La Nueva España (English translation by Rebel Girl)
March 31, 2014
Jesuit José Ignacio González Faus, one of the two or three great Spanish theologians, warns of the pressure under which Pope Francis is operating and advocates for the Church to dispose of its assets in favor of the poor. Yesterday, on Saturday, González Faus gave a lecture, "From Romero to Francis, and the poor of Christ," sponsored by the Comité Óscar Romero in Asturias. Monseñor Óscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated on March 24, 1980, after having tenaciously denounced the injustice against his people. And although earlier he had been a mitred one along classical lines, it was another assassination, Jesuit Rutilio Grande's (March 12, 1977), that accentuated his denunciations in the name of the Gospel.
González Faus, born in Valencia in 1933, entered the Society of Jesus in 1950. He capped off his theological studies with a PhD from the School of Theology in Innsbruck (Germany). He has been a professor at the Instituto de Teología Fundamental de San Cugat del Vallés (Barcelona), as well as at various Latin American universities. He was also in charge of the Centro de Estudios Cristianismo y Justicia in Barcelona. Among his books, La humanidad nueva. Ensayo de cristología (1974), Acceso a Jesús (1979), Clamor del reino (1982) and Proyecto de hermano. Visión creyente del hombre (1989) stand out. His latest published works are El rostro humano de Dios, Otro mundo es posible...desde Jesús, Herejías del catolicismo actual and El amor en tiempos de cólera...económica.
What is going from Romero to Francis?
What they both have in common is being in tune with today's world from a gospel perspective. Looking at the world from the eye of the Gospel which, for Romero, led to his assassination in El Salvador and, for Francis -- who has a broader magisterium -- has meant the opposite of a perspective taken only from religious power, which is what the official Church often has, as if it thought itself the voice of God and were more of a judge than a brother or sister. And during the time between the two, we've had what theologian Karl Rahner called an "ecclesial winter", that is, after Vatican II, out of fear or the foolishness of one side, came the reaction of the Curia who were supposed to have it more or less thought out. I've said sometimes that we've put the Council in the freezer and let's see if we'll take it out now and put it in a bain-marie so it'll come back. Perhaps Francis' great promise will be that we'll take the gospel perspective out of the freezer.
Did you just ask in a letter to the Pope for the Church to dispose of the objects of worship to give to the poor?
In that letter, I don't do anything more that quote some phrases of John Paul II when he said that in times of crisis it's almost obligatory for the Church to think how the objects of divine worship can serve the poor. The only thing I'm saying is, if that were done, God would be worshiped more than by having them tucked away wherever.
Some would call these proposals demagoguery because, who would you sell the Toledo monstrance to, for example?
I never talk about "selling", but "disposing of", which is a sufficiently vague word, and I even say in this letter that a group of economic experts should be named to study to see if anything can be done with this. Perhaps the example of the Toledo monstrance wasn't well put, but there are an infinite number of other things, like golden chalices and other objects. What I would have liked would have been to see this concern in the Church, and since I haven't seen it, I'm thinking that if Francis would stir up our bishops and remind them of what John Paul II said, the Church would set an example and worship God better than having these objects stored in a showcase.
Just as you recall John Paul II's phrase, you usually cite the tradition of the Church and the mistakes it's made, in your book La autoridad de la verdad. Momentos oscuros del magisterio eclesiástico ["The Authority of Truth: Dark Moments in the Magisterium of the Church"] for example.
That's also something I owe to Rahner, that is, that we not neglect Church tradition because, as well as having some very regrettable aspects, it also has enormous wealth. I've gotten into Church tradition and I think that its original source, the Gospel, is what should motivate the Church, and not current progressivism or things like that. It also scares me a bit that the generations that follow, because of not knowing Latin or being of a different era, think that the world began with them and that Church tradition is limited to the 19th century. But that's not tradition and I would like to advocate for a return to the best of early Christianity.
With tradition in hand, can one be critical of the present-day Church?
One should be, because it's obvious that the Church has often made mistakes. What happens is that maybe those errors can be put in context and we can say that at the time it wasn't such a big mistake. But what's terrible is when a debatable measure is accepted and then they want to change it into the word of God. Take the example of the Papal States. I don't know if between Charlemagne and Pope Adrian I it was good or bad to give political power to the Church. I see it darkly but in that era, everything was quite dark. What I don't understand is that ten centuries later, when Italy wanted to be unified, Pius IX said that the Papal States weren't his but God's, and that therefore he couldn't cede them. That made no sense. Maybe in the 9th century it was an exceptional measure, but in the 19th century it made no sense whatsoever and it had to be taken away by force, unfortunately.
Have you ever been censured by the Holy See for your criticism of the Church or your writings?
There's been some, but it's never come to blows. And partly too because my Jesuit superiors have been very good to me, even in the General Curia of the Society in Rome.
Also appealing to tradition, several cardinals have expressed their opposition to the solution proposed by Cardinal Kasper for divorced people who have remarried, that consists in giving them a second chance so they can have access to the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. Which side are you on?
When you put it like that, it's like asking whether someone is for Barcelona or for Madrid, but I share Kasper's view, and those who have expressed themselves against it are three or four cardinals, which isn't many either. It surprised me that Cardinal Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, opposed it because I read something of his recently on liberation theology in the book he published with Gustavo Gutierrez, which was one of the best and most lucid things that's ever been written. I've wondered if, had Müller been in Ratzinger's position in 1984, that less than fortunate document on liberation theology would have come out. As far as those cardinals appealing to tradition against Kasper's idea, that's very good, but in the Gospels, one already notes that Jesus' tradition itself had applications and exceptions. For example in the clause that Matthew adds, where he says that whoever divorces his wife commits adultery, except in the case of “porneia”. That's a word that can be translated as "prostitution" or "illicit union." But, as well as being hard to translate, it's almost certain that Jesus didn't offer that caveat, but that the author of the Gospel inserted it to apply the Master's words to his time.
What about the second chance that the Orthodox give?
Later, the Orthodox Church established what's called "the discipline of mercy." It's clear that marriage should aim to express the totality and faithfulness between people and that God's love doesn't turn back but, just as a priest might fail in his vocation, sometimes there might be a mistake, something might fail in a marriage. Then, when the error occurs, the Orthodox Church says a "discipline of mercy" is fitting. Appealing to tradition, the Council of Trent didn't want to condemn the Orthodox churches for following the "discipline of mercy" but it also said that the Catholic Church isn't doing wrong if it doesn't follow it. Not applying mercy might not have been bad at the time of Trent, but it might be doing wrong today.
You've said that Pope Francis is surrounded by "Pharisees and Herodians".
"Pharisees and Herodians" is an expression from the Gospel of Mark which says that something Jesus did was bothersome and that from then on, the Pharisees and Herodians agreed to put an end to him. I took that expression because the Pharisees and the Herodians couldn't stand each other in those days, but united around a common enemy. I don't know who the Pharisees and Herodians are today, whether they're the CIA, the KGB, the Mafia, the Roman Curia...I don't know, but it seems that there's something right now that's creating resistance to Francis. In fact, Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, a man who's such a part of the institution, just made some statements saying watch out, because the Pope is facing very strong resistance.
You referred earlier to liberation theology. At Müller's initiative, Francis received its creator, Gustavo Gutiérrez. Is something changing in that regard and does it have to be done, even though without naming it?
Gustavo Gutiérrez already said that. If you don't want to use the expression, don't use it, but you have to think about the problem of this world of hunger, destitution, the poor, the huge differences from God's perspective. We can call it what we want, but it's clear that that is contrary to the will of God. The best thing about Müller is not that he gained an audience for Gustavo Gutiérrez who, on the other hand, deserves it because he's been a faithful man who's never wanted to break with the Church and he's one of those men I would canonize in a heartbeat. What's best about Müller is that book I mentioned that they wrote together. In the fourth chapter there's such a deep understanding by Müller of what liberation theology is, that it would be appropriate for all those who think it's reheated Marxism and all those sloganeers from Wall Street to read it.
With Francis, the Jesuits are in clover. The Pope will be canonizing Fabro and Anchieta, he visited Father Arrupe's tomb, and he granted that famous interview to the Society's magazines. Is that good or bad?
I don't like being in clover. I understand that this Pope is a Jesuit and, for example, he might have great devotion to Father Arrupe. That's one level of his personal existence, but once he's pope, at a certain point he's no longer a Jesuit to everyone else, but he's Brother Francis, successor to Peter, and nothing more. As for the Jesuits, we have some of everything. Some will be happy with Francis but I know that there are also Jesuits who just don't understand Francis. I'm not sure who once said that the best thing about the Society today is that we're the most disparate order but we no longer fight among ourselves, because when I was young, we were fighting much of the time, but we've learned to coexist.