Thursday, July 18, 2013

Symbolism, Emotional Intelligence Somehow Lead To WYD Indulgences For Following Pope Francis On Twitter

This may be the next logical step if one can now gain indulgences by following the Pope on twitter.

For the following excerpt by Andrew Hamilton from Australia's Eureka Street, I need to thank Dennis Coday, editor of NCR's Morning Briefing.  Hamilton has written a really insightful piece of the three kinds of intelligence used by Pope Francis and how that separates him from past popes--and most of our bishops.  The West tends to over credence rational intelligence at the expense of emotional and symbolic intelligence when the fact is the human brain operates in all three realms of 'knowing'.  Pope Francis really seems to get this fact.  The following is more or less the meat of Hamilton's article:

Pope Francis' three types of intelligence
Andrew Hamilton - Eureka Street Au - 7/17/2013
.....Giving a lead on controversial issues requires three sorts of intelligence: rational, emotional and symbolic. When policies affect people's lives, Emotional intelligence should come first into play. It is the ability and inclination to see people, not simply as the objects of policy or as problems, but as persons each with their own face and life story. It also supposes the desire to enter their experience. In this respect the Pope was exemplary. He went out to the island to mourn the dead and console the living. And in so doing he stated the priority for others. (Emotional intelligence is that attribute that allows humanity to identify with each other, rather than objectifying or 'othering' those we rationally determine are not of our tribe.)

Rational intelligence guides and offers resources to the movements of the heart. It confers the ability to recognise and to give coherent shape to what matters in a complex situation. The Pope's action rested on the conviction that all human beings are precious, and that their happiness and welfare depend on their connection with one another. Because of that we can make a claim on one another.

For Francis, too, that conviction was grounded in the Christian story of a God who loved the world enough to join humanity, to die as human beings do, and to give life in his rising. This belief shaped the account he gave of the events on Lampedusa. For him the disparity between the societies from which people fled and those to which they came and the hostility to them expressed a lack of solidarity between people. Sinfulness was involved as well as tragedy. The proper response to this globalisation of indifference was penitential.
Leaders need not only to recognise who matters, what matters, and what is to be done, but to communicate this to others honestly and vividly. It requires symbolic intelligence to find the right words, images, silences and gestures that will invite others to reflect and respond generously. Good leadership creates surprising new possibilities that will later seem self-evident. In the Pope's case, the challenge was to choose stories, images and gestures from the resources of Christian tradition and to weave them in a way that resonated powerfully with the people he visited and with the wider audience. (Symbolic intelligence is critical in forming and maturing emotional intelligence.  Jesus was a Master at this and virtually all religious ritual is designed to tap into emotional intelligence.)

Because it works through surprise, symbolic intelligence always breaks moulds. That has been Francis' gift. Papal protocol ensures predictability by insisting on distance, formality, strict adherence to rituals, elaborate dress, controlled access and elaborately planned events. The protocol for political leaders is equally tightly scripted. (One could also say it shuts up the rational language of the left neural hemisphere by using the symbolic language of the right hemisphere.)

The Pope privileged spontaneity over protocols. He responded to a forgotten people by visiting them, casting into the water a bunch of flowers in the papal colours to express solidarity with those who had died, and celebrating Mass at an altar and with a chalice made of wood scavenged from abandoned boats. For Catholics the association of altar and chalice with Christ's blood poured into the wooden cross on which he was nailed and left to die, spoke of the inhumanity which we visit on one another, of the gift the misused are to us, and of the undeniable claim  we make on one another.....(For Catholics the sight of a Pope using such simple signs--a small altar made from an old row boat and a woodern chalice--is not just surprising, it was jarring given the preferences of most popes to underscore their authority through the use of gold in the immensity and ostentatious surroundings of St Peter's.)


Pope Francis has proven himself to be one heck of a communicator.  People are taking notice precisely because he uses symbolism in a way which engages emotional intelligence.  He is not just brain candy for the left hemisphere.  I find this difference between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis very striking and most likely indicative of cultural differences between Germanic Catholicism and Latino Catholicism.  I have always been fascinated by German theology and found it intellectually challenging, if very dense, but my heart has been engaged by Hispanic Catholicism in a way that seems more integrated.  I can see this distinction in reading the best of the Liberation theologians whose use of metaphor and symbolism is more prevalent than in Germanic or Anglo theology.  It speaks on a different level and most likely to more people because of that.

I look forward to hearing and reading Pope Francis during this upcoming World Youth Days. I wonder what his message to the youth of the world will be--and I do think it will be to the youth of the world and not necessarily just Catholic youth.   I hope he has a message in there somewhere about respecting and listening to the elders of their personal and cultural world.  Past youth days seem to have en-cultured a form of youthful self worship in which those of us who have gone before are useless, passe, and should just, you know, dig our own graves and gracefully fall permanently asleep.  For all the words that have been written about the divide between left and right in the Church, there is also a widening gap between generations.  The cynic in me thinks this was purposefully cultivated by the Vatican of JPII because the lack of experience and maturity in the young is easier to manipulate by those who choose to affirm themselves and their world view in this manner, but it does a great disservice to youth whose enthusiasm is abused by this targeting.  I sincerely hope I hear some words from Pope Francis about this particular issue because it's another area in which the Body of Christ is being dismembered.

There is one other thing about WYD that leaves me cold and disbelieving.  That is the issue of indulgences.  I have never cottoned to the concept that God can be turned into some sort of concession vendor for chits to lessen time in the flames of purgatory, which is itself an invented intellectual construct.  It's the kind of thinking that is utterly off putting to intelligent youth of the post modern world.  They may read Harry Potter, but they see the world more like the Game of Thrones.  I hope Pope Francis can find some words to deal with this disconnect as well, because I just don't see gaining indulgences by following his twitter account as something that's going to hook all those youth of this troubled planet who see little hope in their temporal futures.


  1. once indulgences were sold for money, now perhaps they are sold for influence! Same thing. Almost makes one want to be a Lutheran. Then alt least we would not have to deal with rather faulty counsels, Trent and VI.

  2. We can all agree that the notion of indulgences for twitter comments is simply outrageous. I would not call Purgatory an intellectual construct though; too many scriptural references to back up the clear-headed teaching of the earliest fathers of the Church.
    Trent was a faulty council? Vatican I was a faulty council? Me thinks you aren't really well schooled in either council.

  3. The Twitter messages are very prayerful and I think they are really to the point. It is like something to pray about each day and to act on. I am not that into the idea of indulgences, however, if that is supposed to be true, then it is a good use of them for reading these Pontifex messages. I have become closer to God (again) by reading the messages.

  4. I kind of like the joining of what I consider to be an old fashioned idea, indulgences, with the new technology of Twitter. I think this is rather interesting and perhaps could get intergenerational sharing going in families. I am not really into indulgences myself. I think I see it the way Colleen does, why would God by adding all this stuff up like an accountant? However, it is a cool idea and if you can get an indulgence for reading the back of a prayer card, then why not for meditating on Jesus' message in a nutshell from Pope Francis?

  5. Can't you just see a 10 year old showing his grandma or uncle how to get to the Pope's twitter message and them explaining to the kid how important it is to pray and try to act like Jesus? See, it is really not a bad idea at all. Also it will appeal to some kids, not all, but some will love the stocking up of indulgences. There is something ingenious about the whole idea if you ask me. But I don't quite believe it works that way, except in the sense that if you do start to read the Pope's messages (really Jesus' messages) and act on them, you probably will spend less time in Purgatory as you will become a good person, as much like Jesus as possible. (Sorry for commenting so much, this was an idea that struck me as odd at first and then I started thinking about it).

  6. I am also thinking that making these nice comments will get me a few indulgences. Just kidding. :o)
    I couldn't resist. LOL

  7. Indulgences: I thought more about this and have decided the tweeting and following WYD and getting indulgences is an egalitiarian move by the Pope. I read that Pope Benedict had granted a special indulgence for those attending WYD. This Pope is fully aware that not everyone can afford a trip to Brazil as a teenager and is giving all youth the same chance at an indulgence. That is my guess.

  8. I think you are right as Pope Benedict offered the same kind of program. My problem is not with the execution, it's with the idea of indulgences. While this might appeal to the Catholic youth who would actually attend a WYD it is seriously off putting to a much larger portion of youth. It infantalizes belief by linking it with a reward/punishment scheme that insults the intelligence of youth who seek to integrate their lives with something more meaningful than brownie points for prayers.

    Your other point about Pope Francis' tweets is true. It's worth reading them for their own sake. Passing out brownie points for reading them demeans their content and undercuts their value.

  9. Where are the scriptural references of Purgatory mentioned in the Bible? Jesus mentioned Gehenna, but that was a garbage dump outside the walls of Jerusalem.

  10. I was so impressed with Lampedusa and the teenagers I know said it was so cool, the boat altar and all that. It seemed to get at the core of things for once. Then the I am rattling on here trying to figure that one out.(Thanks for indulging me..ha-ha)

  11. Church need both, german theology and Latino Catholicism. Ratzinger wasnt a good exemple of excellent German theology.

    An new Opus handsome boy appointed at Vatican Finanz System, he must make the Vatican economic "reform"

    Sorry I dont find the information in English

  12. I think that indulgences are a little like believing in Santa Claus. The idea of indulgences and its formal old meaning, perhaps is being given new meaning. If youth follow the Pope via Twitter it is a sign of hope that they will read what he has to say and learn a great deal from him. That's would be real positive.

    I like what Pope Francis has been saying and doing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the three types of intelligence. It is very helpful to not think that intelligence is about just one thing. Intelligence is three dimensional which has a much broader perspective. It is Trinitarian.

    Beautiful image of Pope Francis in Andrew Hamilton's writing. And thank you Colleen, for sharing your wisdom and truth.

  13. Church is boring. The clergy and religious are disproportionately gay and therefore automatically and intrinsically ridiculous. The faster religion shrinks and the more marginalized it gets, the happier I get.

  14. That makes at least two OD on this commission. He is pretty handsome, although in some other photos he looks a lot older. The one woman on the commission is only 30. Makes me wonder how much the old boys will pay attention to her--at least in terms of her brains.