Monday, March 10, 2014

Bergoglio’s Gig: Ceding the “nonnegotiable values”

What we are going to see, should this pope live long enough, is going to be a case of “semper eadem” gone wild. We are going to see some major Roman Catholic “non-negotiables” be changed in our lifetimes, maybe within the next few years – in ways that will stretch Newman’s “theory of development” contorted far beyond the cover it was intended to provide for “changes” in the early church.

The consequences will be two-fold. First, we will see the media celebrating how, in modifying many long-held positions (and remember that the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching, marriage is a sacrament and therefore a doctrine), Roman Catholicism is going to be converted to, and even a spokesman for, many of the secular ethics that have crept into popular thinking.

And second, we will be treated to the spectacle of conservative Roman Catholics trying to explain precisely how no “essential teaching” has been changed.

According to his ghost writer:

According to Sandro Magister, Víctor Manuel Fernández (promoted to bishop by Bergoglio) was, for years, Bergoglio's “most trusted collaborator in the writing of his major texts, from the Aparecida document in 2007 to the 2013 ‘Evangelii Gaudium,’ the action plan of the current pontificate.” Here is what he says:

Fernández refers to the metamorphosis that Bergoglio went through before and after his election as pope:

"When he was archbishop he was gradually withdrawing and preferred not to appear in public very much. Moreover, there were too many campaigns of persecution orchestrated by some very conservative sectors of the Church, and I believe that this worried him a great deal. Now that he has become pope, with the new gift that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon him, he has abandoned those fears and has allowed his best features to emerge. This has renewed his enthusiasm and his energy.”

In another passage Fernández explains the reserve of the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires:

"There were sectors that were putting a strong emphasis on doctrinal certainty, on the honor of the Church and its self-preservation, and that felt that they were represented by a few ecclesial authorities. The sectors that had a plan even slightly different from these latter, like Cardinal Bergoglio and many others, were very respectful of these choices, or at the very least met them with silence.”

According to his current biographer, the vaticanista Elisabetta Piqué, whom Sandro Magister calls “the best informed and most reliable biographer of the current pope”. He summarizes:

On the side opposed to Bergoglio were the prominent Vatican cardinals Angelo Sodano and Leonardo Sandri, the latter being of Argentine nationality. While in Buenos Aires the ranks of the opposition were led by the nuncio Adriano Bernardini, in office from 2003 to 2011, with the many bishops he managed to get appointed, almost always in contrast with the guidelines and expectations of the then-cardinal of Buenos Aires.

On February 22, 2011, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Bernardini delivered a homily that was interpreted by almost everyone as a harangue in defense of Benedict XVI but in reality was a concerted attack on Bergoglio.

The nuncio placed under accusation those priests, religious, and above all those bishops who were keeping a “low profile” and leaving the pope [Benedict] alone in the public battle in defense of the truth.

"We have to acknowledge," he said, “that there has increased year after year, among theologians and religious, among sisters and bishops, the group of those who are convinced that belonging to the Church does not entail the recognition of and adherence to an objective doctrine.”

Because this was exactly the fault charged against Bergoglio: that of not opposing the secularist offensive, of not defending Church teaching on “nonnegotiable” principles.

The ghost writer again: on “homosexual marriage”:

Pope Francis is not naive. He is asking us to immerse ourselves in the context of today's culture in a very realistic way. He is inviting us to recognize that the rapidity of communication and the selection of content proposed by the media present a new challenge for us. [. . .] When the Church talks too much about philosophical questions or about the natural law, it is presumably doing so in order to be able to dialogue on moral issues with the nonbelieving world. Nonetheless, in doing this, on the one hand we do not convince anyone with the philosophical arguments of other times, and on the other we lose the opportunity to proclaim the beauty of Jesus Christ, to “make hearts burn.” So those philosophical arguments do not change anyone's life. Instead, if it can be managed to make hearts burn, or at least to show what there is that is attractive in the Gospel, then persons will be more willing to converse and to reflect also with regard to a response concerning morality. [. . .]

For example, it does not do much good to speak out against [homo]sexual marriage, because people tend to see us as if we were resentful, cruel, persons who have little sympathy or even exaggerate. It is another matter when we speak of the beauty of marriage and of the harmony that is created in the difference resulting from the covenant between a man and a woman, and in this positive context it emerges, almost without having to point it out, how inadequate it is to use the same term and to call “marriage” the union of two homosexual persons. [. . .]

The ghost writer again: on the clerical celibacy and the sex abuse scandal:

We insist on the fact that many married persons are pedophiles. Nonetheless, as much as we seek to explain this, society does not believe it. There is a generalized conviction that obligatory celibacy and priestly surroundings made up only of men facilitate not only the development of homosexual inclinations, but even of abuse. So even if this reasoning should not be convincing, I believe that we should listen more to the people of God, and as much is possible open a great discussion on obligatory celibacy. [. . .]

In reality I think that customs have the greatest influence on convictions, because celibacy is not inseparable from the priesthood and there are Catholic priests in the East who are happily married. With respect to all of this, the pope has nonetheless said some very interesting and destabilizing things that it is worthwhile to recall: "In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them." [. . .]

The ghost writer again: on communion for the divorced and remarried:

This will be an issue that will be discussed at the upcoming synods, and the pope will listen to the different opinions. [. . .] Certainly in “Evangelii Gaudium" he has provided us with an important orientation for our reflection, which we cannot neglect to take into consideration. He comes to the point of saying that “the doors of the sacraments [should not] be closed for simply any reason" and that the Eucharist "is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."


  1. > And second, we will be treated to the spectacle of conservative Roman Catholics trying to explain precisely how no “essential teaching” has been changed.

    That's assuming they won't just claim like they have in the past " wasn't a real pope." :)

    1. Jeff -- stranger things have happened :-)