Pope Francis – Bringing the Balance Back into the Church
Thoughts for Reflection by E‐VAAC (India)
This is a call to Pray and Protect Pope Francis’ besides promoting his guiding themes among the faithful. His gracious approach in encouraging the faithful (Curia, Bishops and all others, laity included) to speak freely and share their divers and broadly differing views during the recent discussions at the family synod shows great insight and courage. He has truly become the ‘Pressure Release Valve’ of the church.
We see the liberals and conservative clash. African bishops disagreeing on homosexuality, German bishops on Sacraments to people in irregular marriages, and Church reformers for greater women’s participation and so on. A plethora of suggestions flowed from all quarters and a lot of frustrations were let out.
All this has happened because Pope Francis made it clear that disagreement did not amount to disobedience. He has also removed the shroud of secrecy that has caused the faithful to have different perceptions about the Church. At a time when the world‐wide web is enabling communities to share questions and thoughts globally in real time the Pope’s action is very apt. The current state of confusion can be reduced by bringing alignment in the Church through open dialogue.
The three reasons for the current state of confusion and emotional stress of the faithful (Clergy, Religious and Laity) that come to mind are that many of the church laws are inadequate, inconsistent, and not comprehensive (Does not cover all situations). This is possibly the reason why many of the Church’s dealings are secretive. This also makes the laity more suspicious and concerned about their faith.
The second reason is that the teachings on tolerance and compassion by the church have been stretched beyond limits. This causes a tension between the head and heart of the faithful. Forgiveness is emotional (heart) but the rational mind (head) does not forget especially when cumulative abuse or multiple wrongs take place. These cause an increase in mental tension. A good illustration would be to reflect on how the Church went from showing tolerance and compassion to ‘Zero Tolerance’ for child abusers. The laid back and indifferent attitude of the church forced the faithful look outside for solutions, causing the church to lose billions of dollars and many of its faithful. Today’s reaction to child abuse is a burst of frustration pent up for many years.
The third reason is that the Church is not geared up to meet the ‘Global Village’ phenomena that are sweeping the world. The faithful are made up of multiple cultural mind sets and practices that exist together with different levels of maturity and use freely available technologies that facilitate communication and easy of travel across geographies. Managing the current situation calls for a highly alert, aware and alive Church that have pastors trained to deal with more complex situations at a faster pace than ever before.
While open discussion is the right thing to promote in order to restore balance in the minds of the faithful it is only the first step in a long process. The first phase of the discussions will see a storm with heated dialogue and intense rivalry. This has to be managed by a well‐trained and appropriately equipped hierarchy with infrastructure and mechanisms to source and disseminate information to aid pastors at grass root level in transmission of the faith. We already see rebellious disagreement in India created by media report on homosexuality. While this is only a reflection of the multi‐cultural mind sets around the world, it could be a possible indication of things to come. Once this phase is managed and the dust settles some serious dialogue will take place in a more amiable manner which will hopefully culminate into a consensus on acceptable norms. This would then lead to the Church propagating a renewed understanding of Church teachings to the faithful.
This is a long process and the track record of the Church is not the best in terms of implementation. We see this attitude to follow through in several past synods, the Vatican II and most recently the ‘Year of the Consecrated’. A ‘Church Sans Action’ is more or less the image today. A strong program by the Church hierarchy to walk hand‐in‐hand with the faithful in order to weather through the storm is required. This is besides the age old problems of weak governance and lax functioning at all levels. The old axiom by the Church hierarchy ‘We will initiate and the Holy Spirit will guide’ should now change to ‘We will work and the Holy Spirit will guide’.
Pope Francis is showing the way to walk the talk. Other leaders like, Bishops,
Rectors, Superiors, Provincials may like to take a cue from his example. In order to support Pope Francis in this difficult task of balancing the Head and Heart of the faithful we need to pray for his guidance by the Holy Spirit and protect him from divisive forces.
In the Spirit of Evangelizing for a More Vibrant, Alert and Aware Church (EVAAC)