Thursday, 19 September 2013

400 Years Behind the Times

We have to try to understand Pope Francis' latest interview in terms of his cultural and social context. He asked us to do that to others we must do the same to him.

The problem is that we in the West, particularily western Europe, underwent the ravages of protestantism some 400 years ago. We were bewildered by it. It seemed so plausible. It seemed not to ask for much and the rewards it offered seemed to be so great... and what is more, it seemed so very, very pastoral.

We soon knew, of course, that it was not of God. It advanced towards not only the destruction of the Church of God, but also, as we now see, the destruction of morals and the very foundational values of society.

Those of us who live, or grew up, in protestant countries know this very well. We see it every day. We breath its consequences.

We have to understand that the current Pope has lived his life in South America, almost blissfully unaware of protestantism. In recent years protentantism has started to make great inroads in that area of the world, and quite rightly the Catholic Church there is terribly worried about it. But we know, because we have been through it, that you cannot bend to cultural relativism. You cannot put the sticking plaster of "pastoral concern" over a stinking sore.

We know this. South America does not.

In my Old Testament studies one of the most important things was sitz im leben: the cultural background from which one came and from which one speaks. Pope Benedict knew and saw the dangers of pandering to the voices of "reconciliation" (falsely called) because he had lived through it. Pope Francis comes from a background being challenged by it for the first time.

We listen to our Holy Father. We obey our Holy Father. But we must UNDERSTAND our Holy Father, and interpret him correctly, according to his own background and worldview.

It will be different if he actually says anything which is not simply his own opinion as the Bishop of Rome. Until then, let us critique and explain. Let us be pastoral about the whole thing and not be dogmatic in judging the individual... even though he may well be responding to a problem 400 years after it first ravaged the world, and his response has proven to be incorrect.

That, after all, is what the Pope has asked us to do.
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