Sunday, August 6, 2017

POPE FRANCIS'S REVOLUTION

   Against strong opposition, Pope Francis is working to change the church.  In the past half century, Vatican II's aggiornamento, "coming up to date," was stymied by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. During their papacy, the church fell further behind the times.  

   So Francis inherited a church that is still operating according to rules and laws that reflect the structure of the Roman Empire with its Emperor and Senators, instead of the 21st century people of the eternally living Jesus Christ--people who can discern God's presence and intentions for today's world and put God's intentions to work in and for our society and culture.

   Instead of moving forward since 1965, the church has deteriorated and has fallen further behind the times.  Most American bishops have worked to keep the Imperial structure of the church intact, along with their imperial authority.  With a few beautiful exceptions, like the pastoral leadership of Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, for the Catholic people in general, theology and spirituality are at a deadening standstill. Our everyday society and culture have fallen to new social and political depths.  In response, literally millions of "up to date" American Catholics have simply walked away from the church.

   One bright spot in this dismal history is the influx of Hispanics into the church, with their beautiful traditional devotions and spirit of life.  But as our Hispanic brothers and sisters become more "Americanized" and take on the values of today's society and culture, their traditions will fade as did those of other ethnic group.

   In a frightening development, many Catholics who identify themselves as "Conservatives," have tied themselves to other Conservative Christians who are literal fundamentalists, e.g., who believe in the six days of creation and deny evolution, and believe in Noah and the flood, etc.  Such literalism sucks the life and Spirit out of our Catholic faith and makes religion look foolish to today's truly educated people.

   Also, many Catholics have identified themselves with today's deeply polarized politics, most especially on the side of the Republican party.  They have actually identified themselves in terms of one political party, i.e., "We are Conservative Catholic Republicans." 

   They say this in a way that makes being conservative and Republican the same as being a Catholic.  And some even go so far as to consider America to be a theocracy, which they mistake for Jesus' idea of the Kingdom of God on Earth.  While we certainly should be involved in our politics for the sake of building up the Kingdom of God on earth, we should never identify any political party or any institution of our society with the Kingdom of God on Earth.  

   Of course, Jesus was human and was involved in the politics of his day.  With his Christ consciousness, he despised the brutal Roman occupation of Israel, and often sharply criticizing the political leaders of his Jewish society.  Using our own Christ consciousness we can and should work to give politics, (as well as business, education, health care, labor, etc.,) the ever growing fullness of meaning that they could not possibly have on their own.  

    Christ offers the world a graced, luminous humanity which both shows us the imperfection of our society's institutions and gives us the spiritual strength to get involved in our institutions, including the church, and help move them ever more forward toward their intended fullness of life.  The universal, global Christ alone is the Savior of the world.  And the universal, global Christ is the heart of Francis's revolution.

   As I said, Francis is facing strong opposition, from the Catholics who are identifying with a certain brand of politics, to bishops who continue to live and act in a monarchical church whose  structure is collapsing all around them, to the negative influence of ex-Pope Benedict XVI's presence in the Vatican.

   For our part we can follow Francis's lead and continue to develop and deepen our own universal, global, all-embracing and loving Christ consciousness of one luminously alive humanity of fully respected and loved brothers and sisters.  And we can work to bring our politics and all the institutions of our society to ever greater life, and do all that we can to help make our blessed Christ vision became an ever greater, ever more living reality in the world.