Spiritual Triage by Pope Frances: Inoculating Indifference

Spiritual Triage by Pope Frances: Inoculating Indifference October 1, 2022

When Pope Francis assumed the Papacy 10 years ago, he likewise euphemistically took on a practice typically reserved for health professionals, trauma surgeons in particular.  Essentially, he undertook the role as Chair of the ‘Department of Health and Surgery’ at the Vatican.  And not only for the Roman Catholic Church, but numerous other Christians and general believers in goodness who craved a sense of renewed faith and justice.

Frances assumed the role of Chief Surgeon to the patient, the global Catholic Church, long stricken with a series of human maladies, and a flock quickly hemorrhaging with disillusionment, systemic shock and suffering from a general malaise.  The manifestations of an inordinate obsession with doctrine -yet intolerance for some among its flock, were the patient’s obvious symptoms.   He could only have assumed such a tremendous challenge- under the watchful eye of the Master Physician- God.

An antidote was needed and it was needed fast. The syringe was prepared, and he was ready to immediately inoculate his patient against the indifference.

It was Francis’ imperative to assume the lead role as healer, having the skills to first stabilize his patient, then protect it against further toxicity, surgically excise any existing lesions, and prescribe for it the appropriate remedy toward a path of healthy recovery. And he has been well on his way to doing so.

The term medical ‘Triage’ emerged from the battlefields.  It was a scientific medical method which originated during the Napoleonic Wars from the work of Dominique Jean Larrey. The term actually originates from the French verb ‘trier’, meaning to identify separate, and treat by determining the order and priority of the patient.

The term was used further and its concept adavanced during World War I by French doctors treating the battlefield wounded at the aid stations behind the front. Those responsible for the care of the sick and wounded did so following a methodical criteria of first identifying the patient’s issues, and determining the priority of treatments based upon the severity of the condition(s).

Pope Francis now skillfully continues to likewise a skillfully administered version of ‘spiritual triage’ to his patient Church in his prioritized approach.

Pope Francis has, in the past decade, assessed the initial vital signs of the Church, it’s blood pressure, temperature and heart rate. He has followed few of the usual protocols but found the Church to be in critical condition.  He has prioritized his approach.

First assessing the symptoms, then to stabilize the Church’s emergingly weak state and ensure that this patient did not suddenly not only lose consciousness, but its conscience as well.  Had Pope Francis not intervened, it would have would have inevitably lead to the patient’s being in a chronic comatose state, and in worst case, perhaps spiritual death. The doctor arrived at the opportune time and his clinical acumen has proven to be wise.

In this quest, Francis has prescribed some rather aggressive yet stunning simple cures. He has examined the earthly heart of his patient, the Roman Curia and Bishops and the broad reach of its circulatory system across the globe-which provides the lifeblood to regulate the autonomous region of the patient’s cognitive functioning.  In doing so he has amazingly and quickly moderated the patient’s thinking processes to become synchronous with its heart, it mission, and the times. 

He has appointed clerics from what are known as third nations, from the areas of a globe typically which were typically disenfranchised.   He has appointed women to crucial positions both within the Varican and throughout the world.  He has impressed the need for the Church’s accountability 
and clinical- like surveillance regarding any malignant internal anomalies or dangers lurking throughout its body.

In carefully probing the pathology of the Church’s endemic illness and its sometimes indifference to the poor and the subjugated, he has regulated the pulse of his Church into a more steady and natural rhythm. He has called for a clinical re-alignment in thinking, not an overall abandonment of traditional Church Doctrine, simply supplied an intravenous adjustment in its perspective. The meridians have been cleared .

With  “thermometer” in hand, and using evidence based medicine, he is taking the Church’s temperature.  He notes the patient’s fluctuating temperatures and has administered to it a treatment regimen to control its rising heat of intolerance as well as its alternating coldness toward those who have been marginalized, especially the poor, the weak and the different.

Pope Francis has now brought to his patient a unique healing approach, both spiritually, mentally and and physically. He has not merely provided a placebo to appease the patient, bureaucratic ailments or mask its issues- but actual steps to optimize The Church’s robustness and heal it’s wounds.

He has indeed shocked the heart and pulse of the Roman Curia into proper sync, yet also managed to prevent it from straight-lining.  He has minimized the Church’s chance for recurrent strokes of indifference and dizzying episodes of opulence and shameless self-reference, by providing a humble and authentic holistic  approach which is natural and pure.

In Pope Francis’ approach, he cures his patient, the Church, from its often unwitting yet self-induced form of clerical narcissism.  The patient is now en route to stabilization. Although the good doctor cannot alleviate all the fears which accompany any recovering patient, he brings to his patient a modicum of vibrancy and an optimistic clinical outcome, one appealing to not only formal members of its flock, but as well as to those from the outside looking in.

Francis’ brand of evidence-based medicine has been bold and refreshingly decisive, yet it retains the time tested tenets of good medicine. He has isolated the viral causes of a bogged down bureaucracy, a poisoned blood stream and provided the antibiotics to clean house when needed, and to re-energize within the Church the primary reason for its existence, to minister to those in need.

However, in doing so he has not totally departed from traditional care, but has engaged in a comprehensive approach, both spiritually, and physically.  An approach previously lost amidst the maladies of a broken bureaucratic system long mired in its own sickness.

Francis administers his care with a unique tenderness and genuine concern for his patient Church.  He’s taken more of a holistic approach. His operating theatre is surprisingly not totally a sterile void as one would expect, but one filled with love, understanding and compassion, diverse visions, and always tempered with reason.

If medicine is arguably as much an art as it is a science, Pope Francis is well on his way to emulating the successful bedside manner of that of the great healer and true physician, Jesus Christ.

 -You can read this and other stories of inspiration by MichaelAngelo Massa, JD and his popular column:          ‘Sacred Insights 2.0’  @ Patheos.com

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