During his press conference on the plane returning to Rome from Canada, Pope Francis made a remark about so-called traditionalists that rankled some conservative Catholics and confused others. “A church that does not develop its thinking in an ecclesial way is a church that goes backward,” the pope said. “That is the problem of many today who claim to be traditionalists. They are not traditionalists, they are ‘backwardists.’ Tradition is the root of inspiration in order to go forward in the church.”
The operative word here, of course, is not “traditionalists” or “backwardist,” although the latter is expressive and accurate. The key word is “ecclesial.” And unlocking what the pope means can be found in the text of the talk Francis gave at vespers at the Cathedral Basilica of Notre Dame in Quebec. There he gave the kind of Christocentric ecclesiological vision that the Second Vatican Council made normative.
The Holy Father asked, “So let us ask ourselves a question: How are we doing when it comes to joy? Does our Church express the joy of the Gospel? Is there a faith in our communities that can attract by the joy it communicates?”
The pope acknowledged that one of the things that “threatens the joy of faith” in our time is secularization, a forgetfulness of God. “God seems to have disappeared from the horizon, and his word no longer seems a compass guiding our lives, our basic decisions, our human and social relationships,” the pope said. There is no denying the truth of his observation: Secularization has changed the cultural landscape within which the church pursues her mission. It is what to make of this fact, and how to respond to it, where the differences between the “backwardist” view and what Francis designates as the “discerning” view emerge.
To continue reading this article, click here.
Michael Sean Winters covers the nexus of religion and politics for NCR.
With thanks to National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Michael Sean Winters, where this article originally appeared.