Thursday, March 14, 2013

What Pope Francis might mean for the Church of England

Journalists all over the world will have spent the night poring over the actions, writings and pronouncements of His Eminence Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, SJ, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Taking the name Pope Francis, he has sent a signal (or two) that his pontificate will focus on the missiological priorities of St Francis of Assisi and/or St Francis Xavier. The former is known for his humility and veneration of poverty; the latter for his intolerance of 'repulsive and grotesque' Hindu teachings and the need for Holy Inquisition against the 'Mohammedan Sect'.

But, unlike Benedict XVI, who dismissed the Church of England as a mere 'ecclesial community', Pope Francis appears altogether more latitudinal toward Anglicanism.

1) He is vigorously anti-clerical. He has condemned the refusal of holier-than-thou priests to baptise children born out of wedlock as 'hypocritical clericalism', 'pharisaical Gnosticism' and 'sacramental blackmail'.

After the haughty judgmentalism and self-righteous arrogance of certain Roman Catholics in response to yesterday's post on the Lord's Supper, one wonders what Pope Francis might say to them. He is manifestly opposed to the 'hijacking' of sacraments by those who deem themselves superior. He condemns the hypocrites and those who deflect from their own failings and graceless shortcomings by hiding beneath the shroud of clericalism. He is tolerant of imperfection and he understands fragility. Our communion may be imperfect, but he sets his face sternly against those who supposedly do not fulfil rigid doctrinal 'requirements'. Not only is such moral judgmentalism damaging to the Church, it is a distortion and corruption of Christ’s incarnation. By condemning those who emphasise legal strictures and the letter of the law, he skilfully refutes those Roman Catholics who reduce a sacrament to a doctrinal slogan to serve the interests of religious power. “Jesus did not preach his own politics: he accompanied others. The conversions he inspired took place precisely because of his willingness to accompany, which makes us all brothers and children and not members of an NGO or proselytes of some multinational company.”

2) In a spirit of ecumenism he permitted his Cathedral to host services led by Protestants, Muslims and Jews. He participates in common acts of worship with Protestants and is content to be blessed by them, perceptibly validating their beliefs. It is widely acknowledged that he is a Vatican II modernist; a progressive when it comes to the 'separated brethren'. He understands the need for an understanding of the Church as a communion of local Churches, each sharing a common faith but manifesting diversity in accordance with the mores and traditions of society.

3) The Anglican Bishop of Argentina, the Most Rev Greg Venables, has written that Pope Francis is a 'friend to Anglicans':
"..He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him.”
4) If the Ordinariate is 'quite unnecessary', we will see no further emphasis upon it from the Roman Catholic Bishops in England and Wales (not that we were seeing much anyway). They didn't entirely ignore Pope Benedict's ecclesial innovation, but they were consistently obstructive, doubtless waiting for him to go and praying for a successor who would revive the spirit of ecumenism, mutual cooperation and respect. Perhaps, as Cardinal Walter Kasper might wish, we will see a return to a promotion of Christian unity based upon a Roman Catholic 'self-critical examination of conscience'.

5) We will see a drawing back from the arrogant assertion that the Roman Catholic Church is the 'one true church of Christ'. There will be a focus instead upon papal 'primacy' but an undoubted acknowledgment that the Church of England is a valid constituent part of the Catholic Church. Unlike Benedict XVI, he will at least consult his Anglican brothers (and sisters) before initiating further schemes to lure the disaffected into the Roman Catholic fold.

6) Both Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby have considerable knowledge of and interest in the worlds of finance, banking and welfare. Both grasp the value of free markets, liberal economies and the production of wealth. But both also understand the need for an ethical framework which recognises the dignity and freedom of the individual. They are both concerned with excessive inequality and know of the dangers to society posed by unregulated banking and unrestrained finance. They are likely to work together toward a moral economic framework. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Caritas in Veritate: 'Every economic decision has a moral consequence'; 'The market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak.'

7) Expect a swift invitation from Pope Francis for Archbishop Justin to visit the Holy See for a coffee and a chat. And that's precisely what it will be: no pomp, no formality, no banquet, no flunkies. Just two princes of the Church talking and praying as equals, with just a hint of primus inter pares.


Blogger David Hussell said...

Your Grace,

A most interesting and hope filled article. Thank you. I pray for the work of the new Pope.

I leave the details of doctrinal disputes to the theologians, instead pressing on with doing my small bit to spread the joy of The Gospel locally. As a Low Church Anglican I rest in the knowledge that, although what divides the denominations must be acknowledged with honesty and humility, by all, as what unites us, against a common enemy, is much more important, eternally important. Let us work together as brothers and sisters in Christ to witness and bring that joy to a needy world.

14 March 2013 at 11:53  
Blogger Corrigan said...

On behalf of us haughty and arrogant judgementalists, I must protest. Hippy theology is all very well, but like the parable of the prodigal son, the prodigal only had a home to go back to because his father and brother kept one going for him. For a while, under Benedict and his "legalism", it looked like the home was under repair and reconstruction; however, if our estranged brethren are thinking of Francis as one of them, then perhaps my initial assessment of him as someone who I could do business with was hasty. I must assume that the Holy Spirit has decided we haven't suffered enough yet. We can but persevere.

14 March 2013 at 12:10  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

Could be worse - could be an Argie Dominican.

Quite frankly who gives an F***?

Another irrelevany BigSkyFairy liar infesting the universe.

14 March 2013 at 12:19  
Blogger Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Many thanks for collecting accurate information and assembling it into a tea leaves we could read. I'm feeling very positive for exactly the reasons your grace adduces

14 March 2013 at 12:32  
Blogger Corrigan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

14 March 2013 at 12:36  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Quite frankly who gives an F***?

Clearly, one G. Tingey does, else why does he keep posting?

14 March 2013 at 12:43  
Blogger Angharad said...

A very gracious and informative post Your Grace, including the heartwarming and generous comments from The Anglican Bishop of Argentina.

I found it incredibly sad that our Pope had been less than 24 hours in the Vatican, before the more Traditional Catholic Bloggers and others felt the need to get the knives out.
Can we not be happy that we have a humble, spiritual man at the helm?

14 March 2013 at 12:55  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

[He] sets his face sternly against those who supposedly do not fulfil rigid doctrinal 'requirements'.

If so, the RCC is in for interesting times ahead. The RCC is chock full of rigid doctrinal requirements. They are called dogmas, and they define what it means to be a RC. So he had better not set his face too strongly aganst rigid doctrine or he will undermine the basis of his church.


14 March 2013 at 13:02  
Blogger Darren said...

Not likely!
The 1st thing he claimed was to be bishop over ALL the world's Churches!

The Cranmer should remember his articles. "The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in England"

14 March 2013 at 13:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'He is vigorously anti-clerical. He has condemned the refusal of holier-than-thou priests to baptise children born out of wedlock as 'hypocritical clericalism', 'pharisaical Gnosticism' and 'sacramental blackmail'.

This sounds interesting!.I wonder if Pope Francis is that breath of fresh air that is going to blow away all the cobwebs out of the Catholic Church?.

Will be watching with interest as things progress.

14 March 2013 at 13:41  
Blogger Harry-ca-Nab said...

Its nice to see Cranmer in a more conciliatory mood. It suits him far better even in the eyes of this haughty Catholic.

I truly hope for all our sakes - for Christendom itself - that Francis I is good for the Church and the wider Christian world.

One minor issue still nags me though..

Why does the existence of the Ordinariate still rankle.

People move from church to Church. If I joined a CofE congregation my fellow Catholics would be sad but not judgemental or obstructive. They would pray for me.

It is hard for English people with a desire to return to Rome to immediately feel entirely comfortable in a church of different people and practices, however welcoming.

I know myself that, being an English Catholic, I sometimes feel on the sidelines when nearly all the congregation is of Irish, Italian, Polish etc descent. There is such a thing as Englishness despite our "betters" telling us we have no culture of our own.

Surely it doesn't hurt to provide a special place for them; as in time they will fully integrate as they settle in.

They are not chattels.

14 March 2013 at 13:52  
Blogger Flossie said...

'A sworn enemy of the Traditional Mass, he has only allowed imitations of it in the hands of declared enemies of the ancient liturgy. He has persecuted every single priest who made an effort to wear a cassock, preach with firmness, or that was simply interested in Summorum Pontificum.' (Rod Dreher)

Oh dear! No wonder Damien's cross with you, Your Grace!

14 March 2013 at 14:13  
Blogger Flossie said...

Apologies to Damian for spelling.

14 March 2013 at 14:13  
Blogger Corrigan said...

I was wondering how Francis felt about the Tridentine Mass; that's always the litmus test in any Catholic. Thanks for the heads-up, Flossie.

14 March 2013 at 14:28  
Blogger Conchúr said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

14 March 2013 at 14:42  
Blogger Conchúr said...

I'll have what His Grace is smoking.

14 March 2013 at 14:43  
Blogger Peter Damian said...

Surely this is a time of great hope for all Christians?

Francis of Assisi once summed up the mission of the community he founded in this way: "Brothers, we have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way."

Let us pray that Pope Francis becomes a channel of God's peace to our world and brings greater unity to our Christian faith.

14 March 2013 at 14:56  
Blogger David B said...

According to the BBC he, somewhat understandably, though I think wrongly, is on record as favouring the Argentinian case regarding the Falkland Islands.

Is that not a concern?


14 March 2013 at 17:17  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Well, Archbishop, that’s a tall order you’ve given Francis. Let’s hope an assistant has printed it out for laminating. The Inspector, on the other hand, suspects Francis will be full of surprises. He stands as an un-quantifiable being at the moment.

Ah, one sees official recognition of the curia’s choice from foaming at the mouth anti-pope Gregory at 12:19. One suspects this most marked of occasions has sent the man into cat kicking mood as of late.

14 March 2013 at 17:50  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

What particularly pleases, or should that be delights, is the cardinal’s choice is not subject to ratification by the EU. One is quite positive that if that were not the case, the all controlling freedom curtailing unelected Kommisars would be rejecting Francis today for his stance on SSM alone.

This must be so galling for those Euro-swine..

14 March 2013 at 17:51  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

David B

Why should it be a concern? What authority can he bring to the matter? The issue of the Falkland Islands will be settled in only one of two ways. The British will abandon the Islands to Argentina because Britain no longer desires to maintain sovereignty, or Agentina will drive the British out by use of force. Vatican opinion will not matter one way or the other - especially if this really is about oil.

Neither is it bothersome in principle that he might support Argentina's claim. Althought that claim may be false, it is not prima facia immoral.


14 March 2013 at 17:55  
Blogger Flossie said...

I have a certain amount of sympathy, Corrigan (if you are in favour of the Tridentine Mass rather than agin it, that is.) I rather like it myself, even though I am an Anglican. The alternative in the Catholic Churches I have been in is pretty dire.

(Speaking personally, I now only go to churches which use His Grace's Book of Common Prayer, as I got fed up with the trivial and banal stuff which the Liturgical Commission kept pumping out.)

However, he seems like a good guy on moral issues, being pro-life and pro-marriage. You can't have everything, I suppose.

14 March 2013 at 18:14  
Blogger The Gray Monk said...

Thank you, Your Grace, for this appraisal, I confess I am not so sanguine, but perhaps the Holy Spirit will move things in the manner you suggest. We shall see who triumphs - the Holy Spirit or the Vatican Cardinals.

14 March 2013 at 18:33  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Neither is it bothersome in principle that he might support Argentina's claim.

Of course not; at least not to an American mind like this poster or that of Secretary John Kerry.

'Asked if the democratic will of the Falkland islanders should be respected once a national poll has been held, Mr Kerry said: "Let me be very clear about our position with respect to the Falklands, which I believe is clear.
"First of all, I'm not going to comment, nor is the President, on a referendum that has yet to take place, hasn't taken place.
"Our position on the Falklands has not changed. The United States recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the question of parties' sovereignty claims thereto.'

Yeh - thanks Bud, just like we backed you up in Iraq - twice.

Falklands '82 was a bit more demanding than the glorious solo US victory in the Grenadan Battle of the Beach-towels, where the main line of resistance was from the press who wouldn't move out of the way.

I wonder how it would play out if the islands in question were Hawaiian or if Mexico had the pope's backing to wrest back Texas or California.

That wouldn't be bothersome either I expect.

14 March 2013 at 18:43  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Might be an idea to put the Falkland garrison on amber alert, what !

The blighters might land a small craft anywhere on the coast and demand a ceasefire pending UN intervention...

14 March 2013 at 18:50  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Anyway, here’s something which is not a drill. From Pink News:

“The new pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old Argentinean, who will be known as Pope Francis, has in the past described same-sex marriage and gay couples adopting as a “destructive attack on God’s plan.”. The new pope has also said that same-sex adoption is a form of discrimination and abuse against children.”

One does like that in a pope, don’t you know.

“He went on to describe introducing equality [Sic] as a move from “the ‘Father of Lies’ who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God”. In the Gospel of John, ‘the Father of Lies’ is a term for the Devil.”

Absolutely bloody outstanding, what !

Francis and the Inspector are going to get on so well ! Not so with Ben. Depressingly it’s a little like asking “Is the Pope Catholic?” when you ask “Is the Pope homophobic?”. Well, that’s put a damper on things, but cheer up, Gentlemind has posted there and as at 14:13 has an impressive mark down of -39. Well done that, er, thing, you certainly perplexed them with your argument that our sexual freaks are being used by powers greater than them, though of course you are too gentle to have phrased it that way. Apparently, your approach does pay off, as they did not attempt to rip your throat out as they were wont to do when this man posted there. Inspector impressed !

14 March 2013 at 19:05  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Man and woman are ‘equal but different’, right ?

Can’t see why the LGBT community can’t be content with ‘equal but strange’. More than they deserve, but the Inspector has mellowed over the years...

14 March 2013 at 19:13  
Blogger Martin said...

The only thing that can unite Christians is salvation by grace through faith.

I doubt he subscribes to that.

14 March 2013 at 19:24  
Blogger non mouse said...

I went to Buenos Aires once. Fascinating. They even had a railway station with old ironmongery from Sheffield in it.

Well ... I guess they've got the Vercelli Book in Italy, too. To say nothing of those nasty Treaties buried in Rome. If this man will give them back, now - then I'll believe his heart's in the right place.

14 March 2013 at 19:34  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Non mouse, this man has not been to Argentina, but used to be taken for an Argentinian conscript back in 1982 with his then jet black hair. Damn lucky he didn’t end up in a secure camp...

14 March 2013 at 19:39  
Blogger Nick said...

I hope to see the AofC make that trip soon. This is a bad time for true Christians to be divided on doctrinal issues. Too many have wondered into the desert of materialism and vacuous humanism only to find themselves dying of spiritual thirst.

A more uited Christian front would offer a refuge and inspiration to those who are genuinely seeking an alternative.

Christians should never forget that God is their true "leader", but a bit of human leadership is still a big help

14 March 2013 at 21:02  
Blogger OldJim said...

Your Grace,

I direct you here:

Pope Francis' views on baptism are wholly of a piece with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI; baptism and the Eucharist have different sacramental characters.

In a country like Argentina, where the "civic religion" dimension of baptism might carry social cache and form an occasion for "secular" celebration (like marriage would do in this country) one can see why clerics may be tempted to withhold the civic celebration in order to incentivise parents to display a real engagement with the substance of the faith.

However, the Church holds that baptism imparts a real sacramental character, and so many clerics of all theological persuasions believe that denying that character to an infant cannot be justified in this way.

This is quite different to the Eucharist, because:

-We are explicitly told that those who partake of the Eucharist must do so "worthily": it is withheld from some from the very start

-Withholding baptism from children would be on grounds of their parents' lack of faith. Withholding the Eucharist is on the grounds of the recipients' lack of faith.

-Baptism receives a person into the Church. The Eucharist is a sign of conscious unity with the Church.

The conclusions that you draw are not warranted.

14 March 2013 at 21:34  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Old Jim, one hopes you would be able and willing to explain your stance to Jesus, should the opportunity arise...

14 March 2013 at 22:00  
Blogger Roy said...

I suspect that now he is the pope, Pope Francis will realise that he will have to endeavour to be reasonably unbiased in the matter of the Falklands and will not be able to totally ignore the wishes of the islanders.

However the view of the US government is rather more important than that of the Pope. The lack of backing from the US is disgraceful but not surprising. Despite talk of "the Special Relationship" the United States has generally only supported Britain when it is in its own interests to do so.

Frequently American governments have taken very hypocritical positions and British governments have been far too weak in opposing them. For example, during the Suez Crisis in 1956 the American government sabotaged the British and French attempt to retain some degree of influence over the Suez Canal while at the same time pretending that the Panama Canal was American territory!

Another reason for lack of support from the US over the Falklands is that if the Americans supported the idea of self-determination for the Falkland Islanders then it would be embarrassing for them to oppose it for the Chagos Islanders who want to return to their islands in the Indian Ocean when they were expelled because the Americans did not want any civilians anywhere near the base that Britain allowed them to build on Diego Garcia in 1971.

When the American lease on that base expires in a few years time the British government should refuse to renew it unless the Americans agree to the return of the Chagos Islanders to their homeland.

14 March 2013 at 22:34  
Blogger bluedog said...

Roy @ 22.34, the Western interest in general would very much be to keep the US in Diego Garcia, given China's expansionary plans.

The lot of the Chagos Islanders really needs to be looked at very objectively. Citizens of the West are dangerously prone to romantic delusions with regard to the circumstances of subsistence dwellers such as the Chagos Islanders and their like inevitably are. It may require a vaulting leap of the imagination, but put yourself on an island that is no more than 15m above sea level and condemn yourself to a diet of fish, coconut and may be a root vegetable grown in the sandy soil. What is the outlook for your children, in particular their health and education?

The answer is dismal, and the young will get out of the place just as soon as they can and migrate to the Gulf or India for work and a better living standard.

If that is going to be the outcome, the Chagos Islanders are far better off staying in Mauritius where they mainly are, and with respect, you should ignore John Pilger et al.

14 March 2013 at 23:35  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Blue Dog
Put yourself in the dismal position of the Chagos Islanders in Mauritius where they are certainly not better off.
The Islands could be opened up for eco-tourism. It is hard to see what serious security risk this would impose.

15 March 2013 at 02:52  
Blogger David B said...

It's off topic to this post, but very much on topic to an earlier one that has dropped off the board.

I see that UCL has taken action against the Islamic group that segregated seating in a public debate, leading to Laurence Krauss's threatened walk-out.

I quote a snippet from the Grauniad.

"A London university has banned an Islamic organisation from taking part in events on its campus after the group hosted a debate with seating segregated by gender.

University College London took the action against the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) after concluding that it had attempted to enforce segregation at the debate on 9 March."

Belated, but still..


15 March 2013 at 07:56  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Manfarang @ 02.52, when this communicant hears the term eco-tourism he suspects somebody is about to embark on ego-trip, flying first-class.

Some quantification. You say, 'Put yourself in the dismal position of the Chagos Islanders in Mauritius where they are certainly not better off.'

Compared to what? Nearby Madagascar has a GDP per capita of USD 1000. Mauritius offers USD 15600. Another comparable would be the Maldives on USD 8700. Mauritius suddenly doesn't seem that bad. Perhaps we should look to the Pacific for a true comparison where tiny Tuvalu with just 10,000 souls spreads across nine coral atolls and records USD 3300 per capita.

Still, it's all relative compared to Singapore with USD 60900 per capita. Former colonial power the UK languishes with a paltry USD 36700.

It seems that Wealth is indeed shifting to Asia, but your tropical island needs to be strategically located and not off the beaten track. As you may know.

15 March 2013 at 09:29  
Blogger David Anderson said...

My response in general to commentary upon the new Pope:

15 March 2013 at 10:18  
Blogger John Thomas said...

St. Francis X: I do hope His Grace is not falling into the trap which so many fall into - or exploit - of assuming that Inquisition inevitably meant torture, burning, etc. This myth has been debunked.
Point 2: Ecumenism (different Christian denominations) and multi-faith worship (some would say "so-called worship") are different things entirely - H G's words might have the effect of seeming- identifiation.

15 March 2013 at 11:01  
Blogger non mouse said...

Mr. T @11:01- This myth has been debunked. Labelled "myth" and "debunked" by whom and how? The RCC? By Re-inscription of history?

Thank you for giving your(?) definitions of in point 2, though I rather wish you had explained what you mean by "seeming-identifiation" - even if it's a typo.

15 March 2013 at 12:12  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

Carl Jacobs thinks the "issue" of the Falklands will be settled either by our abandoning them or by the Argentines taking them by force. Can he really not think of any other way of settling the issue; one that is far more likely perhaps?

15 March 2013 at 12:52  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Little Black Sambo

I started to wonder why I was getting these hostile reactions to what I thought was a fairly innocuous post. So I went back and read what I wrote.

Oh ...

So let's play another round everyone's favorite game - "What I MEANT to say was ..."

Here is what I was thinking.

1. Britain has sovereignty over the Falklands.

2. Britain will lose sovereignty over the Falkland Islands only if one of two things happen:

a. Britain voluntarily leaves the Island. Not likely.

b. Argentina conquers the islands. Also not likely.

3. So long as Britain maintains sovereignty, the issue remains unsettled because Argentina will never accept British sovereignty. However, this doesn't matter because Argentina has no leverage to do anything about it.

I realize that I am probably the only person who would have understood that this is what I meant by what I wrote. Please let me apologize for any annoyance I might have created.


15 March 2013 at 15:22  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Could it be he's just another of Washington's puppets?

15 March 2013 at 17:44  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

heh heh !

Always a pleasure to catch Carl at his most indignant...

Well done to the short statured black fella !

15 March 2013 at 18:05  

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