Toward a ‘people’s clergy’

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Friday, December 13, 2013

TIME magazine has named Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who became Pope Francis in March, as its Person of the Year for 2013.

There shouldn’t be much debate about the choice. Because in just a few months, Bergoglio has proven that the College of Cardinals wasn’t wrong in making him head of the Catholic Church. Time calls him “The People’s Pope” and claims that he “is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.”

Before Pope Francis took over from the resigned Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church was subjected to criticisms for its handling of important world concerns. The noise has been muted when it became apparent that Bergoglio is a different pontiff.

“(W)hat makes this Pope so important,” Time said, “is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all. People weary of the endless parsing of sexual ethics, the buck-passing infighting over lines of authority when all the while (to borrow from Milton), ‘the hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.’

“In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church—the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world—above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors.”

One gets the feeling so far, though, that Pope Francis is carrying the Catholic Church by his lonesome. Months after he took over, a big chunk of the clergy has still to follow his lead. Their reaction to what the Pope has been doing seems to be that of a tiptoeing
person afraid of being caught doing shenanigans.

Of course, it is still too early to expect the Pope’s views and actions to trickle down to the level of priests who are already set in their thinking and ways. “Doctrinal police work” does seem to have been momentarily halted but more substantial changes are still to be observed.

Generally, priests at the local level have still to do a Pope Francis, to follow his lead both in words and action. That may take time but it must happen.

It’s not enough for the Catholic Church to have a “people’s Pope.” It must also have a “people’s clergy.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 14, 2013.


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