Some cardinals should see red!

Pope Francis should take out the red card*
So that’s it, then. Pope Francis finds his voice. In the face of opposition, disobedience and intimidation, Francis has finally confronted the triumvirate of cardinals in the Vatican who are opposing the central thrust of his papacy, the reform of the Catholic Church as proposed by the Second Vatican Council.
The Tablet, a long-established and normally a very careful and very English journal, often almost oblique and good-mannered in its criticism, has taken the unusual course of naming the names: Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Cardinal Robert Sarah. Under the provocative heading ‘Francis must put his foot down’, an editorial surmises that even though the three may feel that, with a papacy heading in the wrong direction, foot-dragging is a duty, that does not mean that Francis has to put up with them.
Even though Francis has very publicly told members of the Roman Curia that they often suffered from ‘the pathology of power’ which produced ‘ a superiority complex’  (and the attitude of the three cardinals has once again demonstrated it) he has held back from actually confronting them. But the imperative of his reform programme and the growing unease of his supporters now seem to have persuaded him to take action.
So what’s happening? Cardinal Robert Sarah is in charge of ‘Divine Worship’.
The last great initiative of his department in the Vatican was to push through a new English translation of the Missal. If there’s one thing that most priests agree on (and, believe me, they agree on very little) it’s that the new Missal has been a disaster; ­ sometimes unreadable, because of its long rambling clauses and often inexplicable, because it insists on using words that no one understands, like the word ‘prevenient’. But I ramble . . .
Last week Cardinal Sarah, at a conference in London, suggested that priests would be asked, from next Advent, to say Mass facing towards the east, rather than towards the people, out of respect for a centuries old tradition. This proposal would mean that priests could be facing any which way in their churches (I’d be facing into the sacristy in Moygownagh). It’s an incomprehensible, unworkable and daft suggestion. Sarah also announced that Pope Francis had asked him to begin a study of ‘the reform of the reform’, short-hand for re-traditionalising the way we worship.
After the out-cry that followed the stunned silence in the immediate aftermath of the announcements, Francis made a statement, effectively disciplining the cardinal. He said two things: (i) no, there wouldn’t be any announcement about priests facing east or west or any other way; and (ii) he hadn’t asked Cardinal Sarah to begin a study of the Vatican Two inspired liturgy, and they had agreed (after a meeting) that the cardinal would stop using that formula, ‘reform of the reform’.
It was the most public dressing down of a cardinal by a pope in recent memory. Yes, of course, it was couched in diplomatic language ­ Cardinal Sarah has always rightly been concerned about the dignity of the celebration of the Mass, some of his expressions were misinterpreted, etc, etc ­ but the message couldn’t be clearer. This was a papal rap on the knuckles, if ever there was one.
The reprimand was a long time coming. When Francis wanted to change the rule about women not being allowed to participate in the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday (actually, a practice more honoured in the breach than in the observance) he followed the usual protocols of proposing the change to Cardinal Sarah and his department. After a year when he heard nothing back (they live within a stone’s throw of each other) he just announced the decision himself. In Vatican circles humiliating the Pope and undermining his reforms can sometimes seem to be par for the course.
The difficult truth, for Francis, is that some cardinals are out of control and acting as if they can, separately from the pope and against his better judgement, decide what’s good for the Church. It is as if the Catholic Church was some kind of private club (where the rules can be modified by our betters with a chat over a cup of coffee) rather than a worldwide faith-community of more than a billion members. Sir Humphrey Appleby-types plotting in the background need to be put firmly in their place.
Hopefully this more robust style will send the right messages. Cardinal Marc Oellet is in charge of the appointment of bishops and while the expectation of the Church and of Francis is that new appointees would reflect his approach, as far as bishops appointments go in Ireland none of Cardinal Oellet’s men seem to have what Francis calls ‘the smell of the sheep’  about them. They seem more like Pope Benedict’s appointees, which of course coincidentally the present papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, happens to be. And there’s growing dissatisfaction, indeed exasperation, that Cardinal Muller is out of tune with the Francis approach.
What Cardinals Sarah, Oellet and Muller need to be told is that the present shenanigans in the Vatican are undoing necessary reforms, shaming and scandalising our people and compromising the respect and obedience Francis deserves as the leader of our Church.
Francis has time and again outlined his unhappiness with the ambitions and conspiracies at the heart of the Vatican, flashing the odd yellow card in the direction of some of the most recalcitrant cardinals, like the hapless Cardinal Burke. Maybe it’s time for him to take out the red card and send some of the cardinals for an early bath or better still (as is the tradition of the Church from time immemorial), appointing them to difficult curacies in rural Guinea, downtown Quebec or back home in Mainz.
As Butch Cassidy said to the Sundance Kid all those years ago, Who are these guys?
* For non football fans: a referee shows a player a red card to indicate the dismissal of the player from the game after a serious, deliberate and often cynical breach of rules by the player in an effort to gain unfair advantage over the opposing team. 

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  1. Mary Vallely says:

    And two out of these three were/are papabile. Now, there’s a grim thought. 🙁 Supposing Cardinal Sarah were to be the next Pope. How could we parrot that line promising to be “loyal to the See of Peter” which cropped up in a prayer to St Oliver Plunkett or St Benedict recently. (allow me to have a senior moment here…)
    I don’t wish to disparage Cardinal Sarah who must have very fine qualities, and we do have to bear in mind his own cultural baggage, but his attitude to homosexuality frightens me. For most of the daily mass going population here, it won’t matter who the incumbent of the Vatican is as it won’t affect their deeply rooted faith nor interrupt their prayer life and in one way, I envy that but what about those of us for whom it does matter? How can we profess loyalty to something which we fundamentally in our continually working at- informed consciences, do not believe? I am thinking too far ahead, of course, but Francis cannot live forever, much as we would want him to and the day will come when his successor might very well undo everything his papacy has tried to achieve. God help us.
    P. S. Mary Magdalene was not an “adulteress”. I wish the bishops here would proclaim that from the pulpits. It distresses me to read it on the wall of our cathedral and in the prayer cards widely distributed throughout the country. Pope Francis slipped up badly there. I love him dearly but he needs to apologise to MM for this grave error!!

  2. Bob Hayes says:

    It brought a smile to my face reading that the ACP and Britain’s ‘The Tablet’ are demanding that Pope Francis ‘put his foot down’ and ‘rap knuckles’.
    So those champions of subsidiarity are now calling on the Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of Vatican City-State, Servant of the Servants of God to impose his hierarchical authority.
    I’m still smiling. 🙂

  3. Pascal O'Dea says:

    Bob, not withstanding your concerns regarding “the tablet or ACP” ,we could benefit from some urgently instilled subsidiarity in the Irish Church.Without the appointment of Bishops who are prepared to share and lead with Francis’s message we are going in rapid reverse here in Ireland.

  4. Padraig McCarthy says:

    @1: Mary Vallely: Re “adulteress.”
    Mary, I don’t know which cathedral you refer to with this on the wall. Perhaps it is a poster of the prayer for the Jubilee?
    If it refers to the prayer for the Jubilee of Mercy, the prayer does not refer to Mary Magdalene as an adulteress.
    The words in English are:
    “Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money;
    the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things.”
    As with Zaccheus and Matthew, the adulteress (whether in Luke 7 or John 8) and Magdalene are two distinct persons.
    It’s clearer in the Italian version of the prayer, which says
    “l’adultera e la Maddalena” –
    “the adulteress and THE Magdalene.”
    In English, I don’t think we usually refer to Mary Magdalene as “the Magdalene”, but it’s a normal Italian way of speaking.
    There’s a new preface for the Feast of Mary Magdalene on Friday 22 July. There is no official English translation yet that I know of, but a “working translation” into English going around has a mistaken translation from Latin.
    The Latin says:
    “et eam apostolátus offício coram apóstolis honorávit.”
    The “working” English translation is:
    “and whose apostolic duty was honoured by the apostles.”
    But what the Latin actually says (referring to Christ) is:
    “who honoured her with the office of an apostle in the presence of the apostles.”
    Apart from accuracy in the translation, there is also the matter of fidelity to the gospel accounts. Matthew, Mark and John are non-committal on the reception of the news, but Luke 24:9-11 is very plain: they simply did not believe it – Magdalen, at least at that juncture, certainly was not honoured by the apostles!
    So anyone using the new Preface on Friday might keep that in mind, and check the English translation. The following might do:
    It is truly right and just,
    our duty and our salvation, almighty Father,
    whose mercy is no less than your power,
    to proclaim you through Christ our Lord.
    Who (He), in the garden, appeared to Mary Magdalene,
    who loved him in his lifetime,
    who witnessed his death on the cross,
    who sought him as he lay in the tomb
    who was the first to adore him when he rose from the dead,
    whom he honoured with the office of an apostle to the apostles
    that the good news of new life might reach the ends of the earth.
    And so we too, Lord, with all the Angels and Saints,
    give you thanks, as in exultation we acclaim:

  5. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Oh Bob, isn’t Church authority the responsibility of all? I understand that this is a difficult concept to grasp but the future of the church, if left in the hands of a select few who make uncultured decisions, becomes a dangerous thing. The church has become counter-culture. Why? It hasn’t kept up with the psychology of the modern mind. Imagine, the Church being the last to the table on the understanding of homosexuality and the importance of inclusion. The last to the table is an embarrassing place to occupy because the possibility is that you don’t get invited for a seat.
    That’s nothing to smile at.

  6. Mary Vallely says:

    Thank you Pádraig @4 . That is indeed the prayer to which I was referring and most of us still read it as if ‘the adulteress’ and Magdalene were the same person. It’s an awkward line at the very least. Why not use “adulterer” and that way make it less gender specific. It seems to me to be in keeping with the perceived traditional attitude of the Church towards women. You never hear of a male saint lauded for being a virgin yet we have dozens of women who are celebrated as such. As regards the particular prayer of Pope Francis which is included in our Walk of Mercy in Armagh Cathedral I usually skim over that particular line when I’m saying it anyway! It is a beautiful Walk of Mercy and well worth a visit to our glorious sacred space if you ever pass this way. ?
    Sent from my iPad4hem

  7. Soline Humbert says:

    I agree with you Mary @6,and many others also object to it. A petition was delivered to pope Francis for him to amend it. Here is the text:
    Pairing Mary Magdalene with “the adulteress” and claiming that she too sought happiness “only in created things” [ evidence?] reinforces a centuries-long – but historically and biblically incorrect – view of Mary as a prostitute or public sexual sinner.
    We ask Pope Francis to issue a statement publicly correcting record on Mary of Magdala.
    Why is this important?
    Pope Francis has called for a deeper conversation around women and the Church. Correcting the record on Mary of Magdala would be an important contribution to the conversation.
    There is no biblical evidence that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute or public sinner.
    Instead, in three of the four Gospel accounts, the Risen Jesus first appears to Mary, and she is the only person – man or woman – to be placed at the empty tomb in all four Gospels. Since Mary reported the good news of the Resurrection to the apostles, she was named apostolorum apostola – the Apostle of the Apostles – by early church leaders such as Hippolytus of Rome and Gregory the Great.
    The portrayal of Mary of Magdala as a repentant prostitute has overshadowed her true role in the early Church and has contributed to the marginalization of women in the Church throughout the centuries and even to this day.
    Correcting the record on Mary of Magdala would provide a good historical and biblical starting point to discuss the role of women in the Church today.

  8. Bob Hayes says:

    Lloyd (no. 5), the Church was not founded to follow every fad and trend in psychology and the political and social sciences, as St John reminds us:
    ‘Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.’ (1 Jn 2:15-16)
    The Church and the People of God are called to be counter-cultural.

  9. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Bob, @8 do you mean the trends and fads like homosexuality being a choice rather than biologically determined? I look forward to your answer.
    Jesus Christ was perhaps the most successful social scientist of our time. What is this world? It is reduced to a system of rules. It has become a productive force. This is the world we should not love.
    Newsflash : homosexuality is biological, climate change is real, mandatory celibacy is tortuous to the greater part of clergy, no supreme being would ever not see men and women as equals.
    The Church and the People of God are called to be counter cultural – the way we can all embody this is by praying for the G7 countries to take a portion of their 800 billion military expenditure and end world hunger.
    Those who claim to be Catholic and don’t continuously lobby for this change in social norms, are the key contributors to “pride of life”.
    Bob, to swim against the tide you have to be in the water not looking at all that is happening from the shore.

  10. Maureen Mulvaney says:

    Mary @ 6 I totally agree, and spot on, also Soline @ 7 well said. I’m afraid Padraig @ 4, again, you wrote at length, trying to ” defend the indefensible”

  11. Padraig McCarthy says:

    Maureen @10:
    You may like to read again what I wrote. I defended nothing. I simply pointed out that the line in the prayer does not in fact say that Mary Magdalene was an adulteress.
    I too find the line in the prayer strange, even when this is clarified. And yet, although not quite in context for a prayer for the year of mercy, the line is still true for the adulteress and for Magdalene and for Zacchaeus and Matthew and for each of us: “Your loving gaze freed from seeking happiness only in created things.”
    In relation to the Preface, I pointed out that a faulty translation could obscure the fact of Magdalene’s mission as an apostle to the apostles.

  12. Roy Donovan says:

    Fr. Owen O’Sullivan, one of the Irish priests side-lined by the CDF, asks in The Furrow 54 (2003) no 1, pp. 37 – 42; Where are the Priest-Prophets?
    Brendan is certainly one of them and I always look forward to an article by him. The ‘Western People’ are lucky to have a weekly article from him.
    I enclose a few quotes from Owen’s article.
    “There is much untruth in the Church. There is hypocrisy and humbug at all levels. There is pretended loyalty, outward profession of the official line accompanied by inner denial; there is the corrupting power of fear. Which is better: honest dissent or pretended assent? We need priests (and people) who are honest. Truth is the bedrock of credibility”.
    “Prophets of Christ Incarnate or bureaucrats of Christianity Incorporated? – to adapt the phrase of Aidan Matthews”.
    “The prophet is one who is able to find meaning in a world of confusion which many find meaningless. A prophet is the one who tells – and does – the truth when all around are people who are telling, believing and doing what is not true”.
    “A prophet is one who has vision, perceptiveness and awareness, who can see through lies, pretence and sham and we are surrounded by such in the Church and in the world. The prophet has imagination when others are dulled by routine or fixed patterns of thought”.
    “The prophet has honesty, especially intellectual honesty, to face difficult questions with an open (not an empty) mind, to be able to say, ‘I was wrong’ and make a fresh start, to be able to stand apart, if that is what the truth calls him/her to do. The prophet has the courage to look the truth in the face, recognize it for what it is and call it by name, acknowledging that all truth is God’s truth however it is mediated”.

  13. This is the best article I have read in a long time. All those undermining and disrespecting the Pope must see red.

  14. Soline Humbert says:

    @12 Thank you Roy.
    Owen O’Sullivan concludes his article with these words,still valid today. (Full text on http://www.womenpriests.org/teaching/osulliva.asp. NB Postal and e-mail address for Fr Owen O’Sullivan now obsolete)
    It seems to me that, in the Church, we have subordinated truth to power-games.
    We have politicized it.
    We have put the institution above the message it exists to serve.
    We have put the structures above the gospel.
    We have allowed power-structures to become self-serving rather than gospel- or people-serving.
    We believe in Churchianity more than in Christianity.
    The Church has preempted the role of the Holy Spirit. Although we say officially that the Church is a means to an end, what we do in practice shows that we have made it (or at least the present model) an end in itself. We have succumbed to the temptation that Jesus rejected in the desert, the temptation to play the game of power and control instead of proclaiming the truth. The result is demoralization and a loss of trust and credibility. People no longer respect the Church or listen to it. Few wish to become priests. Are we teaching and doing things which, not only others do not believe, but we do not believe either? People listen to those who speak the truth. Have priests the courage to do that?”
    Yes: have priests the COURAGE to do that?

  15. Soline@14, thank you for letting us see the whole article. I was about to make the request that it would be made available to us. And, thank you too for giving us the link to Sean Fegan’s obituary in the Irish Times on the other thread. We should be grateful to Roy@ 12 for referring to Fr. Owen’s Furrow article in the first place. I had often heard about it but had never had the chance to read it. The paragraph that begins “There is much untruth in the Church. ………..”is brutal but, sadly, as we all know too well, completely true. I presume this is why they stamped on him and we no longer hear from him. What a courageous and brilliant piece from a true priest-prophet. And, since I am now in the thankful mode, l must say thanks to the ACP once again for providing us with this forum. I think I would have gone off my head by now if I had not discovered the ACP a few years ago. And, finally, thanks to Mattie for keeping this show on the road.

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