…is offered by commenter “Deacon Augustine” over at Fr. Ray Blake’s blog, speculating on Pope Francis’ agenda:
“What is he going to deliver?”
Good question. Perhaps the answer can be found by looking at what he has already delivered in his previous Archdiocese of Buenos Aires?
By all accounts, its not a success story. The whole Latin American church seems to be reeling and failing under the assault of North American charismatic cults. As the episcopate in that part of the world has failed so miserably to rise to the challenge, I will never understand why the conclave believed it would be a good idea to elect one of their number to the papacy. An African or Asian Cardinal would have made more sense if we were to have a Pope who understood missionary expansion of the Church.
As for the hopes of reform, I suppose that comes down to what you look for in “reform”. He certainly never cleaned out the filth in the priesthood in his own archdiocese, so don’t expect anything like this from him as Pope – after all, who is he to judge? At best we are likely to get tinkering with structures which will see more powers vested in corrupt episcopal conferences. They in turn will feel more immune from the reach of Rome and the centrifugal forces of schism will grow.
In the same blog post, Fr. Blake notes that the Church is fracturing — the days of monolithic centrality are over and it is not clear what, if anything, is really holding it all together anymore. Certainly not doctrine, which no one really believes anymore, anyway, and the expression of which is constantly being fudged in the service of almost-psychotically-optimistic evangelical and ecumenical agendas; certainly not the liturgy, which varies radically not only between dioceses, not only between parishes, but even within parishes, where a trilingual youth Mass with guitars and trombones can be separated from a solemn High Mass in Latin by scarcely a few hours and where there is often a subtle and unspoken animus between the two groups of Mass-goers; certainly not an appreciation for the Church’s historicity, which nearly everyone (from laics in Bermuda shorts to bishops with weird little pectoral crosses) hates.
People forget how close the Church came to catastrophe when, after the long and catastrophic reign of Paul VI, many European bishops (especially in Germany) were seen as being on the verge of open schism; disaster was averted only by JPII’s efforts to make himself the visible icon of Catholic unity, becoming so beloved of the people as to make schism unthinkable. A good strategy for a young man (which he was) with a clear plan to lead the Church out of the mess (which he wasn’t). Maybe this is the key to understanding Pope Francis’ thus-far bizarre Pontificate: he is trying his best to do the impossible task of governing an ungovernable Church.