Quick Hits: the Pope’s mysterious ties with the Jesuits; inching toward ad orientem
Naturally it caught my attention that Sandro Magister of L’Espresso began his latest column with a reference to my book, Lost Shepherd, which will be on the bookstore shelves late in February. Magister notes that the book is “making a stir” even before its appearance. But the main thrust of his column is on another topic: the troubled past relationship between Pope Francis and his Jesuit confreres. Another controversial new book, The Dictator Pope, makes the improbable claim that the former worldwide leader of the Society of Jesus, Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, wrote a highly critical evaluation of then-Father Bergoglio in an unsuccessful bid to thwart his appointment as an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 1991. Frankly, I am not convinced that the pseudonymous author of Dictator Pope conveys an accurate picture of the Kolvenbach report, and Magister shares my skepticism. However, Magister remarks, “beyond doubt is the severe friction that existed between the ordinary Jesuit at the time and his superiors of the Society of Jesus, both in Argentina and in Rome.” The friction continued as the future Pontiff became a bishop, then a cardinal. But as Pope he has mysteriously become a great favorite of the Jesuit leadership. This remarkable change is one of the great mysteries of the current papacy.
Msgr. Charles Pope, who shares my belief that priests should be encouraged to celebrate Mass ad orientem, has some practical suggestions for priests who might be tempted to follow his lead, but worried about provoking confusion (or worse) among his parishioners. One key factor (brought home to me forcefully this past Sunday, when I endured yet another Mass at which the priest-celebrant clearly felt that he must be the center of attention) is the importance of reminding the people that in the liturgy the entire Christian community, priest and people alike, are addressing their prayers to God. Msgr. Pope sees opportunities to make that point subtly, through the “body language” of prayer on other occasions as well. If everyone faces the crucifix for opening prayers at a parish meeting in the parochial-school hall, it won’t seem so radical to do the same for opening prayers at Mass.
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