Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Do We Have A Little Deja Vu In Pope Francis I?

Pope John Paul I needed a better tailor on his first appearance.
Pope Francis I has a better tailor but looks a lot like his predecessor.

We have a new Pope, Francis I, previously known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.  He has very little Vatican experience, comes from Argentina, and lives very very simply.  He was runner up to EPBXVI in the last conclave, but not this time--in spite of his age.  No vaticanista pundit gave him much of a chance, and Paddypower had odds on him at 35-1 late this afternoon.  Very few Kentucky Derby winners have won with those odds.  I am really curious to know what happened to the candidacies of Cardinal Scola and Cardinal Sherer the favorites.  After all, this election only took 5 rounds so either the Vatican watchers were engaged in a huge amount of wishful thinking, or something happened inside the Conclave.

Last night I'm laying in bed meditating on the Conclave and ask this question.  Who will be the next pope?  I get Francis I. So I'm like no, who takes the name Francis I?  I get dead silence so I give it up.  This afternoon I was up at the main Center with a client who had a psychiatric appointment and I'm really hoping this is a short session because I want to get back to my residential facility and find out if the evenings vote in Rome resulted in black or white smoke.  I walk into the living room just as white smoke starts poring out of the Sistine Chapel. I couldn't help but stick around and find out who was going to be Francis I.  Ahem.  Anyway, it was Cardinal Bergoglio and he really did take the name Francis I.  I about fell over.

There is a lot of potential in this man in spite of his very solid credentials as a social conservative.  He could not have come out of this Conclave without solid credentials as a social conservative.  I can't say I'm shocked or disappointed about that aspect.  To be honest, given that the next Pope was going to be a social conservative if only by the make up of the Cardinals, I really wanted a man who would set an entirely different agenda in the realm of humility and clerical lifestyle. I wanted a man who would have a chance to stop the maneuvering of Opus Dei and other like minded groups who fancy themselves as elite Catholics and have big money behind them.  Pope Francis is a Jesuit.  Oh my OD.  Yes he has ties with Communion and Liberation, but his first ties are Jesuit and he doesn't live as if he's been living on 'donations' from wealthy laity.  It's hard to imagine Pope Francis in a cappa magna.

I also found his first remarks intriguing.  He consistently referred to himself as the Bishop of Rome.  That may have implications for how he will act in the areas of collegiality and ecumenism and perhaps how he sees the purview of the Holy See.  Maybe our nuncios will be more involved in spiritual matters pertaining to the Church and not political matters pertaining to secular governments.  I await his selection for the Secretary of State position with as much interest as I did his own selection.

So I have initial hope.  Pope Francis struck me very much like JPI did in that there is a definite sense of humility and openness and he has a shy but sincere smile.  If I have one real wish, it's that he put the pelvic issues on the back burner and the corruption and social justice issues on the front burner---and bring some women into the picture because that would indeed indicate to me that the Holy Spirit was there on top the Sistine Chapel in his alternative form of the Sea Gull.



  1. Colleen, I like your reading of what has happened, and I really love your final sentence. I'm also bowled over at your prescience about the new pope's name. Trying to listen and learn right now, and keep hope alive inside my heart, and I appreciate your posting because it helps on all those fronts.

  2. It's not really prescience Bill, it's more like channeling. Ooops, did I mention something New Agey? I laid in bed last night though and wondered about any Pope taking the name Francis and why there had never been one. Then I thought about the ramifications in that it would be somewhat of an anticlerical name in as much as Francis was never ordained. Given that kind of thinking I really did not expect a Francis I. So that to me is the real message. Bergoglio just might see his mission as rebuilding a Church on it's way to ruin. And then I read somewhere today that one Cardinal stated that of all the talks given in the pre Conclave meetings, only Bergoglio and Tagle seemed to be coming from their hearts and not their heads.

  3. I share your observations. I am old enough to remember Pius XII and noted right away the resemblance. I was also struck by his reference to being the Bishop of Rome. When the "Supreme Pontiff" becomes the Bishop of Rome again it is a mark that there is a change for the better. I also did not expect anything but a social conservative. But if we can have a humble man who can stand with the poor and call out the wealthy and powerful principalities who rule in this world, then that is a mark for justice. Because of his age (76) and his poor health ( one lung), I have to think he was selected to be an "interim" pope like Giuseppe Roncalli. May he have the same catalytic impact as John XXXIII. His choice of the name Francis, my own confirmation name, has to signal some kind of direction, hopefully for the better.

  4. I also think he was elected to be an interim pope. Someone who could throw a wrench in the gears driving 'what is' so the next pope can start seriously rebuilding a Church rotting from the inside. But first the curia has to be brought under control and the clerical caste reminded about how real priests minister to the laity.

  5. This was certainly an interesting choice. I don't think he'll be a John XXIV, but neither will he be a Benedict XVII, and given the field of candidates, this comes as quite a relief. "It's hard to imagine Pope Francis in a cappa magna" is exactly right. His simple, modest lifestyle and his genuine concern for the poor says much about his values, and it leaves me cautiously optimistic that he'll set the Vatican back on the road toward sanity, even though it's a long way off. I feel better about the leadership of the church today than I did yesterday, that's for sure.

  6. Somebody help me out here because my head is spinning. He's Argentinian and that means some possible connections with some really terrible right wing goings on in Latin America, they're already talking about the Dirty War and the kidnapping of political dissidents for the military junta.

    There are just a thousand thousand questions buzzing about my skull. He disavows Liberation Theology, he was hand picked by JP2 because of that very reason, it made him different from his Jesuit brothers in a very attractive way for JP2. What I'm trying to say is, I guess I would've preferred an El Salvadoran in the make of Romero, and not someone with the disturbing ghosts "Francis" carries.

  7. I have to say that I see a lot in this man that gives me hope. If I was praying for anything this time, it was for someone who could get both the traditionalists and the progressives back round a table and talking, for someone who has not forgotten he is a shepherd and not a general, for someone who has not forgotten he is a human being. I think the Holy Spirit knew what She was doing here (and I'm fascinated that you had a vision of the name, Colleen.

  8. AB Oscar Romero also started out politically conservative and then changed. The articles I've read about his connections in the Dirty War do not paint a pretty picture. Perhaps he's had something of a conversion. I can't forget that Francis of Assisi started out a Crusader from wealth and then had quite the conversion and wound up dialoguing with the very people who he had earlier tried to kill. In any event, he doesn't like a right wing fascist supporter any longer, no matter what really happened during the Dirty War.

  9. The trads don't seem to pleased with Pope Francis. He's not a big supporter of TLM theatre of the transcendant.

  10. I feel a whole lot better myself. At least for now. The real test is who he picks for Secretary of State. If he appointed AB Vigano that would send a message.

  11. Prescience, channeling, New Agey, whatever your visioning; it's pretty awesome.

    I like your first impressions and like you hope for new directions. It is a good thing that the red shoes and cappa magna are now out of fashion. I want to hear more about the Dirty War and where the new pope was in that mess. Apparently some of his Jesuit colleagues did not like some of his positions and managed to send him off to teach high school chemistry until he was rescued by JPII and made a cardinal. A mark in his favor is that he is a scientist.

    If Francis I is another John Paul I, he better bring his own food tester to the vatican.

  12. Maybe the food thing is why he went back with all the Cardinals for dinner in their dining room. LOL.

    I like the fact he's acquainted with hard sciences as well, plus he's studied psychology--not that that means much since NARTH claims a similar familiarity.

  13. I don't think having one lung is necessarily indicative of poor health.

  14. Wasn't Francis ordained a deacon?

  15. Does this mean that Missy Burke and the crew will have to retire their velvet and lace until the next conclave? Just DREADFUL! I am sure that Ray-ray had an attack of the vapors and took to her fainting couch over this election.

  16. Somehow, even though I share the cautious optimism of this papacy everyone here seems to have (and agree with the hope of how Francis will act, especially given his choice of name), I somehow didn't work out that they would select an "interim" pope! A very interesting thought that I think I'd have to agree with.

  17. Reading reactions that NCR posted, I was especially struck by the one young person who made the point that St Francis of Assisi was called by God to rebuild His church. In the particular case of St Francis, if I'm remembering rightly, it was just as much about rebuilding the physical building....but a very interesting parallel to the potential of our new pope nonetheless.

  18. Not a Roman Catholic, but I follow blogs like this out of curiosity as
    well as an awareness of the influence the RC Church has on the everyday
    lives of hundreds of millions of people as well as their acquaintances
    and loved ones. Still, I'm not too knowledgeable about Vatican politics.
    What message would appointing Vigano send? Reform or retrenchment?

    just happened to have a chance to catch the first appearance of Francis
    live on the internet. I was only a very small child (not quite five
    years old) during the brief papacy of John Paul I, so I can't claim any
    recollection for comparison. But I agree that Francis did seem humble
    and concerned about pastoral issues as opposed to political issues in
    his brief first few remarks. He had what the New Age lingo might call a
    different energy than his two most recent predecessors.

    I'm not
    sure anyone who has even the remotest sense of the current public face
    of the RC hierarchy expected a liberation theologian or a politically
    liberal individual to be selected at this conclave. This has left a few
    SBRN, nominally religious, and non-religious people I know either
    conflicted or nonplussed by Bergoglio's election. His selection still
    leaves other important questions:

    Will Francis lead by example
    in emphasizing pastoral care over political machinations? (And if so,
    will he do so by focusing on Rome in outreach and "management" terms
    while still offering concern and blessings for the cosmic church and the
    world at large?)

    Will Francis put the culture wars on the back
    burner and focus on humility, charity, and compassion as the way to
    model the heart of the Church (RC or otherwise) to those who are
    disenfranchised, disaffected, and dis-empowered? Will he focus on
    injustices created and perpetuated by systems of greed and corruption?

    the rest of the hierarchy and the moneyed interests tied to the Vatican
    support Francis if he chooses such a path or simply give lip service
    and endless committee reviews and other delays as a form of passive

  19. Colleen, I too have been intrigued by his emphasis on his role as Bishop of Rome far more than on his role as Supreme Pontiff or Pope. Does this auger well for an entirely new relationship between the Bishop of Rome and all the other bishops of the world. We live in hope.

    Brian Coyne

  20. Dave those are all questions I have, and I don't have many answers. I also think if he doesn't do something to increase the numbers of priests, or give more autonomy to laity to form their own communities, Catholicism in South America will permanently give way to the evangelicals and pentecostals.

    I think the good thing is that since Pope Benedict retired there is debate and open discussion about all these issues. This is far preferable to the enforced silence of the last 35 years.

  21. Adam it's an excellent parallel. St. Francis took his experience to be literal since he had it in an abandoned run down rural church. The problem I've noticed about these kinds of messages is that they always have multiple levels of meaning. One message usually involves a literal symbol representing a much bigger problem. They are very similar to parables, and I think that's true because the brain itself works on multiple levels with multiple symbol structures.

  22. I too took some hope in this emphasis on Bishop of Rome. If it portends more collegiality, that would be a very good thing. If it portends autochthonous churches based in geographical areas, that might be a true miracle.

  23. It isn't. Unless he's a smoker, or lets himself get dehydrated, he should be OK. It certainly feels no different from having two. Though he probably won't be as energetic as JP2 used to be.

    "If I have one real wish, it's that he put the pelvic issues on the back burner and the corruption and social justice issues on the front burner"

    ## I'm guessing that he sees pelvic issues as inextricable from social justice. I hope he lasts a good deal longer than JP1.

  24. There seems to be some uncertainty over his position regarding the older Mass. Some reports are outright contradictory. What is clear is that some traditionalists are distinctly unhappy - but so are some posters at the NatCatRepo. IMO, it's probably a good sign that he has critics at both ends of the Church.

  25. Yes - he was never ordained to the priesthood, but he was ordained to the diaconate.

  26. I was thinking that early today. The far ends of the spectrum seem to have found something in common. Maybe that's the new definition of unity?

  27. Thanks for the info. I recall the story of Vigano and his "promotion" I just didn't have
    it connected to a particular name. Like others here I am also
    interested in the whole "vision" thing. I have learned not to quickly
    dismiss things I don't understand or have no close experience to use as a
    proxy for something beyond my understanding, but I suppose I am
    skeptical because of that lack of having experienced anything remotely
    like it myself. That isn't a challenge to your story or its
    authenticity, as for me skepticism isn't equivalent to rude cynicism. My reaction is
    more akin to curiosity. Was there anything that came through other than a name?

  28. Everybody presumes it is Francis of Assisi. Why not the Jesuit Francis Xavier?

  29. "In any event, he doesn't like a right wing fascist supporter any longer, no matter what really happened during the Dirty War."

    I'm hearing all kinds of conflicting reports round about the different blogs about Pope Francis and so I ask you where did you get this idea that he doesn't like a right wing fascist supporter any longer?

    I hope you are right about that and can provide some sources.

    Unfortunately, one moment I will hear some hopeful news and the next moment I hear that his choosing the name Francis is just a facade with nothing remotely resembling a Saint Francis on the inside.

  30. While many of us hope that this conservative man could be more like the conservative John XXIII, it is important to look at a few facts.

  31. Here is an inspiring quote from Pope Francis in his remarks to an audience of international journalists gathered at the Vatican, "Christ, is the center, not the Successor of
    Peter. Christ is the reference point at the heart of the Church, without
    Him, Peter and the Church would not exist."

  32. Philip, thanks for that quote. If Pope Francis walks this talk there really are going to be some folks with red beanies who are going to have a severe case of 'buyer's remorse'.

  33. Dennis I first have to admit my hope meter may be taking over my rational thought processes, but Bergoglio was in a very tough spot. He was a Jesuit provincial functioning under a hierarchy and a papacy that supported the Junta. He had taken the Jesuit's fourth vow of obedience to the Pope. None of us know what was passing back and forth between Rome and Bergoglio except Rome and Bergoglio.

    I really think this experience has a lot to do with Bergoglio's emphasis on personal conscience. The links you gave were very interesting reading. To be honest, I am weary enough of clericalism that if Francis just puts a damper on the pompous asses, as he has attempted to do in Argentina, I will be pleased---for a change. On yea, and if he sanctions the use of condoms in HIV dissonant marriages I will be ecstatic, and he is on record for this option.

  34. Yes, I am hopeful in many ways, too. John XXIII really was known as a conservative. What he did was to challenge the curia to open up the Church. This group has fought back all these years even to the excesses of murdering at least one pope. So if depends on weather this man who is now known as Francis follows the goodness of John or weather he wants to go back to the past. One thing certain, he was not groomed to be a politician as was the Polish Pope, but to think he is at all similar to JPI makes little sense. Perhaps we will have a man like JPI again if an envious curia can be reformed and the way bishops are appointed can be changed. Yes, Francis is ONLY the Bishop of Rome. dennis

  35. I don't think the envious curia is all on the same page anymore. Some who have kept a low profile were not keeping that same profile in the meetings before the Conclave. I hope Francis doesn't take a great deal of time before announcing some of his key appointments. I don't think my curiosity quotient will deal well with much delay. I have noticed that the papal gate keeper is keeping well in background even though he is there. That's another appointment I wonder about, who will Francis appoint for his personal secretaries? A female appointment would be some kind of statement.

  36. If supporting right wing fascism means supporting unfettered capitalism and man's dominion over mother nature, Pope Francis is definitely not in the group.

  37. The name was the focal point for a greater sense of what was going to happen. There was a world of information in the name itself. St Francis started out solo but accrued others who helped in his mission very shortly after he started rebuilding San Damiano. St Claire was instrumental in the intellectual development of the movement and not just in opening up Francis' mission to women. I will not be surprised if a woman or two pops up in Pope Francis' administration.

    This will be a papacy of efficiency and simplicity and it is his own personal spirituality which will drive his papacy. I'm using the term spirituality rather than religiosity because it's more accurate about the man himself. He has a sort of indifference to a lot of the religiosity that so motivates many other clerics--as did St Francis.