Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Obamazation of Pope Francis IV

Francis’ next shot came when he wrote Eugenio Scalfari the editor of La Republica, an Italian newspaper:
  “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.
Francis substantially said, that yes, the Mercy of God extends even to those who do not believe in him.  Now un-nuanced, this is theologically problematic as faith has been seen as the sine qua non requirement for salvation every since Paul wrote the letter to the Romans.  Or Galatians.  I can never remember which Epistle comes first. Yet over the course of history this principle has been interpreted in a variety of ways from insisting that one had to be a member of the Catholic Church (Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, stating that one must be “subject to the Roman Pontiff” in order to be saved) to some vague acknowledgement of a Supreme Being—a sort of Benjamin Franklin Freemasonry Deism.  Francis seems to take it one step further, however, and say even this minimalistic faith is more than is required. 
I will be the first to admit that Francis is not one to nuance his words—something his predecessors have long been very careful to do (though Benedict XVI, while theologically precise, had a gift for putting his Prada-clad foot in his mouth in geo-politics and John Paul II could soften the harshest language by his Reaganesque acting-school charm.)   But I don’t think it is any accident that Francis is given to a plain-speak that is shattering the glass box in which Catholic thought has long been put on embalmed display.   Francis’ remarks open up dialogue: something of which most Popes—saving John XXIII and Paul VI—of the last century have been terrified.   There is a payoff to this.  In talking with priest friends over the holidays, I am hearing of the numbers of people who came to confess before Christmas and gave credit to Pope Francis for “bringing” them back to the Church.  Perhaps the most touching was the story that one Boston priest told me of a seventy-eight year old Irish woman who had been away from the Church for three years because pastor told her she was in mortal sin for having attended the marriage of her son to  his partner of thirty years.  “He is my son—they are both my sons.  How could I turn my back on them?” she wondered.  “But Pope Francis has let me know that I still have a home in the Church.  I don’t have to choose between my home and boys.”  Of course, for the Pope’s critics he is endangering the salvation of souls by such loose talk, but this is more due to the Jansenism that pervades so many corners of the American Church and which stands ever vigilant against the Mercy of God.  A heart contrite and humbled apparently is not sufficient for these rigorists, but then only those whose hearts are contrite and have been humbled can understand what hope the encounter with Grace brings.  Perhaps this is part of the problem.  We may have a mystic in the chair of Peter. It has been awhile now, at least since Paul VI,  that we have had a Pope who sees the world through those compassionate eyes that view from the Cross.  Philosophers and theologians make their contributions but are generally not the stuff of which mystics are made.    
Francis’ openness to those who understand Truth differently from himself evoked a huge outcry from those who see themselves as the guardians of the patrimony of the faith.  Carol, the woman who blogs The Tenth Crusade (formerly known as Throw the Bums Out In 2013, (thus their url: http://throwthebumsoutin2010.blogspot.com/) wrote”
Pope Francis' letter and outreach to a poor misguided atheist as instructions to obey the diabolical influence of sin upon your intellect.   What a hoot.
This website was founded as an anti-Obama website,(as testified to by a button that reads Gone: 1-20-2013 and which ironically the owner has been unable to remove)  but has morphed into one of the more virulent critics of Pope Francis.  Her sentiments were echoed in The Eponymous Flower (http://eponymousflower.blogspot.com/) which complained that the Pope is too loose in what he says.
The statement may not be so wrong, and really left uncontested, fits. But what does not fit, is the unspoken, but the logical conclusion: There is no need to turn to Christ, it is sufficient that one follows his private conscience. And now you can even invoke a pope. Yes, the Pope says it himself.
The question of the usefulness of this word game of the Pope remains. The danger of a misunderstanding from the outset was on hand. Why, then, was this risk taken, which occurred promptly, as it was used, to the euphoria of La Repubblica, and in whose wake numerous other media? So who has availed themselves of etymological "correctitude"? Whose salvation should this benefit? How much additional confusion has been lent to it without necessity?
Just as criticism was deflected from Francis’ “who am I to judge” statement by the co-incidence of his reining in the Franciscans of the Immaculate and the firestorm that resulted from that, his comments on atheists and salvation was almost immediately overshadowed by his interview with the Jesuit La Civilta Cattolica and reprinted in America.  I have been dealing with the fallout from that interview in my blog postings marked “Why do They Hate Pope Francis,” but it is still noteworthy to remark on the angry response to Francis’ saying:
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.
This unleashed a firestorm from the Catholic Right.  Judie Brown of the American Life League and Michael Voris of Church Militant TV (formerly Real Catholic TV) were among the first to respond in angry, even rebellious, bewilderment.  Their toxic tocsin was soon take up by the internet locals.  Janet, at Restore DC Catholicism (http://restore-dc-catholicism.blogspot.com/)wrote
While I realize that there might have been some loss of meaning in the translation process, there couldn't have been that much. That said, the proceeds of this interview are most troubling. Many of His Holiness' replies seem to fly in the face of Sacred Tradition and Scripture. Of course Our Lord Himself guarantees that the Pope cannot teach error, presuming that he is speaking solemnly "ex cathedra". By no stretch of the imagination is this "ex cathedra". But there's no way to put a positive spin, a "happy face" if you will, on this.
Janet followed up a few days later with
the "off-the-cuff" interviews he has been giving lately cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called "teaching moments", let alone solemn declarations in which he speaks infallibly. It is quite legitimate for faithful Catholics to question spontaneous remarks and certainly acceptable to discuss the means of delivery of said messages.
Many of us have been questioning the wisdom of the pope's conduct of these interviews for they have often led individuals to believe that he is altering the Church's age-old teachings on faith and morals - particularly the latter in regards to the life issues.

Isn't it rather ironic that in his attempt to address the interviewer "where he's at" that the Holy Father loses sight of all the other millions of people and their situations? Does the phrase "can't see the forest for the sake of one tree" have relevance here?
The Batman to Janet’s Robin, Mary Ann Kreitzer at Les Femmes (lesfemmes-thetruth.blogspot.com/) wrote
Several days ago I commented that Pope Francis reminds me of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. It expressed my befuddlement over what the pope says. It was common for Cardinal Joseph to articulalate (sic) a teaching of the Church in one breath and imply that personal conscience could overrule the teaching in the next .
To which reader Al Hennenbery replied
 Confusion is a tool of the devil. Pray that the warnings of mystics aren't being fulfulled. The Book of Revelation is fearful enough without any false pope.
Les femmes continued it attack on Pope Francis in a later posting:
What is the pope thinking? Can this mish-mash really lead people to and through the narrow gate? (If you haven't read the interview see it here.) Do we want a church where "Each of us has a vision of good and of evil." where "We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good." What if what they "think is good" is really evil?
Jesus warned us there would come a time when people would call good evil and evil good. We're there and now the pope seems to have created a situation where liberals can quite comfortably bash those "obsessed" prolifers with their skewed vision of life and marriage. But we don't want to "proselytize" them because "Proselytism is solemn nonsense." Oy vey!
Fr Tom responded by writing:
I pray that Benedict may help him (Pope Francis) to realize how far his outreach has gone beyond the sanctifying paramenters (sic) of true orthodoxy.
So Pope Francis is beyond the parameters of orthodoxy.  He is impulsive.  He confuses evil for good and good for evil.  He’s troubling.  He lacks wisdom. He flies in the face of scripture and tradition.  And he is a false pope.  Funny—these same people would never have tolerated someone criticizing Pope John Paul or Pope Benedict in these same tones.  But this is the problem with these once loyal adherents to the papal teaching: they agree with the Church when the Church agrees with them.   In the final analysis they are no different than those “Cafeteria Catholics” they criticized so vociferously these past thirty years.  I am not saying that they are wrong.  I am not saying that they shouldn’t criticize Pope Francis.  I only hope they remove that beam from their eye before they fault me for questioning some of the statements of Francis’ recent predecessors.  The days of unilateral pronouncements are over.  Les Femmes and Eponymous Flower and Rorate Caeli and Michael Voris and Father Tom and Bishop Tobin have just discovered that while some of us have known it for quite some time now.  “Things change, Kundun.”   And speaking of change, while I have more to do on Pope Francis and the Franciscan kerfuffles, let’s go back to ol’ Henry VIII and the Church of England.    Jolly Hal was closing the monasteries when we left him and we need to get back to that for a few entries if we are ever going to finish that series. 

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