Monday, January 6, 2014

Quote of the Day

. . . All of the enthusiasm about Francis’ style does not change the fact that the institutional Roman Catholic Church is a rigid hierarchy led by a pope—the warm feelings in response to Francis shore up that model of church by making the papacy itself look good. To my mind, this is a serious danger.

Even when I agree with his statements about eradicating poverty, becoming friends with our enemies, and the like, I have scruples about giving the new pope too much praise—as if other people have not said the same things and more for eons.

The papacy is the ultimate bully pulpit, but it works both ways—on things that are progressive and things that are conservative. It is risky to embrace papal remarks when one agrees, only to live long enough to have another pope undo them. Conservatives are living that reality as I write. The point is to be mature enough to set our own moral trajectories and decenter papal authority.

All of the efforts at church reform—whether the ordination of women, married clergy, acceptance of divorced and/or LGBTIQ persons as full members of the community, and many others—are based on the assumption of widespread lay participation in an increasingly democratic church. From that perspective, it does not make sense to ordain more people to a closed clerical caste headed by the Bishop of Rome, however socially progressive he may be.

Rather, beneath all of these movements for change has been the working assumption that a new participatory, democratic administrative model must evolve. Key to that model is a deeply diminished authority role for the pope and a much stronger emphasis on the pope’s function as a symbol of the unity of the whole church. That is not something that anyone accomplishes by kind deeds, but by structural change. . . .

– Mary E. Hunt
"The Trouble With Francis: Three Things That Worry Me"
Religion Dispatches
January 6, 2014

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