Monday, November 11, 2013

Why Are They Afraid of Pope Francis? 7

Matt Abbott of
Renew America
Yesterday, the New York Times published an article on how conservative American Catholics are feeling increasingly alienated from Pope Francis because of his change of agenda for the Church.  One priest friend of mine—of the more liberal persuasion—opined: “now they know how we felt these last thirty-five years.”  Well the papal slipper is on the other foot (though actually this guy just wears ordinary shoes) and it is fun to see the discomfort of those right-wingers who were beating their more peace-and-justice oriented fellows over the head about not focusing more or less exclusively on abortion and same-sex marriage.  Of course, Francis hasn’t changed the Church’s teaching on marriage or on the sanctity of life for the unborn—it is just where the emphasis is being put.  But then, Benedict or John Paul II had never challenged the social teaching found in Mater et Magistra, or Progressio Popolorum or Gaudium et Spes—it was just that during their papacies certain teachings were allowed to languish in the realm of the forgotten magisterium while certain other teachings were allowed to be tools in the hands of social conservatives to achieve their own political agendas.  I hope that down the line I get to take a look at the papacy of John Paul II in particular and how he permitted the magisterium to be manipulated by social conservatives to aid his political agenda of breaking the back of Marxism in his native Poland and throughout Eastern Europe.  Perhaps we can look at this when I finish this series on the La Civilta Cattolica/America interview.  But the neo-trads are beside themselves, as this article points out, because the social agenda of the Church clearly is no longer the straight-Tea Party line and that threatens the alliance among Evangelicals-Neo-trad Catholics-and Rabid Republicans.  No longer can the wing-nuts on the right hide in the Republican Party pretending that it is the Catholic Church.  It is increasingly clear that the American Catholic is politically homeless, finding themselves a stranger in either tent.  And after all, since “our citizenship is in heaven…” it is good that we don’t have a place to politically sit down and make ourselves comfortable.  (Pardon the split infinitive.) 
The New York Times article quoted Matt Abbot, “a Catholic columnist in Chicago with Renew America, a politically conservative website…” 
“For orthodox and conservative Catholics,” he said, “the last few months have been a roller-coaster ride.” He added in an email, “I’m not a big fan of roller coasters.”
Mr. Abbot is not “a Catholic columnist” anymore than I am a Catholic blogger or a Catholic historian.  He is a columnist who happens to be a Catholic.  He doesn’t speak for the Church.  But what really gets me about his statement is “for orthodox and conservative Catholics…”  Conservative I will grant him—but who determines who is “orthodox?”  A qualified theologian can give an opinion on whether the views of a particular person are orthodox.  The Holy See can issue a definitive statement.  But Mr. Abbot is not one who can make the claim. This is the problem of the right—the arrogance to determine who belongs in the Church and who doesn’t.  And it is just fascinating that so many of them are now questioning “Is the Pope Catholic?” 

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