Monday, February 09, 2015

“What will come after the Bergoglio Papacy?”

In an article entitled Killing Time with Good Pope Francis, I predicted:

With the election of “Good Pope Francis”, it seems clear that the powers that be are merely biding their time, “killing time”, until they can figure out what comes next. They clearly don’t know. A vote like this one makes one think “the Church” wants to put the papacy on hold for a few years, while the Italians try to regroup (March 14, 2013).

I didn’t quite get everything right. I said:

Fortunately, they have a warm, fuzzy “caretaker pope” who won’t do much, and who can serve to be manipulated. It is an outcome that both sides of the curial power struggle – the conservatives and the liberals – seem to have hoped for.

But that hasn’t quite played out. “Pope Francis” had other ideas. Some months later, in an interview, the accidental Bergoglio/pope said this:

Vatican II, inspired by Pope Paul VI and John, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to be open to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that being open to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. But afterwards very little was done in that direction. I have the humility and ambition to want to do something … providence has placed me at the head of the Church and the Diocese of Peter. I will do what I can to fulfill the mandate that has been entrusted to me … Gently, but firmly and tenaciously… (October 01, 2013).

Maybe that is not a precise quote; but it is from a Scalifari interview, and Bergoglio was given the opportunity to review the article before it was published. And he approved it. How many “popes” merely approve the public statements, penned by others, as their own?

* * *

In the face of Bergoglio's ambition’s, both the progressive and conservative factions in Rome are having still other ideas. The conservative (yet still “in communion” with the Successor of Peter) blog “Rorate Caeli” recently featured a guest post by Father Pio Pace (a pseudonym) entitled “‘THE SUCCESSOR’ - Rome in Pre-Conclave mood: What will come after the Bergoglio Papacy?’”:

What will remain when the pontificate of Jorge Mario Bergoglio is over? Certainly that this Pope coming from the "periphery" caused a great upheaval, but, considering the provisional results, more in style than in substance. In fact, it will all depend on what will follow this pontificate. We can ask if Papa Bergoglio is not essentially the one who is preparing the paths to a profound innovation of the Church, if he is not a Pope of transition.

The current pontificate reminds one irresistibly of the pontificate of Pope Roncalli. John XXIII was elected by a group of zelanti (“zealous”) electors (Ottaviani, Rufini) and progressives (Frenchmen Gerlier, Liénart), just as Francis was elevated to the throne of Peter by a very large group of Cardinals, many of whom are not embarrassed to say that they did not know the one for whom they voted in the panic of strange votes of Wednesday, March 13, 2013, and who now regret their vote.

So this is how the conclaves go. The cardinal “electors”, in the dark themselves, are susceptible to the agendas of a few “motivated” members of their circle. This is keen insight into the work of the Holy Spirit as to how he actually provides “the principled means for reliably identifying the formal, proximate object of faith as distinct from human opinion.”

Moving along, it seems the recent trip to Manila was no accident:

True, John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council, which is quite a feat. But what would have happened to the Council without the (difficult) election of Giovanni Battista Montini, in 1963? At the death of John XXIII, no text had yet been voted. If the "right wing" of the Sacred College, led by Cardinal Siri, had been sufficiently disciplined, it would have obtained the election of a moderate pope, who would have quickly wrapped up the meeting, leading it to a soft reform, instead of what actually happened. The true Council was directed by Paul VI, an intelligent man and an anxious and determined reformer, all the while being a relative "moderate", in comparison with the progressives of the Rahner kind and others of the Concilium group. Pope Montini was the one who intended the conciliar work in the long run, managed it until the end, and who crowned it with a liturgical reform which he dreamed as a kind of wonderful renewal of the face of the Church in order to fill the modern world with enthusiasm.

Francis is a beneficiary of the same media popularity as Pope Roncalli. He is, it is true, infinitely more authoritarian than Pope John, but he also is much rougher. He is endowed, in a way that is different from that of John XXIII, the genius of the gesture and of the proclamation. But, as with John XXIII, it is quite difficult to know - does even he know it? - what are his concrete goals. What reform, in sum, will he engender? The one of the Curia (as all will admit, except for the hagiographic journalists) will be reduced to the fusion of a certain number of Pontifical Councils, the creation of a dicastery for social issues, and another for the laity and the family. And that of doctrine? The huge synodal machinery, ordinary assembly, conferences and discussions in all dioceses in the world, already causes a deep unease in the spirits, but what will it produce, concretely, other than a blurriness regarding the specific point of communion to "remarried" divorcees? As for the renewal of personnel in Rome and in the helm of dioceses, it is not considerable, other than the removals done as settlement of scores.

So, this writer, at least, predicts no doctrinal changes under Bergoglio. However: the “progressives” in Rome have got a plan for a “succession” similar to that of the succession of Paul VI behind John XXIII. It goes something like this:

Cardinal Tagle: the Council according to the [“extremely progressive”] Bologna School

No deep changes at the moment, therefore. Naturally, these few things put forward by the new style of a pope-as-little-a-pope-as-possible will have great consequences for the future. But this is conditional upon one thing: that this new John XXIII be followed by a new Paul VI, who would have the ability to really making concrete a new phase in the transformation of the Church, who would be the man of a kind of Vatican III (with or without a meeting of all the world's bishops).

The only one who seems to have the intellectual abilities, the theological formation, the necessary appearance of "moderation" is not Cardinal Maradiaga - who reminds one (all forget about him today, while so many spoke of him then) of Cardinal Tettamanzi, who engaged in campaign during the entire last part of the John Paul II pontificate, just to get in the 2005 conclave two or three votes, including his own. No: the papabile who stands behind Bergoglio, as Montini after Roncalli, in order to engage the Church in a super-aggiornamento, is Tagle.

Luis Antonio Tagle, just 57, the child of a good Manila family, became Cardinal-Archbishop through the hands of Benedict XVI, who pleased himself with elevating with very little prudence bright theologians, even if they were not partisans of the "hermeneutic of continuity", such as also the neo-Bultmannian biblical scholar Ravasi, created Cardinal and president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Cardinal Tagle got his theological degrees in the United States, was a member of the International Theological Commission, and took part in the works of the team that supervised the History of Vatican II edited by the extremely progressive Bologna School (Giuseppe Alberigo, Alberto Melloni), the essential history "according to the hermeneutic of rupture". At the extraordinary assembly of the Synod on the family, Cardinal Tagle, one of the three co-presidents, with Cardinal Vingt-Trois of Paris and Cardinal Damasceno Assis of Aparecida in Brazil, places himself clearly within the liberal wing. He had these words, often reported, when speaking at a press conference at the Holy See Press Office: "In this Synod, the spirit of Vatican II was felt among the Fathers."

This great representative of the "Asian theological thinking" has just received the consecration of the visit of the Pope to Manila, where he celebrated before an audience of millions of faithful. Next October, he will once again be a co-president of the Synodal assembly. once again alongside Cardinals Vingt-Trois and Damasceno Assis, to whom the Pope added Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, Archbishop of Cape Town in South Africa, a defender of traditional moral doctrine.

It is not irrelevant to remark that Tagle's main area of expertise is collegiality, which was the theme of his doctoral thesis.

And this is the reason for his “appeal” to some – “collegiality” is one of two visions for the papacy, similar to the direction that Bergoglio leans, in his support of the the Ravenna document. The other option is a continuing tight centralization as was espoused by the still-alive Ratzinger. What might he be thinking in the face of such shenanigans.

… A collegiality that is widened in a very democratic way, which he combines with a pastoral magisterium. "He is above all a pastor, and theological controversies by themselves do not interest him," says Filipino Jesuit Catalino Arevalo. Very mindful of not having the appearance of a "progressive" ("neither conservative, nor progressive"), he knows perfectly well how to make use of ecclesiastical stonewalling. Nevertheless, his line is clear: Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli had him as his candidate in the 2013 conclave because he was "less of a moralist." For instance, in a press conference at the Catholic University of America in Washington, on May 16, 2014, he underlined that the distance between the teaching of the Church and the men and women of our time was not a matter of bad comprehension: that is, the Christian faithful are deliberately and conscientiously out of step with the moral magisterium. And in last October's Synod, he insisted on the unique character of the Synod that, instead of including a theological debate, should rather integrate these aspirations of some with what "very concrete aspects of [current] family situations" (interview to French magazine La Vie, October 15, 2014).

And here’s the punch-line: the “conservatives” are aware of these plans:

Undoubtedly, Tagle is the figure who can make concrete that which Bergoglio proclaims. Except that, "on the right" as well, the atmosphere is already that of a pre-conclave. And also that the Holy Spirit makes a mockery of men's calculations.

Each side is calculating what might happen when Pope Bergoglio, now almost 80 years old, passes away.

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