Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Will Pope Bergoglio outlast the “tiny, extreme fringe” of Traditionalists?

Just following up on my earlier blog post on the scholars who “corrected” “Pope Francis”, it’s interesting to look at the various responses to this statement.

USA Today interviewed Massimo Faggioli, a professor at Villanova University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies, and author of a number of books on church history. He marginalized the writers of this statement:

the signatories represent a “tiny, extreme fringe of the opposition to Francis” and do not include any cardinals or bishops with formal standing in the Catholic Church.

“The Catholic Church that has more than 200 cardinals now and more than 5,000 bishops,” he said. “And they couldn’t find one.”

The only bishop who signed the letter is Bishop Bernard Fellay of the Society of St. Pius X, who experts said does not have formal standing in the church because he is from a breakaway group.

The conservatives will characterize Faggioli as a liberal, but the fact is, what Faggioli says will be seen as completely consonant with what this pope has been saying:

Pope Francis says the Synods of 2014 and 2015 have brought a renewed awareness of “the new pastoral challenges to which the Christian community is called to respond”.

Contemporary anthropological and cultural changes, the pope says, require “a diversified and analytical approach” which cannot be “limited to pastoral and missionary practices” of the past.

Instead, he says, we must be able to interpret our faith in a context in which individuals are less supported than before as they deal with the complex realities of family life. Faithful to the teachings of Christ, the pope says, we must explore these “lights and shadows of family life” with realism, wisdom and love.

EWTN notes:

In a Sept. 19 press breifing (sic) on the motu proprio, Archbishop [Vincenzo] Paglia [the “Grand Chancellor” of the recently re-created “John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family”] said the decision to establish a completely new entity was due to the importance of the family today.

The two key aspects of the new institute, he said, are that it is now “theological” and “scientific.”

Adding “theological” to the title points to “the ecclesial dimension in its fullness, the moral perspective, the sacramental perspective, but the biblical and dogmatic perspective, the perspective of history, of law,” he said.

By adding “sciences,” Paglia said it gives the institute the ability to study and explore topics in the “entire realm of human studies,” including the sociological, anthropological and psychological view from a more scientific perspective.

What “Pope Francis” is doing is all completely rational and “faithful” and “taking into account complex realities” even “scientific” – while on the other hand, the popular but Traditionalist (but still maintaining that they are in communion with the pope) site Rorate Caeli, said something completely different:

RORATE Note: There will many Catholics, even traditionalists, whose first defeatist reaction will be to belittle this effort. But the wise, the learned in history, will understand that this is just the first part, the first piece of the puzzle, with next steps still to come in a long and extended process.

This first step is an initiative of a theological nature that will likely lead, God willing, to an initiative of a canonical nature from those who have the mandate to act. And so it begins:

Where it will end is anyone’s guess.

Bergoglio is “faithful” and “scientific”; on the other hand, his accusers are merely beginning a long ecclesiastical process, the nature of which is unknown to just about everyone.

Pope Bergoglio is over 80 years old; given the speed at which these things move, he’ll likely be dead before they come to the end of this “long and extended process”. It seems more likely to me that he will finish his re-shaping of the various Roman institutions, including the College of Cardinals, long before the Traditionalists can have any impact at all.


  1. John, here's a wild question: in your opinion, how likely is it that a dissident prelate will call himself the Patriarch of Rome and bring his faithful band into Orthodoxy? ISTM anyone who really believes in popery who sees plainly what is before him could: shuck it all and become a Protestant; shuck it all all, pith himself, and become a holy roller; join a boutique church like the AC's; join a non-Chalcedonian fossil church in act of what Tom Wolfe called "wog chic;" bite the ethnic bullet and swim the Bosporus; join the Libs (covert apostacy); or just sleep in Sundays with the nones.

    1. Heh, Kirk, that's funny -- that business about "Patriarch of Rome". I don't know if that's every been tried. The OCA (Orthodox Church of America) got started as a kind of missionary outreach by a bunch of different autocephalous Orthodox churches. I honestly don't know how all of that came about -- if any of the autocephalous churches still have their hands in the US, or if it's all just one big happy family now. Conceivably they could do the same thing in Italy. I don't know if they've done that or not.

      Regarding where the Roman Catholics will go, my money is on the bulk of the RCC going Bergoglio's way. Then the trads will break off and call themselves the one true church, and the conservatives will be in a real pickle. All the converts maybe will become trads and go that way. Bryan Cross will sink further into the dark night of his soul, and probably hang onto Bergoglio, development and all.

    2. FYI&E: the autocephalous churches - aka Jesus and Mary Amphictyony - are still around, doing their best to prevent the mergence of an autocephalous church in America, thereby keeping the cash flowing their way. The OCA is a Russian body now, since ROCOR is back under the Moscow Patriarcate, in danger of losing its tomos and being swept back up into the arms of the bear.

    3. Kirk, I'll have to take your word for all that! :-)

  2. The big elephant in the room is the conservative African church. Will they go the way of Francis or end up going in schism like Gafcon?