Some Perspective on Francis, Priesthood, and Curial Appointments

Some Perspective on Francis, Priesthood, and Curial Appointments November 12, 2014

I keep having panicky readers complain, “It is obvious that Francis has it in for faithful conservative Catholics. Look at how he just stripped Cardinal Burke of power and prestige!”

Reality check. The priesthood is not about power and prestige. “He that would be greatest among you, let him be the servant of all” is the actual job description for the priesthood (and the Christian). If faithful conservative Catholics want to be faithful, conservative, and Catholic they should consider setting aside the obsession with power struggles and recall the actual marching orders for the priesthood. Even if Pope Francis were the bogeyman of their fears, he can’t harm those who are already in a hurry to be the least. And, by the way, he is nothing like the bogeyman of their fears. Their fear and loathing of him is a testimony to the power of the human mind to project. And project they do.

One particularly ludicrous discussion on FB between hysterics and Catholics who do not discern the End of Days in a bureaucratic reshuffling climaxed with this amazing declaration:

Extending your logic we should also be quiet if the pope executed Cardinal Burke in St. Peters Square and appointed the Vatican garbage man as the head of the Supreme Court.

Some of us ultramontanists are able to make fine Jesuitical distinctions between “Reassigning a bureaucrat” and cold-blooded murder.

Ahem. Some perspective.  Sherry Weddell notes:

What is interesting is that Cardinal George Pell – who was also one of the authors of the pre-Synod book – along with Burke – , is no one’s idea of a liberal or even a moderate, and made his feelings known loudly and clearly at the Synod – has been chosen by Pope Francis as one of his closest collaborators, heading up the new Vatican Secretary of the Economy. But nobody is talking about Pell – because he doesn’t fit the narrative of a covertly dissenting Pope removing conservatives from power. Pope Francis does seem to be picking leadership on other grounds than the oh too familiar US cultural war divisions. Francis also picked Bishop Anthony Fisher – often referred to as “Boy George” in Australia, Pell’s long time protege, who is both brilliant and completely orthodox – if slightly more smooth – to become the new Archbishop of Sydney. And that doesn’t fit the narrative either. I don’t know how each of these decisions were made – and neither do any of you – but they certainly aren’t fitting into a tidy conspiracy narrative.

Moreover, reader Mike Harrison provides more facts and stuff for culture warriors panicking about Francis’ sinister agenda in moving a Vatican bureaucrat in whom they have chosen to invest all their hopes, dreams, and aspirations:

Burke served 6+ years. His predecessor, Cdl. Vallini (4 years), was moved to “Great Chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University”. Vallini’s predecessor, Cdl. Pompedda (4.5 years), turned 75 and had his resignation accepted by St. JP II. No shift to another curial position. Pompedda’s predecessor, Cdl. Grocholewski (1 year), was “shifted” to the all-important post of “Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education”. He’s been there since 1999. Grocholewski’s predecessor, Cdl. Agustoni (just under 4 years), became Prefect Emeritus of the Signatura. So Burke has served longer than any of his immediate four predecessors, only one of whom was “shifted to another curial position,” and that one not of earth-shaking significance. Shall I go on?

I repeat: The Pope is not conspiring to destroy the Catholic Church.  The Pope is not heterodox.  The Pope is not our enemy.  If each fresh day is constantly filling you with fear of him because trusted Voices of Panic on the Internet are urging you to freak out, consider the possibility that the people who keep urging you to have hysterics and who then keep being proved wrong are the ones you should stop trusting instead.

For more healthy perspective, read the eminently sane Simcha Fisher.

Update: A reader writes:

(1) Pell did not author an article in the “Remaining in the truth of Christ” volume. Though he did write a preface to *another* volume, he did not (as Weddell claims) write in the same one as Burke or Mueller. This needs to be clarified.

(2) “His predecessor, Cdl. Vallini (4 years), was moved to “Great Chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University”.” This is true, but he was at the same time made Cardinal Vicar of Rome, a promotion.

(3) The Prefect for Catholic Education is no demotion from the Apostolic Signatura; it had charge of all the seminaries in the Roman Churchuntil very recently, one of Benedict’s last acts as pope.

(4) The other of Burke’s predecessors reached the age of retirement and so are irrelevant for discussion, as Burke is 66 and in good health.

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