Too Strict?

The news collector Pewsitter linked a translation of Massimo Franco’s piece “Pope Seen As Too Strict.”

Bishops, particularly Italian bishops, have lost their compass bearings. 20-70-10: the percentages of bishops who support, are waiting for the next guy, and who are enemies of Pope Francis.

The episcopate struggles to pinpoint Pope Francis’s cultural coordinates and believes that the final, troubled years of Benedict XVI, with their Roman scandals and power struggles, have left behind a prejudice against all things Italian that is very hard to shift.

Not sure about this, speaking from the lay commentator’s perspective. In the big picture of Catholicism, Italy’s bishops are only a handful of the world’s billion Catholics. Italian bishops  and other Italian persons were at the center of scandals in the waning years of Pope Benedict. As long as people still appreciate Italian dining, museums, and scenery, I can’t believe we’re talking about more than that feeling of “depression.”

Bishops are big boys. Can I suggest that if Mr Franco is correct, it’s just time to “Get over yourselves.”?

Speaking as a lay person, I’ve lived through changes in pastors and bishops. And even a pope or two. One changes and adapts. One gets to know the new guy in charge. And frankly, my lay colleagues and I get with the program or we move on. End of story.

I recall much dismay among some of my friends when Joseph Ratzinger was elected Bishop of Rome. My advice to them was, “Chill.” (Though it was communicated in ecclesiastical terms.)

The bishops feel overshadowed and outclassed by Francis, pointing out a possible tendency to run the Church with a sort of shadow-government. Perhaps they ought to ask themselves whether the shadow-casting is not a consequence of failings by at least some of them.

I think that’s true.

My advice when life seems deeply troubled is to go on retreat. Even if only a single day can be managed somewhere. And if there’s a glimmer of interest in what Pope Francis is doing, or why, I suggest the Spiritual Exercises are a good place to start. The Holy Father is a living textbook on the spiritual tradition of St Ignatius of Loyola. Everything I see and read aligns with the Exercises.

I think Mr Franco is right: people who find themselves at odds with the pope, even if they long-considered themselves faithful, orthodox Catholics, might consider that two years of concern and dejection might be pointing a finger at their own personal failings.

And too strict? What!? This is the Catholic Church, for heaven’s sake. Our basic unit of exchange for the past twenty centuries has been strict. Get with the program, eh?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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