A Deluge of New Inkblots

Matt referenced John Allen, Jr.’s analysis of Pope Francis’ papacy in yesterday’s post about James Carroll.  Allen wrote that the Pope’s homilies have been “open to widely differing interpretations,” and that “they almost seem to function as an ecclesial Rorschach test, revealing the agenda of constituencies eager to put a frame on the new pope.”

Allen’s commentary is insightful and prudent, especially given the limited sample size of the Pope’s tenure thus far.  But Rocco Palmo details a new host of comments the Pope reportedly made last week that might make the Rorschach test a little more navigable.  Take it away, Rocco:

“During an audience last Thursday with the leadership of the religious conference of his home-continent and the Caribbean, the Pope is said to have aired (without apparent prompting) the realities of “a current of corruption” and a “gay lobby” in the Roman Curia, talked his 44th-place standing in the pre-Conclave betting market, chided traditionalists who “account” rosaries and modern-day “gnostics” who’d rather take “a spiritual bath in the cosmos,” placed the reform of the church’s governing apparatus squarely on the shoulders of the eight cardinal-assistants he’s tapped to advise him… and, indeed, encouraged the religious to keep “moving forward” and not get too “bother[ed]” should they face scrutiny from the CDF, the august “Holy Office” which – together with the Institute for the Works of Religion (the IOR, more commonly known as the “Vatican Bank”) – was already often reduced to being among Francis’ favorite punchlines.

Good Tuesday morning, folks…”

The whole report is worth a read.  Some of the Pope’s comments are fascinatingly frank and clear, and it’s apparent that this man is straightforward and no-nonsense in his desire for action and reform.  (His employment of language is an important manifestation of these attitudes; this recent condemnation of “socially mannered language” warrants a future post in and of itself.)  This is a most welcome approach to the papacy.

The Pope’s comments don’t necessarily place him on a defined point of the ideological conservative-progressive spectrum.  Instead, he seems to chart a middle ground between extremes with roots in realistic action.  In explaining his dislike for both extreme traditionalist groups and modern gnostics, the Pope makes this clear: “The Gospel is not the ancien regime, nor is it this pantheism. If you look to the outskirts; the indigent… the drug addicts! The trade [trafficking] of persons… That’s the Gospel. The poor are the Gospel….”

Francis’ realistic action extends to his reformist attitude towards solving actual problems that exist in the Church hierarchy and structure.  His blunt talk about the “gay lobby” is a refreshing indicator of honesty and (limited) transparency, something that has been desperately needed of late.  It speaks volumes of the Church’s recent state that this attitude alone is enough to warrant talk of his supposed liberality.

All of this said, Pope Francis’ drive for reform across various sectors in the Church does seem to put him in the company of previous “progressive” Popes.  I think Matt’s correct in saying that a third Vatican council is highly unlikely, but the sheer emphasis on change thus far (even though it’s not doctrinal change) seems to put Francis on a more restrained version of Carroll’s track.

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