A Church guided by the virtue of Prudence or Sycophancy and Careerism
Here are two quotes. The first is from what Pope Francis said to the curia before Christmas and the second quote is from a document produced by the German Bishops’ Conference.
“The disease of deifying leaders: it is the disease of those who court superiors, hoping to get their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism; they honour people and not God (Matthew 23: 8 – 12). They are people who live their service thinking only what they deserve to get and not what they have to give. Petty people, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness (Galatians 5: 16 – 25). This disease may also affect superiors when they court some of their colleagues to get their submission, loyalty and psychological dependence, but the end result is a true complicity.”
And then this from the German bishops.
“For many practising, committed Catholics in Germany, the pastoral approach to remarried divorcees is the test case for an evangelising church which is not only for special groups of faithful but which also welcomes those whose life projects have failed. It has become the touchstone of whether the joy of the Gospel also holds good for remarried divorcees and their families.”
Reading what both the pope and the German bishops have to say set me thinking. The word ‘orthodoxy’ kept turning in my head. I checked the dictionary on the word and this is what it says: “Hold correct or the currently accepted opinions, especially on religious doctrine, not heretical or independently-minded or original.”
Now just imagine if a priest uttered an unorthodox word about some of the ‘old chestnuts’ in that large bag of ‘doctrinal no-nos’ or indeed, if he were critical of his bishop of provincial? It is most likely that the man would be called to account for himself.
Of course I can hear many people say that you have to have authority and discipline structures in every organisation. And yes, that’s true but has there been over the last 30 or so years in the Catholic Church an intolerable level of authoritarianism?
The system of how bishops have been appointed right across the Catholic Church during the last two papacies is certainly not the best way of doing things. And ‘custom and practice’ has shown us how inadequate the system is. The ‘safe pair of hands’ has done nothing for the church, nothing at all. Indeed, it seems Pope Francis has an issue with it. It is going to be interesting to see the first crop of bishops, who will soon begin to appear under the papacy of Francis. The new man in Chicago, Blase Cupich looks an interesting choice.
The tone of what the German bishops have to say about people in second relationships is heart warming and must give hope to those who pray to an open and forgiving God. How great would it be to see far more of a church that stressed prudence and compassion over authoritarianism and discipline.
The famous Dominican theologian and saint Thomas Aquinas placed great stress on the virtue of prudence. It’s in many ways the logbook of the wise person. It’s a matter of being guided by wisdom – a middle way.
It’s important to note that Pope Benedict spent most of his formative years living under the tyranny of Nazi ideology. John Paul II was 19 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland and then he spent over 30 years living in a communist-run dictatorship.
Observing what is going on in the Catholic Church these days I must admit I’m wondering how much energy and time has been spent around the cult of the person. How many of the ruling elites within the church are driven by sycophancy and careerism? It seems Pope Francis is spotting a lot of it.
Big changes on the way? Great.
And about time too.