Watching Raymond Arroyo’s show The World Over I heard Fr Gerald Murray and Robert Royal as they commented on the late “bergogliata” – I mean no disrespect to the Pope and I am not the first to use that expression referring to His Holiness off the cuff remarks. After some rather unusual papal comments on cohabitation and marriage we were left asking one more time the question: “What did Francis really mean?”
I am not going to criticize our Pope – not because I don’t feel like it – but because I respect the Papal Office. One can read the New Testament and see in St Peter something that I would call “a man completely unprepared for the grave responsibilities he was given” – if one forgets for a minute who was the one appointing him and giving him the extraordinary power of the keys. Putting that aside for a second we can say that Peter lacked the intellectual stature of Paul, whose letters he finds “difficult to understand.” (2 Peter 3:16) Peter’s sincerity, impulsiveness, and “little faith” (Matthew 8:26) are generously exposed throughout the New Testament in spite of Peter’s leading role in the early Christian community. Writing about Peter very early in the life of the Church, the Christian writer Origen says: “See the great foundation, the most solid of all the rocks upon which Christ built the Church! What does Our Lord say of him? – ‘O you of little faith!” (Adversus Haereses.) It is obvious that the keeper of the faith is Christ. To Him goes the glory of saving the Church from collapsing due to the occasional incompetence of our Popes. If one thinks about it, that is the way it ought to be. When something important is about to happen, God names someone most obviously not competent for the post. That way the glory will go to Him, most deservedly undivided. (Exodus 4:10-13) Well, something as important as the Exodus is about to happen hence, the Pope we have been given.
Both Fr Murray and Robert Royal are absolutely right in their analysis of this terrible situation namely, that the Pope appears to be a lose cannon sliding about the deck of Peter’s barque. Worry not. It could be worse. God is still in control.
Fr Murray mentions a part of the papal chat when the Holy Father brings up the matter of a custom of Northeastern Argentina’s indigenous peoples. He is referring to the sirviñaku (pron. see-r-vee-nya-kou the “nya” pronounced like the “ny” in the English word “canyon”) or “trial marriage,” a custom that precedes the discovery of America six or seven centuries or more. In a monogamous society that valued children as a blessing and a form of insurance against old age, it was most important to make sure that the couple could procreate. Therefore a trial period was granted to some. After the trial period both man and woman were free to leave “without shame” but the birth of a child made the union permanent. There is a traditional Aymara song I have included here for those who understand Spanish. The only version I could find belongs to the Chilean group Inti Illimani, they are definitely leftists but nonetheless excellent musicians. Please enjoy it if you wish.
Apparently the Pope spoke as if people outside Northeastern Argentina knew the practice of Sirviñaku well. Or perhaps he does not know it himself. Certainly the old custom is definitely not an affirmation of cohabitation. It is simply an ancient pagan solution to a very human problem like infertility in an environment where being infertile was a sure ticket to a short, hard life. When the area was evangelized by the Spaniards, some of the aspects of the ancient custom remained. The communities of the old Inca realm have survived for millennia sticking to their traditions, and the Church is still trying to inculcate the perfect Christian practice there. St Francis Solanus, St Rose of Lima, and many other saints were given to those nations. I guess eventually God will raise more saints to finish the job of evangelizing that area.
That is my contribution to the very good observations of Fr Murray and Mr. Royal. Hope you enjoy the music as much as I do. I find the lyrics very cute – a very sweet marriage proposal – although they may be somewhat obscured by the use of native words.