Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Pope's Unruly Flock . 'Life' Magazine from 1970.

The title is taken from the cover of a 'Life' magazine (right) of  March 20, 1970. I have adapted this from an article in the blog celledoor, which makes sobering reading.
On the cover we see an ex-nun, Diane Knapp, and her friend , still a nun. Both  had joined the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Most members of the order had left to form a communal group, distancing themselves from the  Church. Boasts Martha Fay, the newly recruited reporter on 'Life' magazine;
"Going to California to do this story was a great reunion," according to Martha. "So many of the people I know have broken out of the formal Church -- myself included. I can't imagine any of us returning to what is there now."

The aftermath of the Second Vatican Council was one of drastically declining Mass attendance, plummeting vocations to the priesthood and the  religious life, bizarre experimentation in the liturgy and unorthodox, even heretical catechesis. Pope Paul VI often cuts a forlorn, lonely figure, a Pope beset by the mood of the times and seemingly not quite knowing what to do.

By the middle of the decade I was at Allen Hall Seminary in London, experiencing the consequences of this most unholy upheaval, where statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were mocked and belief in miracles was thought of as childish. Given what went on, one should not be at all surprised at the lamentable state of the Church today where heresy and apostasy are almost worn as 'badges of honour' worn by many liberals who seem unable to offer humble obedience to Holy Mother Church. The reaction by some to the recent Instruction Universae Ecclesiae is more evidence of that.
But now, under Pope Benedict XVI the New Evangelisation is under way and the reconstruction of the Church has begun but will surely take a couple of generations.

The last article in 'Life' magazine talks of Paul VI and his troubles and I include it for you below.

'Paul, poor fellow, has no friends'

by John Cogley

Pope Paul succeeded John XXIII (above) in 1963.

The present Catholic crisis, comparable only to the turbulence of the Reformation period, closes in on Pope Paul as on no other man. And he has made no effort to conceal the pain it causes. Not long ago the Pope told Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen that he begins his day by reading mail from all over the world. "There is a thorn in almost every letter," Paul said. "When I put my head against the pillow at night, it rests upon a crown of thorns."

Anyone who had to take over after John XXIII, one of the best-loved men in history, would have had a problem. Inevitably he would be compared to the charismatic peasant-Pope, and inevitably he would suffer by comparison. But it would be hard to find a churchman less suited than Paul to follow John. John's pleasantly plain face could light up the most somber ecclesiastical function. Paul conveys no personal magic, even when aided by the baroque theatricality that surrounds his every public move. He is aware of this but is now resigned to the fact that there is not much he can do about it. Crossing the Atlantic in 1965 on his way to the crowds that awaited him in New York, Pope Paul, on the advice of his intimate counselors, privately practiced smiling. He did fairly well on that trip, but smiles just don't come easily to him. As soon as his attention is engaged, he slips back into the preoccupied slightly worried, turned-in-upon-himself expression that curtains his feelings even when his actual words ring with emotion. Those who know Paul personally say he is even more liberal than John, but this is not the image the public sees.

For John no problem -- whether world peace, Communism, or the divisions of Christianity -- was too complex not to be discussed in human terms. For Paul, an incurable intellectual, almost the opposite is true: no problem is too simple not to be subject to complex analysis. His remarks on everything are sown with qualifications, debilitating distinctions and cautious caveats. The style is all wrong for a church still tipsy from its first taste of freedom in centuries.

Not all the dissidents who give Paul headaches are reformers. The most recent changes in the Mass, which he highly commended, were the object of angry conservative demonstrations in Rom itself last fall. Some of the more bitter opponents of the updated liturgy have gone so far as to call Paul a heretical antipope.

The English Bishop Christopher Butler has observed: "What won the day for constitutional principles in England was that the people were prepared to go on fighting and struggling generation after generation. That is what I hope will happen in the Church." The struggle goes on even in the hierarchy, where Paul's first real confrontation, presaged by an attack on the Roman curial system by cardinal Suenens of Belgium, took place during the Bishops' Synod in Rome last fall. Paul broke tradition by attending the meetings and sitting on a level with his fellow bishops at almost every session. "Here I am," he said quietly when one bishop, reading a prepared speech, complained that the Pope should work more closely with the other bishops. After that, even the bishops who came to Rome ready for a showdown left convinced that the Pope favored their demand for greater collegiality or a larger say in the running of the universal Church.

Paul has said that he is open to any change in the Church -- except where fundamental dogma is concerned. But on birth control and clerical celibacy, two of the major issues now threatening the unity of Catholicism -- neither a matter of formal dogma and one (clerical celibacy) only disciplinary -- he still seems unbudgeable, and the more he extols tradition, the greater the demand for change. Paul is bedeviled not only by the erosion of the traditional theology, but by the breakdown of convent discipline, the creeping aceptance of divorce, the rebellious demonstrations by priests and seminarians and the growth of "underground church" defying eccelsiastical laws. He has made steady pleas for moderation among Church reformers, but the old dictum, Roma locuta, causa finita est (Rome has spoken, the case is closed), no longer applies. As a result, the Pope looks more and more like defeated man, and it is generally believed in Rome that Paul, with a sigh of relief, will step down when he reaches his 75th birthday in September 1972.

A sympathetic priest in Rome who has known Paul for 40 years said recently: "The Pope knows better than anyone else that he is a failure. He has a strong sense of history. After the turmoil following upon the Vatican Council, it will take two or three generations to reconstruct Catholicism. It is Paul's fate to sit on the papal throne at the worst possible time, beset both by those who want to change nothing. The Vatican Council released demons. Paul, poor fellow, has no friends -- at least he has no solid constituency. Right now he may be the loneliest man in the world."

In Rome these days one hears again and again Winston Churchill's famous remark that he did not become the king's first minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire. That also seems to sum up the Pope's position. But one critical Vatican monsignor thinks that Paul has missed the message here. "The Empire was going to be liquidated, no matter what Churchill said," the monsignore says. "The curial empire will be liquidated too. If the Pope were wiser he would preside over its liquidation."

Yet there is no doubt about the Pope's undivided loyalty to the age-old Vatican system. Almost from childhood he seemed to have prepared himself for a role in it. The son of zealous, comrtably middle-class parents from Brescia, he was born Gioanni Battista Montini in 1897 at the family's country home in nearby Concesio. Paul grew up in an atmosphere of good books, good talk, gentle manners, a doting mother, and a midlly liberal social concern. He began formal studies for the priesthood at 19, and it was clear from the beginning that he was not destined for a simple parish assignment. Priests from the Montinis' social milieu just didn't end up country pastors in those days.

With the special permission of the Bishop of Brescia, young Montini attended the diocesan seminary as day student, returning to the genteel comfort of his home every afternoon. Ill health was offered as the reason for this exemption from the Council of Trent's ruling that all candidates for priesthood should live under grueling discipline of seminary rules. Today, some of Paul's critics attribute his personal aloofness and seeming lack of warmth to this bypassing of the rough-and-ready camaraderie that seminarians, like soldiers, share in their all-male world.

Appointed when still in his 20s to a minor post in the Vatican Secretariat of State, a coveted assignment for a cleric on the way up, Montini was early set on the path that could lead to the papacy. But as a very young priest he became associated with some of the most progressive thinkers of pre-Vatican II Catholicism and though he served in increasingly important Vatican posts for three decades, his progressive ideas seemed on obstacle to his own advancement in the hierarchy. His vigorous defense of postwar French priests who doffed their soutanes and took their place in factories, strikes and picket lines -- the forerunners of today's clerical social activists -- made hm suspect in the eyes of the conservatives in the Holy Office, the official watchdogs of Catholic orthodoxy. He supported the worker-priests despite strong disapproval of them by both Pope Pius and the Papal Nuncio to France (Cardinal Roncalli, later John XXIII). Paul was named Archbishop of Milan, Italy's largest see, in 1954. But the touchy Pius XII broke with custom and never gave him the red hat of a cardinal. This meant that Paul was not considered for the papacy during the conclave that settled on Pope John, who then looked like an amiable conformist. Montini was the first cardinal named by John.

If Paul had followed immediately after Pius XII, he might be hailed as a great success today. He was shaped by 30 years of Vatican experience to play the papal role according to the Pius XII script. In all probability he would have done it well, adding a strong dash of modernity, and would now be compared favorably to Pius XII rather than contrasted unfavorably to John.

To Pope John himself, Monitini seemed a logical choice to take over when his "interim" regime was completed. Compared to most who had grown up in that establishment, Montini was open to new ideas and fresh theological speculation. A voracious reader, then as now, he had for years devoured the works of secular writers like Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Montini was fascinated above all by Kafka in those days. One priest who has seen a great deal of him through his years in the Vatican says, "I think he still feels that life elsewhere is Kafka-esque and that the Church speaking through him does wlel to resist it."

But the main intellectual influence on his life has been Catholic and French. Paul identified particularly with the Christian humanism of Jacques Maritain, even when Maritain was regarded by powerful conservative churchmen as a near-heretic. Maritain, a vigorous critic clerical privilege as well as political authoritarianism, urged the Church to identify conspicuously with the poor. As Archibishop of Milan, Montini practiced what Maritain preached by frequently visiting mines and factories and became known as the "archbishop of the workers."

"Pope Paul is still a Francophile," according to the superior of a religious order who now sees him regularly. "He thiks more like a French intellectual than an Italian pastor. A typical Italian would roll with the punches better than he has been able to do. But he has been living on this bookish French diet all his life."

Paul has appointed a number of Frenchmen to high Vatican posts, including Cardinal Villot, his secretary of state. Even his Italian appointees tend to a French point of view. "What we need now," one hears more and more among the Pope's in-house critics, "is a genuine Italian pope, like John XXIII." A real Italian they argue, would know how to handle the present crisis of Catholicism, because of the Italian ability to make adjustments when a battle appears to be lost. On the contrary, the Frenchmen around Paul -- a group sometimes called the Pope's French Mafia -- reinforce his abstract, overly analytic, intellectualist assessment of the Church's problem and his disdain of compromise.

Yet even today, Paul is not as conservative in his thinking as he frequently appears to be in practice. Unlike Pope John, he writes his own encyclicals and they sometimes begin as comparatively liberal documents. But the Pope consistently falls back on the most conservative theologians in Rome to judge their orthodoxy, in order to avoid any charge that he is opening the door to heresy. Moreover, he has done little to alter the traditional cast of the Curia on which he relies. Not long ago, in fact, he made cardinals of several churchmen known for doing a bad job on their way up the ladder -- not because he approved of their record, but because above all else, he still believes in automatic seating for those who play the hierarchical game.

The Pope is reluctant to hurt people he knows personally. Consequently, the old guard in the Vatican, some of whom have long passed retirement age, are still running things pretty much the way they always did, or at least they are still trying to do so. Cardinal Ottaviani, now 79 years old and officially retired as head of the Holy Office, still carries on as if his successor's role is merely to sign official documents. To a new generation of Catholic, Paul, the onetime progressive, comes across as a weak pope who timidity is holding back the sweeping changes that John seemed to promise.

Most of the men close to him, however, do not agree that either weakness or vacillation accounts for Paul's major difficulties. "His main problem," a member of an important curial congregation says, "is that he lacks a sense of public relations. He doesn't know how to project an appealing image of himself." The Pope is probably the only major figure in the world who still does not employ a public relations adviser, and the Vatican press office is still so primitive it reinforces more than it counteracts the damaging public image of Paul as a weepy churchman, given to incessant warnings and mournfull assessments of the world.

"The Paul I know is vitally interested in everything. He may be better informed than any other leader in the world," an American cleric in the Vatican says. "He is not really a handwringer. He just seems to be -- and of course it's his own fault." The publicity-minded rector of Roman university agrees. "He's a compassionate man, but his compassion comes across as indecisiveness. He loves the world and worries about it, but even that comes across as querulousness. Basically it's a matter of image."

Then it begins once more. "You take Pope John . . ." the rector says.

Every analysis of Paul seems to end up in the comparison with John. John insisted that Monsignor Pietro Pavan, who drafted his memorable encyclical Pacem in Terris, had to write and rewrite until he, the Pope himself, could understand it. "If I can grasp it, then anyone can," he told Pavan. He once agreed with the Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras that the biggest obstacle to Christian unity was not theology but the theologians. The elderly leaders of the two churches, who were very similar in their simplicity, agreed that the theologians made too much of doctrinal punctilio and not enough of fraternal charity. But to the degree that John gave any though to theology, he was a firm traditionalist. That was made clear in his posthumously published diary -- to the dismay of some admirers who had him marked for a cryptomodernist.

However, John unwittingly created expectations of profound theological changes which his studious, introspective, congenitally cautious successor simply cannot in conscience meet. John, who said, shrugging his shoulders, "I'm only the Pope, what can I do?" has now been transformed by his legend into a pontiff who could do anything. And the stronger the legend becomes, the weaker Paul looks.

John Cogley, a senior fellow of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Santa Barbara, is a noted scholar and writer of Catholicism.

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