|His Eminence Cardinal Rodrigues M.|
Being up-to-date on all things Catholic as they characteristically are, the good people over at Rorate Caeli recently published an excerpt from a presentation by Cardinal Oscar Rodrigues Maradiaga delivered in January 20, 2015 at Santa Clara University for the Markulla Center for Applied Ethics entitled The Church of Mercy with Pope Francis. Having read the full text of the essay from which the presentation was drawn - several times, in fact - it seems hard to overstate the importance of the message it contains. Never before, in my recollection, has a cardinal - particularly such an influential one (Rodriguez Maradiaga is co-ordinator of the "C9" Council of Cardinals, established by Pope Francis to facilitate a reform of the Curia) - spoken so plainly as to the direction Pope Francis wants to take the Catholic Church.
The portion quoted by Rorate Caeli is undoubtedly important, as it removes all doubt that Pope Francis wants to change the Church in a fundamental, essential and permanent way. But the real meat of Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga's essay - the part which explains what kind of change the Pope wants - is found a few paragraphs later, where he presents his analysis of the universal calamity which has followed in the wake of Vatican II and what he - and, more importantly, what Pope Francis - sees as the remedy: a fundamental change in the faith and spirituality of the Church. I quote:
Spirituality is not a science nor one more praxis in the Church. It is the "nourishment" of the pastoral, the theology and the community, whatever their "model" is. When this was forgotten by the process of ecclesial renovation, this caused "schizophrenia" in some Christians, which is one of the causes of many failures. In a short time, they progressed in all of the levels of the renovation. They changed many pastoral, theological, and disciplinary categories. The image and the mission of the Church changed. Likewise, its concept that related faith with history and society changed; therefore the social and political options became more important. In this context, there was no mystical renovation and it remained "traditional," consistent with another vision of the faith and of the mission, and inconsistent with the new ecclesial experiences. In this context, a spirituality does not motivate, it becomes irrelevant. It ends up being perceived as a useless appendix and ends up being abandoned, since a mystic that does not nourish the human experience stops having meaning; a spirituality that is foreign to the ecclesial model that is being lived leads to the crisis of the Christian "schizophrenia." Many abandonments of the ecclesial life, and even of the faith, are rooted there. The only answer is not in abandoning all mystic or reversing the renovation of the institutions or options (due to fear of a collapse of the Christian values), but in deeply renovating the faith and spirituality starting from love to reach mercy. That is what the Pope wants.
Make sure you understand what Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga is saying here. If necessary, re-read the paragraph. If you feel only slightly nauseated, you might have missed the point. Re-read it. If, on the other hand, you find yourself looking around for the horse that just kicked you in the guts, you're good to go.
To his credit, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga clearly understands that the 'Spirit of Vatican II' and its fruits are at odds with traditional Catholic mysticism, faith and spirituality. To continue to deny it at this stage, therefore, is an exercise in futility. In fact, he argues that this discrepancy is to blame for the abysmal plummet in church attendance and religious vocations. This, too, cannot be denied. Finally, he identifies the three options for overcoming this discrepancy:
- abandon mysticism and spirituality altogether;
- reverse the pastoral directives of the 'Spirit of Vatican II'; or
- fundamentally alter Catholic faith and spirituality so as to better jibe with the 'Spirit of Vatican II'.
If there was ever any doubt as to which option the Pope has selected, let it be henceforth abandoned. If you consider yourself a traditional Catholic, your faith and spirituality have just been declared "inconsistent with the new ecclesial experience," in a word, "irrelevant," and you, being ultimately responsible for the failure of Vatican II, persona non grata.
The days of being able to give the benefit of the doubt are over. The only ones who can't see the writing on the wall are the ones who are afraid to look.