I have begun a series of posts digging into an amazing interview that Bergoglio gave in 2007 to the international magazine 30 Days. In my first post I drew on an excerpt that spoke to his understanding of change in order to suggest that there are substantive reasons to believe that he will indeed be a pope who brings not only reform of the Curial bureaucracy but reform doctrinally as well. This is not to say that he will be some sort of anti-Benedict, but that he will be dramatically different.
In this respect I would point to another section of the 30 Days interview where Bergoglio draws on two stories, one from the biblical Jonah and another from the experience of the church in Japan, to pointedly question the clericalist direction of both the laity and the hierarchy. His reasoning suggests a missional pope completely willing to upend the status quo if it is coming between the mercy of God and the needs of the world. (The words in bold are the interviewers)
I have told my priests…:«If you can, rent a garage and, if you find some willing layman, let him go there! Let him be with those people a bit, do a little catechesis and even give communion if they ask him». A parish priest said to me: «But Father, if we do this the people then won’t come to church». «But why?» I asked him: «Do they come to mass now?» «No», he answered. And so! Coming out of oneself is also coming out from the fenced garden of one’s own convictions, considered irremovable, if they risk becoming an obstacle, if they close the horizon that is also of God.
This is valid also for lay people…
BERGOGLIO: Their clericalization is a problem. The priests clericalize the laity and the laity beg us to be clericalized… It really is sinful abetment. And to think that baptism alone could suffice. I’m thinking of those Christian communities in Japan that remained without priests for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned they found them all baptized, all validly married for the Church and all their dead had had a Catholic funeral. The faith had remained intact through the gifts of grace that had gladdened the life of a laity who had received only baptism and had also lived their apostolic mission in virtue of baptism alone. One must not be afraid of depending only on His tenderness… Do you know the biblical episode of the prophet Jonah?
I don’t remember it. Tell us.
BERGOGLIO: Jonah had everything clear. He had clear ideas about God, very clear ideas about good and evil. On what God does and on what He wants, on who was faithful to the Covenant and who instead was outside the Covenant. He had the recipe for being a good prophet. God broke into his life like a torrent. He sent him to Nineveh. Nineveh was the symbol of all the separated, the lost, of all the peripheries of humanity. Of all those who are outside, forlorn. Jonah saw that the task set on him was only to tell all those people that the arms of God were still open, that the patience of God was there and waiting, to heal them with His forgiveness and nourish them with His tenderness. Only for that had God sent him. He sent him to Nineveh, but he instead ran off in the opposite direction, toward Tarsis.
Running away from a difficult mission…
BERGOGLIO: No. What he was fleeing was not so much Nineveh as the boundless love of God for those people. It was that that didn’t come into his plans. God had come once… “and I’ll see to the rest”: that’s what Jonah told himself. He wanted to do things his way, he wanted to steer it all. His stubbornness shut him in his own structures of evaluation, in his pre-ordained methods, in his righteous opinions. He had fenced his soul off with the barbed wire of those certainties that instead of giving freedom with God and opening horizons of greater service to others had finished by deafening his heart. How the isolated conscience hardens the heart! Jonah no longer knew that God leads His people with the heart of a Father.
A great many of us can identify with Jonah.
BERGOGLIO: Our certainties can become a wall, a jail that imprisons the Holy Spirit. Those who isolate their conscience from the path of the people of God don’t know the joy of the Holy Spirit that sustains hope. That is the risk run by the isolated conscience. Of those who from the closed world of their Tarsis complain about everything or, feeling their identity threatened, launch themselves into battles only in the end to be still more self-concerned and self-referential.
What should one do?
BERGOGLIO: Look at our people not for what it should be but for what it is and see what is necessary. Without preconceptions and recipes but with generous openness. For the wounds and the frailty God spoke. Allowing the Lord to speak… In a world that we can’t manage to interest with the words we say, only His presence that loves us, saves us, can be of interest. The apostolic fervor renews itself in order to testify to Him who has loved us from the beginning.