By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
This month we celebrated the memorial of St. Albertus Magnus, Albert the Great. The Gospel selected by the Church for this occasion describes the role of scribe, a disciple who reads, writes, and studies according to the vocation of learning. St. Albert was one such, who became so learned himself and taught others so effectively what he had himself learned that he is now deemed a “doctor” of the Church.
Albert was also a bishop, the “head of a household,” the household of the faith which is every local Church. Our Holy Father Francis has asked that bishops imitate Albert and in their pastoral zeal avoid an ideology which can end by alienating some while seeking to include others.
The Gospel According to Matthew also describes the head of a household as one who “brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” What we have described here is the pastoral nature of the role of the bishop, who has care of all, both those who practice the faith and live a stable Christian life and those who are lost or straying from the fold. In order to do this task effectively all who have care of souls use both the new and the old to care for the flock. The bishop feeds his flock and to do so properly must have recourse to both “the new and the old.”
From the beginning of Francis’ papacy, various factions and movements have attempted to claim him as a proponent for their personal agenda in an effort to co-opt the Pope to support or advance a personal “lobby” or “ideology.”
The latest is that the Democratic Left in Europe says that Pope Francis belongs to them and he is now one of the 50 most important “Jews.” There is also the constant tug of war between the “traditionalists” and “progressives” with competing claims upon the Pope. Adherents of the “Bologna school” of theology, which promotes “rupture” model of interpreting Vatican II, we are told, are now crestfallen to find out that Francis instead supports the hermeneutic of continuity, as does Benedict XVI, in the interpretation of the council as revealed in a letter by the Pope supporting the work and writing of Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, an outspoken critic of the Bologna school.
So, will the real Pope Francis please stand up? He already has, only some among us unfortunately just happen to be listening selectively.
In a real way Pope Francis does support all these causes, but not exclusively. We keep in mind that for the Pope, as for all of us, real progress in the life of faith does not demand betrayal of the Tradition faithfully handed down in the liturgy and sensus fidelium. It is wrong to co-opt the Pope for any particular ideology, lobby, or faction, though he does support all of humanity because he is a shepherd for all.
Corruption, as Pope Francis recently reminded us, is to have the appearance of a Christian who is forgiven through the mercy of Christ but has not humbled himself by responding with true repentance for sin. The Pope is able to support truth wherever he finds it in order to advance unity in Christ, though some use the truth to end up in a place far from Christ and Christian unity. This the Pope can never support.
St. Paul himself attacked this corrupted Christianity when, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, he said, “My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?. . . Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God” (1 Cor. 1-30).
Christ is not divided and neither are those who belong to Him. Factions and quarreling are evidence that competing ideologies are present, and not Christ who makes all one. Pope Francis does not belong to one faction or another, one political or theological vein or another, but belongs in Christ to God as do we all. As a pastor he does not belong to any ideology or lobby, but brings all to unity in Christ.
As the head of the Christian household, Pope Francis strives to be a good one, who “brings from his storehouse both the new and the old.”
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(Follow Fr. Cusick on Facebook at Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism.)