I haven't written anything in a while and it's not because there wasn't anything to write about. There was a lot to write about. I spent part of the time reading Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium and certainly did have more than a few thoughts about this lengthy piece. I just didn't feel like writing them. Call it malaise or maybe even indifference, but my bigger question was why a pope that was generating such enthusiasm in others had induced malaise and indifference in me---and has been for months. I finally came to the conclusion that Francis is not prepared to really act to make definitive changes in the Church culture. He is in point of fact, reinforcing some of the worst aspects of Church culture by using a lot of 'up is down' rhetoric, about some insidious Church teaching, but more on that later.
The following is an excerpt of an article by Boston Globe's Kevin Cullen. It's about Rhode Island's Bishop Tom Tobin. Tobin, like Springfield's Paprocki is a culture warrior of impeccable credentials. Unfortunately he is a man for whom Pope Francis is not only not an inspiration, Francis is apparently such a light weight leader he can't even get Tobin to even consider toning down the rhetoric. For what ever reason, Bishop Tom Tobin continues his career as one of America's prominent GOP Bishops no matter that Francis is on record as being dead set against this kind of preaching. I think the reason Tobin feels free to ignore Francis is answered at the end of this excerpt. There is more money in extending forgiveness and mercy to the rich than there is in extending mercy and forgiveness to the poor:
The infallible Tom TobinKevin Cullen - Boston Globe - 12/13/13
.....While the pope has been busy selling his soul to all us heathens, Tobin used Nelson Mandela’s death as an opportunity to denounce Mandela’s “shameful promotion of abortion” in South Africa.
I was hoping Tobin would throw in Mandela’s “shameful promotion of condoms” for good measure. You know, the condoms that helped shrink the spread of AIDS in South Africa. Tobin is, in keeping with church teaching, opposed to contraception, even if there is incontrovertible evidence that condoms save lives, even if there’s incontrovertible evidence those condoms reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in abortions. (To this point, Pope Francis holds to the same teachings, no matter the real cost to real lives in the developing world.)
It’s that kind of Dark Ages reasoning that allows bishops like Tobin to believe that in cases of a life-threatening pregnancy, women should die rather than have an abortion. (Pope Francis follows the same reasoning.)
A few years ago, Tobin proclaimed that Patrick Kennedy, then a Rhode Island congressman, should be denied Communion because Kennedy supported abortion rights. The reactionaries in the pews cheered, and Tobin was so busy congratulating himself for standing up for the sanctity of life that he never got around to denying Communion to all those pols who support the death penalty and unnecessary wars fought by other people’s kids.
At the same time Tobin was casting Kennedy out of his church, he was turning over the op-ed page of his diocesan newspaper to Bishop John McCormack, one of the worst enablers of child abuse. At the same time Tobin was denying a sacrament to a politician whose political views he doesn’t share, he was denying diocesan records to men and women who were raped as children by priests. (Pope Francis also has denied access to Archdiocesan records and just last week denied the UN access to Vatican records.)
Tobin’s obsession with judging people narrowly, almost exclusively on whom they fall in love with and whether they support abortion rights, is exactly what the pope has been trying to get away from. The pope hasn’t and won’t change Catholic teaching on these matters, even the risible claim that gay people are “disordered.” He merely wants bishops to stop obsessing about abortion and homosexuality and divorce and contraception because so many who do come across like a bunch of mean-spirited, self-righteous jerks. The pope knows his church is a lot bigger than a couple of hot-button issues, that compassion goes a lot farther than condemnation. (Merely wanting bishops to stop obsessing about these issues means nothing if there is no change in teaching. Francis can not use his pastoral approach to hide from the implications of the actual teachings.)
To be fair, Bishop Tobin is a merciful guy. Just the other day, he wrote a letter asking a judge to go easy on one of his church’s biggest benefactors, a guy named Joe Caramadre.
Prosecutors want Caramadre sent to prison for 10 years after he was convicted in a $46 million investment fraud that preyed on the terminally ill. So what if Joe Caramadre was using unsuspecting dying people to make a buck? It’s not like he’s gay or in favor of abortion.
Did I mention Caramadre used to advertise his services in the diocesan newspaper?......
Call me a radical, but I don't see why it isn't possible for Pope Francis to send a pointedly worded email or drop a cold call on Cardinal O'Malley and insist the USCCB give some 'fraternal' correction to bishops like Tobin and Paprocki. It's how leadership changes a culture. It is virtually impossible to change a culture from the bottom up. It is virtually impossible to change a culture from the top down if the top isn't willing to exercise their authority in a meaningful way. Say what you want about Pope Benedict, but he created the culture he wanted in his subordinates. Just ask William Morris of Toowoomba AU. One rolled head sent quite the message to every other bishop who might have been entertaining expressing thoughts not acceptable to Benedict.
The thing is, Pope Francis has been dropping hints left and right about what is acceptable to express and what is not. He has drawn his lines in the proverbial sand and those lines all point to no real change in anything Catholic. It's as if Francis is using bishops like Tobin to remind us of that while he is free to utter all his pastoral rhetoric, giving the Church a kinder gentler public face. I don't personally care how wonderful his rhetoric is, if he does not act he will not change the culture he upbraids in many of his writings and talks, and unfortunately too many of his acts indicate the exact opposite of his rhetoric. And yet, he has the whole world eating out of his hand.
Even the latest Moneyval report on the IOR, which is not all that flattering, treats the Vatican's failure to implement it's over-site committees with kid gloves. "No real transparency yet, but we're sure it will come." Of course the fact it's been over two years, and nine months of that has been on Francis' watch, doesn't seem to matter. Yes, there has been some change, and yes, there have been accounting firms hired to check for illicit activity, but the permanent structures are still sitting, idling in neutral. In the meantime the indictments of individuals continue and the Italian financial investigations grind on.
When it comes to child abuse the message is exactly the same as it always has been. No cooperation with outside entities unless forced to in a given secular jurisdiction. The UN asks for information on the global situation, the Vatican says 'no' and then has Cardinal O'Malley announce an in house committee on child abuse. Of course there were no pertinent details about this committee. Just that it would deal with pastoral issues associated with victims and strategies to protect children. Notice how accountability issues were left out? I can only assume accountability issues will reside where they have always resided, in the hands of the Vatican. That's change we can believe in. LOL
And that in a nut shell is where my malaise has come from. So far Pope Francis has implemented no change in anything meaningful and his rhetoric doesn't cut it for me. I want to see some action that directly points to change I can believe in. Haven't seen it so far and have serious doubts I will any time soon.