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Father C.J. McCloskey Reacts To Pope Francis

Thursday, March 14, 2013

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HH: To add more commentary on the selection of Francis to be the new Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, I am joined by Father C. John McCloskey. He’s a priest of the prelature of Opus Dei. He’s currently a research fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. Father McCloskey, welcome back, I really did not expect to be talking to you this soon again about the selection of the Pope. How surprised are you?

CJM: Quite surprised. I thought it would be at least another couple of days. But once Pope Francis came out, I understood why they picked him so quickly.

HH: Explain.

CJM: This man’s background is unique. First of all, as you know, the first Jesuit in history to be a pope. He has been a philosopher, he’s been a theologian, he’s taught high school, he’s taught chemistry. He’s beloved by his Jesuit brothers. He’s elected as the superior of all the Jesuits in Argentina. And very unusual for a Jesuit, normally, to be picked for a bishop, or much less a cardinal, and nonetheless, he was in Argentina when there have only been many other candidates who would have been easier to pick. And the list goes on and on. He picked the name of Francis clearly because of his love for St. Francis of Assisi, and that is because he is a man who truly loves the poor, and lives a personal poverty, and also works for them. At the same time, and this is of course of interest to all your viewers, he’s very much strong with the government on the whole question of marriage, the question of abortion, the question of life in general, without any fear, and has had to suffer quite a bit in terms of that way.

HH: So Father McCloskey, are you surprised that they picked a Jesuit, because it seems to me, that, I find it shocking. I had always assumed that that just couldn’t happen.

CJM: Well, I wasn’t as shocked, because I think the fact that all the pastoral experience he’s had, and also, they had heard him before. He at one point some years back was the person who ran what’s called the synod of cardinals meeting together, so they must have been, said this is a holy man, this is a wise man, and regardless of his particular religious order, which of course is a very important one in the history of the Church, this is the man, even at his age, because obviously he’s not a young man coming in, but he’s the perfect man in order to do what I think has been very important to go even further into globalization, because now, anyone who speaks Spanish throughout, here in the United States, or going down to Latin America, certainly will feel an even greater love and identity for the Vicar of Christ.

HH: Now in terms of the governance issue as you and I talked about a couple of times in the weeks leading up to the announcement today of Francis’ accession to the papacy, there have been a concern that the Curia is just sort of broken. He has never been a Curial bishop. He has not spent other than education years significant time in Rome. Does that alarm you? Or does that encourage you?

CJM: Neither. What it does is he’s a wise man. If you read his bio, which I’ve been doing every since the moment came, he’s a wise man, which means he will pick the right persons, the bishops or the cardinals as the case may be, who will do what is necessary in order to make the Curia more efficient to the mission of the Church at this particular time.

HH: Now on yesterday’s program, George Weigel, author of Evangelical Catholicism, made an argument that the next pope, at that time, they were in conclave and we didn’t know who it would be, ought to move with 100 days rapidity to change everyone at the Curia, and really put his stamp on this. That would surprise me from a 76 year old Pope. How about you, Father McCloskey?

CJM: It would surprise me, but given the history of some of the popes we’ve had the last good number of years, I was just preparing an article on this, you know, all of them have been in one way or another, their cause for canonization has been open. I mean, this is an extraordinary group of people. He will find the right people do what needs to be done. I’ve no doubt about that.

HH: My friend and I’m sure yours, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput…

CJM: Yeah.

HH: …said to Philly.com, he is a wonderful choice, a man from the new heartland of the global Church, a priest of extraordinary intellect and cultural strength, a man deeply engage in the issues of contemporary life, and able to speak to the modern heart, open to the new realities the Church faces, and rooted in deep love of Jesus Christ. Chaput said he first met the new Holy Father at Rome’s 1997 Synod For America. A gift from him, a portrait of Mary, the mother of Jesus, sits on Chaput’s desk. May God grant him courage and joy, and sustain him with his Divine presence. And may Catholics in Philadelphia lift him up, and around the world, lift him up with our prayers. What do you make of that…I found that very encouraging, because Chaput would not say something that was not deeply and sincerely felt.

CJM: That is, Archbishop Chaput is a very special man, and I agree with you completely. And I agree with him completely. He’s also a very good judge of character. Interesting, of course, Archbishop Chaput, as you know, is a Franciscan, a Capuchin, so he also is from, not from the normal diocesan way of becoming a bishop or a cardinal, so I think he probably understands this Pope better than most.

HH: Now let me tell you the one thing, I’m being very candid with you, 76, and I’m just, you know, I’m 20 years younger than him, and there are days when I’m tired, right? And so what about taking on these jobs at 76?

CJM: Well, I think they, in part, gave that to him because they thought he could function very well for a period of time. I’m sure they inquired about his health. And secondly, because they probably, they haven’t had many years of thinking who was going to be the next pope because of Pope Benedict’s abdication. So if he’s there for four or five years, may God bless him. And after all, look at Cardinal Ratzinger, now Bishop-Pope Benedict did with, very important things, which only with time will have their full effect in terms of the Church.

HH: Now I very quickly did an Amazon.com search, and the titles attributed to him are all in Spanish, so I just have no idea what they are about. There are no, for example, Ignatius Press titles. Our friend, Father Fessio, must be distressed. But is he an intellectual in the line of Benedict and John Paul II?

CJM: He has a deeper, who…it’s very hard to beat those two, the greatest theologian-philosophers probably ever. But this man, as I mentioned earlier, has done it all. I mean, he has four or five different degrees, but together with that, he puts a humble pastoral work with the poor, which is something that neither of those two really had much to do, not through their own fault, in their own preparation for the priesthood. So I think especially with the world the way it is right now, it really shows the preferential option for the poor that the Church does, but in a way that’s always consequent with the teachings of the Church.

HH: Now I’ve not traveled much, we have a minute left, Father McCloskey, in South America. I’ve only been to Brazil. And so I don’t really know the status of the Church there. But this must have like an earthquake, and a good sort of earthquake impact on the Roman Catholic Church south…

CJM: Oh, enormous. You think of Chavez, or you think of Peron, I mean, those countries, there’s a lot of confusion, and also as you know, and God bless Evangelicals, but the Catholics have lost a lot of people from the Church to Evangelical Christianity, and so there’s no question this is what was one of the largest by far, in fact, it’s almost half the Church, is in Latin America. So you can imagine they’re dancing in the streets with joy.

HH: Yeah, what a wonderful day for them and for the Church. Father C.J. McCloskey, thank you. I hope to check in with you again in a few days, and see what else we’ve learned about our new Pope, Francis.

End of interview.

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