9.1.15

My take on D. Manuel Clemente's elevation to cardinal


D. Manuel Clemente is an historian and a late vocation (he was 31 when he was ordained). He had very little parish experience and spent most of his career as a professor at the Portuguese catholic university. He was also the head of Lisbon's major seminary. He was later made auxiliary-bishop of Lisbon under D. José Policarpo. He became Bishop of Oporto in 2007.

People who know him personally say that he is a very nice, mild-mannered person. He was well liked and respected both personally and academically by everyone and he was moderately popular even among the notoriously liberal establishment and media. He gave weekly talks in the (catholic) radio and presented a TV program for several years.

When the succession of D. José Policarpo started to be discussed, he was seen as the "conservative" - some called him "ratzingerian" - candidate and eventually he was elevated to Patriach of Lisbon.
I would like to stress that he never made any scandalous declarations (unlike some of the other cardinal-elects - Dew, Menichelli, Sturla). He also had a very friendly relationship with "conservatives". For instance, he dedicated several episodes of his TV program to St. Josemaria Escrivá of Opus Dei.

After Pope Francis was elected, and after "Evangelii Gaudium", D. Manuel started trying to follow the Pope's lead.

He announced a diocesan Synod for 2016 under the motto "o sonho missionário de chegar a todos"/"the missionary dream of reaching everybody". D. Manuel stated that the aim of the Synod was to "make available to everyone, every family, every community an occasion to experiment the joy of the gospel". There have been preparatory meetings and discussions at parish level (working groups) and an online questionnaire was launched that follows Evangelium Gaudium to the letter.

Unfortunately, it seems that D. Manuel is also following the Pope's lead in the choice of theologians.
In the end of the first week of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family (in which he participated as the head of Portugal's Episcopal Conference), he published an article in the diocesan website where, after quoting extensively from then official press releases, he stated the following:

"...  Cd. Kasper  ... in his speech at last February''s consistory - at the invitation of the Pope, let us remind ourselves of this -  ... stated that we are in a situation similar to Vatican Council II concerning religious freedom. In my synodal intervention, I explicitly referred to this point in the following way: 'Fifty years ago it was not easy for the council fathers to harmonize religious freedom with the objectivity of revealed truth. But they ended up including in this objectivity the space that God gives each and everyone of us to discover the truth and to adhere to it (cf. Declaração Dignitatis Humanae, 2). I believe that, with the necessary distinctions of theme and solution , there is in this very important conciliar point a light for what we are discussing here, to the greater good of the family and its sacramental dimension, that should be maintained and recovered whenever its possible'."

A few weeks ago (23/12/2014) he was interviewed by center-rigth online newspaper "Observador". D. Manuel's words about the synod were interpreted in the following way:

"The Patriarch of Lisbon prefers to stress that the Church has a two thousand years old tradition, but that it is an evolving tradition. 'The word tradition does not mean static. The origin of the word comes from relay races. Tradition was the name of what was passed form hand to hand'”.

(Interestingly in the same interview he describes a synod which was not very peaceful: "Monday [after the interim report] was a bit complicated...", “there were some tense moments in Thursday afternoon and in Friday morning"... but we already knew this.)

His promotion to Cardinal might be related to his own "doctrinal development" concerning the Pope's pet causes. On the other hand. Lisbon has been a Cardinalatial See since the 18th century. It was agreed between Pope Clement XI and King John V of Portugal that the Patriach of Lisbon should be made a cardinal at the first consistory following his appointment. The thing is, this is the second consistory after D. Manuel's appointment ... so other factors might be involved.

My personal opinion is the following: D. Manuel is a very "middle-of-road" bishop, neither liberal, nor conservative. He is trying to follow Pope Francis's lead. He won't make waves and will go along with whatever the Pope decides. I think this was the reason why he was elevated to Cardinal.

His statements about the "divorced"/"remarried" issue reveal what he perceives to be the Pope's position. He might be a bit misled by the mainstream media's depiction of the Pope and/or he might have kept bad company during the synod (he was in Cd. Sistach's language group, the only group who praised the interim report).

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