Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Father Thomas Reese on John Paul II As a Loving Grandfather: Whose Experience of the Church Counts, As Pope Francis's Exhortation on the Family Is Published?

Father Thomas Reese thinks John Paul II came across as "a loving but benighted grandfather." And as I read that baffling observation, I try to place myself inside the circle of experience of those Catholics for whom John Paul II appeared to be loving.

I have to admit that I fail when I seek to do that. That experience must be so different from my own — so connected in a way mine never was in the Catholic church (as clerical experiences in fact are, since the church belongs to its clerical elite) — that I simply cannot grasp it.

"Loving" would never be the first word to spring to my mind in describing John Paul II's effect on me and people like me. It would not be a word I'd use to describe him, period. Enraged, perhaps. Dictatorial, certainly. But loving? Never.

I gather from Reese's list of things to look for as Pope Francis publishes his exhortation on the family entitled Amoris Laetitia this Friday that the statement may treat queer Catholics as if they don't exist. Maybe I'm incorrect in reading Reese's insider predictions about the statement to predict this. We'll see.

If this is the tack Francis takes, then it will be consistent with so much else in his papacy, as he's talked about the wideness of God's mercy, and then circumscribed that mercy in his own approach to different groups of Catholics, as Jamie Manson suggests in a good essay today. As she notes, while Francis refuses to meet with Catholics who call for honest dialogue about what the church teaches in the area of sexual ethics and about women's ordination, he doesn't hesitate to meet with the outright schismatics of the SPPX movement.

Whose experience of the church is, as with Father Thomas Reese, very much determined by their clerical status, which evidently gives them an entrée — and access to papal love and mercy — withheld from "ordinary" Catholics . . . .

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