Monday, July 14, 2014

Yves Congar on Pope John XXIII

I'm gradually making my way through Yves Congar's 900+ page My Journal of the Council, and just came across his first entry after the death of Pope John XXIII.  Many compare Pope Francis to Pope St. John XXIII, and the more contemporary impressions of the latter I read, the more apt the comparison seems.

Earlier in the journal, Congar describes the vocal opposition to Pope John XXIII on the part of traditionalist Catholics - the intégristes -
and this opposition is echoed in the frustrations of some traditionalist Catholics with the present pope.  But the favourable reactions to Pope John XXIII also reverberate in the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Pope Francis since his election.

There are some who cynically argue that Francis' popularity is merely a consequence of the 'liberal media' trying to conform him to their own image.  This doesn't ring true to me.  Although some of my traditionalist friends will disagree, I think many people see something very genuine about Pope Francis; they see in him someone with whom they can truly relate.  I was and remain a supporter of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and while there were facets of his papacy I found problematic, I think he was largely misunderstood by the left in the church.  But there was also an academic and hierarchical distance to him that simply doesn't exist with Francis.

Nor, judging from Congar's assessment, did it exist with Pope John XXIII:
In the last suffering and death of John XXIII, the Church and even the world have been through an extraordinary experience.  All at once, one became aware of the immense impact this humble and good man has had.  It has become clear that he has profoundly altered the religious map and even the human map of the world, simply by being what he was.  He did not operate by great expositions of ideas, but by gestures and a certain personal style.  He did not speak in the name of the system, of its legitimacy, of its authority, but simply in the name of the intuitions and the movement of a heart which, on the one hand, was obedient to God and on the other loved all people, or rather he did both these things in a single action, and in such a way that, once again, the divine law has proved true: God alone is great; true greatness consists in being docile in the service of God in himself and in his loving plan.  God raises up the humble.  Blessed are the meek for they shall possess the land.  Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called children of God.  Everyone had the feeling that, in John XXIII, they had lost a father, a personal friend, someone who was thinking of and loving each one of them.
Even the incredible Roman ceremonial, those endless shows, were unable to wipe out the deep impression, the sorrow and the intimate heartfelt affection.  However, what a contradiction between the courtly pomp and that utterly simple man whose funeral was the occasion of it!  The working people followed his last suffering and death as though he were the father of their own family.  'For once we had a good one...'  A sort of extraordinary unanimity had come about (304).

1 comment:

  1. While I prefer Francis to Benedict, it all seems a screen to me. Francis condemns poverty, sure, but he doesn't seem to do anything about church materialism and wealth. Neither is he seriously talking about birth control and abortion (I oppose abortion and my position is not the same as those of liberal Catholics, but that doesn't mean I don't realize that there are times where it should be allowed). It reminds me of the Dalai Lama. I think he does have genuinely positive and good aspects, but deep down, he is an anti-communist reactionary who wants privileges to the Buddhist Sangha returned. Take his comments on homosexuality, for instance. He first said that sex was only between a man and a woman for reproduction. Later, he reiterated this position but added that if homosexual sex was practiced with love, "it was okay". It's pretty obvious he only said this to not lose support, and not so much because he actually believes it. The same occurs with Francis' famous comment on homosexuals. Even though he is only repeating what the Catechism already says, he worded it in such a way as to gain support and a much need positive image to the Church. Homosexuality is not an actual issue and it is only a distraction for real problems in the world; that's why if you say something positive about it, your reputation instantly rises. That's the reason why Francis said that, and it's really rather dishonest or at least not completely truthful.