Thursday, October 1, 2015

José María Castillo: "A percentage of the Curia is acting secretly against Francis"

By Jesús Bastante (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
September 17, 2015

José María Castillo, a theologian, friend and collaborator of RD, always comes to Madrid at this time to participate in the Juan XXIII Congress of Theology. Today he comes to present La religión de Jesús (Desclée), and we will take advantage of this to talk about the misuse of religion which the current pope is facing. What is striking about Francis is that he is changing the categorical "no" to the sympathetic "come." But as José María Castillo says, "not everything the Pope says is dogma of faith." His power is limited by the Gospel. And that is precisely what he wants to return to -- to the freedom and joy of Jesus.

Are you excited about this new congress?

Of course. I was one of the founders, of those who proposed these congresses that have been held for thirty-five years nonstop. A theology congress that has lasted all those years is, I would say, a unique case, I don't know. It isn't frequent. This knowledge environment is unique and has remained true to the orientation it has had from the outset.

This year it has a very current theme. It's about religion and violence. Lately we've been seeing how, misusing the name of God or Allah, there are people who are killing tens of thousands of people, many of whom are coming as refugees to the doors of Europe. This brings with it a different challenge that I don't know how we're facing it.

It's a viewpoint that's important to highlight -- there are many people who aren't aware that the root of the whole huge problem we're having with refugees and people who have to live under extreme circumstances -- it's costing the lives of many of them -- losing their nationality, all rights, all legality and dignity...-- is religion. The misuse of religion. But it's that religion, as it's thought out and practiced in many cases, lends itself precisely to this type of violence.

There has been violence in religions of all times and institutions...

One way or another, since each one of them was born. Religion was born as a way of salvation, hope, a future, of understanding among people and between people and God...But at the same time, it was born as an institution of violence and confrontation that has been the source of untold conflicts that should never be repeated.

Before continuing with these issues, we will introduce your new book, which is introduced with the beautiful image on its cover. La religión de Jesús is your commentary on the daily Gospel of the C cycle, the one that begins in Advent of this year, published as usual by Desclée but with many new features. It's a bigger book, with text that is more accessible to the elderly and with more extensive comments ...

Yes. Responding precisely to the demand of many people who had difficulty handling the pocket book that had been published for seven years -- I've now been doing the commentaries for eight years -- two cycles and, next year, will be three...-- we've been putting it out. Many people were asking for a larger, more easily readable model, and that is what we have tried to do this year, the publisher making a remarkable sacrifice.

Our friend Manuel Guerrero, a magnificent editor.

Magnificent, yes.

In La religión de Jesús there are texts to read every day. To reflect and comment upon. What appears just before the introduction is extremely striking for what is happening right now -- you dedicate the book to Pope Francis, with "gratitude and admiration for the good you are doing to the Church and the world through your fidelity to the Gospel." Why did you decide to dedicate the book to the Pope?

Because I think it's a reality we agree on, not just Catholics but the vast majority of citizens worldwide, that this man, because of a number of specific circumstances, is a person who is representing a determining innovative style that isn't going to turn back.

I see you're very convinced that there will be no going back in the history of the papacy ...

Yes, because I think that what is distinctive about this pope, in my view, is precisely his persistent will, his insistence on the issue of being faithful to the Gospel. Not just preaching it but, first, living it. As for the most recent popes, with this he is innovating surprisingly, managing to interest some, excite others, and making quite a few angry too.

We haven't met here to tell endless stories, but it's true that this man has embarked on a path that at first sight isn't doctrinal (though in the background, there is very deep thought), and this is new: he touches their hearts at first sight and everyone touches him. He's a man who is close to the people, simple, humble and with a remarkable sensitivity to all human suffering. I would say he is a man distinguished by a striking humaneness.

It reminds me of the passage about the Samaritan woman, in which Jesus is more concerned about accompanying her, welcoming her, being at her side ... (like when he is understanding to the adulteress), than condemning her. We come from a Church institution in which the dogma has been prohibition. With this Pope, it seems that what is on the agenda is caring -- we are changing the "no" to "come".

Indeed. So I think it's important to emphasize that this is not merely a matter of spirituality, although neither is it merely ethical. There is a far more profound theological vision than some can imagine and, synthesizing it in a few words, I think it comes down to two ways of understanding our relationship with God -- a relationship of submission, or understanding it as a relationship of sensitivity to all that is human suffering.

Subjugation and submission are what religions have always preached, but obviously sensitivity to human suffering is what Jesus taught. Jesus put sensitivity to human pain ahead of compliance with the law or the Torah of Judaism then (and now).

There are two ways to understand God, religion, spirituality, ethics and life, evident in the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. That father had two sons. One understood that the good relationship with the father was obeying him and doing what he said every day. But what the parable suggests is that the link be sensitivity -- sensitivity between father and son. Clearly, the one who looks bad at the end of the parable isn't the disgraced one, but the obedient one. Because he ends up being the one who complains that after working from dawn to dusk, he hasn't been given even a young goat to go snack on with friends.

But the father's emotion imagining the return of the son...

Of course, it's this: When the prodigal one comes with his speech prepared to ask for mercy, the father doesn't even let him speak. He doesn't ask why he got into that. Nothing at all. All he does is hug him, cover him with kisses, dress him again in luxury and organize a great feast for him, even with live music, because there weren't any CDs then.

There is mostly admiration for the Pope, but also a minority that is more like the older brother who blames the father who cares more about those outside, the one who is returning, not about the one who never betrayed him and has always complied with the rules. Is there much opposition to the Pope from within?

More than many people imagine. It's not that I'm a connoisseur of the intimacies of the Vatican, but you don't have to be deaf or blind either in this life -- it's known that there is a percentage that exceeds 50% of people of the Curia that one way or another, for one reason or another, without saying so openly, act covertly against him. A book was published recently that explains it. They have doubts about the Pope.

The group of eleven cardinals, among them Rouco...

Sure, that they question certain measures he's taken is an open secret. We know the names of people, attempts to manipulate ... I repeat: behind it are two ways of understanding God. Those who relate to a God of power through submission, tell themselves that, as they represent God in this world, they too can and should require submission.

...although, following their own thesis, they should submit to the supreme leader of the Catholic Church. Those who believe in obedience believe in the top that they have to obey ...

They grab onto an easy argument -- I'm the one who understands loyalty to God, that is, what I say is what matters, because, ultimately, no one has seen God, as the Gospel of John says . The one who revealed God, ultimately, was Jesus. Therefore, it's not so much about reproducing a representation of God, but following the way that Jesus developed. For this reason, in this book, which has many limitations, the stress is on what I'm saying: We find God by doing what Jesus did. Jesus was disobedient to religion; he came into conflict with it so seriously that the moment came when religion said, "this guy's incompatible with us." And therefore he was killed.

Right. You say there's a strong percentage of the Curia against him, yet at the same time you're convinced that Francis' reforms can't be reversed. Will he be able to overcome these difficulties and impose his way of understanding the Church and the Gospel in today's world?

Right now the Pope has the weaknesses and limitations of any human being. He's going to grow old, he'll get sick and, when his time comes, he'll die as we all perish. This is unquestionable. But the Pope has a special ability: to be attuned to world public opinion. That has created a connection that, for the one who comes after him, will be hard to make disappear if he wants to strike out on a different path.

They also said that in John XXIII's time and, although it's obvious that many things changed, in the end the Church later went back to looking somewhat like the one before the Council.

It's legitimate to have this fear, because there is no doubt that there have been ups and downs and setbacks in the history of the papacy. But the truth is that, it seems to me, it should be clear that a theology of religious power has not yet been done deep down in the Church. A theology of power remains to be done. We speak of authority, power, terms from Roman law and the High Middle Ages.

I think at this moment it's very important to note that the Pope doesn't have the power to do whatever he likes. Moreover, we talk about papal infallibility as the dogmatic definition of Vatican Council I was formulated -- his power is the same that the Church has; it's not his imposed on the Church. Refining this to the end is what's complicated.

Taking into account, too, the historical circumstances in which that infallibility was raised: there were conflicts with the Italian State (loss of territories, etc) ...

For example, when Pius XII defined the Assumption, which is the last dogmatic definition by the Church...

...truthfully there are very few irrevocable dogmas.

There are people who think that everything the Catechism says is a dogma of faith, but no. We have to instruct ourselves a bit; we speak without knowing what we're talking about. So I want to emphasize an issue that seems to me primordial. The government of the Church is linked to two things that can not be touched -- first and foremost to the Gospel, therefore the Church has no authority to act against it.

But there have been centuries-old rules in force in the Church for a very long time that have gone against an honest interpretation of the Gospel...

Obviously: its social interpretation. Therefore, the Church has no power to act against the Gospel. Not even for good. Interpretations that are a de facto nullification of things that were very clear in the Gospel, can not be made. Not even a bishop or the Pope can make them.

Second, the government of the Church is linked to the dogmas of faith and the Pope can not act against them. So his power has conditions, but all that is not Gospel or dogma of faith clearly can be modified by the Pope. We will get down to specific examples.

Divorced and remarried people: What does it say in the Gospel?

There's nothing about that, because what's in chapter 19 of Matthew about "what God has joined together, let no man put asunder," Jesus says it to answer the problem between the rabbinical schools of that time, that were arguing about the text of Deuteronomy 24, verse one, where the unilateral right of a man to divorce his wife is raised. Jesus corrects this -- that for whatever reason, loosely, a man could divorce a woman. He's responding to that specifically! Because literature of that time said things of this caliber: if someone comes home and sees that the woman has burned the meal, he can divorce her. These were the sayings of the schools of that time and Jesus answers "no" to that. He argues for ending men's unilateral privileges, for men and women to have the same ones. Making the text say more than that is manipulating it.

Because of the petition to the Pope to address the issue of divorced and remarried people, you wrote an article talking about how the discipline of the Church has turned with respect to this rule -- the first Christian communities didn't have it, then the Pope and now an exhortation or a synod could change a situation that has been in place six or seven centuries, almost like a dogma of faith when manipulating the words of Jesus himself. How will the Pope be able to do that?

It's not hard. First, by studying the matter thoroughly and making clear the limits that this gospel text has. Respecting the different opinions of experts; if there were to be discussions between them, it's that the issue isn't so clear. But, in any case, he has the power to decide. Since it wouldn't be something binding on all of us, he could decide the answer. "This isn't against the faith or against the Gospel, so I can choose to modify it."

There is no dogma of faith about the family in the Church. There are doctrines that have been taught since the Council of Florence, of Trent ... but only doctrines. It turns out that everything in the Council of Trent, according to the analysis of the minutes of its seventh session, on the sacraments, are doctrines but not dogmas of faith. Because Trent had a prior principle, a defining point -- to rule only on issues that weren't being debated among Catholics. The Council met to refute Luther, not for internal debates.

I'm insisting that the limits are the Gospel and the dogma of faith; in everything other than that, the Pope must respond to the needs of the people. Which now are having more priests, that there be equality between men and women, solving the problem of divorced people, of homosexuals ... People in society and in the Church need all that. I think the pope will rule on all these issues when he sees that things are ripe. As pope, he can do it and it's his duty if he sees that the time has come.

What is clear is that the first phase of the synod, the extraordinary assembly, led to talking about all the issues freely. These issues were put on the table as never happened before in the history of the Church and the pope promoted that by asking participants to speak with absolute freedom. The faithful were even able to know the votes each point of the synod got. It's amazing. In addition to the synod that will begin soon, there's another important current event: the Year of Mercy that starts on December 8th. What do you expect from the Synod and the Year of Mercy?

At the Synod there's going to be a scattering of views like an open spectrum from the extreme right to the extreme left, and what I hope is that they dialogue. The pope will listen and everything will be recorded. The pope will then decide; it won't be in October.

Later, in the post-synodal exhortation, might be where there's a response ...

There will be pressure. In these matters, particularly on marriage, there are not only religious and faith issues at stake, but also political ones because people on the political right have opinions on these issues that don't coincide with the left, but are on the opposite end. There's interference between religion, religious power and political power affecting society.

And economic power. This week the pope, ahead of the synod, has opened a door that we don't know what it will yield -- he's changed twenty-one articles of the Code of Canon Law for the purpose of expediting annulments and making them free, which implies touching the other great power -- the economic one that's unfortunately so important.

A journalist from a national newspaper explained very well how he's in favor of the pope precisely because he's done away with this economic matter specifically in the case of marriages. The journalist said he knew exactly what he had to put in an envelope and secretly give the judge who would make the decision.

For the Year of Mercy, the pope has settled a series of questions, among them the possibility that all priests absolve from the "sin" of abortion whoever is repentant and wants to confess. Many people of the pure Church have jumped on him. Why?

Simply because that is one of the important principles for the right to salve its conscience: the fight in defense of life. That defense falls silent, however, when every year millions of children die in poor countries whom right-wing people refuse to help.

The photo of the child needed to appear for those who said they wouldn't welcome a single refugee ...

... And Merkel accepting them. Although people on the right, as is well known in Hungary and Poland, remain opposed in many places. They have to hide that some way -- so they exaggerate on the issue of abortion. But it's that the defense of life doesn't end with delivery. Life doesn't end with the birth of the child. Let's be fair: the life of a human being lasts their whole life and you have to ask yourself what's the median age in the countries of Europe and North America and what is it in the south. Just ask a poor person from Africa. It's that we can't fix that, right? We would have to fix it together, among other things by reorganizing and rethinking the whole power of financial capital, international economic agreements, arms manufacturing, the permissibility of  war, the reorganization of so many things they don't want to sink their teeth into.

Here in Spain you're one of Pope Francis' defenders and we know that he knows.

I don't like to talk about those things, but yes.

We recommend to readers that they buy and read La religión de Jesús by José María Castillo. The Pope's been saying practically every day that we should have a Gospel in our pocket and read it. These texts help us to know who Jesus was and why those of us who want to live according to the Gospel are called Christians. Many thanks for everything, José María. And to Desclée for so magnificently editing La religión de Jesús. Comentario al Evangelio diario del Ciclo C.

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