With the release of this document two days ago, Pope Francis opened an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. I now link to the English translation as it appears on the Vatican website. I will also link to commentaries from Rorate Caeli, One Peter Five and Vox Cantoris. I read this document and have many of the same questions as do my blogging colleagues. Please read their analyses of this document; they put forth questions and concerns that we all must ponder.
Peppered throughout this thing is a notion that somehow for the past two thousand years, the Church has been somewhat remiss about proclaiming God's mercy. In section 4, we read silly talk of "walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress". Now before some chide me for "bashing Pope Francis", what does that "walls" crack say about attitudes towards previous pontiffs, from Pius XII on back?
Pope Francis does seem to favor the setting up of false dichotomies. Here we have a "justice" vs "mercy" straw man conflict. In section 20 we see an attempt to smooth over the set-up conflict some, but there's always the setting of "mercy" over "justice". I put those words in quotes for in truth they go hand in hand as equals, for they both describe essential qualities of God Himself; He is all merciful, but He is also all just.
In section 19 he rebukes those engaged in criminal organizations (such as mafia) and those who've allowed money to seduce them to corruption. I might wonder why those embroiled in sexual vice were not included: those in de facto adultery (euphemistically called "irregular marriages") or those engaging in same-sex relationships. Did not Our Lady of Fatima state that more souls are damned due to sins of the flesh? Where is the Spiritual Work of Mercy known as "rebuking the sinner" extended to them? Please read section 10 of the document. I am shocked that the Holy Father can speak so disparagingly of the Church's history of preaching God's word and administering the sacraments as to say that the Church as "long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy".
Just before section 18 he admonishes confessors to "not ask useless questions, but like the father in the parable, interrupt the speech prepared ahead of time by the prodigal son, so that confessors will learn to accept the plea for help and mercy gushing from the heart of every penitent. In short, confessors are called to be a sign of the primacy of mercy always, everywhere, and in every situation, no matter what."
"Useless questions"??!!!? What kind of doctor, when diagnosing an illness, does not ask questions of the patient regarding symptoms, etc? He/she certainly doesn't interrupt the patient as they give information to the doctor to assist in their own cure. How else can the doctor diagnose the problem and prescribe the appropriate medicine? To call the questions of the confessor "useless" is a slap in the face to good priests who are merely exercising their sacred duties to assist the sinner to "go and sin no more". I'll go further and say that such a disparaging adjective as "useless" can only serve to undermine the sacerdotal authority of the priest in the confessional, an authority given by Christ Himself as we heard on the Second Sunday of Easter.
Right after that we have section 18, where these "missionaries of mercy" are introduced to us. I share the bemusement of my fellow bloggers .I refer you to the analysis and questions put forth by Rorate Caeli. What can these "missionaries" do that the parish priest can't? Maybe a question is, "what might they attempt that a parish priest wouldn't? An "on-the-spot" decree of marriage annulment? Permitting those in adultery to receive Holy Communion?
Many questions we ask. Much needs to be examined under high-intensity light.