Pope urges resistance to the god of “but we’ve always done it this way”
“Christians who obstinately maintain ‘it’s always been done this way,’ this is the path, this is the street — they sin: the sin of divination. It’s as if they went about by guessing: ‘What has been said and what doesn’t change is what’s important; what I hear — from myself and my closed heart — more than the Word of the Lord.’ Obstinacy is also the sin of idolatry: the Christian who is obstinate sins! The sin of idolatry. ‘And what is the way, Father?’ Open the heart to the Holy Spirit, discern what is the will of God.”
Around the internate there have some negative responses to these words, particularly by those who feel like Catholic traditions are under attack, but I can’t help wondering if some aren’t missing the pope’s point which is one I made in my book, Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life:
We cling to ideas long past the point of what is healthy or reasonable, and we set them before us, daring anyone to knock them down. I once heard a new pastor complain about a dreaded first meeting with his pastoral team and liturgy committee. “In every parish,” he said with a sigh, “the first thing they want a priest to do is bow down to the god of ‘but we’ve always done it this way.’”
When we are too fast to say no — especially if we are entrenched in a bunker-mentality that said, “But this is the way we have always done it …,” we cannot help but numb ourselves to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And that’s all His Holiness is saying. “But this is the way we have always done it …” shuts the door to Joseph accepting a wife carrying a child not his own; “the way we’ve always done it” would prevent the church from taking careful looks at who it elevates to canonical sainthood; “the way we’ve always done it” prevents Pope Pius X from advocating for the reception of Holy Communion by children; “the way we’ve always done it” means no female doctors of the church.
Nothing grows in “no.” Especially not a church, or the life of faith.
Pope Francis’ words seem less a call for revolution than a frustrated cry of “ephphatha be opened”! He is prompting us to make sure we leave enough room in our lives, and in the life of the church, to give the Holy Spirit — who has a way of using the most confounding events and people to bring about God’s will — the room to move, and flow and put God’s purposes to action. As the great saint Philip Neri reminds us, “All of God’s purposes are to the good, and although we may not always understand this, we can trust in it.”
Elizabeth Scalia is Editor-in-Chief of Aleteia’s English edition
Support Aleteia takes a minute
If you’re reading this article, it’s precisely thanks to your generosity and to that of many other people like you that make possible the evangelization project of Aleteia. Here some numbers:
- 20 million of users around the world read Aleteia.org every month.
- Aleteia is published daily in eight languages: French, English, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Slovenian.
- Each month, our readers view more than 50 million pages.
- Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia’s social media pages.
- Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos.
- All of this work is carried out by 60 people working full-time and approximately 400 other collaborators (writers, journalists, translators, photographers…).
As you can imagine, behind these numbers there is a big effort. We need your support so we can keep offering this service of evangelization to everyone, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.
Support Aleteia from as little as $1 – and only takes a minute. Thank you!