A matter of trust

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

At the start of this new year, many Catholics continue to hope that Pope Francis can succeed in reforming the Church

A matter of trust

Pope Francis during Mass for the opening of the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican City, 6 October 2019. (Photo by GIUSEPPE LAMI/ EPA/ Newscom/ MaxPPP)

By Robert Mickens | Vatican CityAdd to your favourite storiesIt’s customary for Vatican watchers to look into their crystal balls, as it were, at the beginning every new calendar year.Some will make bold predictions about what the pope is going to do over the next 12 months. Others will be more cautious and merely point to upcoming events that are already scheduled or issues that are currently being studied.Making projections during the tenure of Pope Francis, however, is a tricky business. There are an untold number of adjectives that both his allies and enemies use to describe the Jesuit pope, but “predictable” is not often one of them.Francis, even at the advanced age of 85, has shown that he still has the capacity to pull the proverbial rabbit out of his white hat.And that is probably one of the reasons why he is both loved and loathed.Pegging one’s hopes on the popeWhat we’ve seen in these nearly nine years since he’s been Bishop of Rome is that few people are indifferent towards him. Most Catholics — and many people of other faiths or of no religious tradition at all — seem to really like him.There are others — and they would include a number of bishops and cardinals and a whole lot of junior clergy — that don’t seem to like him at all.What Catholics in both these groups have in common is that they tend to put far too much focus on Francis.Perhaps, that is what Catholics do with every pope, which is not only unfortunate, but actually dangerous.Some of the most poignant lines in Sacred Scripture that describe this risk are found in the Psalms.”Put no trust in princes”None are more apt for than these:Put no trust in princes,in mortals in whom there is no help.Take their breath, they return to clayand their plans that day come to nothing. (Ps 146, 3-4).Other Psalms and the Prophets, as well, say the same thing in slightly different ways, but the message is the same — no human leader (prince, president, prime-minister or pope) can ultimately save us.What happens when they are die or leave the scene? Many of their plans and programs die with them.This prospect is, no doubt, comforting to Catholics who are horrified at the reforms and changes that Francis has already introduced into the Church. They are certainly hoping that his program of “synodality” will not survive him.The last great hope for the Church?But what about reform-minded Catholics? Have they placed too much hope in Francis? If the next pope were to put the brakes on his programs and the thrust of his pontificate — or worse, reverse them — would these Catholics give up or walk away?That seems to be happening with ultra-conservatives or “traditionalists” who staked their hopes on Benedict XVI.They fought Francis at first, but it seems many have started to give up — especially those who “converted” to Catholicism precisely because they put their hopes and trust in this particular pope.One sometimes hears those who identify as “Vatican II” or “progressive” Catholics say that Francis is the last great hope for saving the Church from the far-too-many “conservative” cardinals, bishops and presbyters that still fill the ranks of the clergy.These sort of Catholics logically believe, therefore, that it is essential for Francis to create more cardinals who share his vision (so they will elect a like-minded successor) and appoint more diocesan bishops to carry that vision forward at the local level.But what if he is unable to do that? Or what if he does “stack” the College of Cardinals and it still elects someone, perhaps even unwittingly, who decides that this pontificate has actually moved the Church in the wrong direction?One pope can reverse the decisions of anotherThis is not at all beyond the realm of possibility. When John XXIII was elected in 1958 most people could never have imagined that this “caretaker pope”, already seen as elderly and slowing down, would call an ecumenical council.Conversely, think of how Benedict XVI took precise legal steps to liberalize use of the Tridentine Rite and allowed the ongoing establishment of new religious orders and communities with the specific aim of perpetuating the Old Latin Mass.Not many thought that another pope could so easily reverse this, certainly not while he was still living and residing in retirement at the Vatican. But all that happened just a few months ago when Francis strictly curtailed Benedict’s former legislation.Fans of Francis would do well to keep this in mind. And, more importantly, they — we all — must consider what it is that keeps them (us) as members of the Roman Catholic Church. And what would it take to drive them (us) away.The religious festivals and “mysteries of faith” that we have been celebrating during the Christmas season should serve as a sobering, yet joyful reminder that our trust — that is, real trust and real hope — is not in princes or popes.It is in the God of Jesus Christ.If we can really embrace that then we won’t be disappointed — and our faith won’t be shattered — if a pope’s plans or programs should one day come to nothing.Follow me on Twitter @robinrome

Read more at: https://international.la-croix.com/news/letter-from-rome/a-matter-of-trust/15279

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