Monday, January 13, 2014

Francis, the New Cardinals, Canonizations and more



There is a crack in everything -
  That's how the light gets in.


News of the new cardinals appointed by Pope Francis hit the airwaves several days ago, causing some delight on the part of observers because of the global spread of the new choices, many from small, 'insignificant' countries who had never had cardinals before. Francis had earlier said he wanted his appointees to have tasted the poverty of ordinary folk around the globe. He seems determined to be inclusive in his choices, broadening the college of cardinals to include more representatives from poor countries.

This is very much an internal matter, I suppose, not of much interest to ordinary folk outside the reach of the Catholic Church and perhaps the college itself seems like an anachronism, part of an outmoded system destined for the scrapheap of history. Yet in the short run, Francis must work within the system given him and a broadening of the leadership can only be a good thing in the long run. So yes, the new choices are a cause for some celebration. Changes are occurring, slowly, drip by drip. But are they enough in the long run to save the institution itself from imploding? That is the question and the mystery.

There has been a lot of criticism of Francis of late for failing to take more decisive steps in addressing the child abuse scandal in the church, and I have to admit the criticism seems more than fair. This is the paramount moral issue facing the church today, there is no other, not women priests or gay marriage, contraception or abortion, issues which pale in comparison to the urgency of the abuse scandal. So we wait and good people attempt to apply pressure, albeit indirectly, to the Pope and the Vatican, hoping someone will hear. I would have to say that the abuse scandal also dwarfs the poverty/riches/capitalism scandal which Francis is so intent on addressing. One waits in hope and hopes for an end to the silence. And of course, hoping is not enough.

From Jerry Slevin at Christian Catholicism:

Pope Francis’s curial cardinal appointments suggest Cardinal Sodano’s and the ex-Pope’s continuing strong influence. Three long time Sodano proteges ( Archbishops Parolin, Baldisseri and Stella) and the ex-Pope’s long time protege, Archbishop Muller, head of the fundamentally flawed child protection department. Add this to Francis’ decision to protect the Polish Archbishop, another Sodano protege, from answering for alleged crimes against children as Papal Nuncio in the Dominican Republic. The continuation of Cardinal Levada, another protege of the ex-Pope and Muller’s predecessor as purported “child protector”, on the key Commission on Bishops is just more of the same......


Child protection is the top priority for Catholics. If Catholics cannot trust their hierarchy to protect children from some in the hierarchy and their agents, how can they trust them on any other matter? And why should they?
As the People of God, it is their Church as well. It is not merely the private property of a a group of aged celibate men focused too often on protecting their power and wealth, without accountability to any independent oversight, even for unspeakable violations of defenseless children.
Read the full article HERE

But on another more inspiring note, on April 27 of next year  Pope Francis will canonize beloved Pope John XXIII. In attendance at the ceremony, will be the new Cardinal Loris Francesco Capovilla, the personal secretary during the entirety of Pope John's tenure as pope. Cardinal Capovilla will be 99 years old at the time of the ceremony and there is something mystical about that fact. A holy event to be sure.




However, marring the event for myself will be the fact that Pope John Paul II will also be canonised, making the ceremony something of a sign of contradiction. Because of his handling - or mishandling - of the sex abuse scandal and his unqualified support for Legionaire Founder, Marcial Marciel, one of the most notorious serial sexual predators in the church's history, Pope John Paul II doesn't really deserve to be 'elevated to the altars,' as the phrase goes, or such is my view (though I'm hardly alone in that opinion). It's a further sign of contradiction that he displayed a relentless, passionate determination during his papacy to overturn and reverse all of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, convened by Pope John, while paying lip service to the 'true spirit' of the Council, which was merely a form of double speak. And so we have a striking sign of the contradictions presently dividing the body of the church, as the holy man who initiated an opening to the Spirit through the Council is canonised alongside his nemesis, the man who did all in his power to reverse the effects of this very same  Council. It is enough to make one weep. And yet one continues to hope and continues to believe - but this faith is not centered on the institutional church as such, but on the presence of the life giving Spirit and the Lord of history who is the ultimate master of the Church and who can bring into being new forms of church community as s/he so wills in "God's good time." Rather the contradiction that is the upcoming canonisation ceremony might simply be a sign from the Lord not to trust too much in institutions, a gentle reminder to 'let go,' and to see his Face transcending all purely temporal structures. Beloved Pope John indeed, but life is never simple and the Lord leads us through the valleys and byways, through crooked paths, and up treacherous mountain passes, inspiring us always to keep our eyes fixed in faith on the mountain top ahead.

On a closing note, I just finished reading Louise Penny's crime novel, How The Light Gets In.  


We have to wait until the very end of the novel to understand the significance of the title. After many trials and contradictions that have driven the protagonists to their limits and beyond, the novel resolves peacefully with a marriage. And the congregation sings these lines:


                                                         There is a crack in everything
  That's how the light gets in.

The lines are from a poem/song Anthem by Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
– Anthem, Leonard Cohen


From the context of the novel, the meaning is clear. It is precisely through the trials and contradictions of life, the flaws, mistakes, mishaps we commit, and the terrible sorrows that life brings us, those terrible signs of contradiction that test our faith, it is precisely there through the cracks of our brokenness that the light of grace shines in.

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