Thursday, January 09, 2014

"A Figure of Discontinuity"

Bishop Enrico dal Covolo is the rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, a position to which he was appointed by Benedict XVI.  Speaking in Guam just before Christmas, he expressed great approval of Benedict's successor -- who of course is not unreservedly admired by all of Ratzinger's friends, fans and appointees.

Dal Covolo said:

I believe that Pope Francis is a figure of discontinuity with the previous pontificate, but a very, very good discontinuity because he's pushing the Church, he's exorcising the Church from all the fears that she had in the past. 
I agree totally with these changes that Pope Francis is doing because they correspond precisely to the challenges we face today.

On one hand, it should come as no great surprise that a prominent bishop supports the Pope.  That's pretty much what you would expect.  On the other hand ....

Rorate Caeli, the blog from which we have this story (and at which you can see a YouTube clip of dal Covolo speaking) reads this as an expression of ingratitude toward one's patron.  To do so seems a little short-sighted to us, as it depends upon any number of dubious assumptions (as, for example, that Francis stands in polar opposition to Benedict; that Benedict was always right and Francis therefore always wrong; that "gratitude" is best expressed as unswerving loyalty to a person rather than to the institution the person serves, and so forth).

But consider the source:  Rorate Caeli, the go-to blog for Traddie gossip, has a view of Vatican affairs as jaundiced as the most antipapal Protestant.  It seems to believe that Benedict abdicated under pressure from liberals who had engineered the so-called Vatileaks scandal, who threatened to release more embarrassing information, and who since then have determinedly purged Benedict's supporters.  So he writes:
[D]espite the amazing coincidence of the end of all "Vatileaks" rumors or threats via the media after February 2013 (indicating clearly that the Vatileakers got what they wanted, that is, the end of the Ratzinger pontificate), and all of Francis's repeated words against "gossip"..., intrigue and backstabbing are more intense in the Vatican now than at any time since the [Second Vatican] Council. 
We have no idea whether or to what degree any of this may be true.  We scarcely care; it is, after all, somebody else's hierarchy.  But it sure makes for fun reading.

There is one thing in that brief clip from dal Covolo which supports Rorate's argument, though:  the choice of the word "discontinuity."  Benedict and his supporters have used "continuity" as their rallying cry, if not indeed their organizing principle, hermenuetically and otherwise.  (This is, in our own estimate, a brilliant and inspiring move despite certain inherent limitations.)  So, when dal Covolo praises Francis for discontinuity, it is hard to imagine that some slap at Benedict, or at least Benedict's crowd, is not intended.

Needless to say, that's no real evidence for "intrigue and backstabbing," but it is still noteworthy.

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