Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lowlights from Francis Q & A sessions with Jesuits in Chile and Peru

The following quotes out of Francis’ mouth are taken from La Civiltà Cattolica’s “Where have our people been creative?”: Conversations with Jesuits in Chile and Peru.

 “There is something that does not take peace away from me, but which does hurt me, and that is gossip. I don’t like gossip, it makes me sad. It often spreads in closed-off worlds. When it happens in a world of priests and religious I want to ask: how is this possible? You left everything, you decided not to have a wife next to you, you didn’t marry, you had no children… Do you want to finish as a gossiping old bachelor? Oh, my God, what a sad life!”

“I never call a difficulty a “resistance” for to do so would be to renounce discernment. I prefer to discern. It is easy to say there is resistance and not realize that a moment of conflict is actually bringing out some crumbs of truth. So I think that such conflicts can help me. I often ask a person: “What do you think?” This would help me to relativize many things that at first sight might seem like resistances but are actually a reaction that comes from a misunderstanding, from the fact that some things need to be repeated, better explained… This might be my defect, the fact that sometimes I take things for granted and make a logical jump without explaining the process clearly, for I am convinced that the person I am talking to has quickly understood my reasoning. I am aware that, if I go back and explain things better, then at that point the other will say, “Ah, yes, agreed…” All in all, it is very helpful for me to examine the meaning of conflicts carefully. But when I am aware that there is true resistance, certainly, I am displeased. Some say to me that it is normal that there is resistance when someone wants to make changes. The famous “this has always been done this way” reigns everywhere: “It has always been done this way, why should we change? If things are the way they are, they have always been done this way, so why change?” This a great temptation that we all faced in the period after the Second Vatican Council. The resistances are still present and try to tell us to relativize the Council, to water it down. I am even sadder when someone joins a campaign of resistance. And alas I see this too. You asked me about resistances, and I cannot deny that there are some, then. I see them and I know them.
There are doctrinal resistances that you know about better than I. For my own good I do not read the content of internet sites of this so-called “resistance.” I know who they are, I know the groups, but I do not read them for my own mental health. If there is something very serious, they tell me about it so that I know. You know them… It is displeasing, but you have to go on. Historians tell us that it takes a century for a Council to put down its roots. We are halfway there.
Sometimes we ask: but that man, that woman, have they read the Council? And there are people who have not read the Council. And if they have read it, they have not understood it. Fifty years on! We studied philosophy before the Council, but we had the advantage of studying theology after it. We lived through the change of perspective, and the Council documents were already there.
When I perceive resistance, I seek dialogue whenever it is possible; but some resistance comes from people who believe they possess the true doctrine and accuse you of being a heretic. When I cannot see spiritual goodness in what these people say or write, I simply pray for them. I find it sad, but I won’t settle on this sentiment for the sake of my own mental well-being.”

“I think that one of the things that the Church most needs today is discernment. This is put very clearly in the pastoral perspectives and objectives of Amoris Laetitia. We are used to a “yes you can or no you can’t” mentality. The morality used in Amoris Laetitia is the more classic Thomist morals, that is, the one from St. Thomas himself not the decadent version of later Thomism that some have studied. I too received a formation in the way of thinking of “yes you can or no you can’t,” or “up to this point you can, up to here you can’t.” I wonder if you remember [and here the pope looks at one of those present] that Colombian Jesuit who came to teach morals at the Collegio Massimo? When he taught the sixth commandment someone dared to ask: “Can a man and a woman who are engaged to be married kiss each other?” If they could they kiss each other! Do you get it? And he replied: “Yes they can! No problem! They just have to put a tissue between them.” This is a forma mentis (a way of thinking) for doing theology generally. It is a forma mentis that is based on a limit. And we bear the consequences.
If you take a look at the panorama of reactions to Amoris Laetitia you will see that the strongest criticisms of the exhortation are against the eighth chapter: “Can a divorced person receive communion, or not?” But Amoris Laetitia goes in a completely different direction; it does not enter into these distinctions. It raises the issue of discernment. This was already at the heart of truly great classic Thomist morals. So the contribution that I want from the Society is to help the Church to grow in discernment. Today, the Church needs to grow in discernment. And to us the Lord has given this family grace to discern. I do not know if you know this, but I have said it during other similar meetings with Jesuits: at the end of Fr. Ledóchowski’s time as superior general, the highest work of the spirituality of the Society was the Epitome. Everything you had to do was all regulated in an enormous mix of the Formula of the Institution, the Constitutions and the rules. There were even rules for the cook. And it was all mixed, without following a hierarchy. Fr. Ledóchowski was a great friend of the abbot general of the Benedictines and once he went to visit him bringing along this volume. Shortly after, the abbot sought him out and said: “Father General, with this you have killed the Society of Jesus.” And he was right, for the Epitome took away any room for discernment.”

“Thank you. The word “reconciliation” is not only manipulated, it is demolished. Today – not just here for this applies in other Latin American countries too – the word “reconciliation” has been emptied of its power. When St. Paul describes the reconciliation of all with God, in Christ, he delivers a strong word. Today, however, “reconciliation” has become wrapping paper. It’s been emptied out. It’s been weakened not only of its religious content but also of its human content, that is, what we share when we look each other in the eye. Instead, today, it is being done under the counter.
I would say that these stunts should not be accepted, nor should we struggle against them. We must say to those who adopt it in its weaker form: use it, but we won’t use it, for the concept has been demolished. We do need to continue to work, however, seeking to reconcile people. From below, from the sides, with a good word, with a visit, with a course to help understanding, with the weapon of prayer that will give us strength and make miracles, but especially with the human weapon of persuasion, which is humility. Persuasion acts through humility.”

“Yesterday I spoke to the priests and religious men and women of Chile in the cathedral of Santiago. This is the greatest desolation that the Church is suffering. It brings shame, but we need to remember that shame is also a very Ignatian grace, a grace that St. Ignatius asks us to make in the three colloquies of the first week. And so let us take it as a grace and be fully ashamed. We have to love the Church with her wounds. Many wounds…
Let me tell you something. On March 24 Argentina remembers the military coup d’état, the dictatorship, the desaparecidos (the disappeared)… and every March 24 the Plaza de Mayo fills to remember it. One year, on March 24, I left the archbishop’s house and went to serve as confessor for the Carmelite sisters. On my return I took the subway and got out six blocks away from Plaza de Mayo. The Plaza was full … and I walked those six blocks to enter by the side. When I was about to cross a road, there was a couple with a child of two or three years, and the child ran ahead. The father said to him: “Come, come, come here… Be careful of the pedophiles!” How shameful I felt! What shame! They didn’t realize that I was the archbishop, I was a priest and… what shame!
Occasionally there are “consolation prizes,” and someone might even say: “OK. Look at the statistics … I don’t know … 70 percent of pedophiles are in the family setting, people known to the family. Then at the gyms and in the swimming pools. The percentage of pedophiles who are Catholic priests does not reach 2 percent, it’s 1.6 percent. It is not that much.” But it is terrible even if only one of our brothers is such! For God anointed him to sanctify children and adults, and instead of making them holy he has destroyed them. It’s horrible! We need to listen to what someone who has been abused feels. On Fridays – sometimes this is known and sometimes it is not known – I normally meet some of them. In Chile I also had such a meeting. As their process is very hard, they remain annihilated. Annihilated!
For the Church this is a great humiliation. It shows not only our fragility, but also, let us say so clearly, our level of hypocrisy. In cases of corruption, in the sense of abuse of an institutional type, it is notable that there are some newer Congregations whose founders have fallen into these abuses. These cases are public. Pope Benedict had to suppress a large male Congregation. The founder had spread such habits. He abused young and immature religious men. It was a Congregation that had a female branch, and the female founder had also spread such habits. Benedict had started the process on the women’s branch. I had to suppress it. You here have many painful cases. But it is curious that the phenomenon of abuse touched some new, prosperous Congregations.
Abuse in these Congregations is always the fruit of a mentality tied to power that has to be healed in its malicious roots. And I will add: there are three levels of abuse that come together: abuse of authority (mixing the internal forum with the external forum), sexual abuse and an economic mess.
There is always money involved. The devil enters through the wallet. Ignatius places the first step of the devil’s temptations in riches…then come vanity and pride, but first of all, it’s riches. The three levels come together very often in the new Congregations that have fallen into this problem of abuse.
Forgive my lack of humility in suggesting that you read what I said to the Chileans. That material is more carefully articulated and reasoned than what comes to me now spontaneously.”

“Thank you. I’ll reply with just one word. It might seem that I say nothing, but instead I say everything. And the word is “Council.” Pick up again the Second Vatican Council, and read Lumen Gentium. Yesterday, with the bishops of Chile – or was it the day before, I don’t even know what day it is! – I encouraged them to declericalize. If there is something that is very clear, it is the awareness of the faithful holy people of God, infallible in credendo, as the Council teaches us. This brings the Church forward. The grace of being missionary and proclaiming Jesus Christ comes to us in baptism. From there we can move forward…
We should never forget that evangelization is done by the Church as a people of God. The Lord wants an evangelizing Church, I see that clearly. This came from my heart, in simplicity, in the few minutes I spoke during the general congregations before the conclave. A Church that goes out, a Church that goes out proclaiming Jesus Christ. After or in that very moment when she adores and fills herself with him. I always use an example tied to the Book of Revelation where we read: “I am at the door and knock. If someone opens I will enter” (cf. Rev 3:20). The Lord is outside and wants to come in. Sometimes the Lord is inside and is knocking because he wants us to let him out! The Lord is asking us to be a Church outside, a Church that goes out. Church as a field hospital… Ah, the wounds of the people of God! Sometimes the people of God is wounded by a rigid, moralist catechism, of the “you can or you can’t” variety, or by a lack of testimony.
A poor Church for the poor! The poor are not a theoretical formula of the communist party. The poor are the heart of the Gospel. They are the center of the Gospel. We cannot preach the Gospel without the poor. So I say to you: it is along this line that I feel the Spirit is leading us. And there are strong resistances. But I must also say that for me the fact that resistances arise is a good sign. It is a sign that we are on the right road, this is the road. Otherwise the devil would not bother to resist.
I would say these are the criteria: poverty, being missionaries, the conscience of the faithful people of God… In Latin America, particularly, you should ask: “But where have our people been creative?” With some deviations, yes, but it has been creative in its popular piety. And why have our people been able to be creative in popular piety? Because the clergy weren’t interested, and so they let them do it… the people went on ahead…
And then, yes, what the Church is asking today of the Society – this I have said often, and Spadaro, who publishes these things, has grown tired of writing it – is to teach discernment with humility. Yes, as pontiff I ask this of you officially. Generally, above all, we who are part of the religious setting of life as priests and bishops often show little ability to discern, we don’t know how to do it for we have been educated with another theology that is more formal. We go as far as “you can or you can’t,” as I said to the Chilean Jesuits concerning the resistances to Amoris Laetitia. Some people are reducing the entire fruit of two synods – all the work that has been done – to “you can or can’t.” Help us to discern then. Certainly, someone who is not discerning cannot teach others to discern. And to be discerning you have to enter into practice, you have to examine yourself. You have to start with yourself.”

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