Rorate Caeli

How consoling that Francis is so concerned for women!

Pope Francis wrapped up this phase of the so-called “synod” with an address that handed out some mild praises and a bunch of bitter complaints, as usual (link). 

He appealed for an appreciation of the feminine aspect of the Church, and urged the clergy to recognize it, saying: “When ministers go too far in their service and mistreat the people of God, they disfigure the face of the Church with macho and dictatorial attitudes (it is enough to recall the intervention of Sr. Liliana Franco).”

Sr. Franco leads an organization of religious orders in Latin America, and she spoke at the event about the painful experiences of women. She said that “the journey of women in the church is full of scars.” 

The Pope also urged everyone to think of the Church as a body of people, “the faithful people of God,” including its members with all their strengths and weaknesses, and not as a bureaucratized organization performing religious functions. “When pastoral workers take this second path, the Church becomes the supermarket of salvation and the priests mere employees of a multinational corporation.” He called the latter pattern “the great defeat to which clericalism leads us”, and cited an image of commercialized religion: “It is painful to find in some parish offices the ‘price list’ of sacramental services in the manner of a supermarket.”

That does sound shocking. Does he mean that some parishes display such a list openly, and would deny the rites of the church to someone who doesn’t make a donation? That’s so strange that I’d find it hard to believe: I’d want the local bishop to correct any such cases. If it’s still going on, why hasn’t Pope Francis put a stop to it? Or is he talking about something more understandable? It might be a list of suggested donations that is written down for the parish staff, so that people arranging an event won’t be given arbitrary suggestions about donations. So Pope Francis might be complaining about something really bad, or maybe just putting a bad interpretation on something innocuous.

Sometimes Pope Francis is hard to understand.

Elsewhere in the news today, something else hard to understand happened.

The artist and former Jesuit priest Marko Rupnik, who was briefly excommunicated for a sacrilegious treatment of confession, and soon restored; a priest who is reported to have been credibly accused, by dozens of religious sisters and other women, of abusing his role as a spiritual advisor so that he could engage in a twisted sexual contact with those women; a priest expelled from the Jesuits for disobedience and therefore with no authorization to conduct religious ministry; a priest who could have been put on trial for his misconduct if Pope Francis had been willing to waive a regulation that he often has waived before: this priest has been taken off Rome’s hands as a problem. He was accepted to join a diocese in his home country, and therefore gained authorization to administer the sacraments again, without having to face trial for the remaining very serious complaints against him. (See story here; it has been covered by many outlets already.)

To me, this, this action, is “the great defeat to which clericalism leads us”. Some bishop in the home country is taking in this Rupnik, this very visible and apparently wickedly corrupt priest, and I don’t think he could do it without the consent of Vatican officials.

But Pope Francis did not mention or even allude to Rupnik (or anyone else like him) in his talk. Instead, he lamented what he personally thinks is “the great defeat to which clericalism leads us. And this is very sad and scandalous: it is enough to go to ecclesiastical tailor’s shops in Rome to see the scandal of young priests trying on cassocks and hats or albs and lace-covered robes.”

It’s hard for me to escape the notion that Pope Francis does not like young priests. These days they are often men influenced by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, and they love the orthodox Catholic faith taught by the apostles, they love the Church’s traditions of culture and liturgy. And Pope Francis thinks it’s a scandal. A scandal is an action that leads others into sin: apparently he thinks that young priests buying traditional hats in Rome are leading others to sin. He’s complained about this repeatedly during his pontificate.

So Fr. “Rapenik,” as he has been called (not without reason), is being restored to normal standing as a priest, and that’s not a scandal worthy of mention; but cassocks and albs are a problem bad enough to complain about before the entire Synod assembly?

It’s a good thing, after all, that Pope Francis has compassion for women.