|Don Andrea Gallo in the clerical clothes he neither aspired to nor was ever going to be 'graced' with wearing.|
Once again I want to give a shout out to Rebel Girl who authors the blog Iglesia Descalza. The current post up at her site is a translation of an interview for the MicroMega publication with the recently deceased Italian priest Don Andrea Gallo. Don Andrea was something of a thorn in the side of conservative Italian bishops and a vocal critic of the restoration movement of the previous two popes. I want to encourage readers to take in the whole interview and have excerpted a couple of paragraphs to hook folks into doing so:
Is secularity a value?
Of course it is, and there are very profound secular ethics. There is no contradiction between fidelity to the Church and attachment to the need for secularity. Secularity isn't secularism, on the contrary -- it's the respect for all faiths by the state which ensures the free exercise of religious, spiritual, cultural, and creative activities of the diverse communities. And in a pluralistic society, secularity is the only space for dialogue and communication between the religions.
The "non-negotiable principles" seem to be very far from that subversive and liberating power of the Gospel that we talked about earlier. What happened to gospel themes such as social justice, care for the marginalized and the oppressed, wealth and poverty?
Attention to power and privileges has eclipsed them. The Church, including my archbishop who is also president of the CEI [Italian Bishops' Conference], has supported Berlusconi for years. Now he's backing Monti. Communion and Liberation applauds the powers that be, Famiglia Cristiana even wrote it, talking about the Rimini Meeting this summer. Rather than defending the non-negotiable principles, there's attention to the defense of privilege. Moreover, the holy monks told me too -- the Church is governed by Opus Dei and other elite troops: Communion and Liberation, the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Legionaries of Christ, with their founder, the pedophile father Maciel, who was even a protege of Pope Wojtyla. In this case too, we must return to the Council, where it talks about the "poor Church for the poor," and liberation theology -- decapitated by Wojtyla and Ratzinger -- that proclaimed the fundamental option for the poor.
But there's a part of the Church and many Catholic organizations that help the poor ...
It's true, but you have to be very careful. There are two roads -- they look similar; they really go in opposite directions. The church hierarchy and some sectors of the Catholic world offer solidarity that has positive aspects but that is limited to welfarism, and so confirm, even reinforce, the dominant economic system of exploitation, neo-colonialism over the dispossessed of the world. The way forward is that of liberating solidarity, which calls into question neo-liberalism. Dom Helder Câmara, the great bishop of Olinda and Recife, had it all figured out: "When I feed the poor," he said, "they applaud me, and when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a Communist." The Church has not yet made a clear-cut choice. But if the Church wants to be Catholic, it should be Christian; if it wants to be Christian, it should be poor, otherwise it will be an apparatus that governs the world, but it is certainly not the church of Jesus.
There is a lot more in this interview with Don Andrea, thoughts which really hit the nail on the head. The interview came before the election of Pope Francis and I can't help but wonder what Don Andrea would make of Pope Francis. I suspect like other proponents of liberation theology such as Leonardo Boff, Francis' call for the Church to be the 'a poor Church for the poor' would strongly resonate. But I also wonder if Don Andrea would warn Francis about the two paths of Catholic charity. Will Francis' church of the poor serve as nothing more than a facade cloaked in piety which really serves to stifle discussion of any real reform in the Church or in the system of neo colonialism, or will this impulse be followed to it's logical conclusion of solidarity with the poor and all the attendant reforms this would entail?
My biggest fear is that Pope Francis is truly interested in Catholicism becoming a 'poor church for the poor' but is not prepared to follow that idea to where it will ultimately lead. I have fears that when it comes to dismantling those Church structures which are all about power and privilege that he won't be allowed to dismantle them or won't even really try. It just seems to me that Pope Francis can not effect meaningful change for the poor of the world by speaking as the head of a Church that can't or won't model that solidarity in it's own structures and teachings. In other words he can not make one his intentions for this Sunday's global Eucharistic Adoration a plea for God's help for the alleviation of the suffering of women and children in the world and do it from the ultimate leadership platform from the world's most gender exclusive leadership organization.
Until this pope or another pope can face the fact that the current constitution of the Church is part of the problem of global poverty and not the solution, I have to hope more prophets like Don Andrea can percolate up from the bottom until change is not about change, but about recognizing what has already happened.