Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Cardinals Close the Conclave Doors and the Holy Spirit Flits Away?

I love Ken Briggs's sharp, sly observation about the silliness of what most of the cardinals being interviewed lately about the papal conclave are saying: he notes that the Holy Spirit, who's supposedly in charge of the whole shindig, can't even get a press conference. And then he observes,

The storyline is that the Roman Catholic church needs someone at the helm who can put the swarm of crises behind it without changing a thing. No wonder the Holy Ghost has been edged out. 

As Leonardo Boff notes in a powerful essay now on his website advising us not to forget the Holy Spirit (an English translation by Bettina Gold-Hartnack is here),

In a previous article we tried to rescue the dimension of the “spirit” that has largely been submerged in modern materialist and consumerist culture. Now we want to rescue the figure of the Holy Spirit, which is always marginalized or forgotten in the Latin Church. Since she is a Church of power, she does not coexist well with charisma, which belongs to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the fantasy of God and the motor of change, which are not welcomed by the old hierarchical institution. But the Holy Spirit is coming back.

I hope Boff is right about the Holy Spirit "coming back" for Catholics. I know he's right about the fact that the Catholic church is a church of power, and about how its emphasis on the allocation and use of power militates against remembering the Spirit--who is the fantasy of God and the motor of change.

As he maintains, these can hardly be "welcomed" by the old hierarchical institution (mit beidem kann die alte hierarchische Institution nicht gut leben) because the institution's sustenance, its self-preservation--its self-preservation as an institution that is all about power--depends on thwarting change and fantasy.

Except the most managed kinds of "change" and "fantasy"--and that's precisely Briggs's point: all the silly talk of cardinals in advance of the conclave has been about superficial image management, about manipulating the image of the church in the media. Without changing a single thing at a substantive level.

The graphic: the Cenacle in Jerusalem in which the Spirit is said to have descended on Jesus's followers following his resurrection. Note the windows. Which open to the world. The file is from Wikimedia Commons.

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