Sunday, August 04, 2013

Aparecida/Francis As Legacy of Vatican II Bearing the Stamp of John Paul II’s Turn to the Subject

Francis’ Personal Goal For WYD in RIO

"I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!" he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. "I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!"

Something very important went on at Aparecida in 2007.  Pope Francis brought it out in his presentation of the membership of CELAM last week in Rio. It was the epistemological shift from object to subject. It is precisely what had happened at Vatican II throughout. Karol Wojtyla, who had championed this turn to the subject - not to decrease realism but to increase it -, explained “The need for an enrichment of faith” in his “Sources of Renewal.” His first chapter is entitled He explains this enrichment by the questions asked by the Fathers of Vatican II. He said: “if we study the Conciliar magisterium as a whole, we find that the Pastors of the church were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe?’ What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith? And so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and member of the Church?’” He then explains that questions of this latter type presuppose the truth of faith and pure doctrine, but also call for that truth to be situated in the human consciousness and calls for a definition of the attitude, or rather the many attitudes, that do to make the individual a believing member of the Church. This would seem to be the main respect in which the Conciliar magisterium has a pastoral character, corresponding to the pastoral purpose for which it was called.”[1]
                If this seems to be little, consider the profound development of experience and understanding of Revelation that now spoke of the universal call to the perfection of holiness (not just an elite few), the ontological ground of that universal call in the imaging of the divine Person of the Son Who is pure Self-gift, the development of Christian anthropology, and therefore moral theology as “finding self by the sincere gift of self, etc. This is an immense sea-change in intelligibility that has yet to be grasped afater 60 years, and in a world dying to hear it and understand it.
                Aparecida reflected that this had been grasped and understood in it “Documento Conclusivo” through the mind and pen of Jorge Mario Bergoglio who is its reputed author. In testimony to the turn to the objectivity of the subject, Aparecida of 2007 had the following characteristics of realist subjectivity:
1)      There was no “Instrumentum Laboris” as an objectified working document of abstract truths as a basis for discussion in the conference. Rather, the preparation consisted in a pooling of concerns expressed by the bishops as they considered the new period of history we are living and the need to recover the life of discipleship and mission with which Christ founded the Church.
2)      The subjective environment was the Shrine of Our Lady of the Aparecida begun with Mass and presence of the people of God. That is, the conference did not take place in a hotel with the tone of bottom-line business.
3)      “Aparecida did not end with a document; it continues in the Continental Mission.”
4)      Pope Francis distinguished in the Continental Mission between “programmatic mission” and “paradigmatic mission.” Programmatic mission is a historical linear performance of programs. Paradigmatic mission is a re-organization of programs to bring about missionary spirit and therefore a change of heart in Christian Catholics. A concrete example, I believe, of what he is talking about is the remark he made at the first address as pope to the cardinals. He referred to priests, bishops, popes as worldly categories; they may not, however, be “disciples of the Lord.” It is having a category in the Church but turned back on self being personally invested in it as a career. This is “spiritual worldliness (which according to De Lubac, is the worst evil that can befall the Church).”[2]
5)      The entire tenor is the non-clericalized service of the ministerial priests to affirm and facilitate the exercise of the common priesthood of the laity. The questions asked are subjects affirming subjects:

, we, as pastors, need to ask questions about the actual state of the Churches which we lead. These questions can serve as a guide in examining where the dioceses stand in taking up the spirit of Aparecida; they are questions which we need to keep asking as an examination of conscience.

1. Do we see to it that our work, and that of our priests, is more pastoral than administrative? Who primarily benefits from our efforts, the Church as an organization or the People of God as a whole?

2. Do we fight the temptation simply to react to complex problems as they arise? Are we creating a proactive mindset? Do we promote opportunities and possibilities to manifest God's mercy? Are we conscious of our responsibility for refocusing pastoral approaches and the functioning of Church structures for the benefit of the faithful and society?

3. In practice, do we make the lay faithful sharers in the Mission? Do we offer them the word of God and the sacraments with a clear awareness and conviction that the Holy Spirit makes himself manifest in them?

4. Is pastoral discernment a habitual criterion, through the use of Diocesan Councils? Do such Councils and Parish Councils, whether pastoral or financial, provide real opportunities for lay people to participate in pastoral consultation, organization and planning? The good functioning of these Councils is critical. I believe that on this score, we are far behind.

5. As pastors, bishops and priests, are we conscious and convinced of the mission of the lay faithful and do we give them the freedom to continue discerning, in a way befitting their growth as disciples, the mission which the Lord has entrusted to them? Do we support them and accompany them, overcoming the temptation to manipulate them or infantilize them? Are we constantly open to letting ourselves be challenged in our efforts to advance the good of the Church and her mission in the world?

6. Do pastoral agents and the faithful in general feel part of the Church, do they identify with her and bring her closer to the baptized who are distant and alienated?
As can be appreciated, what is at stake here are attitudes. Pastoral Conversion is chiefly concerned with attitudes and reforming our lives. A change of attitudes is necessarily something ongoing: “it is a process”, and it can only be kept on track with the help of guidance and discernment. It is important always to keep in mind that the compass preventing us from going astray is that of Catholic identity, understood as membership in the Church.

Dialogue with the world around us
We do well to recall the words of the Second Vatican Council: “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (Gaudium et Spes, 1). Here we find the basis for our dialogue with the contemporary world.

Responding to the existential issues of people today, especially the young, listening to the language they speak, can lead to a fruitful change, which must take place with the help of the Gospel, the magisterium, and the Church’s social doctrine. The scenarios and the areopagi involved are quite varied. For example, a single city can contain various collective imaginations which create “different cities”. If we remain within the parameters of our “traditional culture”, which was essentially rural, we will end up nullifying the power of the Holy Spirit. God is everywhere: we have to know how to find him in order to be able to proclaim him in the language of each and every culture; every reality, every language, has its own rhythm.

4. Some temptations against missionary discipleship

The decision for missionary discipleship will encounter temptation. It is important to know where the evil spirit is afoot in order to aid our discernment. It is not a matter of chasing after demons, but simply one of clear-sightedness and evangelical astuteness. I will mention only a few attitudes which are evidence of a Church which is “tempted”. It has to do with recognizing certain contemporary proposals which can parody the process of missionary discipleship and hold back, even bring to a halt, the process of Pastoral Conversion.

1. Making the Gospel message an ideology. This is a temptation which has been present in the Church from the beginning: the attempt to interpret the Gospel apart from the Gospel itself and apart from the Church.

An example: Aparecida, at one particular moment, felt this temptation. It employed, and rightly so, the method of “see, judge and act” (cf. No. 19[3]). The temptation, though, was to opt for a way of “seeing” which was completely “antiseptic”, detached and unengaged, which is impossible. The way we “see” is always affected by the way we direct our gaze. There is no such thing as an “antiseptic” hermeneutics. The question was, rather: How are we going to look at reality in order to see it? Aparecida replied:

With the eyes of discipleship. This is the way Nos. 20-32 are to be understood. There are other ways of making the message an ideology, and at present proposals of this sort are appearing in Latin America and the Caribbean. I mention only a few:

a) Sociological reductionism. This is the most readily available means of making the message an ideology. At certain times it has proved extremely influential. It involves an interpretative claim based on a hermeneutics drawn from the social sciences. It extends to the most varied fields, from market liberalism to Marxist categorization.

b) Psychologizing. Here we have to do with an elitist hermeneutics which ultimately reduces the “encounter with Jesus Christ” and its development to a process of growing self- awareness. It is ordinarily to be found in spirituality courses, spiritual retreats, etc. It ends up being an immanent, self-centred approach. It has nothing to do with transcendence and consequently, with missionary spirit.

c) The Gnostic solution. Closely linked to the previous temptation, it is ordinarily found in elite groups offering a higher spirituality, generally disembodied, which ends up in a preoccupation with certain pastoral “quaestiones disputatae”. It was the first deviation in the early community and it reappears throughout the Church’s history in ever new and revised versions. Generally its adherents are known as “enlightened Catholics” (since they are in fact rooted in the culture of the Enlightenment).

d) The Pelagian solution. This basically appears as a form of restorationism. In dealing with the Church’s problems, a purely disciplinary solution is sought, through the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful. In Latin America it is usually to be found in small groups, in some new religious congregations, in tendencies to doctrinal or disciplinary “safety”. Basically it is static, although it is capable of inversion, in a process of regression. It seeks to “recover” the lost past.

2. Functionalism. Its effect on the Church is paralyzing. More than being interested in the road itself, it is concerned with fixing holes in the road. A functionalist approach has no room for mystery; it aims at efficiency. It reduces the reality of the Church to the structure of an NGO. What counts are quantifiable results and statistics. The Church ends up being run like any other business organization. It applies a sort of “theology of prosperity” to the organization of pastoral work.

3. Clericalism is also a temptation very present in Latin America. Curiously, in the majority of cases, it has to do with a sinful complicity: the priest clericalizes the lay person and the lay person kindly asks to be clericalized, because deep down it is easier. The phenomenon of clericalism explains, in great part, the lack of maturity and Christian freedom in a good part of the Latin American laity. Either they simply do not grow (the majority), or else they take refuge in forms of ideology like those we have just seen, or in partial and limited ways of belonging. Yet in our countries there does exist a form of freedom of the laity which finds expression in communal experiences: Catholic as community. Here one sees a greater autonomy, which on the whole is a healthy thing, basically expressed through popular piety. The chapter of the Aparecida document on popular piety describes this dimension in detail. The spread of bible study groups, of ecclesial basic communities and of Pastoral Councils is in fact helping to overcome clericalism and to increase lay responsibility.
We could continue by describing other temptations against missionary discipleship, but I consider these to be the most important and influential at present for Latin America and the Caribbean.

[1] K. Wojtyla, “Sources of Renewal,” Harper and Row (1979)
[2] Pre-conclave talk to Cardinals procured by the Cardinal of Havana in written form and subsequently published.
[3] “This method implies contemplating God with the eyes of faith through His Word revealed and vivifying contact with the Sacraments so that in daily life we may see the reality surrounding us in the light of His Providence, that we judge it according to Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life, and that we may act from the Church, Mystical Body of Christ and universal Sacrament of salvation, for the propagation of the Kingdom of God which has been sown in this earth and give fruit fully in Heaven….

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