Saturday, February 22, 2020

Feb 22: The Feast of the Chair of Peter. Pope Francis and the leadership lessons of Lincoln

Chair of St Peter. A wooden chair given to a Pope by an Emperor in 875 AD. Gilded in bronze in 1647. 

On the birthday of America's founding patriarch (see Feb 22 below), the Church dedicates a Feast Day to celebrate a Chair given as a gift from an Emperor to a Pope.  We are meant to contemplate this symbol of authority and the Petrine office. Community demands Authority. Pope John Paul II asked all Christians to  suggest how this office should be lived to bring Christian Unity. Pope Francis has called together all the heads of Bishop Conferences and heads of religious orders to a summit in Rome "to listen to the cries of the little ones." A major theme of the Pope for episcopal and priestly reform is the necessity of synodal governance of the Church.(His address on 50th anniversary of Bishop Synods)  He called the February 2019 gathering to show the Church in a synodal form addressing abuse of minors. He is at all times keeping in mind the bishops of the Orthodox tradition and the need for unity with them so the Church can "breathe with two lungs". He has strongly resisted the American desire to insert lay people into Church governance. He has called the Apostles together to confront the pain of the victims and assert their every bishop and bishop's conference must go back to their home territories and show mercy by ruling justly. His gathering of the leaders is to insure that the sins of some do not diminish the authority of the Apostolic whole. His war against clericalism is not a war against the sacral Apostolic character of priestly identity. Unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis has shown any individual can be stripped of his rank to purify the priestly bond. The dramatic reduction of Theodore McCarrick the big spending, high flying American to the lay state is a vivid reminder that the old days of gentle whispers are over. The communal whole is greater than the wealthy maverick.

In this conference he is pointedly not addressing  homosexuality in the priesthood as a root cause of the crisis. This does not mean other bishops and free flowing press conferences cannot forcefully make the connections. Rather the Pope is mustering the authorities in the ecclesial form of the corporate brotherhood in prayer and parrhesia(fearless speech).  This is the antidote to the lobbyists, the magnified little men behind the curtains of media, the secret intriguers who fill the chanceries and Curia, the "homosexual parish" that shapes Catholic clericalism. He draws bishops together as he expects them to assemble their priests---in public, face-to-face, man-to-man encounters of fraternity under the Father. He has always emphasized that in synodal gatherings the bishops meet with (cum) the Pope and under (sub) the Pope. The problem with the Church is not an all male clergy. It is an emasculated clergy that has lost its sacral identity as a fraternity of fathers.

 Pope Francis knows the clerical rot is deep and he will need many new men and groups of men rising within the  diocesan and national gatherings of the ordained. He sees the synod in the Church the way he sees fraternity among the world religions and the nations. Fatherhood and brotherhood are the antidotes to spiritual incest. These are built in the many communal forms of the priesthood and episcopacy.  The Holy Father always starts with the whole before the part. He has written about this for decades (see The Mind of Pope Francis) 

President Abraham Lincoln faced the division of the American nation as he assumed the Presidency in 1860. Slavery was the fundamental sin which could not be reconciled with the Declaration of Independence though it was allowed in the Constitution. Many abolitionists demanded he build his campaign and Presidency on condemning the evil of slavery. But Lincoln understood he must hold together the Union or he would never have the authority to end slavery. He built his Presidency and  his Second Inaugural on expanding the civic brotherhood upon which the nation was founded.   The Pope is acting like Lincoln and many of us critics (self included) are playing the abolitionist. We should pause to see the whole and respect the Chair. ( There may be a lesson from the world of motorcycling explained in Matthew Crawford's book on The World Outside Your Head. He says when you are walking, you keep your eyes on a hazard ahead to avoid it. But if you are on a high speed motorcycle you must deliberately keep your focus on the clear road ahead not the hazard. )From the beginning of his papacy the Pope has said he will not focus on "contraception, gay marriage and abortion". He is not an individual writing a blog entry.  He is on a very fast and dangerous motorcycle, directing a global Church. His vision and words must inspire millions of poor fathers trying to find work in the megacities before placating hundreds of western elites debating their abominable perversions.

Another Man who understood the Authority of His Chair

All those who have taken this crisis as an opportunity to strike at the liturgy of the Novus Ordo, the validity of the Second Vatican Council, and the papacy of Pope Francis should consider the whole. They are in very dangerous waters playing the Accuser in trying to discredit the true agents of the Holy Spirit. They do the Accuser's work more efficiently than enemies who display no veneer of "faithful Catholics' to fool the faithful. They recoil with righteous indignation when they and their fraudulent clerical heroes (Vigano and Burke) are exposed for helping the Serpent who wants a headless Church. Those two same Chief Pharisees were quick to accuse the women in adultery after the Papal Amoris document but were not so authoritarian as they let two notorious homosexual bishops (Nienstedt and Apuron) slip through their perfumed hands of mercy. So stringent with the lady in the back pew with her kids; so gentle and accompanying with the predator clerics. Those polluted priests have done much more to desacralize the Eucharist from the priest side of the altar than any lady reaching through the crowd to touch Christ's garment. As Pope Francis says, there is something of the Black Mass with the predator priests. "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord." It is not the Novus Ordo that desacralizes the Mass. That is another smokescreen from diabolos. It is the Nienstedts and Apurons and McCarricks and Spellmans. It is not the sins of the laity which threaten our liturgical life--it is the priestly pollution.
The "traddies" and "resistance" should be mindful. Their momentary  media bubble is a glass house built on sand. As the traffic generated by their hysteria recedes, they will have time to remember the first rule of regicide. Be sure you kill the  king, if you are going to shoot at him.
For those of us who want to help the Father clean the filth we must reassert the whole with Pope Francis.  Vatican II is "rereading of the Gospels in a concrete historical situation." The event of Vatican II and especially the liturgical reform is the biblical answer to modernity not the fruit of modernism.  The renewed Church of Vatican II will be composed of synodal brotherhoods not the hidden clerical cliques of chancery, Curia, and "the lavender parish".

 One principal storyline of the Francis papacy is restoring the Papacy  as Shepherd-Ruler after the papacies of the philosopher-prophet and the theologian-priest. The journey Pope Francis is walking with us cannot be interrupted for you tube monologues contrasting two American queens like Raymond Burke and James Martin. We must think much bigger to think with Francis who is not the provincial that American neoconservatives label him.

It is not only the Church but the nations which constitute Christendom and humanity. Pope Francis understands the Church must go 'to the periphery" to baptize the nations or the Church forfeits her mission. Pope Francis is calling together the Apostolic Church as a Synodal fraternity to reform herself and function as a template for humanity. He is leading the biblical People of God amidst the nations. He is showing us the public fruits of Vatican Two are still maturing while the twisted fruits of hidden clericalism are rotting.  Following the true Spirit of the Second Vatican Council, he has initiated his unique diplomacy of fraternity to Confucian China and Islam. He answered the beheading of the Coptic martyrs on the shores of the Mediterranean with public Mass on the sands of Arabia. Synodal brotherhood in the Church and fraternity amidst the religions and nations of mankind may just be the wholistic approach that will best isolate the lavender Judas in the Vatican and the  salafist Cain in Mecca. Let us pray for Our Holy Father on this feast day and honor that Holy Chair.  He has a large plan and we can all agree he has not yet  found his General Grant.  

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