Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Is Triumphalism?

I'm not sure I even know what the word means anymore. For example, in my opinion, Gaudium Et Spes is the most triumphalistic document in Church history. When Cardinal Ratzinger referred to some of its content as "downright Pelagian," I think he had something of the same thing in mind. Likewise when he called it a "counter-Syllabus."

For a more recent example, consider Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz's recent statements about current world affairs. Per Zenit:

“We believe that God is a God of peace” and that “although humanity has had a history of many wars, perhaps it’s arriving at a point of maturity especially with globalization in which the consciousness of peace is far more profound.”

He also pointed out that it is necessary to ask God for peace because men and women cannot bring it about.

Knowing the result of wars, the grief that comes from them, and the fact they never bring anything good, “perhaps this is asking for a new moment of balance in the world also for decision-making.”

In this connection the cardinal stressed that perhaps “the old UN system that came after the War is too small and that it’s necessary to enlarge it,” and he specified that, for instance, “these decisions should be made not with the prevalence of the vote of one that has more power than another, but a decision that is made by all the nations that represent the world’s balance.”

I have difficulty reading that without wondering if His Eminence has been on retreat in a monastery for the last couple of decades. A cursory look at any continent demonstrates that the world is unquestionably nowhere near this "maturity" that he's talking about. And enlarging the UN? How many UN stories from the last ten years hasn't been some sort of expose on its corruption? Would this kind of blind optimism qualify as triumphalist?

Pope Francis has talked about triumphalism before and how it's a bad thing. I agree and prefer the realism that Pope Francis mentions in those prior comments. Trying to ditch the more painful aspects of Catholicism (eg- the Cross, martyrdom, Man's propensity to failure, etc.) in exchange for a whitewashed vision of things is a recipe for disaster.

He's now used the term again. While the full commentary isn't available, let's check what context there is from Rorate:

Finally, said Pope Francis there is the group of Christians who "in their hearts do not believe in the Risen Lord and want to make theirs a more majestic resurrection than that of the real one. These, he said are the “triumphalist” Christians.

"They do not know the meaning of the word ' triumph ' the Pope continued, so they just say “triumphalism”, because they have such an inferiority complex and want to do this ...

When we look at these Christians, with their many triumphalist attitudes , in their lives, in their speeches and in their pastoral theology, liturgy, so many things, it is because they do not believe deep down in the Risen One. He is the Winner, the Risen One. He won."

I have no idea who he is talking about in these paragraphs. It doesn't seem to jive with the characterizations from his prior comments. Unlike many, I don't see these as directed at folks who attend TLMs or anything like that. That would be the opposite what he said before. What would a "more majestic resurrection" be? Part of me wonders if this isn't a reference to prosperity Gospel types. It would fit with what he said earlier, and it has a cultural significance to the Pope given the fact that the prosperity Gospel movements have done enormous damage to the laity in Latin America.

Maybe I'm missing something, but that's the best I can come up with.

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