Pope Francis: “Careerists and social climbers … are doing great harm to the Church”
posted at 11:01 am on May 8, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
After my sojourn in Vatican City for the papal conclave, I subscribed to the Vatican’s wire service so that I can keep a closer watch on news about Pope Francis and his work. Much of it is interesting to me but in a non-news manner, as the Pope sets about to accomplish in his own way the commission given to St. Francis of Assisi — “rebuild my church.” An item today is more provocative, and worth sharing:
Vatican City, 8 May 2013 (VIS) – “The men and women of the Church who are careerists and social climbers, who ‘use’ people, the Church, their brothers and sisters—whom they should be serving—as a springboard for their own personal interests and ambitions … are doing great harm to the Church.” This is what Pope Francis asserted in his address to the participants in the plenary assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) whom he received in audience this morning.
The pontiff spoke to the sisters of obedience, poverty, and chastity: “Obedience as listening to God’s will, in the interior motion of the Holy Spirit authenticated by the Church, accepting that obedience also passes through human mediations. … Poverty, which teaches solidarity, sharing, and charity and which is also expressed in a soberness and joy of the essential, to put us on guard against the material idols that obscure the true meaning of life. Poverty, which is learned with the humble, the poor, the sick, and all those who are at the existential margins of life. Theoretical poverty doesn’t do anything. Poverty is learned by touching the flesh of the poor Christ in the humble, the poor, the sick, and in children.”
“And then chastity, as a precious charism, that enlarges the freedom of your gift to God and others with Christ’s tenderness, mercy, and closeness. Chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven shows how affection has its place in mature freedom and becomes a sign of the future world, to make God’s primacy shine forever. But, please, [make it] a ‘fertile’ chastity, which generates spiritual children in the Church. The consecrated are mothers: they must be mothers and not ‘spinsters’! Forgive me if I talk like this but this maternity of consecrated life, this fruitfulness is important! May this joy of spiritual fruitfulness animate your existence. Be mothers, like the images of the Mother Mary and the Mother Church. You cannot understand Mary without her motherhood; you cannot understand the Church without her motherhood, and you are icons of Mary and of the Church.”
Continuing, Pope Francis spoke to the superiors about service. “We must never forget that true power, at whatever level, is service, which has its bright summit upon the Cross. … ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them … But it shall not be so among you.’—This is precisely the motto of your assembly, isn’t it? It shall not be so among you.—’Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave’.”
“Your vocation is a fundamental charism for the Church’s journey and it isn’t possible that a consecrated woman or man might ‘feel’ themselves not to be with the Church. A ‘feeling’ with the Church that has generated us in Baptism; a ‘feeling’ with the Church that finds its filial expression in fidelity to the Magisterium, in communion with the Bishops and the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, a visible sign of that unity,” the pontiff added, citing Paul VI: “It is an absurd dichotomy to think of living with Jesus but without the Church, of following Jesus outside of the Church, of loving Jesus without loving the Church. Feel the responsibility that you have of caring for the formation of your Institutes in sound Church doctrine, in love of the Church, and in an ecclesial spirit.”
“The centrality of Christ and his Gospel, authority as a service of love, and ‘feeling’ in and with the Mother Church: [these are] three suggestions that I wish to leave you, to which I again add my gratitude for your work, which is not always easy. What would the Church be without you? She would be missing maternity, affection, tenderness! A Mother’s intuition.”
This comes shortly after Pope Francis’ decision to continue the discipline of Benedict XVI for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who stand accused of straying from Catholic doctrine in their work in the US.
Side note: Most of the media has translated “spinsters” to “old maids.” I don’t know how Pope Francis put it in Italian, and my Italian is poor enough that I wouldn’t get the nuance of either expression anyway. VIS has it as “spinsters,” but I don’t think there’s a lot of difference in either definition or tone to make this more than just an interesting and amusing distinction.