, many friends who have also walked that path away.

    1. Kit Mason, I woke out of a Catholic childhood stupor near my 16th birthday, in 1958, and was mostly a pilgrim/unbeliever til I encountered Friends in late 1965. I was gone before Vatican 2, and its achievements had no appeal to me. One key incident which pushed me toward the door is described in this blog post, “Peering Into the Heart of Darkness,” here: https://wp.me/p5FGIu-1zH

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