Friday, June 13, 2008

Fr. Andrew Greeley on Pope John XXIII

Smiling down on the crowd, (John XXIII) said: Tornando a casa, troverete i bambini. Date una carezza ai vostri bambini e dite: questa è la carezza del Papa. It means, “When you go home, you’ll find your children. Give them a kiss, and tell them that this kiss comes from the pope.” It summed up the legendary love of the man.

(After the 2005 papal conclave) a L’Unità cartoon showed Benedict XVI at the same window, saying, “Tonight, when you go home, I want you to give your children a spanking, and tell them that this spanking comes from the pope.”
-- John Allen ("Benedict's first year. One year on, he shapes up to be more a consulter than an enforcer, more a teacher than a star")

Excerpts from Andrew Greeley's column this morning, Church needs to revive its stalled reform (He was speaking of his recent visit to the papal tombs):

We were almost swept away by a crowd of Polish pilgrims, singing loudly (and on key) as they marched to the tomb of John Paul II. He is their great folk hero, and their enthusiasm is justified.

Yet I wonder about the other great pope of the end of the 20th century -- Blessed John XXIII. He has been beatified but no one seems greatly concerned about his canonization. Yet in fact, the church has never in recent centuries had a leader who attracted so much positive attention to the church...

Pope John was a reforming pope -- as every pope should be under the dictum Ecclesia Semper Reformanda ("the Church must always be reformed"). The unchanging church could in fact change, fresh winds blew through the arid dicasteries of the Vatican Palace. The church was not afraid of anyone or anything. The pope could dialogue with anyone. He could reopen any question. He could listen to any proposal. He tugged the Council out of the hands of the curia and gave it to the bishops of the world.

It was the most dramatic Catholic era in 1,000 years. We were young and alive, and the church was also young and alive. This old man, filled with the vitality of faith and hope had turned the Church upside down and inside out. Under "Good Pope John" it was impossible to be anti-Catholic.

It was all too good to be true.

One would have thought that he had established a model for a religious leader of all the world -- "A hopeful Holy Man who smiles," I had written. A few more popes like that, popes filled with the hope and love of the Gospel, and the pope would have become de facto the most important religious figure on the planet. Yet he had terrified the men who would succeed him and those who would elect such successors, good men, pious men, sincere men.

Nervous men.

The pope is not an actor, not a comedian, not a joker. He was vicar of Christ, the heir of Peter the fisherman. He had to be serious. He had to defend the deposit of faith from those who were attacking it. Pope John had almost ruined the Church, many of the curialists were whispering. It was time to restore order, clean up the mess and protect the church from those who took Pope John's Council seriously.

As the years went on it became necessary to double-think what the Council had accomplished -- it was more about continuity than about change. It was not a reformation. The church would creep back into its suspicions of the world and become hostile and defensive. You could not fight off those who were opponents of the Church's "teachings about life" by laughter and a ready smile.

Some of the more recently ordained priests claim that they are not Vatican II priests but John Paul priests, a position which, taken seriously, is close to heresy.

The Tablet, an English Catholic publication, said that John Paul II had "aborted the reform." Both popes were saints, one was correct about the "signs of the times" and the other not. The Church still needs reform. Desperately. More than ever.


crystal said...

Hi Jeff. It's good to see you back.

I read about Poe John in James Martin's book about saints - he really liked him, and I came to like him after reading it. What a courageous guy. Wehn I think of Pope John Paul, though, I think of his views on women and cringe :)

Jeff said...

Hi Crystal,

Yes, I've been extremely busy lately. I've hardly had a chance to do more than peek in on everyone now and then.

Being a vocal agitator for women's ordination has never been my bailiwick, but I was disturbed by the recent pronouncements on excommunications. Of all the things we could (and perhaps should) see excommunications over, I found this reaction to be deeply disappointing. And telling.

crystal said...

Yeah. I saw a post at America magazine's blog by a Jesuit who was celebrating his 30th ordination anniversary, and he said in the post how sad the excommunications and the fact women can't be priests made him - link

Liam said...

"Some of the more recently ordained priests claim that they are not Vatican II priests but John Paul priests, a position which, taken seriously, is close to heresy."

Some young Catholics, priests and laity, are scary.

I love John XXIII.

Garpu said...

I'm hoping and praying that some of the fervor around JPII wanes during Benedict's papacy. It seems like it is, somewhat, but I also wonder how in touch Benedict is with the cultural implications of some things, such as the indult from last summer. Does he really know what hate some people who cling to the extraordinary form hold? I'd like to think it's his way of giving them a chance, before laying down the law, but I'm not so sure.

Jeff said...

Hi Garpu & Liam,

I have no problem with young religious who were inspired to their calling by John Paul II. Some of them are great guys, like Brother Charles (A Minor Friar).

My difficulty is when certain segments disparage the council. It infuriates me to see people lose their nerve over an ecumenical council before even the span of one lifetime.

Actually, In the wake of JPII's death, I was disturbed to see how many traditionalists had secretly scorned him for all those years, and started feeling comfortable piping up about it.

cowboyangel said...

What chance is there of seeing another John 23-is pope in our lifetime? Seems like those who want to "restore order, clean up the mess and protect the church" have made major gains within the church post 1970. Would there ever be enough support for a "reforming pope"?

Jeff said...

The way the episcopate has been shaped over the last 30 years or so? No way. At least not for a generation, I'd say.

shera10 said...

Card. Martini has just published, in Germany, his last book. Entitled Conversations night in Jerusalem this book is a long interview with Father Georg Sporschill, a Jesuit friend.

It was presented as his "spiritual testament" by the Italian daily La Repubblica, that publishes some excerpts:

“I have dreamed, he confesses , a poorer and humbler church that doesn't depend from powers of this world. A church that gives courage to everyone , a church in which there is room for everyone, also for who thinks in different ways.Now I lost my dreams for the Church and I can only pray for it."

Jeff said...


I admire Cardinal Martini's intelligence and pastoral skills, and he's a highly respected biblical scholar as well.

Do you know how I could find an English translation of that La Repubblica article?

shera10 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shera10 said...

Sorry, Jeff, I googled by I found it only in Italian or French.

In that article was reported card.Martini's thoughts about celibacy, women's ordination, humanae vitae, Lutero, Islam...

In Italian:

I look forward to read the book.

Ciao Cristina

Jeff said...

That's OK Cristina. I was able to find enough references to the interview on other blogs. Thanks!