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Hooray for Bishop Tobin!

September 14, 2013

Okay, maybe I am overstating things.  Here is what happened.  As part of the media hype over Pope Francis’ six month anniversary in the Chair of Peter,  Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, gave a fairly extensive interview in his diocesan paper in which he reflected on Pope Francis.   During the interview he made two mild criticisms of the pope.  The first for the “unintended consequences” of his new simplicity:

One of the things we have to get used to is dealing with some of the unintended consequences of his freewheeling style. For example, when he chose not to live in the Apostolic Palace, but instead at Sanctae Marthae. That’s a very worthwhile gesture to be sure, but as I’ve commented to others, for the sake of simplicity and humility, he has now occupied two buildings instead of one. That has caused some security concerns around the Vatican I know. When he decided not to go out to Castel Gandolfo for the summer, which he has every right to decide, that’s had an impact on the local population at Castel Gandolfo, the shopkeepers and the people who own restaurants and tour buses and souvenir shops and so forth.

The second, more controversial passage, criticizes Pope Francis for not speaking out as clearly as the Bishop would like on the subject of abortion:

The other thing I want to say though, is that I’m a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis that he hasn’t, at least that I’m aware of, said much about unborn children, about abortion, and many people have noticed that. I think it would be very helpful if Pope Francis would address more directly the evil of abortion and to encourage those who are involved in the pro-life movement. It’s one thing for him to reach out and embrace and kiss little children and infants as he has on many occasions. It strikes me that it would also be wonderful if in a spiritual way he would reach out and embrace and kiss unborn children.

The response to this has been predictable.  Michael Sean Winters at NCR said that Bishop Tobin must be “either very brave or very reckless.”    He then goes on to criticize the Bishop for not understanding the Pope.    CatholicSensibility drew a link between this criticism and Bishop Tobin’s recent decision to publicly leave the Democratic party and become a Republican.   Fr. Z, equally predictably, took MSW to task for asking the nuncio to name episcopal candidates who “get it” (as opposed to Bishop Tobin):  somehow, this was a call for reconfiguring the Vatican along the lines of the North Korean communist party.  And a couple conservative blogs (here and here) read the tea leaves to see in this evidence of a conservative backlash against the Pope.

For the record, I don’t agree with Bishop Tobin:  I think the Pope has made himself abundantly clear on the dignity of all human life, from conception to death.  I am not sure that we really need him to single out abortion to establish his credentials as “really” pro-life.

But what I am more intrigued by is the fact that a sitting bishop has publicly criticized the Pope, and has done so very deliberately:  as MSW notes, this is not an off-the-cuff remark at a press conference, but an interview with his own diocesan newspaper.  MSW indeed ends his blog post by saying, “Still, it is stunning to see such a clear, precise criticism of the pope by a bishop.”  I want to go beyond this and say that I think it is a really good thing.   Over the past 30+ years, bishops have been cowed into always following the “party line” to the point that bishops were seen as “yes men” who would never deviate from what emanated from the Vatican.  The handful of bishops who did so (Bishop Gumbleton in the US comes to mind) were marginalized by their fellow bishops.

If we are going to move away from a monarchical papacy and embrace notions of collegiality, then we are going to need bishops who are willing to speak out on matters they think are of concern, even if this means, perhaps especially if this means criticizing the Pope.  And this means that “conservative” bishops get to criticize a “liberal” Pope, just as for years many of us were wishing that “liberal” bishops would stand up to a “conservative” Pope.  (Sorry for the scare quotes, but I am not sure how else to represent this dichotomy in the Church.)

As much as I disagree with Bishop Tobin, his remarks are thoughtful, nuanced and respectful:  the strongest word he used was “disappointed,” which is hardly a call for disobedience and obstruction.    Of course, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander:  Bishop Tobin must now be willing to accept similar public criticism from his priests, his laity, and his brother bishops.

One objection to this is that allowing such criticism of the Pope by a bishop detracts from the authority of the Papacy and is damaging to the unity of the bishops with the Pope.   I think such fears are misplaced.   Respect for papal authority should not be confused with obsequiousness; we can criticize someone even if we love and respect him/her.  And I think unity is better served by an honest expression of disagreement than by a facade of unity that cloaks disagreements.

So, in the end, I think my title is a good one:  hooray for Bishop Tobin for speaking his mind.  Let us pray that all bishops have both the courage to speak openly and respectfully, and that they have the humility and openness to listen and reflect when they are on the receiving end of similar critiques.

48 Comments
  1. Irenia permalink
    September 14, 2013 9:08 am

    Yes, I suppose the emergence of this sort of open criticism is welcome, in some sense, inasmuch as no leader should be beyond critique, least of all by his fellow leaders.

    However, the specific critique is just asinine. Pope Francis is clearly very deliberately trying to avoid becoming a “culture wars” figure by leaving certain topics merely implicit, and Bishop Tobin is basically saying (not in so many words) “I wish he’d be more of a culture warrior.” Francis, I’m sure, sees the horrors of abortion as a spiritual issue, not a political issue. Tobin is, apparently, already worried about what this means for a “conservative” American church that has totally thrown its bets in with politics and invested so much in that.

  2. September 14, 2013 11:28 am

    The whole thing is asinine. I pray for all the bishops appointed by the last two popes. Most are reactionaries who will have a tough time sledding or chameleons.

    • Paul DuBois permalink
      September 16, 2013 11:52 am

      Most Bishops I am aware of are dedicated men who take their posts very seriously. There is ample evidence of this, some are to conservative (and not just politically) for my liking, but I am not a chosen successor of the apostles so their understanding has more credit than mine.

      • Kurt permalink
        September 16, 2013 12:44 pm

        I think we are in for a long spell of Catholic conservatives rediscovering “legitimate dissent” from the Pope.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
          September 16, 2013 1:19 pm

          Maybe, but if this happens then every bishop who exercises his right to criticize the Pope but cracks down in an authoritarian fashion on responsible, respectful criticism from his priests or laity needs to be called on it.

  3. brian martin permalink
    September 14, 2013 11:45 am

    Pope Francis has stated that he wants an expanded sense of collegiality. I would guess he will not react when the other Bishops start voicing opinions.

    • brian martin permalink
      September 14, 2013 11:46 am

      Correction to the last sentence : I would guess he will not react in a heavy handed authoritarian manner when the other bishops start voicing opinions

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      September 15, 2013 11:37 am

      I think you are right. I doubt if he will respond: I wonder if this interview will even be brought to his attention. Now if Cardinal Dolan or Cardinal Chaput were to say similar things in public he probably would. But I think his response would be both charitable and firm.

  4. September 14, 2013 12:13 pm

    I agree that it is good for the bishops to speak out in a respectful manner on certain issues and when certain public profile individuals dissent, or when things need to be clarified. But I also think the speaking out should be reciprocal. I think when bishops say or do things that need to be clarified or corrected Pope Francis has the right but also the duty to call the bishop out publicly.

  5. Doc Fox permalink
    September 14, 2013 12:26 pm

    I am grateful to our author for pointing out the need for Bishops to seek collegiality, rather than military-style uniformity. I am not grateful to Bishop Tobin for his pre-occupation with one issue to the exclusion of all others, seems to me, for in making a political decision to choose the party that disses the poor, he has abandoned Christ on the core of our faith.

    My lack of gratitude for Bishop Tobin is in part motivated by the fact that the only effective and Constitutional remedy for abortion in the United States is to seek to eliminate the motivations for abortion. Every pregnant woman knows what is growing within her. Efforts at shaming have been largely ineffective. Efforts to criminalize have proved impossible. Hunger, and the expense of child care for a working mother or student mother, are powerful motives for abortion. His political decisions appear motivated by an illusion that there is some swift and effective remedy for abortion amounting to making it illegal. That’s an illusion marketed by one party that appears to reject Christianity in every other material regard.

  6. September 14, 2013 12:47 pm

    Thanks so much for this. I didn’t see much use in the bishop’s observations either, but I was HORRIFIED by that line from MSW about Tobin’s being “very brave or very reckless.” Francis has made it clear that the bishop of Rome should no no longer be seen as a despot, and MSW of all people ought to respect and support that.

  7. September 14, 2013 4:41 pm

    The praise being offered is generous in spirit, but in a way it reminds me of those who had no particular interest in attending the Latin Mass who praised Summorum Pontificum when it first came out for allowing liturgical diversity, when in fact it was a concession to those who believed the least in liturgical diversity…. In the same way, we are praising a bishop for acting collegially, who is probably among the least collegial-minded of our bishops.

    In any case, I expect Pope Francis to be true to form, and remain unruffled by this kind of criticism, if not embracing of it. It’s another example of how much he differs from his predecessor, a worthy and talented man in own right, but who acted in a somewhat wounded and petulant fashion to the justified uproar over the Archbishop Williamson fiasco by saying things in a letter to the bishops such as…

    “I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility…. At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.”

    God Bless him, but he was feeling sorry for himself over outrage that was completely justified, whereas in the case of PF, the criticism coming from Bishop Tobin is largely unjustified, yet he’s taking it in stride.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      September 15, 2013 11:39 am

      ” In the same way, we are praising a bishop for acting collegially, who is probably among the least collegial-minded of our bishops. ”

      I see the irony here even as I initiated the praise. The key is to remind Bishop Tobin that he has to take it if he is going to dish it out.

  8. September 14, 2013 5:14 pm

    You’re right, and I hadn’t considered this at first. The ability to voice criticism in a respectful, charitable, public way will be important for increasing episcopal collegiality. In this case, the criticism is poor, but that doesn’t change the principle.

  9. Joseph D'Hippolito permalink
    September 15, 2013 1:50 am

    MSW makes a spectacle of being Catholic because he’s an ideological whore. He thinks that being “more Catholic than thou” provides sufficient cover for his views.

    Anyway, the reaction to Bishop Tobin’s criticism is a major reason why I left the Catholic Church. Too many Catholics put blind loyalty to the ecclesiastical institution over common sense, let alone over any sense of God’s righteous demands. The bishops have encouraged this attitude for centuries with monarchistic trappings, demands for automatic deference from subordinates (let alone the laity) and institutional arrogance that isolates the clerics from the laity. None of this is what Christ had in mind (read John 13), and the clerics who promote such nonsense will be severely judged for misusing the authority with which God entrusted them.

    Don’t believe me? Read Ezekiel 34 and 1 Samuel 2:12-36. God is not amused with corruption, regardless of the source.

    • Mark VA permalink
      September 15, 2013 6:44 pm

      Joseph D’Hippolito:

      Every now and then a post comes up that unintentionally sheds more light on the writer, than on the subject. In your post, a total of nine sentences contain phrases such as:

      “ideological whore”,
      “blind loyalty”,
      “monarchistic trappings”,
      “demands for automatic deference”,
      “institutional arrogance”,
      “nonsense”,
      “severely judged”, and
      “corruption”.

      I’ll forgo any further comment.

      • Joseph D'HIppolito permalink
        September 15, 2013 11:04 pm

        Well, Mark VA, if you have trouble with my language, then you’d probably have trouble with these statements. See if you can guess who said what:

        1. “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath?”

        2. “Hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

        3. “…you make them twice the child of Hell as you are!”

        4. “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”

        5. “You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

        Since you probably don’t know the answers, here they are:

        1. John the Baptist (Luke 3:7 as well as Matthew 3:7)

        2. Jesus Christ (Matthew 23:14)

        3. Jesus Christ (Matthew 23:15)

        4. Jesus Christ (Matthew 23:27)

        5. Jesus Christ (Matthew 23:33)

        I’ll forego any comment.

  10. Jordan permalink
    September 15, 2013 3:04 am

    I don’t read Bishop Tobin’s remarks about abortion as really about abortion. Rather, Tobin’s criticism of Pope Francis’s apparent disinterest in the issue plays more like a lament (I would say “tantrum”) about the pope’s apparent disinterest in the American hierarchy’s political machinations.

    Pope Francis is a sharp tack. I’m more than certain he knows well that many of the American bishops are mired in their nation’s rightist politics. I doubt that the pope is afraid to insert an editorial about this reality. He’s just biding his time. Early on in his papacy, Pope Francis slammed the American hierarchy’s handling of the abuse crisis simply by calling the bishops out as “stupid” for shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish. (Team Francis 1, Team America 0).

    I could see Pope Francis at some point in the future saying something to the American bishops akin to, “I was in the favelas regularly, celebrating Mass and breaking bread with the poor. You were in the episcopal palaces shuffling money to political lobbies.” Pope Francis is much more humble than I am. I doubt he’d want to promote his work with the Argentinian poor. Still, I hope that the pope’s eventual rejoinder highlights the distance between the American hierarchy’s moneyed activism and the roll-up-the-cassock-sleeves work of an in-person solidarity with those most affected by an abject lack of a genuine and comprehensive Catholic social justice, of which pro-life activism is just one component.

  11. September 15, 2013 4:41 am

    So does this mean that the laity (who are, after all, most Catholics) have the right to uphold a traditional doctrine–such as, for instance, “just war” teachings or–differently from me–the Church’s ancient justification of “capital punishment”–without being excused of “excommunicating” popes, as I recently was, at this website?

    Francis, like a good and compassionate pastor of a very heterogeneous Church, is only being pragmatic, in focusing his flock on what is DOABLE, in Christ’s cause, and away from the quixotic and futile crusades of his doctrinaire predecessors, such as those of “outlawing” abortions, or “saving traditional marriage”–which can’t even be saved from the serially monogamous Protestants, let alone the “gays.”

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      September 15, 2013 11:41 am

      What I said about Bishop Tobin can and should also apply to the laity. You should be free to criticize, but you must also have the humility to listen to criticism directed at you. You don’t have to agree with it, just accept it thoughtfully.

    • Mark VA permalink
      September 15, 2013 7:19 pm

      DismasDolben:

      While I don’t believe it was your intent, perhaps you’ll notice that you seem to have accidentally written the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit out of the Church Militant:

      “Francis, like a good and compassionate pastor of a very heterogeneous Church, is only being pragmatic, in focusing his flock on what is DOABLE, in Christ’s cause, and away from the quixotic and futile crusades of his doctrinaire predecessors …”

      Now think of the Great Commission, and all it implies:

      “ And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

      How about this, Dismas: if you admit to this unintended slip, I’ll not rewrite the Great Commission in the spirit of your quote. Oui?

      • September 16, 2013 12:04 am

        It wasn’t “unintended”; it was INTENDED, because, I’ll inform you, you and I don’t read “the Great Commission” in the same way. I believe that the “Holy Spirit” has “guided” the Church to “discover” many things that Christ never taught. I don’t quibble with that, because, like Newman, I believe that the Church’s “Truths” are the “Truths” of a certain dialectic which works historically, in a time-space continuum, always proceeding toward the “Truth,” but NEVER owning it, entirely (because it belongs to God, not to man, and not even, wholly, to the Church.
        Many years ago a great Indian Jesuit, Anthony de Mellow, pored over the Scriptural passage, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” After a linguistic analysis of that passage, involving study of the ancient dead languages that Christ knew and spoke–which do not use the preposition “through” in the same way that modern languages do (“Is ‘through’ a legal term, implying power-of-attorney? Or is Christ speaking of the biological process of eating the Eucharist and becoming physically engrafted with Him?” de Mellow asked himself), this Jesuit mystic, in consultation with scholars of Aramaic, decided that what Christ meant to say was “No one comes to the Father, except by BEING me.” To anyone of a mystical bent–and not of your Fundamentalist and doctrinaire one–this resonates much more strongly. Of course, de Mellow’s books were put on the Index, as a result of his having said things like this. That’s the way your favourite pope-inquisitors worked, but Francis will not work that way, I’m sure now, and he will continue, therefore, to disappoint you and those of your ilk.
        No, MarkVA, it was no “un-intended slip,” and you and I don’t “teach” in the same way, and I don’t believe Christ meant his preceptors to “teach” in the clumsy, rigid and doctrinaire way you’d have “missionaries” use. I’ll remind you that John Paul II canonized Mother Teresa, who, when accused by Christopher Hitchens of coercing the dying into “accepting Christ,” replied that, indeed, she did no such thing, because she believed that if, in dying, a Hindu became a better Hindu, or a Muslim a better Muslim, he or she would inevitably “grow closer to Christ.” And when the great monk Bede Griffiths, who had lived all of his life among the “pagan” Hindus, building them hospitals and schools, was asked, in his old age, how many Indians he thought he had “converted,” he replied that, to his knowledge, he hadn’t “converted” anybody in forty years of “witnessing to Christ’s presence among the poorest of the poor.” THAT is the kind of “teaching” I believe is commanded by the “Great Commission.”

        • Mark VA permalink
          September 16, 2013 8:06 pm

          I don’t know, Dismas, when you write that the pope is doing only what’s “doable”, the implication seems to be that the pope is relaying solely on his own human resources.

          Without the Holy Spirit, I find that our mental and spiritual horizons constrict to a very modest size – no elan, no flair, no daring, no imagination, no Mozart, no Shakespeare. Just a grey existence, centered what’s “doable”.

          Banish that word, Dismas.

        • trellis smith permalink
          September 17, 2013 3:39 pm

          What Dismasdolben describes as doable in politics is merely the definition of politics-”the art of the possible”. What is doable implies what is actionable and changeable but as Disraeli opinionated “in a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines.”

          Much of the problem with the bishops political agenda is that it is not grounded in the traditions, jurisprudence and common law of the nation but in the abstractions of idealistic (romanist interpretations of natural) law.
          In seeking too great a scope of the free exercise clause while diminishing the establishment clause beyond recognition they are engaged in the undermining the very amendment that protects their sphere of action.

          One could hardly disagree that it is entirely good and necessary to cultivate the life of the Holy Spirit but it would be wrong to suggest that what you have described can not be defined as doable or that the Spirit exists somewhere else than in the material and actionable world. There is much elan in an onion and Mozart and Shakespeare wrote to make money.
          The seed of the Spirit is always planted in the soil of the flesh.

        • dismasdolben permalink
          September 18, 2013 4:35 am

          What Trellis Smith has written is profoundly “conservative” in the best sense of the word, and what MarkVA is talking about is “romantic reaction,” which is actually radical, frequently violently revolutionary, and, in the political sphere, often plays directly into movements that are tinged with fascism. In the religious sphere, such impulses are characterized by rationalist rigor to the point of being fanatical and cruel; but, of course, their exponents represent themselves as having the utmost integrity, as they give vent to their cruel dogmatism and legalism. Of course, in the case of true Christianity (as opposed to Koranic Fundamentalism [...]), they are betraying the Spirit of the same “laws”‘ they think they are defending..

          [edited to remove comment perceived as offensive by me. DCU]

        • dismasdolben permalink
          September 18, 2013 12:26 pm

          I find it absolutely fascinating–living myself now in a Muslim country and finding myself much more sympathetic to moderate Islam than I thought I’d be–that David Cruz-Uribe finds it acceptable to castigate Muslim fundamentalism but unacceptable to attack the fundamentalism of the Jewish exceptionalism that is destroying the Palestinian people. What an example of selective “political correctness” in a so-called “Catholic” website!

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
          September 18, 2013 1:56 pm

          With regards to the edited comment: I found a difference between condemning a specific facet of Islam (“fundamentalism”) and a pejorative comment about all of Judaism without distinction. My call.

        • trellis smith permalink
          September 20, 2013 6:28 pm

          @Dimsasdolben. I was thinking more generally but quite precisely of a descent to radicalism when writing my comment.

  12. Joseph Komadina permalink
    September 16, 2013 8:47 am

    Fascinating responses. I’d think what the bishop says is just a reflection of the bishop. Why make it into an issue of the pope?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      September 16, 2013 9:01 am

      Well, I think Bishop Tobin has an honest difference with the approach taken by the Pope: he is “disappointed” that the Pope has not expressed his pro-life beliefs in a certain way. That is why he is involving the Pope.

  13. Ronald King permalink
    September 16, 2013 10:48 am

    If we do not have interpersonal openness and honesty with respect it is then evident that we do not have the same with ourselves. Consequently we “love” God and others as we “love” ourselves with a fear of being vulnerable and open to the darkness inherent in being human and how only love can penetrate that darkness to begin its healing. Pope Francis gives us the opportunity to reveal our deepest most shameful secrets and this is the influence of the Holy Spirit who does shine the light into the darkness of our hearts. If only we could be aware that this is happening and accept it….

  14. September 17, 2013 9:08 am

    Pope Francis already told the Italian bishops that its their business, not his, to talk with poiticians, to be active in the political field.
    Compared to the latter two popes, he apparently defines his role much stricter. He sees himself as the one presiding in love, keeping the Church together and strenghthening the faith of his brothers and sisters in Christ.
    That’s about it (and completely sufficient from my point of view).

    Real collegiality would emerge if the (old) right of remonstrance for bishops (once officially established by Pope Alexander III.) – ius remonstrandi – were alive and well today.

    But I guess it’s no coincidence that the Canon Law does no longer mention it.

    I wonder what would happen if a Diocesan bishop would refer to it …

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      September 17, 2013 11:30 am

      This is an interesting issue. Ius remonstrandi is more a matter of the enforcement of canon law than of collegial criticism, but the ideas are related. A quick Google search turned up a lot of references to it (alas, mostly in German) but from what I could gleam, canonists are still debating if this principle is still in effect since it was not abrograted by the 1917 or 1983 codes of canon law–it was simply not mentioned in either.

      I would say also that use of this principle would be an escalation of a disagreement. To build on an example from the Wikipedia article on ius remonstrandi, it would be one thing for a bishop to criticize the Pope for closing off discussion of women’s ordination; it would be quite another to invoke this principle to allow discussion of women’s ordination in his diocese in contravention of what the Pope had said.

  15. Mark VA permalink
    September 17, 2013 9:34 pm

    Trellis Smith:

    Do you really believe what you wrote about Mozart and Shakespeare? Or are you projecting something on them while in a cloudy frame of mind? How’s that for a rhetorical question? You strike me as someone who should know better.

    Has our global culture become so mediocre that it can no longer imagine the exhilaration true genius can give, and more importantly, has it lost its sight of what the Holy Spirit represents?

  16. trellis smith permalink
    September 18, 2013 9:16 am

    How does the observation of the quotidian concerns and preoccupations of genius diminish their work? How is the ability to see the genius of an onion or feel the exhilaration offered in a cup of coffee not an addition to the work of God? My purpose is merely to show all this is grounded in creation and materiality and exists in a ‘doable” and actionable realm and see no reason to suggest that the Spirit is not enamored by that which it animates.
    i fear you equate mediocrity with the ability of paying attention.

  17. Mark VA permalink
    September 18, 2013 9:57 pm

    Trellis Smith:

    You wrote:

    “There is much elan in an onion and Mozart and Shakespeare wrote to make money.”

    I once heard an “expert” on the radio imply that Mozart wrote “Ave, Verum Corpus” solely because he wanted to supplement his income by playing the organ on Sunday in a nearby church. Judging from his tone of voice, he was quite pleased with himself.

    In this vein, could we speculate that Shakespeare’s main motivation for writing the “Merchant of Venice” may have been the large beer tab he accumulated at his favorite tavern?

    Or that Euler did sublime math because Catherine the Great was so generous financially?

    No organist job, no beer tab, no Catherine’s money, no genius work?

    Here is Mozart’s “organist audition” piece, KV 618:

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      September 19, 2013 5:42 am

      I think we can all agree that no one acts from “pure” motives. The base and the lofty are inextricably mixed in us. That seems to be the inevitable price of original sin.

      • Mark VA permalink
        September 19, 2013 8:40 pm

        I would say that when it comes to interpersonal relationships, then yes, it’s a mixture of base and lofty.

        But when it comes to an act of creation at genius level, the rest of us catch a glimpse of the eternal. We would be wise not to comment on its level of “baseness” too much. We are not in the same league.

        Here is how Mark Kac put it:

        “There are two kinds of geniuses: the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘magicians.’ An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they’ve done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians… Feyman is a magician of the highest caliber.”

        http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Mark_Kac

        Mozart, Shakespeare, Euler, were all magician level geniuses.

        • trellis smith permalink
          September 20, 2013 6:18 pm

          In reply to Mark VA. I commented before seeing yours.
          The discussion of genial origins dates from the Renaissance along the Platonic/Aristotelian, supernatural/natural divide. We inhabit opposite each other on that divide and are unlikely to accept each other’s premises and probably speak at cross purposes. I will only say the divine spark and other intimations of the immortal soul seem platonic expressions and while they serve as descriptive metaphors they are ultimately non clarifying and unreal as I find little in the platonic that which is scriptural. The same with David’s lofty and base dichotomy of fallen nature. I simply don’t hold the material world in such low esteem, it’s what was made after all. I think this has implications as to how the Holy Spirit is operative in the very foundations of the world and why the kingdom of god is within us.

          Christianity is concerned with the body not an immortal soul and for all its present glory be it simple or genial the body will die and necessarily so. No dead body no resurrection.

      • trellis smith permalink
        September 20, 2013 3:06 am

        Mark VA : The letters of Michelangelo exhorting his relatives on money matters while painting the Sistine chapel certainly suggests the” baser ” motivations of his work.
        And yes no Julius no Cappella Sistina

        As for the common onion I offer a quotation from the Times obituary of Robert Capon:

        –The onion passage became a favorite of readers. Before explicating a lamb recipe, Mr. Capon instructs readers to set the lamb shank aside and first spend some time with an onion — an onion they will cut into pieces for sautéing. “You will note, to begin with, that the onion is a thing, a being, just as you are,” he writes. “Savor that for a moment.”
        Noting that “an onion is not a sphere in repose” but “a linear thing, a bloom of vectors thrusting upward from base to tip,” he invites his readers to recognize their little onion “as the paradigm of life that it is — as one member of the vast living, gravity-defying troop that, across the face of the earth, moves light- and air-ward as long as the world lasts.”

        Fr Capon goes on for several pages winding up on the roof tops of the Russian cathedrals but all grounded in the material reality of the onion in the Supper of the Lamb where “The road to Heaven does not run from the world, but through it.”

        • Mark VA permalink
          September 20, 2013 4:07 pm

          So Michelangelo was motivated by $$$? Say it ain’t so, Trellis.

        • trellis smith permalink
          September 21, 2013 12:41 pm

          “Mater artium necessitas” but rather than detour on the multiple motivations of genius and its works see my previous post above dated September 20, 2013 6:18 pm on the perceptions of its origins.

          As an aside, one of my favorite quotes on genius is Schopenhauer’s which you will like as it seemingly buttresses your perception – “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”
          As I was learning classical piano i consistently proved unable to hit all the correct notes. To this inability i now attribute my present success in musical improvisation.

  18. dismasdolben permalink
    September 19, 2013 12:49 pm

    I think that Bishop Tobin has now been fully and completely answered:

    http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview

    • Jordan permalink
      September 19, 2013 2:06 pm

      re: dismasdolben [September 19, 2013 12:49 pm]. Betcha that Bishop Tobin and the other Lords Spiritual of the Republican Party don’t give a red cent about what Pope Francis has said. Despite Pope Francis’s completely-right-on statement about the exceedingly narrow focus on abortion, same-sex-marriage, and other hot buttons, Bp. Tobin and his fellow travelers aren’t going to get off the conservative political high. It’s like lab rats to cocaine.

      Forget about the unborn babies. It’s all about the benjamins.

      • dismasdolben permalink
        September 20, 2013 1:14 am

        Perhaps, Jordan, but the Bishop Tobins of the American Catholic Church will now, for a while, be frustrated in their essentially careerist paths.

        There’s no reason why a Pope should advance the ecclesiastical careers of those whose vision of the Church are not remotely similar to his. Under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, ciphers were appointed–especially in the AMERICAN Catholic hierarchy. This Jesuit pope will probably pick bishops and cardinals with more intellectual and moral integrity.

        During the pontificate of John Paul II, I knew a young priest-in-training who told me that most of the young men in his seminary had, as their ultimate ambition, to “make bishop,” and he told me that they all agreed that the key to fulfilling this ambition was not to deviate by an iota from the Vatican line–particularly as regards the issues Pope Francis is talking about. He also told me that about half the seminarians he was in classes with were “closeted gays.” He had too much integrity, himself, to stay.

  19. trellis smith permalink
    September 20, 2013 6:48 pm

    This is finally something very hopeful as it lays out the true Christian priorities and gotten the donkey out in front of the cart. The mercy, unconditional love and grace of God is what the church proclaims as this is the gospel, this is the good news and you cannot even as some bishops have done, pull a bait and switch. Mercy is not a caveat of justice but its explication in the topsy turvy reversals of the gospel. How rightly the Pope understands that to do otherwise ”undermines the moral edifice of the church”. This should be the essence of the new evangelism that confronts all the religions with faith.

  20. Ronald King permalink
    September 21, 2013 9:14 am

    I liked these quotes among many from Pope Francis, “The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people…The Bishops…must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths…We must not focus on occupying spaces where power is exercised…Uncertainty is in every true discernment…”
    Love must be expressed in the darkness of uncertainty where God most certainly waits to be discovered.

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