Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pope Francis' Interview in La Vanguardia, Part III

Pope Francis on Faith and Science: There has been an increase in atheism during the existentialist age, perhaps due to the influence of Sartre. But then came a step forward, towards spiritual quest, the encounter with God in many different ways, not necessarily related to traditional religious forms. The clash between science and faith peaked during the Enlightenment, but it is not so fashionable today, thank God, because we all realized the closeness that exists between one thing and another. Pope Benedict XVI has a good teaching on the relationship between science and faith. In general, most scientists are now very respectful of the faith and an agnostic or atheist scientist says, "I do not dare enter that field"

Bear: The Bear sees the situation very differently. Militant atheism is allied with a type of "scientism" that does its best to portray a universe where God is not needed. To take one example, popular journalism keeps betting on that tired horse "multiverse," in part because it removes a large thorn in the flesh of atheists: why one universe should be so precisely calibrated to permit conditions necessary for life (at least on one planet). And if life there must be (drat) then let us make it flourish on many planets, so it does not seem so special. Summer will not pass without another story about a new "Earth-like"
 planet being found. (If you get down to the bottom of the story, it turns out it won't be anyplace you would care to vacation.)

But the Bear does not see any advantage in the Pope raising the shade of Galileo, and his diplomatic language was probably best.

Pope Francis on Heads of State: Many heads of state came and the variety is interesting. Each with their own personality. My attention was drawn by a transversal element among the young politicians, whether center, left or right. Maybe they talk about the same problems, but with new music, and I like it, gives me hope because politics is one of the highest forms of love, of charity. Why? Because it leads to a common good, and a person who can, but does not enter politics to serve the common good, is egoistic. And if instead he uses politics for his own good, this is corruption. About fifteen years ago, the French bishops wrote a pastoral letter, a reflection entitled "rĂ©habiliter la politique". It is a beautiful text that helps to understand all these things.

Bear: "Politics is one of the highest forms of love, of charity." This is probably not something anyone from a Western democracy would say. Assuming that the Pope is serious and not just speaking about an ideal that makes the more cynical among us laugh out loud, perhaps we are hearing an echo of the descamisados cheering for the Perons. The Bear does not pretend to be an expert on these matters, but he wonders if the Argentine political experience, with its history of idolized politicians, gives Pope Francis a different take.

On the other hand, perhaps it was simply more diplomatic language. Really, what could he say about visits by heads of state?

Pope Francis on Retiring: Pope Benedict accomplished a very big gesture. He opened a door, he created an institution, that of possible Popes emeritus. Seventy years ago there were no bishops emeritus. How many are there today? Well, since we live longer, we arrive at an age when we cannot go on with things. I will do the same as he did, I will ask the Lord to enlighten me when the time comes and tell me what I should do. He will tell me for sure.

Bear: Pope Francis sees the retirement of aged prelates as just a sign of the times. "I will do the same as he did." At 78, it has to be on his mind. Recall that Pope Emeritus Benedict  was only seven years older when he felt obliged to retire. What mark does Pope Francis want to leave on the Church? Does he have big plans, or is he content to be seen as Pastor-in-Chief of the Church? As always, as we enter our summer of discontent before Fall's looming Synod of Bishops, it is hard to say.

Pope Francis on What He'd Be Doing Now If He Hadn't Been Elected Pope: I had a private room for me in a nursing home for elderly priests in Buenos Aires. I would have left the archdiocese at the end of last year and I had already submitted the resignation to Pope Benedict when I turned 75 years old. I chose a room and I said: I want to come and live here. I will work as a priest, helping in parishes. That would have been my future before becoming Pope

Pope Francis on How He Would Like to Be Remembered: I  never thought of this, but I like it when one remembers someone else and says: “He was a good man, he did what he could, he was not so bad.

Bear: This could be said about any person, of any faith or no faith at all. Even the Bear would work "a good son of the Church," in there somewhere. On second thought, he's the Pope. That may go without saying.

At any rate, this interview seemed both relaxed and guarded. That makes the more striking points stand out in relief. First, he all but called out Islam as backward and violent, yet did so in a way so as not to cause a controversy. The Bear believes that was skillful and gutsy, since Islam is a beehive you don't want to shake too hard.

His distinction between theological poverty and crass pauperism was precise and welcome. However, his lengthy answer about arms manufacturers being essential to big economies bordered on conspiracy theory wackiness. Wars are a blight on the weal of the United States, which could lose every defense contractor without the economy crashing. The idea of shadowy merchants of death pulling the puppeteer strings of government to guarantee profitable wars might have currency in South America, but it is surprising to hear a prominent world figure advance it.

His bold rehabilitation of Pope Pius XIII was refreshing and welcome.

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