Monday, April 1, 2013

Change Begins with the Feet and Not the Head: Theologians Responding to Pope Francis

Two complementary statements this morning from theologians reflecting on the significance of the new papal style:

Here's Leonardo Boff on the pope who pays his own bills:

Frei Betto coined an expression that is a great truth: «the head thinks from where the feet step». In effect, someone who always walks in palaces and sumptuous cathedrals, ends up thinking according to the logic of the palaces and cathedrals. For this reason, Pope Francis celebrated Sunday Mass in the Chapel of Saint Anne, inside the Vatican, considered the Roman parish of the Pope. And after Mass he went outside to greet the faithful.

And here's Benedictine sister and theologian Teresa Forcades in an interview with Marta Menán at El Progresso (translation by Rebel Girl at Iglesia Descalza):

Any change in history, both at the church and the societal level, has started from below. When John XXIII was chosen, for example, there were already renewal movements like Nouvelle Théologie in France and the Movimiento Litúrgico, which was very important here in Montserrat. Well, I see something similar happening now: constructive and faithful criticism is rising from the grassroots so that -- I don't know if it will be this pope -- but the time will come when it can't be ignored. 

What both of these theologians are noting seems to me to be echoed by Andrew Sullivan in these observations at his Dish site:

There is no sign that Francis will move to end that ban [i.e., on women's ordination] – although what a day for the church that would be! There are signs rather that Francis wants to break out of the zero-sum dynamic of those issues for a while and reaffirm the central truths of the faith: that the force behind all of creation is love, that Jesus revealed this in his words and in his actions, that those who believe they have everything have nothing, and that those who are marginalized, poor, alone, afraid and vulnerable are by those very facts more capable of seeing God in the world. We have to become more like them to find Jesus, and less like ourselves.

Feet that walk only in palaces and cathedrals adopt the logic of palaces and cathedrals.  Those walking on the margins, poor and alone, afraid and vulnerable, are by those very facts more apt to see God than those who enjoy power and privilege and have everything. Real and substantial change in institutions arises from the feet, which stand on the ground, and moves to the head.

And as Teresa Forcades says, while we welcome the positive signs like Francis's choice to shrug off the ermine stole, we watch and wait to see what he will do with what she calls "the basic questions"--with a system that restricts the election of the leader of the church only to "men of a certain age," and which continues to resist the full inclusion of those who are gay and lesbian in the human race and the church itself.

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