Pope Francis and “The Meltdown of the Church”
“The ‘school of Bologna’s victory was sealed by the election of Pope Francis, who, speaks little of the Council because he is not interested in theological discussions but in the reality of the facts, and it is in the praxis that he wants to show that he is the true accomplisher of Vatican II. Under this aspect, it could be said, he incarnates the essence of Vatican II, and makes it doctrine, by fulfilling its pastoral dimension. Theological discussion belongs to modernity and Pope Francis presents himself as a post-hermeneutic pope and thus post-modern. The battle of ideas belongs to a phase in the history of the Church which he wants to go beyond. Francis will be a conservative or a progressive, according to the historical and political demands of the moment.
The ‘pastoral revolution’ is, according to Alberto Melloni, the primary characteristic of Francis’ pontificate. ‘Pastoral’ – the Bolognese historian writes – is a key word in understanding Pope Francis’ ministry. Not because he was a teacher of pastoral theology, but because when he interprets it, Francis evokes with amazing naturalness the pulsing heart of the Gospel at the crossroads of receiving (or refusing) Vatican II. ‘Pastoral’ comes from the language of Pope John: it was thus that he wanted ‘his’ Council, – a pastoral Council – and Vatican II was just that. (L’estasi pastorale di papa Francesco disseminata di riferimenti teologici, in “Corriere della Sera”, 29 marzo 2013).
Melloni, as always, forces reality, but basically he is not wrong. The pontificate of Pope Francis is the most authentically concilar one, in which praxis is turned into doctrine, and which attempts to change the image and reality of the Church.”
“In which praxis is turned into doctrine”. Remember that phrase. For Pope Francis religion is primarily about human action and experience, about the “encounter” and the feelings thereby inspired. Christ appears as only a means to this human experience, rather than an end in Himself. Doctrine and even morality, when they seem to inhibit the kind of praxis that religious feeling and experience demand, are at best considerations to be postponed, but more usually they are just swallowed up by the all-important “encounter” and disregarded.