Vatican Insider interviews Domenico Mogavero, Bishop of Mazara del Vallo (Sicily) and member of the Italian Episcopal Conference’s Immigration Commission
“Paul VI spoke of “the smoke of Satan” when he entered the Vatican. Taking a look at recent news, what we area dealing with is not Satan’s smoke but the need for structural reform,” says Mogavero, who for many years was right hand man of the Secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), Camillo Ruini.
Is there a mud-slinging machine currently at work in the Vatican?
“Slander and informing are two fatal weapons that are used in a cold and calculating way when there are no valid reasons for attacking one’s adversaries. And the Church is no exception to this unwritten law. Nothing new under the sun. For example, the accusation of “modernism” is periodically launched against members of the Bishops’ Conference who are open and welcome dialogue and is particularly nasty because the accused have no real way of defending themselves. It’s their word against that of their accusers. This makes for a very weak defence.”
The Vatileak scandal still rages on today, partly as a result of the legacy of unresolved issues left behind by John Paul II. Is he really a “popestar” as some have defined him?
“Karol Wojtyla was a great pastor, but there are some structural problems that still need to be resolved. For example, I would like it if there were opportunities for more direct and frank discussions with the Pope, given that, as bishops, we are all successors of the Apostles and so we care for all Churches alongside him. The Pope is an Italian bishop to all effects and purposes, although the way he exercises his ministry is atypical compared to that of other bishops. He is Pope because he is the Bishop of Rome, not the other way round. The appointment of the Pope as president is a choice which is based on a contingent fact and can be modified at any time. I personally believe that making the common laws which apply to other conferences, apply also to the Italian Episcopal Conference would not threaten the Pope’s role as Primate of the Catholic Church, but would rightly give Italian bishops a key role in the management of the body that represents their communion and care for all Churches. When this will happen I am not sure, but I hope it will not take too long before it does.”
What triggered the current crisis in the Holy See?
“The connecting fabric of ecclesiastical communities has weakened in a number of ecclesiastical bodies. Even the principle of authority which once constituted a qualifying element is constantly questioned today. I believe tough challenges and difficulties still lie ahead for us but I also see these as an equivalent to the period of burial of the Lord Jesus and that they are a prelude to a resurrection which will breath fresh air and new energy into the Church, once it is purified from the evil and scandals which taint its image and cloud its mission. The secret to efficient ecclesiastical action is all in the harmony between what the Church teaching offers and the expectations people have, bearing in mind the sacredness of the Bible and its irreducibility to purely human ways of thinking.”
Does the role of movements within the Church need to be rethought?
“I think that the chapter of Church history written by various movements in the second half of the twentieth century had up sides and down sides. This is purely a personal opinion, but a focus on certain elements has probably hindered a balanced vision and assessment of the phenomenon. Today, it is possible that a clearer ecclesial and ecclesiological framework is being drawn, which this experience can be channelled into, in a less emotive and instrumental manner. I am not concerned about the Church making mistakes; I would be far more concerned about the opposite occurring, because in this case the Church would not he truly human Of course I am not referring to mistakes linked to the truth of faith, if nothing else because these are not a human doing.”
Did the great Wojtyla style gatherings fail as a model?
“Mass demonstrations had a valid reason for taking place in the historical contexts in which they were encouraged and supported. Given that their impact on people’s life was not as conclusive as expected, the least we can do is not to attribute too much importance to them. At the same time, the right amount of emphasis needs to be given to the less manifest but more efficient action of Christian education, which guides people in communicating the strength of their convictions and transmitting values which help individuals grow, illustrating the value of social life and opening it up to a commitment towards the common good. One key aspect is relations between Holy See bodies and local Churches. Local Churches enjoy a subjectivity and autonomy that are only subordinate to Holy See regulations on certain occasions. It is important to bear in mind that infallibility is a prerogative that only the Pope and the ecumenical Council have and only as far as faith and morality are concerned.”