Monday, September 28, 2015

R.R. Reno on Pope Francis: "Someone has to mind the store while the Jesuit is on the peripheries"

The Jesuit magazine America is running an interview with First Things editor R.R. Reno on Francis's visit to the United States.  As some of you know, America tends to emphasize the social justice and progressive side of Catholicism and First Things is known for defending a more traditional version of Catholicism.

I would encourage you to read the entire interview, but here are a few of Reno's best thoughts:

...I think he wanted to be very cautious about our political struggles in the United States, so he did not mention religious freedom in his address to Congress. But it’s clear he’s aware of the problems we face in the United States and wanted to make this gesture of solidarity and support to the Little Sisters. That was an important and worthy thing to do. 
As for passing on lunch with the congressmen and going to the homeless shelter, all I can say is good for him. You know, I don’t know if you can print it, but to hell with congressmen. I think one of his most powerful witnesses is his refusal to let the hierarchies of the world determine his ministry and the spiritual attention he gives to others....
I wish I could have written the speech he gave to the bishops. In that speech, I would have reminded the bishops about the importance of Catholicism being a distinctive voice in American society—not to let ourselves become, as Francis has said, a sort of NGO or social service organization with incense. There’s a distinctive Gospel message to give to the world and we shouldn’t let the spirit of the world intimidate us...
The part that resonates is also the part that worries me. He’s a disruptor. Many things need to be disrupted, but, then again, some things don’t need to be disrupted. I’m all in favor of breaking the things that need to be broken, but it’s dangerous when you start breaking things. So that goes back to the theme of extremism. The extremism is both exciting and inspiring, but also disorienting. You know, somebody has to “mind the store” while the Jesuit is on the peripheries....
One problem is the problem with Jesuits. Jesuits are clerical commandos, clerical Green Berets. And one of the temptations Jesuits have is that they want to turn everybody into a Jesuit when the fact is that the church needs ordinary soldiers—the church needs cooks, camp commandants, and priests who keep the parish running and aren’t on the peripheries. And I fear that all his language about being on the periphery demoralizes people who do the day-to-day work of keeping the church running....
So Francis is exemplifying the end goal of the Christian life and the danger is that Jesuits often neglect the ordinary means by which people often enter into the Christian life. Jesuits are virtuosos who can neglect the need for basic instruction. You know, Francis is the 265th successor of St. Peter and he’ll do with this job what needs to be done, but I guarantee you there’s not going to be a Jesuit pope for a long time after this one.