|Mary the Undoer of Knots. Notice how she is not using scissors or swords to untie these particular knots. There are no shortcuts to those pesky spiritual knots.|
One of the things I have to keep in mind about Pope Francis is that he seems to have two different modes of being Francis. First there is Fr Francis the elder pastoral traveler on an open ended spiritual pilgrimage along with all the rest of us, and secondly there is Pope Francis the titular monarch with a very different path he walks with the triumphant Magisterial Church and with his fellow global power brokers.
I always have to keep in mind which Francis is speaking and how far the speech will effect the interactions of the other Francis. The following article is by Vatican Insider's Andrea Tornielli. It covers the homily Francis gave this morning at Saint Martha's House. It's a great representation of the thinking of Fr Francis the fellow pilgrim---until one gets to the second to last paragraph and then there's a bit of the other Francis.
Francis: “Even today there’s a dictatorship of narrow-mindedness”
Andrea Tornielli - Vatican Insider -4/10/2014
Today there is a dictatorship of narrow-mindedness that kills people’s freedom. This was the Pope’s message at his morning mass celebration in St. Martha’s House.
In his homily Francis reflected on the attitude of the Pharisees and how closed they were to Jesus’ message. Their mistake, the Pope pointed out, was "detaching the commandments from the heart of God.” They thought everything could be resolved by respecting the commandments. But these commandments "are not just a cold law,” because they are born from a relationship of love and are "indications" that help us avoid mistakes in our journey to meet Jesus, Vatican Radio says, quoting the Pope’s words.(Exactly, commandments, laws, and rules should be directional signs on the pilgrim's road, not final destinations.)
By doing so, the Pharisees close their hearts and minds to “all things new.” "This is the drama of the closed heart, the drama of the closed mind - the Pope said - and when the heart is closed, this heart closes the mind, and when the heart and mind are closed there is no place for God,” only for what we believe should be done. (And closed hearts and minds are concerned mostly with what they believe should be done by others.)
“It is a closed way of thinking that is not open to dialogue, to the possibility that there is something else, the possibility that God speaks to us, tells us about His journey, as he did to the prophets. These people did not listen to the prophets and did not listen to Jesus. It is something greater than a mere stubbornness. No, it is more: it is the idolatry of their own way of thinking. 'I think this, it has to be this way, and nothing more'. These people had a narrow line of thought and wanted to impose this way of thinking on the people of God, Jesus rebukes them for this: ' You burden the people with many commandments and you do not touch them with your finger'.” (For Fr Francis, the last sentence here is the heart of the matter. We must chance touching others.)
Francis noted that Jesus “rebukes their incoherence.” "The theology of these people becomes a slave to this pattern, this pattern of thought: a narrow line of thought". "There is no possibility of dialogue; there is no possibility to open up to new things which God brings with the prophets. They killed the prophets, these people; they close the door to the promise of God. When this phenomenon of narrow thinking enters human history, how many misfortunes. We all saw in the last century, the dictatorships of narrow thought , which ended up killing a lot of people, but when they believed they were the overlords, no other form of thought was allowed. This is the way they think.” (It's the way they act as well.)
"Even today there is the idolatry of a narrow line of thought,” Francis said. "Today we have to think in this way and if you do not think in this way, you are not modern, you're not open or worse. Often rulers say: 'I have asked for aid, financial support for this’, ' But if you want this help, you have to think in this way and you have to pass this law, and this other law and this other law…' Even today, there is a dictatorship of a narrow line of thought and this dictatorship is the same as these people: it takes up stones to stone the freedom of the people, the freedom of the people, their freedom of conscience, the relationship of the people with God. Today Jesus is crucified once again.” (Here's another Fr Francis linguistic tool, depending on one's world view, this paragraph can be read as an attack on fundamentalist religious thinking or on the narrow agenda driven thinking of left wing progressives.)
“The Lord’s exhortation "faced with this dictatorship is always the same: be vigilant and pray; do not be silly, do not buy" things "you do not need, be humble and pray, that the Lord always gives us the freedom of an open heart, to receive his Word which is joy and promise and covenant! And with this covenant move forward!"” the Pope concluded this morning’s mass by saying.
Pope Francis is attempting to walk a very difficult path. It's a path that holds contradictory and even conflicting expectations. He is trying to do that which even did Jesus did not attempt, and in fact rejected. Francis is attempting to be a true follower of Christ while holding a position of unchecked power and huge global prestige. Francis has accepted the devil's final challenge to Jesus in the desert. Francis now has the whole world at his beck and call while he simultaneously attempts to call the whole world to become the penniless crucified Jesus. This is the exact challenge which overcame John Paul II, sent Pope Benedict into retirement, thwarted the papacy of Paul VI, and only served to rally the conservative clerical troops against the People of God vision of John XXIII. No wonder Pope Francis is enamored with the idea of Mary as the 'untier of knots'. This contradictory dual role will be a tough knot to untangle.
Francis freely admits he failed at this task when he was the Jesuit provincial in Argentina. He was overcome by his authoritarian side. I appreciated his forthrightness in admitting this mistake because learning from mistakes is what we're here to do and why the Mercy of God is such an important a concept. The question for all of us is usually if the lesson sank in deep enough to protect us from repeating it under different circumstances. For Francis his current circumstances have vastly different consequences should he repeat his mistake and revert to authoritarianism. I can remember when John Paul II was actually something of a populist in the early years of his papacy but then the traditional papal environment got to him and he became all about authoritarian papal prerogative and very little about humble priestly service. From day one Francis created an environment around himself intended to deflect the papal temptations and reinforce the humble priest who needs people. I certainly have respected him for that because it shows he knows well his own tendencies. I have never thought all of his 'every man' acts were some sort of show. I've always thought they were part and parcel of how he understood his humanity....everyone urinates even if they do it in gold urinals.
Unfortunately, indifference to the perks and trappings of high office do not necessarily protect one from succumbing the other temptations of such high office. We also saw in the last century a number of very powerful dictators who while eschewing the trappings of their position did not disdain to use and increase their very real authoritarian power over others.....and millions died.
What I really fear is that although Pope Francis sees his papacy as something of a mandate to bring the Church and it's clergy back into some semblance of compliance with Jesus' notions about service, compassion, mercy, and love, Francis will be thwarted in this mission because he doesn't have a clergy willing to suffer loss of status for this vision. The Pharisees, both clerical and lay, will not open their hearts or minds to a concept of Church which is open ended, poor, and merciful. That's just way too dangerous to closed minds secure in their knowledge of how the world should work. They will fight Francis tooth and nail to keep the world as they think it should be because they know this is exactly the way God wants it to run. I will continue praying that Francis doesn't succumb to that very temptation, which is of course the core truth of the final temptation in the desert....the single minded idolatry of globalizing one's own thinking.