Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Papal Heroism

The Holy Father's condemnation of the Mafia has had considerable coverage around the world. As you all know Pope Francis said that those in the Mafia were not in communion with God, but excommunicated. Strong words rightly expressed at demonic organisations that have had too much power and influence in Italy and beyond for far too long. There are some questions which are being asked.

The first: can the Pope excommunicate an organisation? Yes and no. An organisation is not a person so it cannot be excommunicated, although it can be proscribed, condemned and shown to be operating in opposition to God and his teachings. However members of an organisation can be excommunicated for being members of that organisation simply by joining it. The best example of this is that of the Freemasons - once a Catholic joined the Freemasons they incurred an automatic excommunication.

The second: are the members of the Mafia now formally excommunicated? Well, that's a question for the canon lawyers, but it seems to me that they are not formally excommunicated because the Holy Father has not (yet) issued a formal decree proscribing the Mafia and placing an automatic excommunication on those who join it or cooperate with it. The Holy Father was given an exhortation and in it he was condemning the Ndrangheta and telling its members that they have broken communion with God and the Church through their activities.

Concerns have now been expressed for the safety of the Holy Father: will the Mafia retaliate? There is a possibility that they will, but I do not think they will attack the person of the Pope, such an action would probably lead to serious tensions with the ordinary people who tolerate or turn a blind eye to their activities but whose silence protects the mafiosi. To kill a popular Pope like Francis could have nightmare consequences for the killers. 

That said, we cannot rule out some sort of retaliation: denunciations and condemnations by previous Pontiffs were greeted with revenge attacks including a bomb in St John Lateran's. Pressure might also be applied to local bishops and priests. The Mafia cherish honour and for the Pope to publicly offend that honour will have touched a raw nerve. The Mafia also like to use the local church as a means of maintaining respectability within a community - the Pope has undermined that, and perhaps he has even sent a message to priests and bishops who out of fear facilitate the mafiosi - it has to stop. The mafiosi are very careful and calculating, so they will weigh up very cautiously how they will respond.

Pope Francis has shown great courage in saying what he said, many bishops and priests would have avoided such a naked denunciation on the grounds of prudence, but Francis knows that as universal pastor he has to speak out against this evil and dainty words don't quite hit the target. He is not the first to do so. St John Paul II was even more forthright in his condemnation of the Mafia. During his visit to Sicily following the murder, now martyrdom, of the Palermo priest Blessed Pino Puglisi, St John Paul went out with all guns blazing. See the video below for part of his condemnation. Notice Archbishop Marini, the Papal MC, he looks like he's having a stroke with anxiety as the Pope rails against the Mafia. Papal officials were terrified during and following St John Paul's condemnation, they were convinced they would be slaughtered before they left Sicily.

In a similar vein Pope Benedict launched a stinging attack on South American drug dealers during his visit to Brazil in 2007. People were stunned that quiet, mild Benedict should attack such powerful and vindictive forces in their own backyard. Again as the defender of the flock Benedict had to speak up.

These are three examples of Papal heroism in the face of great evil at work in the world. The shepherds defending the flock of Christ from the wolves. As the flock we must pray for these heroic shepherds, so we must keep Pope Francis in our prayers that the Lord may protect him, and then watch over all those who live under the shadow of the Mafia and similar evil organisations. I would urge you to invoke our new martyr, Blessed Pino Puglisi, a faithful priest who was martyred by the Mafia. They tried to silence him, to stop his work, but instead their killing him led him to a crown of glory and have given the Church a powerful intercessor. So let us commend the Holy Father into Blessed Pino's care. See my pieces on Blessed Pino here and here.

Blessed Pino, protect our Holy Father,
pray for the flock of Christ

1 comment:

  1. Father b this is a great article and I had to watch saint jp twice to seehis anger his words I see where he even lets the cross lean on his shoulder and speaking with voice and two hands, I am amazed well I am not really there was so little media coverage of this at the time.i deeply regret I have not one word of Italian in me to know what he is saying but I am sure if gad a few words that might nof make the translation. If you could get a chance and if you speak the language can you share some of his words.yes I see what you mean by the mc I am sure his tummy was in knots